This Sunday is Good Shepherd Sunday; in the gospel Jesus identifies with the Father as the shepherd, and we will recite or chant the beloved Psalm 23. This prayer/poem was composed in ancient Hebrew no later than the fourth century BCE—more than two millennia ago. In the first half, the poet develops the metaphor of God as a shepherd with affecting simplicity and concreteness. In the second half, the imagery glides from pastoral to human well-being—the table spread, vindication before foes, health, and abundance. The pronoun for God changes from “He” to “You” in intimate direct address. The poem ends in full confidence of faith, in hope of future blessing. The translation below is from the Book of Common Prayer; close to the iconic King James Version, also in our BCP, on page 476. Either or both versions are well worth learning by heart, so that you can recite Psalm 23 whenever you—or someone near you—need assurance.
— blessings, Maureen
The LORD is my shepherd;
I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures
and leads me beside still waters.
He revives my soul
and guides me along right pathways for his Name’s sake.
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I shall fear no evil; for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You spread a table before me in the presence of those
who trouble me; you have anointed my head with oil,
and my cup is running over.
Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days
of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.