Medicine for the Soul

 

 

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Scripture – Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside the still waters; He restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff – they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.

Reflection

David is credited as the author of Psalm 23. It is no surprise because David was a shepherd boy, and he knew about the realities and dangers of shepherding a flock. Psalm 23 is profound in meaning and scope. It uses strong metaphors that acknowledge the threats and opposition one faces in life. It’s six short verses span over the course of one’s life experience and beyond.  Scholars believe that the psalm’s reference to the “house of the Lord” in verse 6 is a reference to the temple that David hoped to build (2 Samuel 7:1-14).  So, David must have written the psalm later on in his tempered and mature life as he reflected back upon God’s faithfulness and steadfast love toward him throughout the years.

Many of us first heard the comforting psalm when we were children in Sunday School or during vacation bible school or at home during our family devotional and prayer times. We often hear this psalm read to comfort those who mourn at memorial and funeral services. The simplistic beauty and comfort contained in the twenty-third Psalm, especially during times of distress, is appreciated by all of us. Many of us know this beautiful psalm by heart.

Bernhard Anderson (1916-2007), a United Methodist pastor and Old Testament scholar, has best expressed the value of the twenty-third Psalm when he wrote, “No single psalm has expressed more powerfully humanity’s prayer of confidence ‘out of the depths’ to the God whose purpose alone gives meaning to the span of life, from womb to tomb.”

Each time we read or recite Psalm 23, we take into our souls, a powerful spiritual medicine that refreshes, renews, and restores our faith, our hope, and our strength to keep moving forward in life in both good and challenging times. Reading and reciting Psalm 23 brings us into a deeper dependence upon God’s love and grace and fills us with the assurance that our Good Shepherd, Christ himself, walks with us along our life’s path. Psalm 23’s words of assurance anchor us through life’s long nights, they spiritually restore our weary souls, and they enable us to feel more alive and connected to God and to others.

I invite you to start your days this coming week by reading or reciting Psalm 23. If you have time, practice “Lectio Divina” or “Divine Reading” to open yourself to what God wants to say to you.

For example, select a short portion of Psalm 23 each day such as “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

  • Step 1 – Read the passage slowly and reflectively so that it sinks into you.
  • Step 2 – Meditate on the passage so that you take from it what God wants to give you.
  • Step 3 – Respond by letting your heart speak to God.
  • Step 4 – Contemplate by resting in the Word of God. Listen at the deepest level of your being to God who speaks within you with a still small voice. As you listen, you’ll be gradually transformed from within. Then take what you read and contemplated in the Word of God into your daily life.
  • Step 5 – Keep a written journal to record how God is transforming your life.

Prayer

More than ever I find myself in your hands, O God.

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