The Lord Is My Shepherd
(By Jane Cope)
When you have been a Christian for most of your life, it is sometimes hard to get a new perspective on well-known Biblical tracts. The 23rd Psalm is probably one of the most well-known Bible texts and it is often used at funerals. When I was a young girl in The Girls’ Brigade, I learnt the 23rd Psalm.
To be honest, when someone reads a well-known passage, I sometimes find myself “switching off” and then I feel guilty. But occasionally, someone reads a well-known text in a fresh way, emphasising words differently, which brings a fresh understanding, and I think this is a gift.
When I first met Ray (a while ago now… we are celebrating our Silver Wedding Anniversary this week!) he was on a rota to play the piano at services at a local prison. I was invited to go along to a service. A recently converted prisoner read the Bible lesson and he read it in a completely different way, so that it had a fresh perspective. His enthusiasm was evident.
During lockdown the 23rd Psalm struck me anew. The images in the Psalm are of peaceful, rural scenes, lush and healthy. We all know that being in the countryside brings mental wellbeing. These rural images help to restore our souls, bringing some healing. During the past year, you may have looked forward to going on walks or bike rides, and perhaps you have found some restoration in doing so. Even if you have not been able to get out for a walk, looking up at the clouds in the sky, listening to bird-song, feeling the warmth of the sun, breathing in fresh air or hearing bees buzzing in the garden might have lifted your spirits. These are some of God’s gifts to us, and I believe we shouldn’t take these things for granted.
“The Lord is my Shepherd” tells us of God’s leadership, and also his care for us as individuals. “He lets me rest in fields of green grass” tells us that he is aware of our needs and knows when things become too much for us. This image is of new life, hope and peace. “He gives me new strength” indicates that after restoration, we will be able to give more, to begin again. Our strength will be completely new, better, improved. “He guides me” lets us know that He is in charge and all we have to do is let Him lead the way and to be open to His leadership. God asks us not to be afraid, even when things go wrong, and He says He will protect us.
Years ago, I painted a picture entitled “By Still Waters” which my friend, who had Parkinson’s disease, had hanging in her living room. She said it the image brought her comfort. I hope it reminded her of the peace that God wants for us all.
May God’s comfort, peace and restoration be yours.
(Image: “By Still Waters” – a painting by the author)