Monday, October 21, 2013

not a burial psalm

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 

Psalm 23:5

The twenty-third psalm is perhaps the best known and most loved single passage of scripture the world knows. It is read and seen thousands of times each day. It provides for many the only scriptural support they may ever receive. It is the mainstay of countless funeral programs and services. It is read to comfort people in pain. It is embroidered on casket linings and I am sure thousands of people are buried with its message every day.

Yet this psalm was not meant to be a burial psalm. It was meant to be a song of life. It is written in the present tense: the LORD is my shepherd. He leads me. He restores me. You are with me. You comfort me. You prepare a table. You anoint. My cup overflows... all in the present tense of right now.

There is then a powerful and beautiful shift in the psalm that calls us to contemplate the future with such a powerful presence with us in the now. "Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of The Lord forever." The twenty-third psalm explains the relationship God has with us right now and the glory we can expect with Him for eternity.

It is good to rescue this psalm from its cultural captivity as a funeral hymn. It is a song of life. It encourages us today and prepares us for tomorrow. And that is what God always wants to do for us with His Word. It is a source of strength for every day so that our cups overflow.

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