Experiencing Christ In The Psalms of King David (Article 19-10)
In response to my wife’s invitation, I am revisiting King David’s writings in the Book of Psalms – His beautiful hymns of praise to God. Right from the beginning, Psalms speak of God's greatness, His goodness and mercy; His power and justice. King David pours out his heart in these Psalms and avows his sincerest and purest trust in God alone. Although not all the Psalms were composed by King David, that being some being composed by Abraham, Moses and others, King David collected them all and added the psalms of his own which he had composed by Divine inspiration.
As I read through Psalms, I see King David’s good advice, showing the way of true happiness through virtue and the fulfillment of God's commandments. Thus, I see Psalms reflecting the varied incidents that can happen in our lives, both to the individual and to us as a nation. Indeed, in the history of King David — his exile, persecution, struggles, and eventual triumph — we as Christians can, collectively and individually, find an example and prophecy for our own life. One such Psalm is Psalm 23 entitled “The Lord the Shepherd of His People”.
The Lord is our Shepherd. Unlike many of David’s Psalms, Psalm 23 records no special event in King David’s life. Psalm 23 is King David’s testimony to His knowledge of God’s true nature – a nature of goodness, love, and mercy. His 23rd Psalm reads:
23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.
4 Yea, 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, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.
God’s Desire for Us to Have Peace. At the very beginning of the Psalm, we see God as our leading shepherd, the patient and untiring protector of His vulnerable sheep. In so doing, King David shows God’s great love and care for his own people. The great ruler, King David, compares himself to a creature weak, defenseless, and foolish, and he takes God to be his Provider, Preserver, Director and his everything.
God is Peace. King David goes on to say that God makes him lay down in green pastures, pastures that reveal the scriptures of truth – aromatic and fresh pastures – inviting, peaceful and rich in beauty – a place to rest and meditate on God’s greatness and love. Yet God knows we need more than rest, for our propensity is to move forward and to be perfected. After our rest, He leads us to still waters where the Holy Spirit dwells, and with it, knowledge and love to flow into our souls and flood our hearts. As we peer into these “still” waters, we see a golden mirror image of ourselves – an image made in God’s on image and a nature made according to His own likeness. We see God in our own being and with it, a creation that surpasses all that He has ever created. The peaceful and quiet surroundings of these still waters, yet again remind us of the peace and rest God wants us to experience. We could not go to these waters ourselves. God takes our hand and leads us to them.
God Revives our Soul. In the third verse, we see God reviving our weary, sorrowful, tired, and scarred souls, for we as believers we have been in a great battle with Satan – a battle we know as life. As our soul grows sorrowful God revives it; when it is sinful, He forgives it; when it is weak, He strengthens it. He who empties His vessel to receive God and His grace can turn the ebbing troubled waters into a flood of God’s love and with it, restoration of his soul.
We Are to Fear Nothing. I suspect King David’s lyric "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." has been said in many sorrowful times and on many a dying bed. Every word in it has a wealth of meaning. "Yea, though I walk," shows the believer not quickening his pace in times of sorrow, rather a believer’s calm walk with God – the steady advance of a soul which knows it is not alone; where it is heading; and what awaits it. It’s a walk that knows it is safe, remaining perfectly calm and composed, for at the end of its journey is perfection in God’s love. The soul fears no evil, not even the Evil One himself, for God is with me and the enemy is a conquered foe. God’s rod and staff, shows His rule and sovereignty over all things. It is the banner which we follow and stay steadfast to, giving us the knowledge that we can and will endure all that comes in our path.
All Is Right and Calm. We, as true believers, can see the enemy at our door, with its swords raised to kill us; however, we do not haste to meet Him, but rather we calmly sit and eat the meal your Lord prepared for us. We drink from the Lord’s own cup which cannot contain His love, kindness and mercy, for it spills over onto the table. Yes, nothing is hurried, there is no confusion, no disturbance, the enemy is at our door, and yet we sit as if everything were in perfect peace.
Living In His Daily Blessing. Each day, God anoints our head with oil so we may experience daily enjoyment of His blessing of love and protection. Each day, the oil is new and fresh for each day brings new challenges and events. With this oil, we are blessed – the receiving of special gifts bestowed by God, thereby bringing happiness to our lives.
God’s Goodness and Mercy is Always With You. In verse 6, God speaks to His Goodness and Mercy being with us every moment, as if there are two twin guardian angels which walk in front and at our backs. We cannot dispute this, for it says “Surely” it is true, which is equally encouraging as it is true. For when God says “Surely”, a seal has been placed upon it. Yes, God’s seal of “goodness” and “mercy” will always be with the believer all the days of his life. When the time has come to pass from this world to the next, God’s seal is a promise that the believer will dwell in His house forever.
A Hidden Truth of Relevance. We can take great comfort in King David’s 23rd Psalm which reveals God’s Shepherding of His people; however, one may note that this Psalm was written in the time of the Jews as God’s chosen people and not during the time of Jesus Christ. Be not despaired by this historical fact, for it is the Psalm that precedes it (Psalm 22) that connects its promise to us as Gentiles and believers in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
The Foreshadowing of the Our Messiah. In King David’s 22nd Psalm, we see the foreshadowing of the Messiah, “The Psalm of the Cross”. It may be too bold to make the connection between King David’s 22nd Psalm with his 23rd Psalm, if it hadn’t been that the words sang by King David had not been the actual words repeated by Christ on the Cross: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" and the meaning of its intent at the end of the Psalm: "It is finished." At this point, one may argue, Christ was merely repeating the same words as King David while He suffered in the shadows of His awaiting death. Yet, one can not explain some other important references King David makes in His 23rd Psalm as it relates to the foreshadowing of our Christ’s crucifixion. Psalm 22 Verses 16 through 18 exact Christ’s moments on the cross when King David states: “For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count my bones. They look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots”.
These moments described by King David in his 22nd Psalm are not Christ’s mimicking of the Psalm while on the Cross. It is a photograph of our Lord's saddest hours, thousands of years before hand - a record of Christ's dying words before it actually happened - the seeing of his last tears, and the memorial joy of our path to salvation.
It Was by Way of Divine Direction. By way of Divine direction, it was intended for King David to write Psalm 22 (Psalm of the Cross) before Psalm 23 (The Lord is our Shepherd). Collectively, we see these Psalms describing the darkness for which we have to live and endure; our separation from God; and the glory of the cross which lights, by way of Jesus Christ, the way for our re-unification with our Almighty Father in Heaven.
For it is His works on the cross that King David describes in Psalm 22, that brings to light Christ in Psalm 23 as the Shepherd who leads His believers to green pastures and still waters.
It is Christ who tells you to fear no evil, for His rod and staff protect us. His table is set to receive and dine with us. And while we dine, Christ will anoint our head to serve as a priest, spreading and teaching God’s word to all that are willing to listen. Christ’s love for us overflows the cup He lays in front of us, for it cannot contain His love for you and I. We are invited to drink from it and experience the angels of goodness and mercy that He appoints to be with us as believers, all the days of our lives and into eternity.
King David is described as “a man after God’s own heart”; however, was it God’s heart He was after, or was it Christ's heart he sought, but didn't realize it to be so at the time? After all, is it not true that to know the heart of Christ is to know God’s own heart?