Psalm 23 contains some of the most familiar words in the Bible. They are timeless words, true and comforting in all situations, especially hard situations. Psalm 23 reminds me that God surrounds me in even the hardest circumstances.
God, the Good Shepherd, is front of me, leading the way:
He leads me beside quiet waters…
He guides me along the right paths
Middle Eastern shepherds do not drive their sheep from behind as one does with cattle. Shepherds lead from the front, constantly talking and singing so their sheep can follow their voice. Jesus invites me to know his voice well so that I follow where he leads.
God, the Good Shepherd, is also beside me:
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me…
Sometimes I’m tempted to think that God will join me after I get through a hard time, as though he’s waiting to see whether I’ll pass or fail before deciding whether to reward me with his presence. But that’s a lie. The truth is that Jesus is with me through hard circumstances, closer to me than I can imagine.
God, the Good Shepherd, is also behind me:
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life…
Just as he leads from the front, God also comes up from behind. The Hebrew word for follow can also be translated as pursue. God is not passively, distantly trailing behind; instead he is right on my heals. Jesus loves for me know that nothing can get between him and me – there’s just not enough space.
In Christ, I’m surrounded. For some that might sound threatening. I’m growing in discovering there’s no better position in which to be.
Graphic from The David Movie (thedavidmovie.com).