During a time of anguished betrayal, David could still pen words of confidence in God’s love - not for himself alone, but for millions to come after him. They were the last ones I ever read to my father and as the words worked their balm a radiant smile flooded his tired face. Precious words from his youth, crowded out by cluttered years, embraced again now the noise of living had passed. I watched him sink every fibre of his body, mind and soul into Psalm 23.
Corrupted by the cancer of powerlust, Absalom, with the vast Israelite army, was scouring the countryside with one purpose: to kill King David - his own father. In desperation, David had crossed the Jordan River into a vast mountainous wilderness, Gilead (present-day Jordan) and now he was exhausted – from hunger, thirst and sleepless nights, but most of all from hiding. O the pain of feeling the fevered breath of close pursuit and his own son’s betrayal! Betrayal of the deepest, darkest kind, for David loved his handsome boy.
Totally outnumbered and in hostile territory that yielded no sustenance David had reached his end. His past testified to the fact that God had protected and guided him throughout his life. A shepherd in his youth, he had often felt like one of his own sheep in the hands of a compassionate, caring shepherd. He had let God down, though – badly. How ironic! A murderer pursued by a murdering son… for he had the blood of an innocent man on his own hands. Yet he knew the depths of healing mercy and forgiveness that come only from God himself.
Gilead had a remarkable claim to fame. Its trees secreted a resin with amazing medicinal qualities. Balm from Gilead was worth twice as much as silver. Out of barrenness and waste came the most precious treasure. And into David’s barrenness came the healing touch of the good shepherd, for help arrived – grain, flour, cheese, honey, bedding and bowls for washing.
Interestingly, there were sheep too. Maybe this gentle reminder of David’s relationship to God caused him to pour all his worship and confidence into Psalm 23. The Good Shepherd had not abandoned him. Once again he had reached down to give his sheep green pastures where there were none. David had no doubts : ‘The Lord is my shepherd!’
So what healing does Psalm 23 offer today?
It says: ‘Let me catch you when you fall; let me carry you through the bad bits; let me feed you and provide for you in miraculous ways; let me soothe your fears, let me lead you, protect you, restore you, guide and go with you, love you and give you good things; let me welcome you home at the end of your days…’
It says that when God is invited into life’s equations no situation is ever helpless or hopeless. It says there is balm in Gilead.