Friday, January 16, 2009

Psalm 23

Psalm 23 (NET) reads:

A psalm of David.

The LORD is my shepherd,
I lack nothing.

2 He takes me to lush pastures,
he leads me to refreshing water.

3 He restores my strength.
He leads me down the right paths for the sake of his reputation.

4 Even when I must walk through a dark ravine,
I fear no danger,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff keep me calm.

5 You prepare a feast before me
in plain sight of my enemies.
You refresh my head with oil;
my cup is full of wine.

6 Surely your goodness and faithfulness will pursue me all the days of my life,
and I will live in the LORD's palace for the rest of my life.

This isn't the most poetic version of Psalm 23 I've ever read, but you gotta love the NET Bible for communicating in plain English the meaning of the original languages. (By the way, the NET Bible is an awesome resource for that kind of thing. There are 60,237 translator's notes that give you the original languages, options for translation, and why NET worded the English text the way they did. Plus it was produced by the guys at DTS, and they gave me permission to reproduce large chunks of their translation on my blog for free.)

I notice some things for the first time as I read the NET version of Psalm 23. First, I love how they render "for his name's sake" as "for the sake of his reputation." That's what the psalmist is getting at--God's reputation is at stake when it comes to the protection of his people. Second, I love verse 4. "The valley of the shadow of death" is a timeless image, but it isn't clear that the psalmist is talking about walking home at night alone. We might paraphrase verse 4, "Even when I head out to the parking lot at night, I'm not scared because God is there." Finally, I love how they rendered "You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies" as "You prepare a feast for me in plain sight of my enemies." It really communicates the idea of honor and shame--important concepts in the OT world (think Mordecai and Haman).

Psalm 23 is arguably the greatest poem ever written. I love how the NET takes the poetry and brings it down to real life--God is looking out for us. When we're worried, when we're afraid, when we're confused, we can know that God will protect us for his reputation's sake.

"Father, I thank you for protecting your people. I thank you that we can be confident--that we don't have to fear danger, for you are with us. I confess that there is nothing that takes you by surprise, nothing that can thwart your will, nothing that can deter your plans. I thank you that, despite your greatness, you take time to protect me. Amen."

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