Psalm 23 is just one of those Psalms I seem to have always known by heart but not really known at all. Well, I know the words but I just never really paid a lot of attention to them. Perhaps this is because of it’s use.
Let’s face it, the 23rd Psalm is one we all associate with funerals. You could probably do a word association with this Psalm. Psalm 23 = Funeral. My assumption is that most people would immediately associate, “the LORD is my shepherd I shall not want” to the dying of a loved one.
But why? Why is this Psalm used for funerals? Is it simply because in verse 4, David writes, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…”? If it is, that is a weak argument. And it’s weak because David wrote while he was…, well….ummm, alive. Notice he does not say, “When I die you are with me.” He says when I am walking through what feels like death or the possibility of death or danger – you, my God are with me and therefore I will not fear.
Psalm 23 is not about our physical death so much as it is about life. It is a song about the trials and travails and difficulties of life. And it is a song about the care God shows to us. This is a song about the Providence of God for his people. It is a beautiful song depicting his tender care as a shepherd to sheep, who are so prone to wander – prone to leave the God they love.
I love the poetry of it. But I wish we could retain the poetic rhythm of the first line and still communicate the truth of the thing while losing the archaic language.
“I shall not want.”
No one really talks like that anymore. David is saying, “I do not lack what I need because of the care God shows to me.” Why? "Because God –YHWH- The LORD has made a covenant with my people and me also cares for me now." He has redeemed us, how could we not believe he will care for us as a shepherd cares for his sheep?
I actually think we should be using this Psalm for weddings instead of funerals. Weddings are all about the life ahead for a man, a woman and usually a family. It is pretty comforting to know that the One Who offered up the Lamb is with us. And he is not just with us in death but daily there to provide for our needs.
Or perhaps we should put it on baby bibs for moms and dads to remember and hang over our children’s beds. I mean, this is the kind of worldview-shaping passage we need to have pounded into our heads pretty regularly. Or how about this on a T-Shirt?
Psalm 23 – Not Just for Funerals Anymore