A Reflection on Psalm 23 during the COVID Crisis

Psalm 23 Reflections

This evenings reflections in Good Shepherd Sunday are based on Psalm 23, using the hymns that have been inspired by this great Psalm. I want to look at three of those hymns and see how the words help us in the danger of this current world. Then we will spend some time listening to the worlds as we reflect.

The first two verses of our Psalm remind us of Gods sovereign care and love for us:
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

The hymn “In Heavenly Love abiding” written by Anna Letitia Waring in 1850 picks up the sentiment of those words but translates them for a time of trouble and difficulty it was written in turbulent times such as we face now. The author carefully crafts this hymn as a soothing hymn in times of real trouble. When she considers that leadership of her Shepherd with the words “no change my heart shall fear” she knows that God will be with her through all things, we too live in a troubled world, a world of fear and those words are something we too can cling to. The psalm gives the beautiful image of being led to still waters. and as the author again translates this into the context of her day she says “the storm may roar without me”. Our prayer must be for this storm to pass but as it roars let us know Gods stillness and presence.

The first verse of the hymn reads:
In heavenly love abiding,
no change my heart shall fear;
and safe is such confiding,
for nothing changes here:
the storm may roar without me,
my heart may low be laid;
but God is round about me,
and can I be dismayed?

Let us listen now:

The next 3 verses of our Psalm remind us that even in the darkest days he is with us:
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.

In 1868 HW Baker wrote “The King of Love My Shepherd is” pick up Gods care for us in time for trouble in a beautiful and poetic way that not only echoes the Psalm itself but brings us to Jesus our Good Shepherd, he brings the imagery of the Parable of the Lost Sheep into his hymn with us “on his shoulder gently laid and home rejoicing brought me. When we come to that dark valley, a valley that we as a world are living in right now he brings to mind not only the Psalm but Jesus victory over death on the cross for us all “thy rod and staff my comfort still, thy cross before to guide me”

Verses three and four of the hymn read:
Perverse and foolish, oft I strayed,
but yet in love he sought me;
and on his shoulder gently laid,
and home, rejoicing, brought me.
In death’s dark vale I fear no ill,
with thee, dear Lord, beside me;
thy rod and staff my comfort still,
thy cross before to guide me.

Let us listen now:

The final verse of our psalm looks to that promise of eternal life:
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord

Our final hymn written by Henry Francis Lyte in 1847 is a popular hymn at funerals and even the FA Cup Final, Abide with Me is based again on the words of Psalm 23 it is a hymn of hope in the defeat of death tat leads to eternal live, it has words that many have clung to. As the psalmist writes “surely your goodness and love will follow me so the hymn writer writes “I fear no foe with thee at hand to bless” In a world of fear from this deadly invisible virus those words sing to us, “ills have no weight and tears no bitterness.” The psalm concludes as we consider what it means to dwell in the house of the lord forever and thy hymnwriter is on hand to help “ Heaven’s morning breaks and earth’s vain shadows flee; in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.”

The last two verses of the hymn read:
I fear no foe with thee at hand to bless,
ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if thou abide with me.
Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes.
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks and earth’s vain shadows flee;
in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me

I leave you with our final hymn