Monday, March 17, 2014

Psalms 23:1-4 -- On the Comfort of Guidance

"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."
Psalms 23:1-4

This one is familiar to a lot of people, and I think it is well known because it is comforting and clear.  God watches out for us... we are his flock.  At the same time, I think it also lets us know that bad things are going to happen.  "The valley of the shadow of death" doesn't really sound like someplace we would want to go on vacation.  And yet, even though bad things happen, and we might end up there at some point... still, God watches over us.  Although we do fear sometimes, we don't need to.  God keeps his promises.  As we accept him as our shepherd and listen to his voice, he leads us and restores us and helps us even in the darkest times... and as we trust in him, he will deliver us and help us find happiness.  As for the rod and the staff... with shepherds, both are used for guidance... the rod to drive and also to defend the sheep from predators, the staff to pull the sheep towards the shepherd, out of danger or away from things that are bad for them.  Guidance is a comfort because we know that someone is watching over us, ready to provide for us, guide us and defend us in times of trouble.  Perhaps some comparable things in our lives are the scriptures, which give us helpful guidelines that teach us the way, and help us know what to avoid.  Also prayer, which is more individualized help and comfort.  And the Spirit, always helping us to recognize the truth and know what God wants.
Today, whether we're figuratively in paradise or in the valley of the shadow of death, let's not fear.  Let's accept God's guidance, listen to his voice, and follow him.  Let's do our best to stay out of danger and find sustenance and renewal through him and the peace that he offers.  And when we do stray, let's still not panic, but remember where we can return for comfort and protection.

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