May 22nd 2020 – Psalm 23

"A Psalm of David.

1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name's sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord

Psalm 23

The 'green pastures' and 'still waters' indicate the two sides of the believer's life,
the contemplative and the active. The pastures are His Word, by which we are built up and made strong; the still waters are spoken of in relation to His leading in daily life. The movement of our souls is onwards, on the path to perfection. And the quiet contemplation is followed by the activity, and is meant to equip us for it. Repose and refreshment are meant to prepare us for tasks and marches. And this thought leads on naturally to the next section (3b, 4), in verses which give the corrective to the erroneous idea that the Christian life is all green pastures and still waters, in the sense of being free from the trials and distresses common to all human experience. 'Strait paths', or paths of righteousness, are His appointment for His people, and this often means the discipline of dark experiences. To anticipate the message of 5, 6, the true Christian life means a battle with enemies, it is a warfare, nothing less, and it is significant that even in this most pastoral and gentle of sermons it cannot be left out. The way of righteousness is in fact the way of the cross: danger and sorrow are both alike the lot of the believer, but the great reality is that in them, we do not stand alone. It is this that transforms the situation. There are several points to note: one thing, it is He who leads us into the shadow, and no one is exempt from this inscrutable providence. The 'valley of the shadow' does not primarily refer to death, but rather to any or all dark experience. And, for our comfort, we should remember that where there is a shadow there must be light somewhere. Let us rejoice then that there is a light beyond!