The Good Shepherd
This Sunday is informally known as “Good Shepherd Sunday.” The Collect (prayer) for the day is about Jesus, our Good Shepherd, and the Psalm for the day is the 23rd.
Psalm 23 is easily the most well known and beloved of the 150 Psalms. While it is very popular at funerals, it really is an affirmation of God’s work in us for this life more than for the next.
If you will take a few minutes to track with me, I’d like to show the structure and movement of the Psalm so we can understand what is promised and why, I believe, it resonates with us so well.
Looking at that sheet, you can see that the Psalm sings of God’s unending care for us (vss 1 & 6), His gracious and bountiful provision for us (vss. 2 & 5), and His guidance of us (vss. 3 & 4). In this parallel structure, the center is where the poet’s primary lesson is to be found, so we see that Psalm 23 is primarily a song about God’s guidance of us in any circumstances. If we think of King David, to whom this Psalm is traditionally ascribed, it is easy to imagine that he would see and celebrate the hand of God guiding him in some dire and deadly circumstances — very much in “the valley of the shadow of death.”
There is one other piece of the structure I want to point out. Notice that the first half of the Psalm (vss. 1-3) is a bucolic vision of life in God’s care. All is pleasant, quiet and bountiful. The second half (vss. 4-6) introduces the challenges and dangers of life, reminding us of God’s care not only in the quiet and peaceful moments, but also in the troubled and fearful moments, as we contend with many enemies.
The sum total then is six short verses which express our complete trust in and dependence upon God. Perhaps you will remember this as we recite this Psalm on Sunday morning, and give thanks that the Lord is, indeed, our “Good Shepherd,” whatever our circumstances!
This column appeared in the May 12, 2019 edition is St. John’s eNews. Click here for the complete issue.