It’s all about a relationship that brings refreshment while on the path of righteousness.
Psalm 23 is often read at funerals, which makes sense since it evokes images of rest, comfort and protection. Yet, there is much in this Psalm about life. Let’s take a quick look.
The psalm begins with a relationship – “The Lord is my shepherd.” In this psalm we take on the role of sheep. Being a sheep means we aren’t independently able to survive when stranded or attacked. Let’s face it, all of us needs help from time to time. To live very long sheep need the protection of a shepherd. An attentive and caring shepherd.
Well, this is one caring shepherd. As a sheep in his care we lack nothing, we are fully supported. He takes us to lush pastures with refreshing water that will restore our soul. This picture doesn’t just allude to full bellies and quenched thirst but to a soul that is healthy and vibrant. But, we must remember, the restored soul is found when following the lead of the shepherd.
Following the shepherd puts us on the path of righteousness. The path of right living is a good place to be, but according to the psalm the bigger reason for living rightly is for the sake of the shepherd’s reputation. In other words, we need to ask ourselves, “Based on my words and actions what will people think of God?”
The path of righteousness is the place to be, however, that doesn’t mean life will be easy. The psalm states that “Even when I must walk through the darkest valley, I fear no danger.” Righteous livers don’t get off easy but they do walk with the shepherd and need to fear no one. We live in a broken world and no one can completely avoid dark and difficult days. In those times it’s that relationship with the shepherd that again becomes so important. The shepherd uses his rod and staff to remind us he is there. It’s like walking along in a scary place with a big strong friend holding your hand and leading the way.
Then as a sign of a favored relationship the shepherd invites us in, cleans us up and sets out a scrumptious dinner. After dinner we continue to live out our lives with the shepherd’s goodness and mercy pursuing us until the day we die and go to be with him.