Our bountiful God
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, 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 your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
‘The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want’ – these are words I learnt at a very young age. In fact, at primary school, when we sang 3 different popular hymns quite frequently at our daily assemblies or termly trips to the parish church. The words stuck in my mind and therefore I have always known the words of the 23rd Psalm – long before I became a committed Christian. And from that early age, the words always bring constant comfort and knowledge of God’s love for me.
From the very start of the Psalm David is telling us of God’s care for us – that he is our shepherd and we his sheep under his guidance and protection. Such beautiful words – all the way through – giving us so many insights into God’s boundless love for us and his constant provision. We know that we can rest in the Lord, be restored, and refreshed, and when we stray from God, which I know I have done, we can be assured that he will gather us back, and he will put us again on the right way to follow him.
The Psalm tells us how much God wants us to be guided by him in everything we do as we go through life. But there’s more – God also wants us to draw comfort from him. We all know there will be times when life is hard: when we see suffering: when have our own sufferings; when we look at our very difficult and confusing world, and life throws uncertainties at us. But as God’s children we know we need not have any fear. David is telling us in these words that God is with us, He will comfort us; our Lord who holds power over everything, including death, walks with us and will carry us through the very darkest of times. Remember the opening words – ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’ – he will look after us, as a shepherd cares for his sheep.
Verse 5 tells us all about God’s endless and perfect provision for us. His generosity. Isn’t it good to know that God provides so much for us because he loves us? There will be times in our lives when we may be confronted with people who question our faith, who try to suggest we are wrong – but God will always be with us in such situations – he will not forsake us. He will protect us, and he anoints us with his Spirit so that we can be secure and protected from all who may try to harm us.
Although I have put the words of Psalm 23 at the beginning of this blog, I really do need to repeat verse 6 because it is so lovely….
‘Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Of all the many wonderful verses in the Bible, for me personally this is one of my favourites. God promises to be with us now, and yet He has more in store for us at the end of our time here on earth. These words give us hope and can strengthen our faith. So let us be guided by God in all we do, sharing His love, and the joy that Jesus brings.
Let us be thankful that David wrote this Psalm for us, and we must also be thankful that many musical versions have helped make it so memorable, for those of us who are Christians as well as those who have little knowledge of the Bible; My prayer is for those who may not know God’s love – that they will read or sing the words at special occasions and not only be comforted by the love expressed there, and be encouraged by familiarity, but that they may look at the words a little more deeply and find that God is guiding and keeping safe all his people as we make our way through life.
When we find that the busyness of life is taking over, and there is little time for quiet, Psalm 23 will only take a few moments to read. The familiar words will, I am sure, bring restoration and comfort as we are reminded, once again, of God’s promise to always be with us, as we walk through our lives in this world, and how much more we have to look forward to in our home in God’s house for eternity.
By Sara Spencer
Sara has been a member of St Margaret’s Church for over 30 years. Married to Eric, she has 2 grown up boys, one grandson, and another on the way. Sara works in the Church Office as our Parish Secretary.
Photo by Tomoe Steineck on Unsplash