The God who is present: Protecting his people. Ps. 23
Read Psalm 23
“I will fear no evil, for You are with me”
Psalm 23 is arguably one of the most popular and favorite sections in the Bible. The imagery of green hillsides populated grazing white sheep provides a sense of tranquility and peace. This is further enhanced by the picture of God, as a shepherd, providing care for his people and the hope of eternally dwelling in the house of God. This message brings comfort and encouragement us in the most difficult times we face.
While the Psalm is usually thought of in terms of God’s guidance and care, in verses 4-5 we are drawn into the omniscience of God and its significance for us. In verse 4 the scene shifts from the picturesque hillsides to a dark valley and so the mood changes from one of quiet rest to fearful travels. The term for the valley of the shadow of death comes from one word which combines two Hebrew words, the word for valley or shade and the word for death. The word for shade, when used alone, is often used in a positive sense as a place for protection from the heat of the sun. But here, combined with the Hebrew word for death or grave, takes on a far more sinister meaning. Instead of a place of protection, it speaks of a far more menacing and terrifying journey. The picture is no longer the peaceful grass-laden hillside but of a dark, dangerous path going through a place of extreme danger, one where evil is threatening ones very life and existence.
In such a situation, what calms the heart is the shepherd’s abiding presence. David remains confident and at peace because God himself is with him, walking beside him, providing his protective care to prevent any harm. This brings to clarity the nature of God’s presence with his people, for his presence provides the promise of protection and provision. The rod and staff, instruments the Shepherd used both for guiding the sheep as well as protecting the sheep from threatening animals, are here the source of his comfort, for he knows the shepherd will protect him. So assuring is the presence of the shepherd that the psalmist even finds a place of repose and feasting in the most unlikely place—the place where his enemies are encamped around him.
No matter how difficult the experience of life we face when we have our eyes upon God and a focus upon his presence, we can have confidence and freedom from anxiety. It is when we get our focus off of God and start to look upon the trials that assault us, that fear begins to grip us.
This week, as we delve into the riches of God’s omnipresence, we find the source of great comfort. We can have peace as we walk through these uncharted waters that the uncertainty of our day has brought upon us. We do not need to fear Covid-19 or any other threat to our wellbeing. We do not need to become apprehensive about what the future will bring. We have a God who is present, a God who is walking beside us each step of the way, and in the end that is all we really need to know.