I woke up before 6am this morning, startled by vivid scenes of a nightmare where some aliens or some hostile intruders attacked a mall of sorts. People were screaming, running, getting pulverized. I was trying to flee as well, but before I could find out about my predicament, my mind broke free from the cell of unconsciousness. Shaken out of my slumber, I tried to quell my unease by tracing the trigger of the dream. But I couldn’t so I tried to find comfort by remembering a Bible passage and picked Psalm 23.
“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside still waters…”
Then I couldn’t continue.
My memory failed me as I was trying to recall this perennial-favourite from the book of Psalms. I remembered traces of ‘even though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death’, and ‘You are with me; Your rod and Your staff they comfort me.’ I even remembered that George W Bush recited this in his US national address right after the 9-11 incident. But I just couldn’t summon the entire psalm from memory.
Maybe I’ve never been well-acquainted with it in the first place.
I don’t think I have been a good sheep. A sheep would love lying down in green pastures and drinking beside quiet waters, but I’m a sheep that’s not very docile and meek, but rather quite restless and insubmissive. In fact, I think I’ve probably lingered around dangerous caves and hanging cliffs too long and too close. I don’t know what’s for my own good. The Shepherd wants to refresh my soul and guide me in the right path (think of His reputation if He loses one sheep along the journey). He had to break my leg to keep me from wandering, pull me away from danger with His staff, clobber me on my head to wake me up to my senses (baa!), but one thing that I’ve always known is that He has never left my side.
Somehow, it seems that it’s through the valley of the shadow of death that we know his presence more acutely. Perhaps that’s why the pronouns changed from third-person to second-person from verse 3 to 4 where the valley was mentioned. The Shepherd must have gone through the valley too many times to know where the potholes and steep slopes are. He probably can pass through the valley blindfolded since it’s so dark anyway. Yet, He knows that though death lurks in the frightening gloom, it cannot touch His flock because it’s but a shadow. As my hoofs clatter across the cold, slippery rocks, He taps His staff on the ground and calls out to me, ‘stay close, you stupid animal!’ (OK, I added that last part, because that’s what I would say if I were the shepherd.) He feeds me as my enemies wait for their chance to attack, and grooms me and takes care of my well-being.
Wah, actually, the Shepherd is very good lei, considering I’m such a rebellious sheep who has a mind of her own and doesn’t know what’s good for herself. So can I doubt that goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life? How can I not want to stay by His side forever?
I should just stay quietly and obediently by His side.
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
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.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD