A Pronounced Difference: "For You Are With Me"

by Victor Knowles

The 23rd Psalm is the best-known and most-loved portion of all Scripture. It contains only six verses and 117 words, yet it has comforted, strengthened, and directed multiplied millions of people. According to a recent survey by George Barna, the dominant sources of cultural influence are movies, television, music, the Internet, books, public policy, and schools. Confronted with these realities, it is good to return to the most familiar chapter in the Bible for faith and hope.
Last summer I took a morning off and sat beside the slow-moving waters of the Iowa River. I opened the Bible to the 23rd Psalm and began reading. As the wind blew softly in the trees and birds sang their morning songs of praise, I saw something I had not seen before. I don't know why it took me 50 years and more to discover what I did.
David starts the first half of the 23rd Psalm by simply saying, "The Lord is" If it stopped there, it would be enough for me. The Lord is. The Lord exists. The Lord reigns. God is in His heaven and all is well with the world.
But then David says, "The Lord is my shepherd." Not a shepherd or even the shepherd, Good Shepherd that He is. My shepherd. Therefore, because He is a personal pastor, "I shall not want."
Five facts follow in rapid succession. "He makes me lie down in green pastures"-because I won't take the time to do so. "He leads me beside the still waters"-because I seek the rush of raging rivers. "He restores my soul"-because I use up the soul with anxiety and worry. "He leads me in the paths of righteousness"-because I am likely to take the wrong road to ruin. "He leads me for His name's sake"-because I have not given that enough thought.
All this was good but it was not what arrested my attention. What jumped out at me like a deer darting out of the trees was the word "You." "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me."
David's description of his shepherd in verses 1-3 went like this: He makes meHe leads meHe restoresHe leads meHis name's sake. But beginning in verse 4 there is a sudden shift to the personal pronoun. Now David says: "You are with meYour rod and Your staff, they comfort meYou prepare a table before meYou anoint my head with oil. What a pronounced difference! The Force has become a Friend. The Power has become a Protector. And the change is permanent. David does not refer to God as "He" the remainder of the 23rd Psalm.
So I started wondering. What has happened here? Why the sudden change from the simple pronoun to the personal pronoun? It is such a pronounced difference! Why "You" instead of "He"?
Perhaps the answer lies in the word "valley." In verse 4 we find David walking through a valley. Up to now it has been "green pastures" and "still waters" and "paths of righteousness" for David. All of these are beautiful, bucolic, pacific places. And although a valley can be a pleasant place, we often refer to a valley as a place of trial and testing. David had his valleys and so do we.
"Valley" is quickly followed by a volley of foreboding words: "shadow, death, evil, enemies." These are a far cry from green pastures and still waters! David has transitioned from sunshine to shadow. Shadows can be scary. We are ever but a heartbeat from death. Evil surrounds us. Enemies can intimidate. But David does not fear any of these. Why? "For You are with me." He has shifted from talking about God to talking to God. Because he senses more than ever the abiding presence of the Lord-a very real presence that will walk with him through the valley (accompanied by God's two angels, "goodness and mercy"), right into the house of the Lord where he will dwell forever and ever, amen.
My friend C. Y. Kim spent two years in solitary confinement in a 6x6 cold and lonely Korean prison cell. One night he felt a hand that was radiating warmth fall upon his shoulder. No one was in the cell with him. Brother Kim whispered, "Lord, is that You, is that You?" As with the imprisoned Apostle Paul, the Lord stood with him and strengthened him (2 Tim. 4:16,17). Now free from prison, he and his wife, Patricia, minister to believers in China and Vietnam.
God wants us to live and move and have our being in His presence, free from fear. "Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand" (Is. 41:10).
God's loving assurance: Fear not, for I am with you. My faith response: I will not fear, for You are with me.
2011 Disciple 155x50 2011 AMG 155x50
Disciple Banner Ad