Yesterday I began a new sermon series on the 23rd Psalm. As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve never used this text in weekend worship. My use of it has been primarily for funerals and hospital visits. Scholars do not know with certainty when David wrote this Psalm. They are generally agreed that it came late in his life, perhaps during his flight from Jerusalem during Absolam’s rebellion. The words of this timeless Psalm are not merely beautiful thoughts. They are the reflections of one who suffered greatly. In the midst of suffering, David was confident in God’s goodness both in this life and the life to come. The Psalm has universal appeal because suffering is a universal problem. It has been said that the Scriptures were written by people having a hard time to those having a hard time or who are about to have a hard time. The challenge we have is that we are so familiar with it that it is difficult to hear these words with freshness without being blinded by our previous experience with it.
We live in an unpredictable world, an often terrifying world—ever mindful of all the bad things that might happen to us and to those around us. The message of Psalm 23 is not that bad things will never happen. It is that we’ll never have to face them alone and that God can be trusted. Trusting God is like learning to float. The water does its job. All you have to do is relax. Trusting God begins by acknowledging who we are in the eyes of God. We can’t see the shepherd if we don’t see ourselves as sheep.