The Lord Is My Shepherd

A friend of mine who was studying to be a minister said that once he had asked an old preacher what his advice was for a new person like him. According to my friend’s story, the old preacher hesitated a bit until finally saying, “At some point, you will hit a point in which you will not be able to do or say anything for someone to help or comfort them, no matter how much you try. And this is when you pray Psalm 23 with them.”

And so, for now, I would like to pray Psalm 23 with you.

And, interspersed with the lines of Psalm 23, I would like to share with you some of Henry Ossawa Tanner’s paintings of the Good Shepherd. For Henry Ossawa Tanner — who was a black man who lived in America through arguably some of America’s greatest racial tensions, including the Civil War and the Reconstruction that followed — found the imagery of the Good Shepherd a great comfort. And he painted this scene multiple times too, his images moody, mysterious, evocative — and, yes, hopeful.

It was through his religious art that he hoped to put his gentle touch on the world. As he himself said, “My effort has been to not only put the Biblical incident in the original setting … but at the same time give the human touch ‘which makes the whole world kin’ and which ever remains the same.”

And so, without any ado…

Psalm 23

NABRE

Psalms 23

1A psalm of David.The LORD is my shepherd;there is nothing I lack.2In green pastures he makes me lie down;to still waters he leads me;3he restores my soul.He guides me along right pathsfor the sake of his name.

The Good Shepherd, by Henry Ossawa Tanner, c. 1902-03. Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, United States of America.
The Good Shepherd, by Henry Ossawa Tanner, c. 1902-03. Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, United States of America.

NABRE

Psalms 23

4Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,I will fear no evil, for you are with me;your rod and your staff comfort me.

The Good Shepherd, by Henry Ossawa Tanner, c. 1922. Newark Museum, Newark, New Jersey, United States.
The Good Shepherd, by Henry Ossawa Tanner, c. 1922. Newark Museum, Newark, New Jersey, United States.

NABRE

Psalms 23

5You set a table before mein front of my enemies;You anoint my head with oil;my cup overflows.

The Good Shepherd (Atlas Mountains, Morocco), by Henry Ossawa Tanner, c. 1930. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C., United States.
The Good Shepherd (Atlas Mountains, Morocco), by Henry Ossawa Tanner, c. 1930. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C., United States.

NABRE

Psalms 23

6Indeed, goodness and mercy will pursue meall the days of my life;I will dwell in the house of the LORDfor endless days.

The Good Shepherd, by Henry Ossawa Tanner, c. 1914. New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, Louisiana, United States.
The Good Shepherd, by Henry Ossawa Tanner, c. 1914. New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, Louisiana, United States.

Kyrie eleison.

Karina Tabone

Karina Tabone is a wife, mother of four, author, blogger, and lover of Christian artwork. She's the author of the Illustrated Rosary series, which pairs every prayer of the Rosary with beautiful religious artwork. She likes also milkshakes, sunshine, and mystery novels. Follow her on Twitter at @illustr_prayer.

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