Journal Ps 23 (all references are from the ESV; changes in punctuation and notes are mine)
Scripture: 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 (O God) are with me.
Your rod and staff—they comfort me… (Ps 23:1-4)
Observation: How this became the top of the chart scripture for funerals beats me. I think this is one of those “Get your head on straight and remember My Grace” psalms from David.
Application: I rewrote the Psalm, not changing words, but changing how I would read it: like sentences instead of lyrical verse (how is it displayed in the Bible). Making these modifications in a visual sense assists me to understand the Psalm and read it out loud coherently. [Note: I do this frequently, usually to help me not gloss over or speed read through stretches of prose. All Scripture permeates with Life, even including the stuff that are not wall hanging quotes.]
I pick out three significant sentences in Ps 23:
- “The Lord is my shepherd.” He is Divine and I am de branch; He is the Potter, and I am the clay; He is the Shepherd, and I am the sheep. He cares for the sheep.
- “He restores my soul.” In the previous section, the Holy Spirit illustrates how my soul is restored:
- I shall not want: Jesus is all I need, and it takes a lifetime to understand and embrace that while I am sloughing off the Old Man chained to Sin.
- He makes me lie down in green pastures.
- He leads me beside still waters.
Even during turmoil, relax with vigilance—He is my shepherd.
- “Your rod and staff, they comfort me…”
- How are sheep herded into the direction that the Shepherd wants them to go? With a rod. And with a staff (this staff has a hook on it, right? Picture the “Gong Show…”)
- The rod and staff are pictures of discipline and, according to the Scriptures, have somewhat of a double meaning—but in the end they are not a picture of disappointment by God, but of loving diligence to lead me in paths of righteousness. From Solomon, son of David:
“On the lips of him who has understanding, wisdom is found; but
a rod is for the back of him who lacks sense.” Prov 10:13
“Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is
diligent to discipline him.” Prov 13:24
And from the wise testimony of Job:
“Behold! Blessed is the one whom God reproves; therefore,
despise not the discipline of the Lord…” Job 5:17
While Psalms 23 is used extensively as a benediction for the dead, I think that David composed this Psalm as a meditation to remember the God he serves and the God who cares for his soul.
Praying scripture is a good practice; there are times that words and thoughts are jumbled in my mouth and praying in spiritual language seems inadequate at that moment—because my gray matter is scrambled. The following is what came to mind while writing this instalment:
- “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving my soul;
- the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
- the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing my heart;
- the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
- the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold—even much fine gold.
Sweeter also than honey and dripping of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them [The law, the testimony, the precepts, the commandments, and the rules of the Lord] is your servant warned and in keeping them there is great reward.” Ps 19:7-11
Make it so in my life, O God. I don’t want this to be mere lip service, but reality!
Ricky Two Shoes