Psalm 23

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I have had only once a person not request the reading of the 23rd Psalm at a funeral service.  I did not ask why since I wanted to honor their wishes and not get into a long theological discourse of the merits of this beautiful passage.

The Psalms offer us many favorite readings.  In my days attending Sunday School and Vacation Bible School one of the things we often did on Mondays was to learn one of the psalms for the concluding programs in front of our parents on Friday night.  Over the many years of Sunday School and VBS I learned Psalm 1, Psalm 23, Psalm 90, “O God our help…” and the 100th Psalm, all standard favorites.  Later I would discover the power of the 121st Psalm ‘I lift up my eyes to the hills’ and Psalm 116:15 ‘Precious is the death of the saints’.  Passages that speak volumes at important times in ones life.

As continued to read the Psalms I discovered that the Book of Psalms are much more than these wonderful and meaningful ones.

The Psalter speaks to the human condition.  Our condition when we sing and rejoice over the blessings and splendor of God but also it speaks to our hearts when we hurt and question.

Eugene Peterson in his masterful paraphrase of the Bible, “The Message” rends the 88th Psalm with brutal honesty in those times that we feel lost and are hurting.

“I’m camped on the edge of hell.
You’ve dropped me into a bottomless pit,
sunk me in a pitch-black abyss…
…the only friend I have left is Darkness”

The Psalms speak to us to because they are us.

How many of us have not uttered  the plaintiff cry of Christ from the cross:  “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Psalm 22.  In Christ’s offering us this Psalm he unites himself to us.  It is Christ who sanctifies and redeems us in our most desperate feeling of lost-ness.

God has given us a great gift in Holy Scripture and one of the brightest jewels in the crown in the book we call the Book of Psalms.