I was reading the 23rd Psalm this morning in my One-Year-Bible.
It’s so familiar.
It’s so refreshing.
I thought of other times I’ve read it. I thought of how I memorized it as a child. I thought of how encouraging it was to one of my friends, Marty Daily, in the months before she died – 14 years ago today.
Why is Psalm 23 selected so often to be read at funerals and printed on memorial programs, I wondered.
Maybe because it speaks both to life and to death. It assures us that with God as our Shepherd, we have all we need for both. That’s mighty encouraging for family and friends of loved ones who have passed away – not only in processing the death of people who’ve gone before, but also as we give thought to our own mortality.
“Death casts a frightening shadow over us because we are entirely helpless in its presence. We can struggle with other enemies – pain, suffering, disease, injury – but strength and courage cannot overcome death. It has the final word. Only one person can walk with us through death’s dark valley and bring us safely to the other side – the God of life, our shepherd. Because life is uncertain, we should follow this shepherd who offers us eternal comfort.” (Life Application Study Bible, Psalm 23:4)
While reading Psalm 23 this morning, I listed some of the things our kind Shepherd does for us throughout our lives:
~ He leads us
~ He renews our strength
~ He guides us
~ He is close beside us
~ He protects and comforts us
~ His goodness and unfailing love pursue us all the days of our lives (I remember Dr. Daniel Block saying that he imagines two hound dogs here – (1) goodness, and (2) unfailing love – running after us and nipping at our heels for all of our lives. I love that picture.)
~He assures us that we can live in His house forever
I’m regularly impressed with how perfectly the whole Bible fits together, and I was impressed all over again this morning. I’ll explain.
Earlier this week, as I read through the end of the book of Genesis, I came across some tender words that grip me every time I read them. They’re found in Genesis 48:15. It’s the scene where Jacob knows that he has come to the end of his life, and he offers blessings to his family members as they gather around him. Not long before he draws his feet into bed, breaths his last, and joins his ancestors in death, he says, “May the God before whom my grandfather Abraham and my father, Isaac, walked – the God who has been my shepherd all my life, to this very day, the Angel who has redeemed me from all harm – may he bless these boys . . . “
Hmmmm . . . there was that Shepherd providing again.
As if that wasn’t beautiful enough, the Psalm for that same day (January 25 in the One-Year-Bible) was Psalm 20, which included a verse about Jacob’s God:
“In times of trouble, may the LORD answer your cry. May the name of the God of Jacob keep you safe from all harm. May he send you help from his sanctuary and strengthen you from Jerusalem.” Psalm 20:1-2, New Living Translation
I like the verses above for several reasons:
~ They’re encouraging
~ They speak to real life – and the reality of death
~ They were spoken by imperfect heroes of faith (David, Jacob) who understood (eventually) how needy they were. In their neediness, they exercised faith and looked to God. And God helped them.
~ They leave me with a helpful pattern to follow
The Lord is my Shepherd; I have all that I need.
Are there times that the 23rd Psalm has been especially meaningful to you?
Life Application Study Bible, copyright 2004. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Carol Stream, IL 60188. All rights reserved.