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  • Michelle Erickson

Sacred Space: Pslam 23

By: Michelle Erickson


Years ago, a tragedy stunned our neighborhood. Early one morning, a friend woke to a gun shot and her husband's suicide. The following evening, we all gathered around her, and unspeakable pain filled every crevice of the space. I remember she sat rocking in the corner, blankly staring out. I knelt beside her, and the only thing I could think to say is "God is here with you." But, instead, she glazed past me, and with the empty eyes of grief, she said to me, "there is no God." And we cried.


A week later, I needed to pick my kids up at camp and planned to extend the time up north for a family vacation. I remember my husband intended to meet us, so I drove by myself. I cried out to God in the car and questioned the senselessness and suffering. I arrived at the cabin having no idea what to expect – way, way before Airbnb. The place was rustic and peaceful, but surprisingly out in the back was a large pond surrounded by long grass. I sat beside it the following day, and the silence gave me breath. The words "I lead you to still waters" came to my mind, "Lay down and rest. "

Today's scripture will always remind me of that moment- a time of unbearable pain, yet God's reassurance of his presence. He is there- in the moments of life when we can't breathe. Jesus is the good shepherd. He restores souls.


Context

This scripture is probably one of the most well-known and reveals so much about God's character and who we are to him during life tragedies. There are books and books written about the theological impact of this beautiful Psalm. Nonetheless, for our purpose, we know it was written by David and most likely towards the end of his kingship. Many argue that the Psalm's depth reflects a more mature man than one written by a young shepherd. A King who had experienced fear, loss, and despair.

Although as a shepherd in his youth, he cared for sheep and the original audience would understand the role as well.


Of course, Jesus compares himself to the good shepherd, and we know that Jesus is the exact representation of God the Father. (Hebrews 1:3) But let's remember this beautiful Psalm is written years before Jesus. So often, it is easy when we read the old testament to see God as a vengeful, scary God. But, this is God- in this verse. God, the Father, is the good shepherd.


Written years after David's reign, Ezekial also reminds us-

"Thus says the Lord God, "Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd cares for his herd in the day when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will care for My sheep and will deliver them from all the places to which they were scattered on a cloudy and gloomy day…. I will feed My flock, I will lead them to rest," declares the Lord God (Ezek. 34:11-15).


Grab a journal and pen! Read through Psalm 23 (below) three times and use the following prompts to guide you through each round.


Round 1

Read through the passage out loud if possible.

Look for the who, what, where, how of the passage.

Who is speaking and to whom?

What is happening?

What results?

Do you see a "But," "Then," or "However?" What are these words connecting?


Round 2

Read through the passage out loud if possible.

What verse(s) does Jesus highlight for you? (A verse that sticks out to you as you read, and you feel pulled to stay there awhile and think about it.)

Ask your Father,

What are you saying to me through this verse?

What do you want to show me about myself? You?

Write down whatever comes to your mind- trust that the Holy Spirit speaks through our mind with words and images. We have entered into His sacred space, and He will speak to your heart.

Round 3

Read through the passage out loud if possible.

Ask the Holy Spirit,

How should I respond to this truth today or this week?

How does this change how I think about you, myself, or my neighbor the world?

How do I align with your kingdom knowing this truth?


A psalm of David.

1 The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. 2 He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. 3 He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. 4 Even when I walk through the darkest valley,[a] I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. 5 You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. 6 Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.




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