A Lent Reflection for Thursday, March 16th
By Rev. Dawn Holt Lauber
Lectionary reading: Psalm 23; 1 Samuel 15:10-21; Ephesians 4:25-32
Selected passage: Psalm 23
Psalm 23 (King James – *this is the version we say all the time as chaplains)
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
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.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Throughout the scriptures, the Lord is described as the Shepherd who provides for and protects His sheep. Sometimes “His sheep” refers to the people of Israel, and in others we see ourselves as “His sheep.” In Isaiah 40:11, the Lord tends to His flock - the children of Israel. He gathers His lambs in his arms, and draws them close to his heart. In John 10, Jesus speaks of Himself as the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep, declaring: “I know My sheep, and My sheep know Me.” In 1st Peter, Jesus is described as the Chief Shepherd, the guardian of our very souls, who gives to all those who believe in Him the crown of glory that never fades away.
At the center of this psalm is our deep need for a Savior, a Shepherd, a Messiah: The Lord is my Shepherd. We are one of the sheep resting in the protections of God who is our Shepherd. Faith in the Good Shepherd takes away any desire for something other than God; it is the end of want and dissatisfaction. Because all of our needs are supplied by the LORD, we proclaim: “I shall not want.”
God provides the rest and assurance we need. The Shepherd knows when we should rest and where we should rest. We are not left alone in our choices. We lean on the wisdom of the Lord. The Lord makes us rest in places that are safe and fertile – places of true refuge for our weary souls. Trusting in the Good Shepherd leads us to green, plentiful, abundant spaces, and calm, comforting places that refresh us.
On our own, sheep stray from green pastures and do not know where still waters are. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” We do not need to do this life alone. We have a loving Savior to guide and sustain us. For the glory of the Shepherd’s own name, He leads us in the right paths. The closer we follow the Lord and trust in His good word, the calmer and more confident we become in our concerns and questions.
God leads us to the abundance of green pastures and the safety of still waters, and through uncertain pathways. Life has peaks and valleys and every kind of height and depth in between. We cannot navigate any of these paths without God. Even in the darkest valley, we have nothing to fear because God is with us. We are not alone. The presence of the Shepherd casts out all fear of evil – not the presence of evil, but our fear of it. Evil is still present in this world, but we can withstand it because God goes before us. We do not face evil alone. “The Lord is for me; I do not fear.”
From the valley, we turn to the Lord’s rich and abundant table. Even within the presence of our enemies, we trust that the Lord has not abandoned us. God anoints us with oil, and fills us up until we are overflowing with His mercy. Despite the deadly valley we have traversed and in the presence of our enemies, we enjoy the goodness of the Shepherd’s provision at the table.
The psalm ends with a prayer of thanksgiving: grateful that God’s goodness and steadfast love pursue us all of our earthly days and all our days in heaven.
Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He is the one who restores our souls, leads us in the paths of righteousness, accompanies us through danger, spreads the holy supper before us in the presence of sin and death, and pursues us in His gracious love all the days of our lives.
Are you in a place of want? Do you wonder where God is in the day to day, or in the midst of a troubling time? Are you seeking abundance from the Lord? Do you need to be re-filled by the Holy Spirit? Or perhaps you need the calm, comfort, and security of stillness – away from chaotic waters? Ask God to help you find some space and silence often in the days leading up to Holy Week to give these needs over to the Lord.
Be our Shepherd, O Lord, and bless us with all good things that we may be refreshed with your overflowing cup and dwell in your house forever; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
About the Authort
Rev. Dawn Holt Lauber is a Covenant Pastor who is committed to intergenerational worship and ministry at the local church level. She and husband, David (a theology professor) have two sons, a daughter, a daughter-in-law, and a dog named, Wrigley. Dawn and David share a home with Dawn’s parents, and give thanks for their many nieces, nephews, and adult children who stop by for a meal and conversation each week. Dawn came to pastoral ministry through music - as a singer for The Riverside Church of New York City and in the band, Churchjazz. Follow her at: www.dawnholtlauber.com