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. Psalm 23:1-3 KJV
I’m not sure what mental block it is, but for reasons I do not understand, the phrase “He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness,” eludes my memory when I repeat the 23rd Psalm, I memorized as a child.
This treasured psalm is read at hospital bedsides, funerals and in moments of trial. To quiet anxious thoughts, some of us, will repeat the words as we are falling asleep. Reminding ourselves, that whatever the current situation, we have a Shepherd who cares for and about us.
Pastor John Rogers asks, “What might it do to our understanding of God, and to the way we live with life’s joy and sorrows, if we took seriously that God always takes the initiative with us -a shepherd leading us towards himself, following us in our wanderings, so that we never get beyond the Love that will not let us go?” (Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 2, Pg 434)
I like that John Rogers points out, “God always takes the initiative” in the leading. While we might be telling ourselves we are searching for guidance and wisdom, God is already nudging us to ask the questions. Questions which will lead us to God sized answers.
The Twenty-third Psalm speaks to us in times of exhaustion, as we are desperately needing a place of still waters and green pastures to rest in. It speaks when days are dark and we are frightened, walking through a valley where both death and danger lurk.
The psalm speaks again, on days of celebration, when we are safe on the other side of danger, with cups overflowing, feasting on the grace and goodness of our Shepherd God.
With a confidence borne of experience, the psalmist concludes:
“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 23:5-6 KJV
Our psalm writer knew that God has never promised us an easy life. What God has promised is to be with us and love us in every part of life. Then, when our days here are over, is there to welcome us into an eternal home. Indeed, our cups do run over with grace, even as we are led on the “Paths of righteousness.”