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
The Shepherd’s Staff
I’ll admit, I am in a season of wanting. I want to go to a coffee shop. I want to eat my favorite pizza on their patio. I want to go for a hike with a friend. I absolutely believe staying home and physically distancing to slow the spread is a way to love my neighbor, but being told what’s best for me and my neighborhood begins to chafe.
When was the last time you saw your friends in person, not just through a screen? Played a game of soccer or basketball? Have you found yourself actually wanting to be back in a classroom, if just to see people? It can be hard to understand how life shifted so suddenly, and things like high school graduation, summer vacations, and simply being with friends became so uncertain.
David is not uncertain about the presence of God. Throughout all of Psalm 23, God is real + present. Even in the valley of the shadow of death, David knows God, his shepherd, is with him. David, erstwhile shepherd himself, knows the value of the rod and staff. He also knows how sheep … don’t always do what’s best for themselves. They wander off, get stuck in silly places, and the shepherd has to go after them. We, like David, like the sheep, need to be led to water, led to rest, led away and through danger. In the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, Jesus emphasizes David’s shepherd analogy when He tells the story of the lost sheep, revealing God’s desire to be present and care for all of His sheep, even the most troublesome ones.
Right now, we may feel like we are walking in darkness with no idea where to go or what’s ahead. Perhaps you’re feeling how I described in the beginning – uncomfortability at being told what we can and can’t do. What does the shepherd know?! In the hands of a shepherd, the rod and staff can be used to prevent sheep from doing something dangerous, but in the darkness, the rod and staff of a shepherd serve as a reminder that the shepherd is still with the sheep. The sheep are not alone in the darkness.
The rod and staff of our Good Shepherd, Jesus, are still present, reminding us that through all this our Lord is present with us. We are not alone in this darkness, and we will not be in the dark forever. God’s goodness and mercy are still pursuing us, and one day we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever, where the still waters and green pastures (and hopefully pizza) will never be lacking.
- Where is God leading you in this time?
- What are some things you have been uncertain about recently?
Thank you, God, for being my Shepherd and not leaving me alone in the darkness. Thank you for Jesus and the Holy Spirit who walk with me in valleys and on mountains, in certainty and unknowns.
Can you think of a movie or TV show that quotes Psalm 23?