My Only Shepherd Is The Lord- Father George Rutler Updated Content 2021
Father George Rutler had mentioned that he was a young boy in a church when the Sunday morning service seemed dull. Let's look at this from a different perspective. As a child, Father George Rutler thought school was boring. But, it was the boring things that made you grow up and shape you into who you are today. Looking back, you can see their immense value. The Psalm reading was something I loved about Indian Church. Every Sunday morning after the song worship, a deacon/elder would lead the Psalm Reading. We would then respond to the leader by reading a verse, with the congregation responding with the next verse.
Father George Rutler found it enjoyable that the entire church sang along with the reading, which helped me connect with the psalm's language and poetry. These verses were more accessible to remember than other Bible verses. For example, I was able to memorize Psalm 23 by using responsive reading. Today, however, such worship forms are losing popularity. Perhaps they have become more ritualistic, or maybe it is because the task takes too long, making the service much longer. Nevertheless, the Psalms are still an essential book in the Bible. They echo our humanity through Hebrew poetry and hymns.
Life under the Shepherd
Psalm 23 is one of the advanced Psalms, among others. The first verse, "The Lord, my shepherd, I shall have nothing" [NIV] (although the King James Version "I will not want" was confusing to me as a child). David wrote the psalm. It gives insight into David's humanity and God's love for him. Many articles, study guides, and commentaries reflect on David's humble expressions in these verses. We can see in verses 1 through 4 how God provides, refreshes, and restores directories and comforts us by David's analogy of God as his shepherd. Matthew Henry's Commentary says that this psalm expresses delight in God's goodness and dependence upon Him.
After reading verse 5, I feel that David had a deeper meaning and understanding of God's character. We will focus on the first verse, which reads, "You prepare the table before me in my enemies' presence." It indicates God's generosity and graciousness in hosting a meal with plenty of food and drink. It also signifies God's blessing and recognition. Priests and kings were anointed in oil. Therefore, the part "in my presence of my enemies" has a deeper meaning.
The God Who Serves
David lived in a polytheistic society where neighboring cultures believed in multiple gods. These peoples, often hostile to the Israelites, such as the Philistines, were known for having their pagan religions. First, they would offer food and drink to their idols, setting up a table. Then, they would pray to their gods, hoping that their offerings will bring them a favor.
David wrote the verse "You prepare the table before me in front of my enemies" to prove that the Lord was not only the true God but also his enemies. It was as if he was telling these pagan religions that he would serve them food and drink, but his God will feed him with a feast. My God makes a table for me while you prepare it before your God. He anoints my head with oil. My cup is complete."
Imagine David's enemies seeing this, confused by God's willingness to love and serve. Verse 5 is David's declaration of faith in God's love. It is David's declaration to his enemies: "The things you must do to make your god love me, my God freely does so for me out of love." David isn't gloating nor being self-righteous. Remember that David walked through the "darkest valley" before verses about the Lord setting up a table. It was a low point in his life and must have humbled him. He was able to see his broken world. But through God's gracious comfort brought on by his rod (correction/protection) and staff (guidance), David fears no evil in those dark times. God is there for him through it all.
David declares that God's unconditional love is immeasurable and vast. He is not entitled, and he does not deserve it. Nevertheless, he knows that love is what he needs to be able to serve his unresponsive gods.
Psalm 23 is my favorite verse in the Bible. These verses show us that David is adamant about the all-powerful Father who loves us unconditionally. We cannot make Him love us better, but we can't do anything to make Him love you less. We don't have to fear the darkest times or any enemy that may come against us. Our Good Shepherd is always with us. No matter our journey, God's goodness will always be with us (verse 6). His love is like a large table that is always full of food.