I don’t remember when I first memorized Psalm 23. It’s kind of like The Lord’s Prayer or John 3:16, sometimes you don’t know how you know it, but you do. But it was only in the past few months that I started praying it.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
That line—“I shall not want”—that is what first began to tumble around in my mind. Audrey Assad sings it this way:
“When I taste Your goodness, I shall not want.”
“O Lord... there is nothing on earth I desire besides you” writes another Psalmist, echoing this same idea of complete contentment and fulfillment.
This past fall I found myself singing/praying those lines—asking that God would make them true, because honestly, there is so much I want. I know that it is only in Him that I will be complete. And yet, and yet, my heart is prone to wander.
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
This is Beacon to me. A place of still waters but with pine trees instead of pastures. This past summer I came to Beacon with the responsibility of teaching and encouraging others, but I felt emotionally and spiritually empty. But while at camp, through the support of the dear people who serve there, I once again found restoration, healing, and rest.
The middle of the Psalm, the part about the dark valley—that is the part that I have always found great comfort in, and still do. That is the part I have whispered quietly when worry is piling up or when pain is gnawing away at my heart.
It is the end of the Psalm, though, that has lingered closet to me most recently.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
A bittersweet theme that runs through the whole of the Bible is the yearning to be close to God. The Fall resulted in a devastating loss of communion with God, but our human hearts still long for that lost union. Throughout the Psalms, again and again, the writers speak of longing to come to the house of God, or the temple of God, or Mount Zion. They long to be close to Him.
And then, something that the Psalmists couldn’t have even dreamed of happened: God came and dwelled with us. And then when Emmanuel (which means God with us) was here on earth He began talking about an even deeper dwelling: “Abide in Me, as I abide in you” He told His followers. He promised His followers that after He returned to heaven, He would send His Spirit to come and live inside of them.
So then, the desire to experience communion with God which was voiced throughout the Old Testament was finally fulfilled. David wrote about dwelling in God’s house forever—and we, we have God dwelling in us forever.
Over the past few months I have sung, whispered, and prayed this Psalm. I hope my shared reflections on it encourage you. And I hope that you will take time to reflect on Psalm 23 as well—and maybe you can share how God speaks to you through it and in turn encourage someone else.