Two Psalms this week in our reading are well-known by most believers. Psalms 22 & 23 have been preached, quoted and memorized for years by Believers. These two Psalms capture for us the Suffering of Jesus during the Passion Week; then capture for us the loving Good Shepherd He was and is for His people. I am always intrigued when the New Testament writers quote a passage from the Old Testament that reflects a “prophetic” word about the Christ. For example in the writing of David about “My God, My God why hast thou forsaken me” then to see it stated by Jesus on the Cross. [Mt 27:46] I wonder what David was going through that caused him to speak these words; and why Jesus repeated them exactly? Was David’s words meant as a “prophetic utterance” for future? The same happens again in Psalms 22:14-18; which describe for us the agony of Jesus on the Cross. But again what was it that David was experiencing when he wrote these words? Albeit, the latter passage of Psalm 22 is more allegorical for us in that it describes what Jesus was going through, how are we to understand these words. Jesus did the same thing when talking with the religious leaders when he said Matt 22:44 from Psalms 110:1. Either way we find that the scriptures describe for us the sufferings of The Christ and were lived out through Jesus and His Passion. As Savior we know that Jesus was the perfect sacrifice, sinless Son of God that through His unblemished/untainted blood we are washed and cleansed. Also in Psalm 22:6-8, we have the additional ridicule that Jesus goes through from the crowds, religious leaders and even the criminals on the Cross. The other parts of Psalms 22 give us the confidence and blessing bestowed on those who “fear the LORD”.
Psalm 23 – the beloved Shepherd Psalm; obviously these verses reflect David’s time as a young shepherd with sheep. In John 10, the Good Shepherd and all that He does for the sheep [believers, church] indicates His love for the sheep. Key words/phrases: He makes, He restores, He guides; it is the work and task of the shepherd to meet all the needs of the fickle, nervous and stubborn sheep. In relating the The LORD is MY Shepherd, David gives us testimony of how the LORD has taken care of him in times past, the Psalm goes on to speak of the confidence that He will have in the future as well. In a contrast we could look at Ezekiel 34 and God’s indictment against the “Evil Shepherds” – hirelings if you will that escape as soon as there is trouble or conflict. I have a book in my library called “They smell like sheep” – the focus is the shepherd smells like the sheep he is tending because he is living and brushing up against them. Pastors/shepherds are not meant to be aloof, separated from the congregation/sheep they have been given charge over. In smelling like sheep, two things have to happen – the shepherds must want to embrace the sheep and the sheep must be willing to be embraced. The work of the shepherd can be very difficult – sheep will not always listen or be led. Even though it is best for them, sheep will eat dirt rather than move five feet to green grass. Sheep are skittish and easily startled – so are some churches – the foundation for the work of the shepherd must be that of Trust. If there isn’t the foundation of TRUST in the sheep to the shepherd, chaos abounds. The Rod and Staff they comfort me – now that sounds a bit goofy. I know the staff had a crook head which usually was used to lift an animal out of danger or stuck spot. The ROD however was a means to correct a stubborn sheep. Obviously we all have experienced discipline, and that it was not a good feeling – yet because of the discipline, we were better off. Trusting the “correction of the Lord” speaks of His love and care for us – otherwise He’d just leave us to our own devices. Psalm 23 has been used so many times for funerals. These words have brought great comfort to so many in difficult times of death of loved ones. It speaks of Provision, protection and presence of God. May we all be encouraged by the Love of the Lord for His people!