March 11: Psalm 23
Comfort in the Good Shepherd
Common meter 86.86 Crimond, p. 59
St. Anne (O God, Our Help in Ages Past), p. 39
(Crimond and St. Columba are traditional tunes for this psalm)
The Lord’s my Shepherd, I’ll not want; He makes me down to lie
In pastures green, He leadeth me the quiet waters by.
My soul He doth restore again; and me to walk doth make
Within the paths of righteousness, ev’n for His own name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk in death’s dark vale, yet will I fear no ill;
For Thou art with me, and Thy rod and staff me comfort still.
A table Thou has furnished me in presence of my foes;
My head Thou dost with oil anoint, and my cup overflows.
Goodness and mercy all my life shall surely follow me;
And in God’s house forevermore my dwelling place shall be.
One has the strong impression—strong to the point of certitude—that the “Good Shepherd Psalm” is the best-known, most frequently prayed, and most widely memorized psalm of the Bible. The popularity of this psalm is doubtless related to the traditional attraction of the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, a fact readily demonstrable from the New Testament and the very earliest Christian art. Evidently, this became a favorite image among the Christians at Rome, for pictures of Jesus as the Good Shepherd appear everywhere in the catacombs and other early art in that city. In John 10, several aspects of this image are treated: the sensitivity of the sheep to the Shepherd’s voice, the utter uniqueness of the Shepherd in contrast to the hireling or the robber, the Shepherd’s giving of His life for His sheep, the gathering of the lost sheep into a single flock, and their total security. It is the Good Shepherd who leads us safely through the valley of the shadow of death, anoints our head with oil, and brings us to dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Reardon, p. 43-44)