It’s often said that familiarity breeds contempt. The more you know about someone, the more likely you are to find something that irritates you, something that you do not like about them. And it doesn’t just happen with people. Take the latest hit song as another example. The first few times you hear it, you’re tapping your foot and singing along. The thousandth time you hear it, you can’t change the station or skip to the next song fast enough. What was once an enjoyable escape can quickly become a source of frustration. Familiarity breeds contempt…except when it doesn’t. There are some songs that never get old. There are some people for whom we seem to have more patience than others. Why is that?
Psalm 23 is one of the most well-known songs in all of human history. We read it in moments of grief and pain and chaos, and into those moments, it breathes comfort and strength and order. Familiarity breeds contempt…except when it doesn’t. Sometimes, what is familiar is what brings us restoration, comfort, and overflowing joy. Psalm 23 does just that with its familiar words and familiar imagery. It’s the image of a shepherd watching over his sheep, a God who leads us to rest and restoration and comfort in a world clamoring for peace. It’s the image of the host of a great banquet, a God who provides us with all that we need and fills our hearts to overflowing. Familiarity with the Lord breeds contentment, not contempt. It brings comfort in the midst of chaos. It brings joy in the midst of our pain. Why is that?
It’s because we weren’t created to find our satisfaction anywhere other than in the Lord. If you’re expecting me to make you happy, I’ll eventually let you down, probably sooner rather than later. If I always need the newest, the latest, or the greatest, then I’ll always need more, but in the Lord, we find One whose goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our lives, One of whom it is a joy, not a dread, to sing, “I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” As Katherine Hankey wrote and generations of Christians have sung, “And when, in scenes of glory, I sing the new, new song, ’twill be the old, old story, that I have loved so long.” It’s a song that never gets old because there’s always more goodness and mercy to come. The more we know Him, the more certainly we can declare in every circumstance, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” He’s all we need and all we’ll ever need.