Unemployment on the rise as the stock market tanks. Bare shelves in grocery stores. Banks closing their doors. Sound familiar? The Great Depression that started in 1929 and lasted through the 1930’s was life changing in our nation. In a similar way, this COVID19 pandemic will fundamentally change us in ways not yet seen.
Yet, in the midst of these deep trials, God is at work. We could ask why, but I think it is better to ask, “Why not?” Can’t our God do what he wants to with his creation? His ways are beyond knowing. But this we do know, he is faithful. He will take care of us for he is Jehovah Raah, the Lord my Shepherd.
The names of God give us a glimpse of his character. “Jehovah,” as we’ve seen, means “the Lord” or “the Existing One.” The God who reveals himself unceasingly. “Raah” means “to pasture” or “to tend” and has the intimacy of one who cares like a good friend. This name of God is used throughout the Old Testament to refer to the care God has for his people, leading them like a shepherd loves, guides, and protects his flock.
Psalm 23 captures this image of the Lord as my Shepherd. Imagine yourself reading this psalm in the midst of the crisis in the 1930’s. Empathize with the heart of a reader during the Civil Rights Movement. Identify with the emotions of a person seeking comfort after the tragedy of 9-11.
The words are eternal:
The Lord is my shepherd. In him I have all I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams (my home during “shelter in place”). He renews my strength (rest is enforced). He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley (the dark valley of death this virus may bring), I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff comfort me.
In the midst of my enemies (those people that bring pain and heartbreak to me), you prepare a feast for me. You honor me by affirming your presence, you anoint my head with oil. And in the midst of the dark times, my cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me (even in sickness, when stocks and bonds shrink in value, when people I love die) all the days of my life.
And (get this), I will live in the house of the Lord forever (forever!!!).
This shepherd says the best is yet to come. How do we know? He gives assurance through Jesus, “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me… so I sacrifice my life for the sheep” (John 10:14-15).
And he did. On the cross. In the tomb. But not for long. So, we know the words of the psalmist ring true, we will live in the house of the Lord who is our Shepherd forever. Amen and Amen!