Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the historic one-year lectionary.
As we consider Psalm 23 this week, verse four seems sadly deserving of our attention. As there are many suffering from a widespread pestilence in our world, there are also many who are struggling with fear and doubt. What will the future hold? Will my family be safe and healthy? What if I should lose people who are important to me? What if my business fails? What if I should die, what will happen to the people I love then?
These are all valid issues for concern. We really don’t know the answer to any of those questions, at least not in temporal terms. There’s a lot of uncertainty. And the news of a pandemic has brought it to the surface. Somehow it makes us ask the questions which we normally overlook.
What does verse four tell us? Even if we walk down the path that leads to death, there’s no kind of evil that we need to fear. God is there with his weapons of defense (rod) and his instrument of correction and guidance (staff), taking care of us. When this life frightens us, when we realize our mortality, we can know that we are not walking alone. Yes, our path is leading to death. Every person who reads this blog post in the year 2020 will certainly die within the next hundred years or so, probably a lot earlier, unless the Lord comes and takes us, living, to be with him in the heavenly realm. We are walking down the path toward death. And when people are suffering from a deadly disease, that path seems to lead more clearly to death.
Granted, I could encourage my fearful readers by saying that no matter how bad the current pestilence becomes, more people are still likely to die this year from other illnesses, from accidents, from heart conditions, and from malnutrition. All that is true. But it isn’t exactly comforting. Really, for the person who is afraid of dying in a shark attack, telling him that deaths from lightning are more common than deaths from sharks is not a comfort.
What is the comfort? No matter how we get there, all of us who are on the path that leads to death, and that is every last human being, we all can look to Jesus who has overcome death, hell, and the grave on our behalf. He is there. He’s walked down that path, all the way to the end, and he is ready to fight off any sort of attacker we might face. He is ready to guide us, every step along the way. He is able to protect us eternally.
Our temporal end is unknown. We don’t know what will happen to us, to our loved ones, to our society, to our world. But we have been told in Scripture that the Lord Jesus is able to care for us and deliver us safely into eternity. The same goes for our families, our friends, for all who receive his guiding hand. While the temporal end is unknown, the eternal end is right there, under God’s gracious protection.
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