Psalm 23

The responsorial Paslm for today is one of the most familiar Psalms (Psalm 23). It is a prayer to the Shepherd who is the stronghold of Israel. The Lord is my shepherd. Herding of sheep was an important occupation of the peoples of the ancient Middle Eastern cultures. Hence, it was common in these cultures to refer to their god as a shepherd and his people as sheep. But when the Psalmist says that the Lord is my shepherd, he gives a new dimension to the relationship of the people of Israel with Yahweh, the God of Israel. The psalmist describes Yahweh as “my Shepherd” when all other nations portray their God as a mighty shepherd who leads the sheep, or a strong ruler who exercises kingship over the people. But the words of the Psalmist point to a personal relationship with God. God is not a transcendend power who rules over the heavens, but a loving shepherd who walks with me, protects me, and gives me everything I need.

“He makes me lie down in green pastures.” This is a beautiful verse. Here the word “nuha” is used in Hebrew for rest. The adjective menuhot (peaceful) is derived from this root. (The Old Testament names Noah and Menoh are derived from this word). The word refers not only to physical rest but also to protection from enemies, to the abundance of life, and to the peace that the people of Israel experienced when they lived according to God’s commandments. In Genesis 2:21 the same word is used to describe the deep sleep that the Lord God caused on Adam before creating Eve, and the deep sleep that Abram fell into before he made a covenant with God in Genesis 15:12. That is, the serenity that God gives is the abundance of life. It is from this conviction that the Psalmist sings that I shall not be in want. Throughout this Psalm we can experience the assurance that Yahweh is watching over my life.

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” This does not mean that I will not suffer and fail when I cling to Him rather He will always be there to support me and to strengthen me in any crisis of life. His very name is Emmanuel, “God is with us”. As we pray this Psalm today, the fourth day of the Advent, let us meditate on the abundance of the blessings that God gives us. Let us pray for the grace never to stray from His flock.