Notes on Psalm 23

In Genesis 3, God makes Adam and Eve clothes from an animal skin.  In Psalm 23, God takes an animal skin and spreads it on the ground.   Instead of being asked to leave God’s presence, Psalm 23 invites us to enjoy God’s table.   The food, the oil and wine are not located in heaven but are in the here and now.

God’s earth, may be a source of blood, sweat, and tears to us, but for God, the earth is His good friend.  Psalm 104: 14-15 reminds us, “You cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth, and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread to strengthen man’s heart” (vv. 14-15).

Psalm 23 is all about pilgrimage.     There are all kinds of dangers as we climb the ladder to heaven, with only one goal in mind, “to live in the house of the Lord forever (vs. Psalm 23: 6).   Pope Benedict whose thoughts form the basis of this blog, writes: “The Hebrew verb used here has the meaning of “to return” but with a small vowel change can be understood as “to dwell”.    We are always returning to God’s tent to dwell.  We are the perpetual prodigal children fearing the pilgrimage more than the joy of God’s tent.

There are all kinds of dangers as we climb the ladder to heaven, with only one goal in mind, “to live in the house of the Lord forever (vs. Psalm 23: 6).   Pope Benedict writes: “The Hebrew verb used here has the meaning of “to return” but with a small vowel change can be understood as “to dwell”.    We are always returning to God’s tent to dwell.  We are the perpetual prodigal children fearing the pilgrimage more than the joy of God’s tent.

But God is our shepherd.   He wraps His arms around us like a mother hen.  But like the small boy who was afraid of the thunderstorms cried out,  “I need someone I can touch.”  That’s why God gives shepherds like David who remind us of the Good Shepherd (Psalm 78).   One of God’s good shepherds, Pope Benedict explains:

pope-benedict-for-web-1-223x300Jesus is the “Good Shepherd” who goes in search of lost sheep, who knows his sheep and lays down his life for them (cf. Mt 18:12-14; Lk 15:4-7; Jn 10:2-4, 11-18). He is the way, the right path that leads us to life (cf. Jn 14:6), the light that illuminates the dark valley and overcomes all our fears (cf. Jn 1:9; 8:12; 9:5; 12:46). He is the generous host who welcomes us and rescues us from our enemies, preparing for us the table of his body and his blood (cf. Mt 26:26-29; Mk 14:22-25); Lk 22:19-20) and the definitive table of the messianic banquet in Heaven (cf. Lk 14:15ff; Rev 3:20; 19:9). He is the Royal Shepherd, king in docility and in forgiveness, enthroned on the glorious wood of the cross (cf. Jn 3:13-15; 12:32; 17:4-5).”

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