Ministry Musings are also included on the latest pewsheet

The Lord is my shepherd – Ministry musings – Tom Hunton

 

Psalm 23 is one of the most famous passages in the Bible. It’s been read at thousands of funerals, at countless deathbeds and has been cherished throughout the centuries because of the beautiful poetic language and the comfort in the images it uses. Psalm 23 describes God as being like a shepherd and us people as being like sheep.

The idea of people being described as sheep is something that some of you may not like. However, if you’ve ever worked with sheep you may see similarities to people: Sheep are dependent creatures, they want to live in community and they want to follow, but they are also independent. Sheep farming involves a lot of driving around in quad bikes picking up sheep who have decided to escape to find better pastures (or those that have got stuck in the fence trying to get there).

 

Psalm 23 says the lord’s my shepherd i shall not want – It says yes, you can go off without him and yes, you may find other green pastures, but God is the best guide and God can provide best.

 

But this Psalm is not all lovely and fluffy.

Sooner or later we come across darkness in life. With or without a shepherd sheep will still die and so will we.

Psalm 23 talks about death, about walking through the valley of the shadow of death.

Pain and darkness is inevitable regardless of whether we follow God or follow our own path. Following a shepherd doesn’t mean that a fox won’t take a lamb, following God doesn’t mean that bad things won’t happen to you.

The psalm paints another poetic picture - one of a meal that has been prepared, a table of good things provided for us, but prepared In the presence of our enemies: We have been given good things but we enjoy them in the midst of all manner of enemies (whether those enemies are people or situations or health problems or tragedies or whatever). This Psalm tells us that even through all that darkness we can stop and enjoy the good things we have been given and even in the darkness there is light.

 

But the final hopeful image is that this is the valley of the shadow of death. It is not a pit of death that can’t be climbed out of, it is a valley that we can travel through and the psalm ends with a destination at the end of that journey as we are told that we can dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

 

I don’t know why bad things happen in this life. I guess that death is a necessary part of a life-producing universe but I don’t know why there has to be such pain but Psalm 23 teaches us that the darkness and the pain doesn’t have to be the final destination because God has a house, and God’s house is a place that is incompatible with darkness and suffering and that God’s house is home for me and for you and for anyone who wants to follow the good shepherd through this life.