Psalm 23.1-3 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.
“Depth and strength underlie the simplicity of this psalm,” observes Derek Kidner in his book, Psalms. Often quoted in times of trial and suffering, Psalm 23 offers hope to the faithful.
The reality of the peace that comes from God is far from naive and simplistic. In his book Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity, Abraham Joshua Heschel asserts, “It is hard to dismiss the popular concept that religion is a function of human nature, an avenue in the wild estate of civilization. We have been indoctrinated with the idea that religion is man’s own response to a need, the result of craving for immortality, or the attempt to conquer fear.”
Heschel, who walked arm-in-arm with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Al, knew this at a far deeper level than most of us have experienced. “Many people assume,” he continues, “that we feed our body to ease the pangs of hunger, to calm the irritated nerves of the empty stomach. As a matter of fact, we do not eat because we feel hungry but because the intake of food is essential for the maintenance of life, supplying the energy necessary for the various functions of the body. Hunger is the signal for eating, its occasion and regulator, not its true cause.”
“To restrict religion to the realm of human endeavor, or consciousness would imply that a person who refuses to take notice of God could isolate himself from the Omnipresent,” Heschel expounds. “Religion is not a cursory activity. What is going on between God and man is for the duration of life.”
To say, as the Psalmist does, that “I lack nothing” is to acknowledge the full peace of God. The Hebrew word for peace is shalom which points to the holistic peace which is a result of the presence and pleasure of God.
“Peace is not escape; its contentment is not complacency,” Kidner concludes: “There is readiness to face deep darkness and imminent attack, and the climax reveals a love which homes towards no material goal but to the Lord Himself.”
Prayer Fill us, dear Father, with your peace. Renew our hearts and engage our minds. You are our hope and our future, and we long for your peace to make right all that we suffer in this world.
Cultivating Faith Part 3 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org