The Lord is my shepherd – Ministry musings – Tom
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
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.
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.
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.
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.