The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will 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
When I come into the nursing home or hospital room of an old Christian, I try to have this psalm at the ready. More than once I have slowly started to read it, usually out of the King James Version because that is how they probably memorized it when they were young. Their eyes close and you can see their lips moving as they recite with me. It is a moment of peace for them, even though their lives are often difficult.
I am always amazed by the power of these words. They were written by a former shepherd nearly three thousand years ago. He spoke a foreign language, wore strange clothes, had a job which almost none of my parishioners would understand. Yet, his words continue to bring comfort. We have may other pieces of poetry which are as old. We have had generations of poets who have lived and written since then. But these words endure. You won’t find a plaque with Homer, Sappho, or Vergil in the homes of many people, but you will find these words.
One of my old pastor friends taught me to read this psalm emphasizing the personal pronouns. For a devotional practice today, give that a try. “the Lord is MY shepherd; I shall not want. HE makes ME lie down…HE leads ME beside…HE restores MY soul.” It is a different way to read this psalm, far more personal. Take a moment and read it slowly today, either this way or any way which suits you. But spend some time in these precious words. Reflect on those moments when HE has been with YOU in the valley of the shadow of death and HIS rod and staff have comforted YOU!