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The God Squad: Psalm study guide, Psalm 23 — part 3

Rabbi Marc Gellman, Tribune Content Agency on

So, it took us two weeks to study four words of this luminous psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not lack.” Sorry for going so fast.

Now let us finish our study of the remaining verses of the 23rd Psalm:

23:2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters.

Green pastures and still waters are not just places of food, they are places of safety and places of hope. Barren pastures cannot feed us and roaring waters cannot be traversed.

So, let us ask, what places have you been in your life that have filled you with a sense of hope and safety and nurture? I wonder, are these places devoid of people or filled with people you love? If you achieve maximum solace in places where you are alone with God in nature, are you cutting off your ability to find God in community? If you only find God in community, are you hiding from the moments when you can experience the presence of God alone? My vote is for finding God in community. Nature is the creation of God but not the presence of God. Community is where we find our most enduring strength. Listen to this African Tribal saying, “Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable. Sticks alone can be broken by a child.” We need to be bundled. What do you think?

23:3 He restoreth my soul. He guideth me in straight paths for His name's sake.

 

The Hebrew here, “He restores my soul” (nafshi yeshoveiv) can also mean, “He turns my soul around.” When did you experience turning to face something that you previously refused to face? When did you last experience a moment when God turned your soul around — from addiction to sobriety; from grief to joy; from despair to hope? God does not need to restore something that was never taken from us. Our souls are eternal because God is eternal.

23:4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.

The promise God offers us in this life is not a life unburdened or unwounded by betrayal, evil or death. God’s promise is a life freed from the fear of evil and the fear of death. Our losses are not a betrayal by God, they are an invitation to lean on God’s promise to be with us in our journey through the deep valleys of our lives.

Do you blame God for your burdens and losses? Do you really believe that God owes you a life of continual blessings and no bumps in the road? Why do you believe that is God’s promise to you? I surely do not believe this is God’s promise to me.

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