You know, it seems like the only time I ever hear Psalm 23 is at funerals. But is that all it’s good for, to remind us of God in the midst of the valley of the shadow of death? It has become such a somber Psalm to me, repeated by rote.
But as I have grown in margin, I am finding great comfort and margin from this short oldie-but-goodie.
The Lord as our shepherd gives us hope that it’s not all up to us. There is someone greater than ourselves looking out for interests, pastoring us. There is a roominess in knowing that with God as our shepherd, we shall not want. Even in the midst trouble, of things not looking all right, of financial questions, God says that He is there for us with protection and presence and provision. God not only wants us to eat and to move, but also to rest, and as our shepherd, He loves us enough to make us lie down because He knows our need for rest more than we do. He leads us to green pastures and quiet waters, simple evidence of His goodness and love.
And what has stood out to me over anything else in this psalm has been, “He restores my soul.” Our souls are our mind, will, and emotions, and this verse reminds us that God doesn’t just desire for us to have physical provision and rest, but He cares about our inner life as well. He wants to redeem our ways of thinking about Him, restoring our mind. He wants to heal the ways we feel about ourselves and our circumstances, restoring our emotions. He wants to transform our choices to reflect a trusting, love relationship with Him, restoring our wills.
Backing all of this up is the Lord’s goodness and mercy, following us, urging us on towards our good home with the Lord. In the midst of our messes, in the midst of our forgetting, there is a quiet assurance that goodness and love will follow. And we are reminded of our future home with the Lord forever. Knowing that our future is secure gives us freedom and margin in the present to stop striving so hard.
The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me lie down. He leads me. Surely goodness and love will follow me. This is not a somber psalm. It is a psalm of confidence that allows us to take a step back from our hurry and our efforts at self-provision and self-protection, allowing us to make room for margin.