Lord, I Want to Be Sheep in My Heart! Reflections on Psalm 23

As I believe I have revealed to you in an earlier column, I was editor of the psalms and canticles material included in the 1989 United Methodist hymnal, and when I brought this information about the most accurate reading of the Hebrew text of Psalm 23:6 to the main committee of our hymnal's revision, one of its members said that if I dared to put that reading into the psalms section of the new hymnal, he would vote against the entire book! He was simply not going to give up the reading "forever" that had nurtured and sustained him through too many funerals in his own life. In the best churchy fashion, we compromised, including the KJV reading in the book, though not in the section of the psalms, adding a footnote that lovers of the KJV could find it on page whatever.

I did not at all regret this compromise. Who am I to snatch a beloved text, however wrongly rendered, from one who dearly loved it, a reading that bolstered a faith desperately in need of bolstering? Still, the poet herself, convinced of her own sheeply foolishness, in need of a God who can lead her throughout her life, vows to that God that she will praise and worship her God again and again as long as she has breath in her body. Not a bad belief, that! I am sheep, foolish and prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. Here is my sheep's heart, O God, please take and seal it, seal it for your courts above, not to mention your courts down here on this lovely and dangerous earth.

4/20/2015 4:00:00 AM
John Holbert
About John Holbert
John C. Holbert is the Lois Craddock Perkins Professor Emeritus of Homiletics at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, TX.