Is there any psalm as beloved as Psalm 23? Even for those who know little of the Bible, phrases from this psalm sound familiar. The beloved shepherd of whom David sings—even to unstable king Saul—speaks of the way God cares for us. God leads us to green pastures, beside still waters, and through the “valley of the shadow of death” (kjv). No wonder these words have been set to music in every generation and paraphrased in hymns and songs in every language.
Who among us does not long for quiet waters and for the restoration of our sanity in a crazy, driven world? Who among us does not hope for a banquet of plenty in the face of hunger and thirst and in the presence of danger? For those moving toward the end of life, this psalm brings promise of dwelling with God, who makes room for us in all days left to us. We find deep life and faith compressed into these few verses.
The Lenten journey takes us into the wilderness, just as the Spirit drives Jesus into the wilderness. If we pray this psalm with Jesus, in him and through him, Jesus himself prays in and through us. So, we come to imagine and to know Jesus as our shepherd. He knows us by name and will not desert us to the tangle of temptations we call life; nor will he allow us to be lost in the darkness of the world and its ways. The Gospels tell us that he will seek any sheep who are astray and without food or water. Here is the greatest mystery of all: Jesus feeds us in the banquet of his life—Holy Communion.
Please, kind Christ, shepherd us through our valleys and lead us into goodness and mercy. Amen.
The two readings from the Hebrew scriptures focus on the life of David. In First Samuel, the prophet is sent to anoint the next king of Israel. God chooses David not because of outward appearance but because of his heart. David is not perfect, nor is his life always easy. Psalm 23 declares David’s trust in God in good times and bad times. Just as Samuel has anointed David with oil, so does the Lord anoint him. The New Testament readings both employ images of light and darkness. Ephesians instructs us to live as children of light, not darkness. In John, Jesus heals a blind man and brings him from darkness into light. Some religious leaders protest because although their physical eyes can see, their spiritual vision is darkened.
Read 1 Samuel 16:1-13. How often do you judge others by outward appearances or worldly successes? How can you “look upon the heart” to judge leaders in your community?
Read Psalm 23. When have you experienced Jesus’ presence with you in the wilderness?
Read Ephesians 5:8-14. How does God’s light help you persist through struggles within yourself or in the world around you?
Read John 9:1-41. What questions does Jesus ask you? How do your questions of Jesus help you understand him?
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