Beside quiet waters

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Psalm 23:1-3 NIV

I don’t know about you, but the challenges of this year—COVID pandemic, election campaigning, race issues, rioting, police violence—have made me long for green pastures, quiet waters, and refreshment for my soul.

The opening of Psalm 23 makes me visualize a lake like the one in the photo. I can imagine myself napping in the grass beside the tree. Can you hear the water lapping at the shore? Or smell the damp dew in the grass? Can you feel the warmth of the sunlight streaming on your face? Perhaps there’s a bird singing from a branch overhead.

It’s a lovely setting, but only bits of our lives are spent in quiet reflection and rest. I am thankful for those treasured times of refreshment in my life. They give me a glimmer of what’s to come!

But David follows these words with—even though I walk through the darkest valleyin the presence of my enemies (Psalm 23:4a, 5a NIV). His life, and ours, is not made up of green pastures and rest. It’s full of the stuff of 2020—danger, suffering, violence, etc.

Look closer at Psalm 23 (verses 4-6 NIV):

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will 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 your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Despite the valley of shadows, we can find comfort knowing our Shepherd is leading us with staff and rod in hand. He will protect us.

In the presence of our enemies, God has set the table of his grace and love. We are not to fear, but share the bounty with them. Our cups overflow.

We need not fear evil. Our God has annointed us and made us his children. He allows only that which makes us more like his Son—loving and good.

In this mortal life, I choose to join with David and focus on the presence of my Shepherd. I will trust he guides me along right paths. He will provide and protect and comfort me. He strengthens and refreshes me. But these words are not for me alone.

God extends his loving arms out to you too, my friend. But we sheep are given a choice. Will you choose to follow his lead? Listen for his voice calling your name.

Join the fold–it alone promises abundant life and hope. And in the end, we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever! AMEN.

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