The Shepherd’s Psalm

The Shepherd’s Psalm

“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.”

—Psalm 23:1-3
Two figures, one perched atop a donkey, wound their way down a dark road toward the moonlit buildings at the edge of Bethlehem. Mary was relieved that the long journey was nearly over—every time her donkey would stumble, she clutched her swollen abdomen in pain.

Who could blame her for being a little frightened? Joseph hadn’t said much about where they would stay the night. “Ooh,” Mary moaned as the donkey faltered. Joseph halted the beast and stepped aside to let others pass on the dark road. Mary pressed her hands against her back and straightened to relieve her stiffness. More people streamed by. Mary’s eyes met Joseph’s—they both knew the overnight lodges in Bethlehem would be crowded. Joseph gathered the donkey’s reins and they proceeded toward town.

I like to picture that scene, don’t you? It makes the Holy Family seem so human. And if I had been a fellow traveler walking behind Mary and Joseph, perhaps I would have heard the young woman atop the donkey murmur familiar words: “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want…Yea, though I walk through the valley…thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” Being a fellow citizen of Bethlehem, I would have recognized it as the Twenty-third Psalm.

It’s not unusual to think that Mary would have turned to God’s Word on that rough road to Bethlehem. Perhaps Mary even quoted something like the Twenty-third Psalm. Every young Jewish woman (especially one familiar with Bethlehem, David’s royal city) would have known that the surrounding hills above Bethlehem, speckled with shepherds and their flocks, served as David’s inspiration for the psalm.

Lord, sometimes I forget about the difficult and even frightening circumstances surrounding the journey to Bethlehem. Oh, how your Word must have comforted Joseph and Mary. Thank you for that.

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