Tuesday, May 29, 2012
My Grandma wrote this up from the 23rd Psalm for Sunday School...then my mom typed it up, and now I am re-posting for sentimentality and future reference!
The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.
The sheep knows the shepherd has plans for grazing. In the same way we know God will supply our needs. It is wonderful to have this faith and not to worry about where it comes from. After WWII, armies gathered homeless and hungry children and put them in large camps and they were well fed and cared for. Still they cried at night and did not sleep. They were given a piece of bread to hold and this made the child feel assured he would have something to eat tomorrow and he would be calm and rest peacefully.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.
The shepherd starts the sheep grazing grass very early (around 4 o’clock in the morning). The sheep walk as they eat and are never still. By 10 o’clock the sun is hot and the sheep are thirsty, overheated and tired. The wise shepherd knows the sheep must not drink when hot, for his stomach is full of undigested grass. So the shepherd makes the sheep lie down in green pastures, a soft cool spot, and he chews his cud, which is nature's way of digestion.
He leadeth me beside the still waters. Sheep are timid creatures and especially afraid of swiftly moving water. It has good reason to fear as they're poor swimmers because of a heavy coat of wool which soaks into the coat and pulls them down. Sheep will drink only from still waters. If the shepherd can’t find a still stream while his sheep rest, he gather stones and fashions a dam across the stream to form a pool from which even the tiniest lamb may drink without fear. In the same way God knows our limitations and weaknesses and knows we are not perfect as Jesus. He does not force us to work beyond our strength and abilities.
He restoreth my soul. As sheep start out, each takes a definite place in line and holds the same position during the day. Sometimes during the day he leaves his place in line and trots over to the shepherd. The shepherd rubs his nose and ears, lightly scratches the ears and whispers to the sheep; reassured and encouraged, the sheep takes its place in line again. David, who wrote the 23rd Psalm, remembered how close he once was to God, how God protected him when he met the giant Goliath, how God guided him along the way to success. When David got busy and started looking after himself, he lost his nearness to God, did wrong and became unhappy. His burden of guilt became too heavy to bear and he repented. God heard, forgave and restored. David became a new man - restored.
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Sheep have no sense of direction and couldn’t find their way back to the herd if lost. They have poor eyes and can see only a few yards ahead. In the Palestine fields there were narrow paths. Some led to cliffs over which the stupid sheep might fall to its death. Other paths led to a blind alley and some paths led to green pastures and still waters. The sheep followed the shepherd knowing it was on the right path. Sometimes the paths were steep and difficult but they always ended up somewhere. God does not promise us an easy and effortless life. He does promise us strength and he does promise to go with us. As we take life one step at a time we are not alone. We can walk with Him on the right path.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me. There is a Valley of the Shadow of Death in Palestine. It leads from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea and is a very narrow and dangerous pathway through the mountain range. The path is rough and there is danger that a sheep may fall at any moment to its death. We come to these dark places in life through which we too must pass. Death is one. Disappointment another and loneliness another. We must remember to not fear or be afraid because God will be with us, he is our shepherd and he will give us strength.
Thy Rod and Thy Staff They Comfort me. The sheep is a helpless animal. It has no weapon with which to fight. It is easy prey to any wild beast of the field. It is afraid. The shepherd carries a rod which is a heavy, hard club. David killed a lion and a bear while protecting his sheep. Also the shepherd carried a staff which was about 8 feet long. The end was turned into a crook. When the sheep would lose their footing and slip down the steep sides of the mountains, hang helplessly on some ledge below, the shepherd could reach down with his staff and place the crook over the small sheep chest and lift it back on the pathway. Naturally for these reasons the sheep are comforted by the shepherd’s rod and staff. Many times we feel helpless and are scared, but we can find comfort in the powers of God.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies. In the pastures of the holy land many poisonous plants grew which would kill the sheep if eaten by them. There were also plants with sharp thorns that would hurt the soft noses of the sheep and cause ugly sores. The shepherd would go out each spring and dig out these enemies of the sheep, pile them up, and burn them, making the pastures safe for the sheep to graze. The pasture was therefore, a table prepared. The present enemies were destroyed. Parents must constantly do this for their children. They try to keep bad books or magazines from being available. They are trying to keep the enemies from you that could be destructive.
Thou anointed my head with oil, my cup runneth over. The sheep would sometimes cut their head on the sharp edge of a stone buried in the grass and there were thorns in the grass to stick and briars to scratch. As the sheep came in at the end of the day all tired out, the shepherd would examine each one and apply oil if they were hurt. Instead of becoming infected the hurt would soon heal. In life there are also many ways to be hurt and we become discouraged and tired. But there is the tender Shepherd who understands the hurt and is also ready to minister to that hurt.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. David was an old man when he wrote the 23rd Psalm. He had seen tragedies and disappointments, but he also knew the God who knows the needs of his children and provides for those needs. David was sure that God would lead us through the dark valleys to goodness and mercy. All we need to do is hope and have faith and dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Just as we are always happy to go home when we’re tired or after a day at school, or from vacation, David was reminding us how assuring it was to know that at the close of life’s day we will go home to heaven.
By Helen E. Godden