Daily Devotions are published Tuesday-Saturday during the Covid-19 Pandemic.
Psalm 23 (NRSV)
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.
A shepherd’s life is not the idyllic image of a shepherd in a green field surrounded by fluffy white sheep. According to W. Phillip Keller’s A Shepherd’s Look at Psalm 23, being a shepherd can be all-consuming, backbreaking, challenging work. A good shepherd not only protects his/her flock from prey and thieves but also protects his/her flock from pests and disease by “anointing” the sheep’s head with medicine (v. 5). The wellbeing of the sheep depends on the shepherd’s provision. A flock flourishes when they have clean water to drink and lush pasture (v. 2).
These many challenges aside, a lot of the difficulty of being a shepherd stems from the sheep. Sheep can be incredibly stubborn, foolish creatures that often follow their own way – breaking free to eat in lesser pasturage, drinking dirty waters which will lead to internal infections, and getting lost. Sound familiar? But the common problem is “casting,” or when a sheep has turned over on its back and cannot get up. Even the healthiest, strongest, fattest sheep suffer casting and, when it occurs, the animal is utterly helpless and could die within hours. Cast sheep are the shepherd’s constant concern – when a sheep is missing from the herd, the shepherd immediately searches for the animal before it is too late.
In our current circumstances, we are certainly a cast sheep, stripped bare of life’s certainties and routines, floundering in our forced isolation, unsure what dangers lurk in the shadows and what the future holds. Yet our Good Shepherd comes to us now to “restore our souls.” How lucky we are to have a shepherd who laid down His life for His flock and conquered this world of sin and death! And He will lead us through this uncertain time toward home and provide what we need to get there.
Prayer (adapted from the eleventh chapter of Keller’s A Shepherd’s Look at Psalm 23)
Heavenly Shepherd, during this dark time help us to remember that no matter what comes we belong to Your flock and that You love us, “cast” sheep that we are. Though we do not understand our current circumstances, we know that eventual good will come from the chaos and pain because we are under Your care. Open our eyes to see your goodness and mercy and let those same traits follow us all the days of this quarantine and our lives. Amen
YouTube Video: Psalm 23 (Surely Goodness, Surely Mercy) Shane and Shane