There are places in scripture that are powerful and so deep that to recite them is to experience them. Psalm 23 is one of those places. The psalm itself is green pasture and still waters; the psalm itself restores my soul. The 23rd Psalm feels very personal.
In the first three verses, David refers to God in the third person: "The Lord is my Shepherd. He makes me lie down; He leads me; He restores my soul."
Then, in v. 4-5, David shifts, referring to God in the second person: "I will fear no evil, for You are with me”; and then, David closes by returning to the third person: "I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
Why do you suppose David switched from talking about God saying "He" to talking to God using the pronoun "You?" David changed "He" to the more intimate "You" in v. 4, because it's there he speaks of the valley he has walked.
Aren’t we more prone to talk about God when we are in the green pastures and to talk to God when we're in those dangerous ravines of life? So why would a good shepherd, who would lay down his life for his sheep, lead a lamb into a valley filled with danger and threats of death? To get to some better place!
A shepherd knows from past experience that predators can take cover in broken cliffs, and from their vantage point they can prey on the shepherd’s flock. There could be rockslides, or a dozen other natural disasters that would destroy or injure his sheep.
When we're walking through some unfamiliar valley like this current pandemic, or when a cancer diagnosis comes and a treatment decision needs to be made or when finances are tight and you are deciding which bill to pay, remember this: The valley may not be good, but the shepherd is and the shepherd knows the way. Psalm 23 gives us a roadmap on how to be fearless when confronted by an enemy, whether physical, emotional, real or imagined.
How do you fight those fears during this coronavirus pandemic when you don't know what's going to happen next and your imagination is working overtime? Psalm 23 tells us that we need to stick close to God and trust that God knows the way through this particular valley. We need to believe that God will lead us on the surest route even though it is difficult and unfamiliar, and we need to hold on to the truth that there is something better waiting on the other side of this valley. Amen.
"On Faith” is a weekly column in the News-Chronicle written by area religious leaders.