The Lord Is My Shepherd (as interpreted by Phil Harrison Stowers)
A Psalm of David.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. I don’t have to listen to anyone else regarding how to live my life. I have a Shepherd who knows exactly where the pools of water are and where the wolves are hiding to hurt me. My Shepherd knows where I can lay my head at night in safety. He will also fight off every pestilence, criminal, fake loved one, and predator. My Shepherd constantly keeps vigil and will kill if he has to.
Because of this masterful Shepherd who keeps me safe, I don’t have to be in constant worry about friends, acquaintances, and enemies who will seek to do me harm. All of my needs will be provided. I don’t need anyone else except the people the Shepherd tells me are safe.
He makes me lie down in green pastures. The places where I will take my rest will be green with nutrients and sway under the breezes of gentle winds. My Shepherd makes me lie down, even when the world is constantly demanding that I keep going. Even when I have nothing else to give. My shepherd knows when I am done. He will make me lie down at night in grass that is clean, fresh, and soft.
He leads me beside still waters. The waters of my Shepherd are deep, clear, and pure. The water that others say is life is not the water I drink. The water I drink is not tainted by human intent or given to me falsely like most give. It is provided for me as my Shepherd leads me to it. He shows me constant fresh ways to restore myself. His water is long lasting and full of eternal depth. I need no other form of refreshment.
He restores my soul. My mind, my emotions, and my will are consistently brought back to life by the love and compassion of my Shepherd. His way is gentle. His burden is light. He asks me to only follow Him and in doing so, I am restored to a position of righteousness, right living, and right intentions. My mind must be constantly bathed in the resonating power of his love. When and to the degree this happens, I vibrate at a higher level than others and am able to perceive the eternal.
He leads me in paths of righteousness, for His name’s sake. My Shepherd has walked the hills, valleys, and trails of life. He is not new to the Shepherding business. He has not recently made a career change and decided he would work for the summer leading sheep around the mountains. No resume, job interview, or vetting process was required for Him to become a Shepherd. My shepherd knows the ways that will not overtask my legs or cause me to collapse under the weight of my own bad decisions. He constantly keeps me up to date with how to live correctly with myself and with Him. He knows I am weak. He knows I cannot do it by myself. Because He knows it is important for me to have healthy self-esteem he shows me how to repent and change my ways. He cares for me.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…Death will come to all of us. It is inevitable. It is necessary in order to propel our spirits into the next dimension of existence. Most people call this “heaven” or “hell.” I don’t know. Call it what you want. I just think of it as going back to be with God. I was there in His heart before the world was created. He knew me and I knew Him intimately. He sent my spirit into this body for a while so I could learn some things about living this way. Someday my body will die. And frankly, I will be so glad. I have never really enjoyed or liked this kind of fleshly existence. It is a constant burden. So, walking into a scenario where I get killed, full of disease or have an accident that leads to death is not really a concern of mine. My shepherd will be there. He will take me in his very powerful arms and carry me to the throne of Yahweh. No problem.
I will fear no evil, for you are with me. I had two dreams on two separate nights in a row. Evil came at me both nights. Each time I looked it in the center of its eye and in those moments I knew I was looking into the evil that men have written and spoken about for centuries. The evil I encountered stared into my eye and suspended itself in time. Our stares met and the remarkable thing is I never looked away, never blinked, never deferred to it. The evil knew that. The evil gave up and went away. I woke up and found I was not fearful, but angry. My first thought was “How dare you!” “Who do you think you are even matching my gaze like that?” I am a child of the Most High God. I command you and I make the rules. Watch yourself, evil. I have you in my eye and I know your ways. I will speak to you and I will send you back to the abyss from which you came. Careful how you stalk me. Consider your ways. The skill of this warrior is considerable and I have patrolled many perimeters.
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. The weapons of warfare that my Shepherd employs are more skillful than any martial art, more powerful than any nuclear weapon, and more devastating than any Krav Maga technique. He is able to perceive danger by just breathing the air space. His reflexes are exact and He knows where to strike for the most effect. He destroys my enemies with the skill of his muscle memory, the strategy of his mind, and the ways that He has known since long before humans existed. No opponent will succeed in their goal. Each movement of the enemy will be stalked and countered. He conquers and laughs as he walks away from the carnage.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. I have eaten more food than I care to think about. It seems my entire consciousness is full of times when I have had to stop whatever I was doing and put some sort of fuel in my body. I have had the good fortune to sit down at a table around the world. There were times when I had to sit on the floor, or lean against a wall, and even hanging off the side of a cliff while rappelling in mountains. I have eaten off plates made in the finest European, family-owned shops that were marked with 24K gold. The forks I used on a daily basis were made of gold and the glass rims were trimmed in it as well.
But, the table that my Shepherd prepares for me in the presence of my enemies on a daily basis does not consist of gold, or plates fired in ovens. His table is a table full of foods that feed my spirit such as honesty, goodness, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, longsuffering, and self-control.
The evil ones, the ones who seek to do me harm do not know of these foods. Their nutritional quality is foreign to them. They would rather have over cooked, picked before their ripe foods. They prefer processed over organic. They think pork is food and eat from the ocean the scavengers of protein found in dead things.
He gives me food that feeds my inner man. I am strengthened. And, while I am eating of this, I observe my enemies wandering around in confusion, deceit, discontent, burdens, and diseases of the body. They dwell in anger, frustration, and bewilderments. They lack the proper nutrition and it shows. I sit at the table and peruse the battlegrounds of war. My enemies lay strewn about in various stages of agony. I calmly lift an arm to my mouth. The feast continues.
You anoint my head with oil. Insects, bugs, and things that crawl the earth are nuisances to me. They have their place in the overall scheme of things. But, I usually avoid them if possible. My Shepherd puts oil on my head every day. He knows it will keep the bugs out of my nostrils and I will breathe the incense of His Glory. The oil he uses is scented with breath from the angels. The Ruach Ha Kodesh puts a special ingredient in it also.
My head drips every day with the oil from Yah. My shepherd puts it on my head and it cascades down and drips everywhere I go. Most humans don’t even know what is happening to them. My Shepherds presence in the oil protects me from the evil in men’s hearts. I am surrounded on every side by a great army of warriors who are standing ready to fight for me. The oil gives them a focal point and a place to surround.
The oil given to me by my Shepherd declares to the world I am holy, and am set apart. My Shepherd has passed His power, sound mind, and love down to me. I am a successor to the throne and a wielder of power. I function as Regent, Overseer, Executive Legislator, and rightfully govern with parliamentary sovereignty over the whims and evil intent of the master of the air.
My cup overflows. Kahlil Gibran wrote a book called The Prophet. In it, there is a chapter on pain. Gibran says, “Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.” I have known existential, emotional, and mental pain. Even while I write this, I feel pain in my infected jawline and left foot. Pain is an indicator that something is not functioning according to its natural and innate purpose. But, pain is inevitable. Suffering is not. I can have the pains in my body remedied by a doctor. Simple.
It seems to me though, the pain that we have as humans carves out a place in our souls. Sort of like, the deeper the woodcarver digs into the wood to make a bowl, the more water it can hold. We have to be carved. It takes a skillful craftsman and artist to bring out of us what needs to shine. Others see the outside, but my Shepherd is all about taking away all the things that are not Him and highlighting those things that are Him. He does that very well. And, unfortunately, he does it through the careful allowance and application of pain. It sucks. Sheep don’t like pain. But, it helps them to remember to follow the Shepherd. He knows where He is going.
Ultimately, the sheep get to a place of safety and fulfillment. It is then with joy they look back over how the Shepherd guided them. It is here that the “cup” overflows.” It is here that the sheep looks to the Shepherd with a very clear understanding that nothing was done alone and without cost. The Shepherd sometimes has to bleed to protect the sheep. He has to stay awake at night to keep watch. I don’t know about you, but that makes whatever ends up in the “cup” spillover in praise, adoration, respect, and honor to the Great Shepherd.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. I sometimes wonder if God is going to come through for me. In my estimation, He is always slow. But, that seems to be the nature of a Shepherd. Now that I think about it, I have never seen a Shepherd get in a hurry. They move methodically and deliberately, making decisions about which way to go and keeping track of where the sheep are heading.
I have known great mercy in my life as a sheep with a Shepherd. The Shepherd is constantly bailing me out of something I have done. I have also known the great goodness of some people and the eternal goodness of the Shepherd. I know these things will accompany me until I breathe no more. Selah.
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. You know, I don’t really know how long forever really is. I think it is most likely a very long expanse of time. And, I don’t really understand what it means to “dwell” in something. I know how to dwell in a home, but the concept of dwelling takes on a whole new dimension when referring to living with my Shepherd. He has dwellings that I haven’t seen. He dwells in a glory and circumstance that my mind cannot conceive or comprehend.
But, what I do know is that I will be there. Wherever and whatever it means to “dwell in the house of the Lord forever,” certainly includes me. I don’t think it’s a physical house or even a level of consciousness we can presently perceive. I think it is something so beyond my mind’s ability to understand that meditating on it is useless.
Instead of thinking about what it will be, I am more concerned with getting myself ready to “dwell” there. That means I have a great many things to learn and just as many things from which to repent.
But, even if I don’t get all the spiritual work done in this world, I know my Shepherd will be there, leaning on his staff, smiling and waiting for me to catch up with the rest.
That will be a good day.
I can’t wait to see Him.