Year B – Easter 4 – Psalm 23

Psalm 23:  The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; 3he restores my soul.  He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. 4 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. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 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.  (NRSV)

Summary:  Despite its lack of cultural relevance, our thoughts of a what a shepherd is, remains a powerful and moving metaphor; Especially when we consider how such imagery informs the Lord’s devoted interaction and guidance within our individual lives.  Throughout history, readers have found this psalm particularly comforting and deeply personal.  God’s care and leading are intimately felt by David’s firsthand experience and poetic imagery.  Thankfully we have a share in David’s voice:  even in the darkest valley, our Divine Shepherd is leading you and me.

Insight:  Biblically, shepherding is a leadership trait that describes even ungodly leaders.  Naturally, such bad leaders were called ‘bad’ shepherds, and they were one of the most damaging and reoccurring threats to the flock of Israel (Jeremiah 23).  However, God was never unsympathetic to such leadership problems; he promised one day to shepherd his people himself (Ezekiel 34).  So when Jesus came onto the scene proclaiming he was the ‘good’ shepherd (Jn 10:14), he was more than just speak of his tender care and pastoral heart,[1] he was claiming to be David’s divine shepherd of Psalm 23.  In fact, “no human king of Israel was ever given the title [of shepherd].”[2]  But now, we have the privilege and responsibility to serve the Shepherd King of Israel.

Likewise, the image of Christ as a shepherd should instill in us a picture of great dignity as well as unsurpassable tenderness.  In Psalm 23, David expresses them both.  He was a man striving to live in that appropriate fear and adoration of Lord.  As we serve the risen and reigning Christ, we must impress upon ourselves the same:  we too have nothing to fear, with no wants, and only the shepherd’s leading:  Surely, goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our lives!

Child Catechism:  How is God a shepherd?  God rules the universe with a shepherd’s caring and tender guidance, deserving for his name’s sake, all creation’s love and respect.

Discussion:  In the Near East, shepherding was a regal image as well as a commonplace profession; what modern everyday occupations might you use to describe God’s guidance?  How does C.S. Lewis’ Aslan help depict the appropriate fear and adoration of who God is?

Prayer – Father, we thank for your shepherd-like leading and provision in our lives, Grant us the grace to follow the one and only Shepherd King:  Christ Jesus;  And it is in his Name and the blessed unity of his Spirit that we pray.  Amen.

Contributed by:  M. West


[1] Peter C. Craigie.  Ezekiel.  (Philadelphia:  Westminster, 1983):  243.

[2] Timothy S. Laniak.  Shepherds After My Own Heart:  Pastoral Traditions and Leadership in the Bible.  (Downers Grove:  InterVarsity, 2006):  249.

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Year B—Transfiguration—At the Name of Jesus

At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow,
Every tongue confess him King of glory now:
‘Tis the Father’s pleasure we should call him Lord,
Who from the beginning was the mighty Word.

Humbled for a season, to receive a name
From the lips of sinners unto whom he came,
Faithfully he bore it spotless to the last,
Brought it back victorious, when from death he passed:

Bore it up triumphant with its human light,
Through all ranks of creatures, to the central height,
To the throne of Godhead, to the Father’s breast;
Filled it with the glory of that perfect rest.

Have you ever read The Horse and His Boy in Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia?  Toward the end of it, Shasta learns that, although he’s been raised a poor fisherman’s boy, he is in fact the son of king Lune and heir to Archenland’s throne.  It’s just one of many such stories in which the unexpected fellow of humble home, from the backwaters of nowhere, winds up being the son of the king.  Why do we love that sort of story so much?  One reason may be that it reflects an important part of the True Story—the Great Story—in which Jesus, a carpenter’s son from Nazareth, winds up being the long-awaited and finally-exalted King.

It’s just that theme which Caroline Noel captures in her hymn, At the Name of Jesus; which, like Luther’s We All Believe in One True God, takes its cue from an early creed.  Caroline looks to an even earlier creed in her hymn, though, than Luther looks to in his: Caroline looks to that creed which St. Paul quotes in his epistle to the Philippians, 2:6-11 (you could open a Bible and recite that creed together, right now).

Meant to be a processional hymn for Ascension, At the Name of Jesus celebrates the ascended Christ’s exaltation—the reward of His humility.  Let us, like Christ, endure any hardship, not being served but serving, remembering that with God, the least shall be greatest, the last shall be first, the one who gives up most will have the most returned to him, and that the one who serves will be given authority.

Contributed by Scott Cline