“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” (Psalm 23:1, KJV)
These words from Psalm 23:1 are some of the most familiar words in the English language. If I were to say these words out loud, it wouldn’t surprise if people joined in with reciting the rest of this much-loved Psalm.
Much has been written on the 23rd Psalm in both the academic and the devotional literature. Millions of sermons have been preached on this Psalm. So it is always with some degree of trepidation that I approach teaching on this text, as I will do this Sunday. To complicate matters, due to the suspension of public gatherings in response to COVID-19, I’ll be preaching to a mostly empty sanctuary. Preaching without the physical presence of a congregation is one of the hardest things a preacher ever does. Thankfully, there will be a few folks around, and some of our choir members will be available to share their gifts in worship so I won’t be totally alone.
I feel the internal pressure in presenting a sermon on the two-dimensional plane of video added to the challenge of saying something about this Psalm that hasn’t already been said a thousand times. Thank God for the Holy Spirit, who will see to it that those who hear this message will get what they need from it, despite the preacher!
In preparing for this message, I am keenly aware of how much we need the assurance this Psalm offers—especially during these challenging times. God, as our loving Shepherd, is ever-vigilant in looking out for the threats and dangers we face. If we stick closely to God, God will guide us to a place of security—even if it isn’t always a safe place. That may sound not very clear, but there is a distinct difference in being secure and in being safe. Our security is the confidence we have that no matter what happens to us, we are going to be okay. Even though we find ourselves in danger—that is in an unsafe situation—we can trust that even though the threat may seemingly destroy us, God can keep us eternally secure.
In these uncertain times, we have the security of our loving Shepherd, who will ensure that no matter what danger lies ahead, we have nothing to fear, for God will lead us through the dark valleys into a lush and fertile pasture where we will find peace.