Psalm 23 Flipped!

by Lead Pastor Chad Allen

Last weekend I taught a message on Psalm 23. You can find that message here.  This may be the most well-known passage of the Bible.  It is often referred to by its first line, “The Lord is my shepherd.”  I wanted to provide this post as a little extra food for thought and interaction on this passage.  So just follow along!

Review Psalm 23

Psalm 23 – A Psalm of David

[1] The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. [2] He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. [3] He restores my soul. He leads 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 mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (ESV)

What if we flipped this Psalm?  What if we turned it inside out or backwards to see what it would read like if the Lord wasn’t our shepherd, but instead, if we continued to try and lead/shepherd our own lives?  Sometimes to grasp the beauty and depth of a passage of Scripture, we need to look at it from the opposite perspective to see the rich truths that God has given us in His Word.  If we did that to Psalm 23, maybe it would look and sound like this…

Psalm 23 Flipped

I am my own shepherd, so I’m always in want. I seek out green pastures in the fields of the world, but I cannot find them.  And what I do discover is inadequate and unfulfilling.  The water I drink of is tainted and poisoned. I am led by this world to a well with the appearance of sustainment, but after drinking, I am left thirsty.  I am never truly satisfied.  I cannot say that I lack nothing, for I find myself wanting everything.  I’m trapped trying to feed my greed rather than just my need.  Therefore my soul suffers.  

I feel trapped on uncertain and unsafe paths of unrighteousness, doing what I shouldn’t do and trying to make my own name. I walk through the valley of the shadow of death and I am distraught, alone, and afraid.  I see evil all around me and in me, and there is no possession, ritual, argument, philosophy, or even person who provides me comfort at the core of my inner being. My enemies surround me – fear, death, temptation, condemnation – and I feel overwhelmed, anxious, restless, weak, vulnerable and tired. 

Will I ever flourish?  Will I ever be at peace?  Will I ever have a sense of belonging and purpose?  Will I ever feel secure? Will I ever find true rest for my soul? Is there anyone who can help me or rescue me, or am I doomed to feel this hopeless and restless forever?

I am my own shepherd, so I’m always in want.

Reflection

After reading what God said in Psalm 23, followed by my distorted version, reflect on these questions:

  • How have I seen God shepherd my life and how has it led me to trust Him more?
  • How have I resisted God’s shepherding of my life and what has it cost me?
  • What is one action step I can take to better surrender to God’s shepherding over my life?  When will I take that step and who will I tell about it?

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