We are a people of the bottom line. Cut to the chase! Close the question! We want answers. Who likes living with loose ends? Who has the time or the patience to follow an argument to its logical conclusion?
Psalm 23 is the best known and loved of all the psalms. Apart from a favorite passage from the New Testament, most Christians are more familiar with the verses of Psalm 23 than any other passage in the Bible. The verses speak to the troubled heart faced with grief and loss, diminishment and death. The psalmist offers comfort and care, rest and rejuvenation, protection and peace for the troubled soul.
When we pray this psalm, we easily forget that we are in the terrain of the Israelites. Even as its words offer comfort to the praying heart, they first and foremost describe Israel’s relationship with God. Echoes of the Exodus still ring in their ears; their dry throats from life-threatening desert journeys have not been slaked. The terrain of this people is marked by wandering and scarred by invasion. They have known both gain and loss, all the while struggling for peace.
While praying Psalm 23, the heart finds comfort in verdant pastures, tranquil waters, and a bountiful table with cup overflowing. How soothing to be assured of protection in those places of darkness, evil, and death! But let’s not rush through these and jump to the conclusion that all is good.
Thirst lingers before still waters. The desert struggles to give way to green pastures. The people still wander as they find stability. Loss continues to come even as they gain. These are the highs and lows of a people’s history—and of our own. Yet hope remains through this promise: God is closer to me than I am to myself. I shall never be abandoned to face my troubles alone.
Gracious and loving God, Shepherd and Guardian, your protection sustains me even at the very moment when things seem at their worst. In your house I find comfort. Amen.
The reading from Acts picks up the themes of mutual love and fellowship from last week’s readings and records that the display of these qualities captured the attention of the people in Jerusalem. When the church displays these qualities today, they still attract people to the Lord. The psalm and First Peter are linked by the theme of suffering. In Psalm 23, David is confident that God will stay with him even through the darkest valley. Peter encourages his audience to walk through that same valley, strengthened by the knowledge that God will never abandon them and that they are following the example of Christ. In John, Jesus declares that he is the way to safety for God’s sheep, so we should listen to his voice alone.
Read Acts 2:42-47. How do you see Good Time and Bad Time coexisting in your life or in your community?
Read Psalm 23. How do this psalm’s joys and comforts change when you consider the suffering of the psalmist in Psalm 22?
Read 1 Peter 2:19-25. When you have been caught in a struggle, how have your actions helped or worsened your situation?
Read John 10:1-10. How have you or someone you know attempted to enter God’s abundance by stealth? What does it mean for you to rectify this and enter through the gate?
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