Paul Miller examines life without Jesus in this insightful look at Psalm 23 from his book A Praying Life:
Our modern, secular world has removed the Shepherd from Psalm 23. Look what happens to the psalm when you remove the Good Shepherd and everything he does:
Psalm 23 (NIV)
1The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
2He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
3he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
If you read what’s left straight through it sounds like this: “My. I shall be in want. Me. Me. My soul. Me. I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I fear. Me. Me in the presence of my enemies. My head. My cup. Me. All the days of my life. I.” It almost sounds like the written transcript of many of my prayers! Or at least an outline distilled from the transcript of my prayers.
Miller goes on to say:
We are left obsessing over our wants in the valley of the shadow of death, paralyzed by fear in the presence of our enemies. No wonder so many are so cynical. With the Good Shepherd gone, we are alone in a world of evil.
Because of the gospel, the good news of God’s self-substituting sacrifice on our behalf in Jesus, we can walk through a sin-sick, broken world with the Shepherd, not by ourselves or obsessed with ourselves. We are not alone in the valleys . . .
Both the child and the cynic walk through the valley of the shadow of death. The cynic focuses on the darkness; the child focuses on the Shepherd.