The 23rd Psalm

 

When I finally claim that

The Lord is my shepherd

Then he takes my hand and…

He makes me lie down in green pastures

            He leads me beside quiet waters

            He refreshes my soul.

And

He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

 

I no longer live in fear and anxiety for

I will fear no evil,

            For you are with me;

            Your rod and your staff,

            They comfort me.

 

I am fed and protected

You prepare a table before me

            In the presence of my enemies.

 

I am set aside for a purpose

You anoint my head with oil;

 

My life is full and rich

            My cup overflows.

 

And I know for certain that

Surely goodness and love will follow me

            All the days of my life,

 

And I will live in you and you in me

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

 

It’s no wonder that the 23rd Psalm has been a favorite for many generations. It is the consummate statement of the certainty and love and care for us that God provides when we put ourselves in his care. I have edited it above to show how we enter into that relationship by claiming to be one of his sheep and to allow him to care for us all our lives.

Everything about us is then taken care of. He knows his sheep and knows the conditions that enhance their lives and that is what he provides. Then we live in absolute assurance that we are his and we dwell in his arms forever.

I know that we Americans would reject such a passive existence. We want to direct and control our lives, choose the circumstances under which we think we would thrive. We stand on our own and take pride in how we can control our lives. All of this is an illusion, of course. And the more life throws us curve balls and upsets our carefully controlled existence, the more we seek control.

But that is actually the opposite of what we need to do if we will lead happy and productive lives. The 23rd Psalm tells us to let God take the initiative and show us what would fulfill us and feed us. Life is a series of ever-changing conditions, some of which are just what we desired and some we would reject if we knew about them beforehand. We would always avoid the pain and suffering and challenges and lean into the good, the happy and the proud.

But we misunderstand the purpose of our lives. We are to go from a me-centered existence to being one of the herd, one of the shepherd’s charges. He is the one who knows his sheep so well that he knows just which pasture we should go to next when the grass has been over-grazed in the last one. He knows just what balm or treatment will heal our wounds. He can manage the differences among individuals and still promote the good of everyone.

God is inviting us to be just one of the human beings he shepherds, but he alone knows us so well that he can provide all our needs so that we can grow and contribute and shed our wool and let a new direction grow in us. Rather than living on our own and having to protect and defend and initiate and feed and do everything else on our own, he invites us to relax in his arms and to allow God to provide our needs. We still need to eat and to create and to follow his lead, but we don’t any longer carry the full burden for our lives.

Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” [Matthew 11:30] This is what he meant. We carry too many burdens, not the least of which is the past that defines who we are today. But the past is meant to stay in the past, to be grieved and healed. It is when we can live in the present, when we can respond to just what is happening right now without the baggage of the past that we are truly free, truly present to what is, present to the Shepherd and what he is calling us to do right here and now.

And that is what Jesus is promising us if we will just let him be our shepherd. If we will just rely on him. If we will let him lead. He, the Good Shepherd, will know just what is in our own best interests in every moment of our lives. He will support and sustain whatever our purpose is. He will make sure we are fulfilled. Oh, the joy! Oh, the relief! Oh, the energy and excitement I feel in living my life. All because the Good Shepherd is in charge of me. Amen!

_________________________

Questions to ponder over the week: What burdens am I carrying that I can off-load to Jesus? Why do I keep carrying them all by myself? What benefit would come from sharing them with Christ? What keeps me stuck in the past, identifying with what happened there? Will I let Christ lead me now, help me carry the pain and suffering I endured?

 

 

_______________

Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who trust him in all things, who no longer fear anything. May we walk with certainty here in the present with Christ into an unknown future.

 

News from By the Waters:
All five of the videos about the Exodus story are up on YouTube, plus two more. Here are the url’s to access them:
Part I: www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKfouN0PNH0
Part II: www.youtube.com/watch?v=QyvRsnqYrdg
Part IIIa: www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZU32Y09UN8
Part IIIb: www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHqKay89kjE
Part IV: www.youtube.com/watch?v=84z7KF_uv7Q
God’s Invitation, www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOkp_-wDKFo
The Heart of the Gospel, www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJJbPKSOACc

My book, “Thy Kingdom Come!”, is up on Amazon in both paperback and kindle versions. Look under Patricia Said Adams.

 

 

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