Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Central Claim of Psalm 23 & the Bible.

I shared this reflection with a Masters in Organizational Leadership class I taught on Conflict and Negotiation.

I think it has ample meaning for any Christian.

The more I mature, the more I realize that the most profound insights of great wisdom deep reflections on quite simple claims.   I think Jesus had this same insight in his “simple” reflection on the “deep” truth that all of the Law and Prophets are found in the claim to Love God and Love Neighbor.  [Including the claim that loving our neighbor means loving the neighbor we may not like – our enemy!]

The South-African-Dutch Bible Scholar C.J. Labuschagne observed that the 23rd Psalm (along with each of the Psalms) is more carefully constructed and intentionally structured than we have previously noticed.  Many before Labushcagne noted that at 23:4 the language of the Psalm moves form 3rd person (“He guides me . . . “) to 2nd person (“You prepare . . . “).  Labuschagne, though, is the first I know of to point that the exact place of this change in the Psalm also is the exact center of the Psalm.  There are 26 words in Hebrew, that lead up to a 3 word centre, with 26 Hebrew words coming after the centre statement. 

The central 3 Hebrew words, since they are compound words, take 5 words to translate into English.  The five words that translate the deliberate centre – the very heart – of the 23rd Psalm are these:  “for you are with me.”  [A phonetic transliteration equivalent to the 3 Hebrew words is “key  a-taw  im-ma-dee.”]






It strikes me that the central claim of the 23rd Psalm is the core claim of the book of Psalms.  In all of the highs and lows (laments and praise) of the book of Psalms – each Psalm understands that the LORD reigns and that in all things, the LORD is with us.

And, it strikes me that the stories of Old and New Testament alike come back to the same claim, again and again and again.  Moses – don’t be afraid, the LORD is with you.  Joshua, don’t be afraid, the LORD is with you.  David and Israel standing before the Philistines, don’t be afraid, the LORD is with you.  Jeremiah and Exiles heading out of the Land, don’t be afraid, the LORD is with you.  People of Judah, don’t be afraid, the LORD dressed in swaddling clothes, teaching as an itinerant preacher, calming storms at sea, is with you.  Disciples after the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, do not be afraid, the LORD as Holy Spirit, is with you.

Psalm 23 understands that in “green pastures” of plenty – or – at a table with enemies! – the LORD will be present.  For You are with me.

Psalm 23 understands that there will be “calm waters” and “dark valleys” – and the LORD will be present.  For You are with me.

Perhaps, one of the greatest realizations we need to discern – in the midst of whatever conflicting situation we are trying to negotiate – is the reality that in all of life, the LORD is with us.

Whatever the conflict . . .

No matter the trouble of negotiation . . .

“For You are with me.”

Perhaps the heart of the entire message of the Bible – from Genesis where God creates heaven and earth – to Revelation where God creates new heaven and new earth – is the claim that in the midst of the conflict humans have brought into God’s good creation, the LORD wants to be with us. 

The LORD is with us.

The message of the Bible may simply be this sentence derived from three central words of the 2rd Psalm.

“For You are with me.”


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