23 March: Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures;

he leads me beside still waters;

he restores my soul.

He leads me in right paths

for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,

I fear no evil;

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff—

they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me

in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord

my whole life long.


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.

Well, actually I do rather. I don’t want much more that most people I know want: comfort and security. Fortunately I spend a large fraction of my time in green pastures where the grass is good and the climate mild, and having quiet waters accessible is also good. The green pastures are also nice and secure: the lowland pastures usually are surrounded by nice dry stone walls which keep danger at bay, there are lots of other pairs of eyes to spot any threat, and the shepherd can see us all pretty easily and act to look after us should he think we need it.

My soul He doth restore again,
 And me to walk doth make
Within the paths of righteousness,
 E’en for His own name’s sake

It’s a great place to enjoy company and put on some weight: pretty refreshing for the soul. There are well-trodden paths to follow.

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.

However, after Spring fattening shepherds lead their flocks out of the low pastures. Why we have to move from green pastures through steep and dark vales where it can be hard to see a way forward is something of a mystery to me. Fearing evil seems entirely appropriate. There is a distant tale that the low pastures have limited potential to allow us to grow and become exhausted, but that’s not the way we usually see things. We have put on plenty of weight while we have been here, and the fat keeps us warm.

Climbing up to the upper pastures involves a rather disagreeable amount of work, and although we do seem to build up muscle we still do lose both weight and insulation. The route also seems much less well-trodden or secure. These straight and narrow roads have dangers of themselves and especially so if you deviate from them. In theory it is a comfort to know that the shepherd’s rod and staff are there, but my experience of them appears limited to the thwack and the hoick that bring me back onto the route he appears to want me to take for reasons of his own which may or may not be in line with what I consider my interests to be. Personally I would rather run with the others and seek short cuts: allegedly those broad routes often lead to being lost, but I’m not sure how true that is.

My table Thou hast furnished
 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.

However, once we get to the upper pastures it turns out that there is good feeding again, and it is easier to believe that the shepherd has led us with goodness and mercy. On balance, I think I might choose to seek to make his upland and lowland farm the place where I shall seek to stay for the rest of my days.

Well, at least until the next journey upwards and onwards, and then we shall see again.