This post is one in a series of reflections for Lent. I invite you to go back and read the previous reflections.
Many of us have heard this Psalm so many times, that it has lost a lot of its power. We have seen it on enough plaques or in funeral programs. Do we really grasp the power of what David is saying about our God?
He calls the Lord a shepherd. The shepherd leads his sheep. He knows each of his sheep and he will seek out any that are lost along the way. The shepherd protects his sheep from wild beasts that would seek to devour his sheep. The shepherd stays with his sheep. He lives with his sheep in the field. He never leaves them.
I shall not be in want. This is an easily abused phrase. We can take it to justify all kinds of ridiculous ways of thinking. I want to start by restating something that I have said many times. God's first priority is his own glory. What ever he gives us to achieve that end. He is not primarily concerned with our happiness. He promises us joy, but never happiness. If a person believes God wants them to be happy, then I would love for them to explain to me the life of the church in the Roman empire. Those two ideas can not coexist. God is concerned with his self-revelation to the nations and his glory. Everything that I have is for that purpose, and he would never leave me without enough to be a part of that grand design. Even when I feel like I am lacking, it is my weakness, that can not grasp how my own want is being used of God to reveal himself to the world. God gives us all that he wants us to have. David here acknowledging that, but also expressing his gratefulness to God even in his deprivation. If you spend some time reading about the life of David, then you will see that he often found himself in human need. It is in those times that God became the fulfillment of his needs. In that way he was richer than his human situation may portray.
He will guide us as a shepherd would. He will show us the right paths. He will guide us in the safest and most fulfilling path. All of this he is doing as a means of bringing glory to his name.
We are going to have times of still waters and valleys of death. His peace will sustain us in both. He has never promised to keep us from danger. He will remain with us. Just as a shepherd will never leave his sheep alone. God will not leave us alone. He will walk along with us, and provide us with still waters within us, that will get us through the valleys.
David talks of two different tools of the shepherd. The rod is a weapon. The shepherd would use it to chase off wild beasts, and kill them if necessary. God is prepared to protect the sheep of his pasture. The staff is a tool for guiding the sheep. When we wander off, God uses his staff to draw us back to himself.
In the presence of our enemies the peace of God will be with us. He may not remove us from those situations, but he has promised to remain, and to prepare feasts for us. We don't have anything to fear from our enemies. He who stands beside us is greater than any enemy. God will anoint us and he will fill our cup to overflowing.
It can be difficult to see the goodness of God toward us when we are suffering. We have to take confidence in his goodness. His goodness was demonstrated on the cross. He loves us with an unfailing love. When we trust him and persevere then we will called into his presence and we will dwell in his house forever.
We have been given many promises from God. How can we take comfort and suffer through? The cross serves as the exclamation point of all of the promises of God. It is the cross that carries from day-to-day, and assure us that God is seeking our best. He has promised a life that is full. It is through submission to him, that we can find this life. Without true submission to him, then we will never find all that God has for us.