My wife and I are self isolating like so many others during the Corona Virus pandemic. We are grateful to God for a home, and garden in which to rest and exercise and for family and friends who look after us. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who today are struggling with the virus, those who mourn for friends and loved ones, our NHS staff, for carers, for police and all on the front line. Also the poor and needy around the world with no medical help.
It’s also a good time to read and reflect. The book of psalms is one of my favourites and I invariably turn to it in times of crisis for quietness and reflection. It was written over a period of approximately 1000 years and was compiled around 530 BC. Psalm 90, is said to be the oldest psalm, and was written by Moses almost 3500 years ago! I find that I so often relate to the writers as they express their wonder at God’s creation, rejoice in the good things of life, and mourn and complain to God about the seeming injustices of life, and the sorrow and anguish that besets them.
Psalm 23 has been read and memorised by people down through the generations, and there are few adults who have not attended a special event or funeral where it was not read or sung. It is said to be ‘Scotland’s most loved psalm’, sung by small groups and large.
It’s obvious as we read it, that the main person in the Psalm is God, the Shepherd, and that we as humans are likened to the sheep. David, who wrote it was himself a shepherd, and speaks elsewhere about having saved his sheep from the lion and the bear, although they were probably unaware of it! I wonder, if God has done the same for me when I was in danger?
David realises his need for a shepherd in his own life. One who will give guidance, safety, protection, provision and hope, which he so beautifully expresses in this poem. In fact he describes all our deepest hopes and longings, not just for ourselves and those we love, but for the world at large. Which of us would not like to see a world where people lacked nothing, and lay down in peace?
All the things that our politicians and political systems of all persuasions have consistently failed to adequately provide. Today in the midst of the ‘Corona Virus’ pandemic, when people are scared and petrified, and our health services are struggling to cope with the numbers, and where stock markets and world economies are collapsing, we tend to forget the chaos in so many other departments of our world!
Just think of this for a moment:
- Tonight 850 million people will go to bed hungry
- 2.1 billion people in the world have no access to clean water
- According to WHO 400 million people have no access to adequate health care
- Around 56 million babies are aborted worldwide every year
- 53,000 people died in armed conflicts in 2018
Then consider this:
- Total world military expenditure rose to $1,822 billion in 2018
- Global government space budgets totalled $70.9 billion in 2018
- The porn industry’s net worth in February 2017 was said to be $97 billion.
- Alcohol and Drug abuse in 2018 cost the UK economy £36 billion, in the USA $274 billion (2016)
- We could mention the refugee/displaced people crisis, the pandemic of violence against women, the mental health crisis, the suicide rates …. etc etc.
Do you get the feeling that something’s wrong with the world? In response to that question asked in a newspaper article some years ago, G. K. Chesterton the famous writer, scholar and philosopher responded by saying, ‘Dear Sir, I am’. And that is why I too need a shepherd. The prophet Isaiah wrote in chapter 53 of his prophecy these words, sung so magnificently in ‘Handels Messiah’, ‘All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way;’
I guess we all know that’s true, for on too many occasions in our lives we have ‘gone astray’, you know it, and I know it. No need really to think about wars in far flung places, what about the war in our minds, our homes, or in our supermarkets over toilet rolls and hand sanitiser? Enough to make you smile if it was not so serious. The Bible simply but profoundly says ‘for all have sinned’.
As we approach Easter, we are reminded that Psalm 23 points forward to Jesus. He is the one who said, ‘I am the Good Shepherd who gives His life for the sheep’ and at His birth his mother was told, ‘call His name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sin’.
The story is told of the Shakespearean actor who would on occasions finish his performance by reciting Psalms 23 to rapturous applause. One night he asked his young ‘stand-in’ to recite the psalm. He read it quietly and slowly. When he finished there was no applause, but some handkerchiefs could be seen as people wiped their eyes and the occasional sound of someone weeping. The actor was amazed at the effect the young ‘stand-in’ had had on the audience, and asked, how did you manage that? He replied, Sir, the thing is, you know the psalm, but I know the shepherd. You see, if you are to know all the blessings of which this psalm speaks, you have to know the shepherd. The story Jesus told in the book of Luke chapter 15 of the lost sheep, tells us that this shepherd Jesus, is looking for YOU and for me!
As the corona virus runs rampant in our world it’s so important to know the shepherd, as we, or someone we love could die! And don’t we want to know God’s presence in the valley, and don’t we all want to dwell in His presence? And of course we all expect to die one day. How do I get to know this Shepherd? This prayer can be prayed earnestly from the heart.
Dear Lord Jesus, I acknowledge that you are the Son of God, The Good Shepherd who came into the world to find sheep that were lost. I know that I have gone astray many times! I am truly sorry for my sin, please forgive me. Thank you for giving your life for me, and dying in my place, so that I may be forgiven. I want you to be my shepherd, I welcome you into my life and promise to follow you as my Lord for the rest of my days. Thank you – Amen
Prayed the prayer? Now read the psalm again, rest your head on the pillow tonight and sleep in peace, the shepherd, the Lord of Heaven and Earth is watching over you. He said, I give to my sheep eternal life and they shall never perish!
Happy Easter – Christ is Risen, He is risen indeed!
NB: If you prayed the prayer, and /or need further help please feel free to contact me. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pray with us for an end to the pandemic and for healing and peace for all whose lives have been affected.