Reader: “The Lord is my shepherd”
Response: “I shall not want.”
Scripture: Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. (KJV)
Reader: “The word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
This psalm is surely among the best loved portions of Scripture. I thought I might depart a little bit from our usual approach with your permission and reflect more personally on this psalm. As I write this on March 27th, today would have been my younger brother, David’s, 69th birthday. He died during my freshman year at Wheaton College. My suitemate was the first person I encountered upon hearing the news. Cal recited this psalm. Prior to this moment, I had been wrestling for several weeks with the idea of “What if I reach out to God with complete abandon (I was a Christian) and nothing happens?” I had almost concluded that rather than risk that, I’d continue in a warm and positive relationship with God, close but guarded. The news of David’s death cut through everything in a split second. I instinctively reached out to the Lord in total desperation and was overwhelmed with God’s presence. Jesus might as well have been in room 466 in Fischer Hall standing right beside me in the flesh. From that moment on to this day, 54 years later, there has never been a shadow of a doubt of the reality of a God who relates so personally to me. The psalm begins “The Lord is my shepherd . . .” If the Lord is not your shepherd, you cannot experience the rest of the psalm. There is no other way to satisfy your wants. There is no other way to find stillness. There is no other way to restore your soul. There is no other way to find the paths of righteousness. There is no other way to escape the fear of death. There is no other way to have the Lord with you if he is not your Shepherd. There is no other way to experience true comfort apart from your Shepherd. There is no other way to receive goodness and mercy apart from the Lord. And finally, there is no other way to dwell in the house of the Lord forever apart from him being your Shepherd. You can trust your Shepherd with complete abandon, have no fear.
Music: “The Lord is My Shepherd” by John Rutter Atlanta Master Chorale
O God, let Thy Spirit now enter my heart. Now as I pray this prayer let not any room within me be furtively closed to keep Thee out . . . Now as I pray this prayer, let me not be still holding to some undertaking on which I dare not ask Thy blessing . . .Now as I pray this prayer let me not be still intending to devote my own best hours and years to the service of lesser ends. O Holy Spirit of God, as I rise from these acts of devotion, let me not return to evil thoughts and worldly ways, but let that mind be in me which was also in Christ Jesus. Amen. ―John Baillie, from The Quiet Corner, p.8