Daily Devotion – July 15, 2021 – Dr. Pat Taylor Ellison

Psalm 23
23:1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
23:2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;
23:3 he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.
23:4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff– they comfort me.
23:5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.

This is such a beautiful psalm.

It has been interpreted and reinterpreted for lush climates, for arid climates, for countries with sheep and for countries without sheep. We are to imagine that green pastures are great, that green pastures are dangerous for sheep, that still waters are bad for them, that still waters are good for them. There are dozens and dozens of videos and commentaries about when the narrator changes the Lord from third person to second person and back again, and why the psalmist does that.

I’m not opposed to knowing all these things about this psalm. Not at all.

But for today I just want to appreciate how comforted the psalmist is by the Lord. I just want to appreciate how the psalmist knows that whatever the fellow needs, the Lord has his back. This is a psalm that, by its very cadence and imagery, sweetness and brevity, comforts and brings peace to the reader/hearer.

It can be memorized by a ten year old child. It can be remembered and recognized by a 90 year old person in a coma. In the end it survives as a witness to the goodness, the completeness, the protection, and the shalom of a Lord who cares for his people no matter what they need.

As Biblical literacy wanes with generations unfamiliar with the Psalms, still this one works when I read it at funerals and interment services, not because it is contextually correct or the people understand that sheep are stubborn or need particular kinds of grazing land, but because listeners can hear in this psalm that their Creator gives them what they need for abundant life and serious protection.

Our God loves us and cares for us. No matter what.

Gracious God, thank you for loving us. Thank you for being with us. Help us to know that we are your creatures and that you are always making sure we have enough to thrive. Help us to notice when others do not have what they need to thrive and to furnish it to them, making us part of your story and theirs.  Amen.