August 17, 2009
By Rev Ed Hird
Again and again when people are buried through St. Simon’s North Vancouver, their family asks for Psalm 23. Regardless of whether they have been in church for years, Psalm 23 seems to have a comforting power that touches people again and again. Why is Psalm 23 so meaningful to so many people?
When Dr. Billy Graham preached a while ago in a Russian Synagogue, what was his topic? None other than Psalm 23. Whether Jewish or Christian, Churchgoer or NonChurchgoer, Right Wing or Left Wing politically, Psalm 23 seems to speak to all of us. All of us can find strength in knowing that the Lord is our Shepherd.
There is an extremely popular book written by a Canadian agrologist entitled “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23″. Philip Keller, unlike most of us, is an actual modern-day shepherd, who has spent many years in agricultural research, land management, and ranch development in British Columbia.
From Keller’s first-hand experience, Psalm 23 has burst open with many new insights and surprises. For example, what does it really mean to say “I shall not want”? Keller says that this is a picture of “a sheep utterly satisfied with its owner..utterly contented in the Good Shepherd’s care and consequently not craving or desiring anything more.” Does this describe our personal day-to-day lives? I remember seeing a poster which read: “Happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have.”
Why does Psalm 23 talk about “lying down in green pastures”? Keller tells us that sheep will never lie down until four conditions are met:
1) they must be free of all fear
2) They must be free of torment by flies or parasites
3) They must have a full belly
4) They must be in harmony with their fellow sheep.
Green pastures did not just happen by accident. A good shepherd would put tremendous labour into clearing rough rocky ground into lush pasture land. Psalm 23 tells us that Jesus the Good Shepherd desires to take away our fear and disharmony so that we can find the inner peace that we have always been looking for.