Monday, June 02, 2008

A Psalm of Comfort

Losing a loved one is never easy. There is the sense of loss, the pain of separation and even guilt, as in could we have done more for him when he is alive. I believe that you have done all that could be humanly done for your husband or father in the time that he was paralysed by a stroke. I am sure he would have expressed his gratefulness if he was able. There is a psalm that offers comfort to all who reads it.

PS 23:1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

A shepherd is one who looks after sheep. The shepherd’s job involves looking after the sheep, making sure they are fed and watered, and making sure that they are safe. A shepherd is working all the time. It is not a 8-5 job. They are on call 24 hours a day. The sheep are safe and protected. That is the impression that the psalmist wants to convey. Our Lord Jesus Christ is like a shepherd. He looks after us so that we will not be in want. That does not means we will not suffer pain or loss. Loving in this world, we cannot avoid pain. There are many things beyond our control. Like when we are to be born. Or when we die. We Christians believe that life and death in the hands of our God. While we recognize that many things between birth and death is beyond out control, we also recognize that it is in the control of God. Like a good shepherd, God will make sure we get what we need for our life on earth.

PS 23:2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,

God meets our physical needs. A sheep needs grass to eat and water to drink to live. In the same way, God provides us food to eat and water to drink. More than that, he provides jobs, business opportunities, friends and families. All good things come from the Lord. He also comforts us in our times of pain. The imagery of green pasture and quiet water is a place of comfort, a place of retreat, a place of restoration of a tired, sorrowful body. It is like the comforting arms of a mother to a child who is hurt.

PS 23:3 he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.

God meets our spiritual needs. He knows that like sheep, we are easily led astray. Like sheep we are easily killed by lions or wolves. That is why he sent his Son, Jesus Christ to save us. It is because of his love that God took the form of a man to die for us. God restores our souls. For those who do not know him, God says, “I love you.” “Believe in my Son, Jesus Christ and you will find rest for your soul.” For those who are hurt, “God says I love you.” “Come into my arms and I will give you rest.”

PS 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Life is difficult. Even for Christian life is difficult. There are all sorts of dangers to our lives and properties. A cyclone may come. An earthquake may happen. A tsunami may wash away all we have given our lives to build. Not matter how strong and healthy your bodies are. No matter how careful you are with your food, how often you exercise and how many vitamin supplements you take, you will still fall ill. Your body will succumb to disease, cancers and accidents. God does not promise that he will prevent us from being sick or dying. What he does promise is that he will be with us all the time. He will walk beside us through thick and thin.

PS 23:5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Like there are always lions and wolves waiting to catch the unsuspecting sheep, the devil is out there watching for unsuspecting human beings. Like a host who prepares a dinner party for his guest; making sure everything is well, the food is well cooked, the table laid and the guest made comfortable. God has prepared a special banquet for us. This banquet is called eternal life. He has invited everyone to this special banquet. No matter how rich or poor, good or bad, clever or not so clever, there is a place for all in this banquet. The invitation is made through Lord Jesus Christ who died on the cross to make this possible. Those who believe in Jesus Christ are called Christians. Their head has been anointed with oil, and their cup overflows with God’s goodness.

PS 23:6 Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD

In your grief and despair, know that goodness and love will follow you all the days of your life. That is because God is your shepherd and he will be with you all the days of your life. Not only in this earthly life but beyond. Because you have been invited to live in the house of the Lord forever. For all eternity. And you know that on the other side of death, you will receive a new body that never get sick, never age and never be destroyed.

Dear brother and sister. Know that in your mourning and pain, you are not alone. This community of Christians shares your pain and sorrow. Know also God, who have never abandoned you will comfort you when you turn to him.


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