Psalm 23

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for You are with me.”

We sang this several weeks ago on Sunday morning giving kudos to artist Kathy Triccoli. The music has been resonating in my head and heart ever since.

Coincidently, I was asked to write a reflection about that same time.  The timing was perfect. I knew Psalm 23 well from grade school when we could still read from the Bible daily. As I sang the song to myself, I became more aware of the other lyrics in the Psalm and their truth.  I realized that from the time of our conception throughout life we are all headed toward one glorious destination.  It is a life song.

I regularly focus on the refrain, “Even though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me”, but the Psalm is so much more. As I pray, read and reread multiple versions of the Psalm and consult several commentaries, I become more aware of its richness. I am now reading with new eyes and a new heart.  The Lord IS with us on our journey from conception to our earthly death and beyond.  One bible translation states, “His beauty and love chases after us all of our lives”.

Psalm writer, King David, understood the meaning of being a shepherd as he was one—a guide for his sheep.  David understood the nature of a herd of sheep.  They are followers. In my youth I wanted to be like everyone else.  However, as I aged, I realized I am not much of a conformist.  I am more of a contrarian. I relate to the sheep that wander and need direction. Sometimes sheep need prodding when they stray thus the need of a shepherd.  For me, Rich Mullins says it so well in his song, “Step By Step/Oh God You Are My God” in the line, “I may falter in my step but never beyond your reach”.  Thank God!

All of life is walking through the valley but the presence of the Lord comforts us and makes it bearable.  He leads us to restful places. He restores our soul.  He anoints us on our journey so much that our cup overflows. How awesome is that?

I was afraid writing this reflection that I was heading in a negative direction realizing that this Psalm is often read at funerals. Most of the songs we sing or read at funerals seem sad on the surface, but on the contrary, they are life giving and celebratory, filled with promise and comfort to those who are present, still living our journey.  All of life is under a shadow.  Believing the promises of God make it bearable through dark times as we walk through the valley.

We are called to recognize the Lord in all things: in our triumphs, in our tragedies; in witnessing beauty and beastly events, in loving and loathing, in our good decisions, indecisions, and bad decisions the Lord is with us to guide us.  The caveat is recognizing we are not alone and asking the Lord to shepherd us—allowing God to guide as David did with his sheep. “Even though I walk through the valley of death I will fear no evil for you are with me.”

God is faithful!