My Dear Friend, how are you doing today? Just to save time, I imagine your response is, “I am fine.” But take a second look at your health. Are you really fine? Think about your education and your job. Are you really fine? What about your relationships; are you really fine? Do you have enough money in your bank account that can make you say you are fine? In this world, so many issues rob us of peace, they cause us anxieties, worries, and stress. Amid all these troubles, we still struggle to say we are fine. Do we lie when we say we are fine?

Psalm 23 is the most popular chapter in the Book of Psalms. The authorship of this Book of Psalms is attributed to King David. The first verse says, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing.” How did David come up with the title of Shepherd for God in this Psalm? Today’s first reading gives us a clue to the answer. When Samuel, in obedience to God, went to the house of Jesse to anoint a King for Israel. Jesse brought out seven of his sons, one after the other, but God rejected all of them. Samuel asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” In reply, Jesse said, “There is still the youngest, who is tending the sheep.” Samuel sent for him, and he was anointed King of Israel.

 David was the youngest son who was tending the sheep. His relationship with the sheep must have taught him a lot on how God cares for His people. David found inspiration in how the sheep are free of worries about the future because of their total reliance on their shepherd. As a shepherd, he knows how restless he is until he has provided for the needs of his sheep. This experience with the sheep gave him an idea of how much God cares for us. It strengthened his faith in God, and his reliance on God, who protects us through the highs and lows of this life.

One thing that stands out in this Psalm is that it does not deny the existence of evil. Verse 4 acknowledges the existence of “the dark valley” and verse 5 acknowledges the presence of enemies. King David remembers how far he trekked with his flock in search of green pastures. As a shepherd, he remembers the nights he had to descend dark valleys in search of green pastures. He always had his shepherd staff with which he protected and defended his sheep from dangerous animals. It was amid these dangerous animals that David as shepherd found green pastures for his sheep. But he made sure he kept them safe from the dangerous animals.

As Christians, Jesus Christ is our Shepherd. Being his sheep does not mean that we will be free of the troubles, pains, cares, and dangers in this life. But the presence of these enemies will not stop Him from providing us with our daily bread. Verse 5 says, “You prepare a table for me, in the presence of my enemies.” This verse makes it seem as if the presence of enemies is a necessary condition for the Lord to prepare the table for his sheep.

Sometimes as Christians, there is the tendency to think that because we are Christians, everybody and everything must be on our side. But if we have no enemies, before whom is God going to prepare a table for us. Sometimes, these enemies may not be human beings. They may even be our fears, our guilt, our shame, our anger, our disabilities, our weaknesses, etc. David confidently prayed this verse based on his own experiences as a shepherd and as a sheep. When Samuel came to his father’s house to anoint a king, David’s age became an enemy that counted him out of the primary election. But even at that, God prepared a table for him, and anointed him king. The rest of his story shows how despite his several enemies, such as Saul, the Philistines, his weakness of the flesh, etc, God continued to favor him.

My dearly beloved in Christ, what valley of darkness are you experiencing now? Who/what are the enemies surrounding you now? Before you send them packing, check again, maybe their presence is part of the set up for God to prepare a special table for you. Yes, we may not be fine because of the presence of evil around us, but as Christians, we are fine because the Lord is our Shepherd. May his goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our lives until we come to our heavenly inheritance, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Ochigbo

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