Here and Now: Ever-Present Shepherd

For many people, the 23rd psalm is the high-water mark in the Old Testament.  Its esteem is warranted for many reasons.  But one is that it roots life in the present moment.  The verbs are present tense.  David’s experience of God is not a nostalgic looking back or a hoped-for gaze into the future; it is a here-and-now reality.

“The Lord is my shepherd”–this is the basis of living in the present moment.  Emmanuel. “God with us.”  The with-God life is life with God here and now because God is present and active in our current reality. [1]  David illustrated it via these verbs: makes, leads, restores, accompanies (“you are with me”), comforts, prepares, anoints, and overflows–all experiences in the present moment.

Of course, this gives rise to confidence and hope, as David affirmed at the end of the psalm, with one translation of the last verse being, “I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long” (23:6 NRSV). [2] David’s experience of God was so complete that he could not imagine a single moment of his life when God would not be with him.

We have already seen many Bible passages where here-and-now life is revealed, and we will see many more as this series unfolds.  But it is a blessing to see it in this most-beloved psalm.  We are guided by the ever-present Shepherd.

[1] The Renovaré spiritual formation ministry has made the with-God life its paradigm for the Christian spiritual life.  The ‘Life With God Bible’ (HarperOne, 2005) is the main resource for teaching this.  An accompanying book is Richard Foster’s and Kathryn Helmer’s ‘Life With God: Reading the Bible for Spiritual Transformation’ (HarperOne, 2008). I highly recommend the Renovaré ministry, both with respect to this paradigm and the resources the ministry has for forming the with-God life in us.

[2] The Hebrew literally means “for length of days,” leading to the translation above, and to other translations where “forever” is used instead.  The phrase is time neutral, showing that our experience of God is all the time, on earth or in heaven.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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