The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.- Psalm 23:1
Don't you just love that analogy? The picture of us as gentle sheep following Jesus wherever He goes. Everything we need is taken care.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.- Psalm 23:2
This verse conjures up a very pleasant image, doesn't it? When I was a child, I would imagine myself as little white lamb, frisking about in the soft green grass before heading down to a quiet pool of refreshing water for a nice cool drink. It sounds very pleasant, doesn't it.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.- Psalm 23:3
He restores us; refreshes our soul. He leads us on "right" or "good" paths which bring honor to His name.
Do you believe that? I do!
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.- Psalm 23:5
Isn't it glorious! We feast at the table God Himself prepares for us right in front of our enemies. We are His guests and He fills our cups to overflowing. There is more than enough.
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.- Psalm 23:6
The Message says it like this:
Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I'm back home in the house of God for the rest of my life.
What a beautiful psalm but did you notice that something is missing? Verse four. You see, usually we read over verse four (or at least the first part) so quickly that it sounds like mumbling. We don't like verse four very much, it seems because it makes us a bit uncomfortable. It doesn't fit our "image" of Christianity or at least the popular image in the West.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,- Psalm 23:4a
We don't want to think about that part, do we. Yet, every single one of us must face it. Ignoring it will not make it go away and some of us... well... some of us do not have the luxury of choosing to ignore it. We've walked there before and we know that eventually we must return there... whether we want to or not.
We forget that because of Christ, we can say the next part of that verse right along with David:
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.- Psalm 23:4b
We fail to realize that verse 5 follows verse 4. You see, even in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, God prepares a table for us, right in the presence of our enemies and we have a glorious feast! Yes, even there! I have experienced it and I have seen others, even as they face death, even as their body weakens and life is fading away, I see the love, joy and peace of the Lord in the light shining from their faces.
The Good News is this... Jesus Christ defeated "death" and if we repent and believe in Him, it has no hold on us. Though our flesh may die... we are alive, because of Christ!