By Deolu Akinyemi
I have learnt not to quote scriptures out of context by staying with one verse. So permit me to give us a build up of what is really going on here. This is one of the most popular chapters in the old testament, it’s a remarkable memory verse, but do we truly understand what it means? Psalm 22, 23 and 24 are a Messianic trilogy. They speak of Christ in amazing ways. David the scribe is a shepherd who realizes that as far as God is concerned, He is also a sheep. From the lens of this scribe, God pens down a clear picture of the role of His son, as sheep, and as shepherd (Revelation 7:17 – the Lamb will be there shepherd).
Psalm 22: Has David living beyond his time and peeping into Jesus’ conversation hundreds of years ahead of time. If you read Psalm 22, you will fear God. The action around Psalm 22 is about the Good Shepherd – the one that lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:11), and the action is around Jesus Christ, originating from what is mostly currently in our past. Some activity here is in the future, but the central view of Jesus is past on our timeline. (please leave a comment down below if you need the 10 notes I made on this). The key picture here is Cross of Christ.
Psalm 23: Has David describing Christ Jesus again, this time not as the Good Shepherd but as the Great Shepherd – the one that equips us with everything good for doing His will. (Hebrews 13:20-21). Here we see Christ Jesus in his present tense of our timelines. The action here is mostly around our current realities, with some clear pointers to the future settings in which Christ will triumph over all His enemies. This Psalm is important to the Church today. The key picture here is the Shepherds Staff.
Psalm 24: Has David describing Christ, this time not as the Good or Great shepherd but as the Chief Shepherd – the one in whose appearance we will receive a crown of glory that will never fade (1 Peter 5:4). This talks of Christ’s return for His people as the King of Glory. This is clearly still futuristic in our timelines. The key picture here is the kings crown. A virgin womb gave us the Good Shepherd. A virgin tomb gave us the Great Shepherd and a virgin sky will give us the Chief Shepherd.
This is laying the basis for context, so we can understand the contextual situation of Psalm 23 to us as the Body of Christ today. This post will not be exhaustive, I will continue by God’s grace if I’m able to find a comfortable landing on this one. Let the reader understand, that all of scripture is about Christ Jesus. He is the overall context that makes you truly understand everything from Genesis to Revelation. The Bible is not a book of treasures, a compendium of principles or a map for navigating your way. The Bible is all about what God started, and finishing it, and the full execution and express of all of that is found in Jesus. He was there from before the beginning began.
So back to Psalm 23:1 in context:
1. The Lord: The Lord is a name that alerts us to the presence of Jesus in scriptures. He is Lord, it’s the name he chose when he came, and we can trace it back and see Him at work. It’s the name used for God whenever He choses to be personal. Christ after all is the visible image of God. It’s not enough to know that Jesus is Lord however, the fundamental question is – is he your Lord? Do you know what it means to have a Lord? Do you know what it means to be totally owned and be a bondservant to someone? These are terms lost on my generation, the generation of freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom on all sorts. Christ’s Lordship is freedom indeed, but freedom on his terms. Only those who are totally surrendered to him can experience everything else in the Psalm. If Jesus is truly your Lord, one of the first realizations is that you can’t give him anything, He owns everything and based on that ownership, we need to stay connected to Him 24/7 ready to listen and obey. To dispatch what is His in the direction he instructs. Talking about his Lordship alone is a full message. (visit hccc.org.ng to download the sermon titled – Seeking the Kingdom)
2. IS – This is present tense. It’s not the Lord was my shepherd, it’s not the lord would be my shepherd. It’s the Lord IS my Shepherd – today. At this very moment in time, is He your Lord? Is He your Shepherd? Can you say that now? Is your relationship with God present tense? Or is it past tense or future tense? Are you saved, being saved and will be saved? Are you on a steady walk with God? Lordship needs 24/7 commitment. Those who are in the business of giving God tithes, first fruits and offerings don’t need Him to instruct them, they have made up their minds. They are giving God what they own, not releasing to God based on His direction what is truly His.
3. My – This is personal. The following words: my, me, I, all show up in these six verses about 17 times. Our current relationship with Christ Jesus as a result of what He already did should be personal. This is not just personal as a basis for individualism, no. This is corporate personal meaning, we are so united together in Him that we are one in Him. We are so submitted to his Lordship and shepherd-ship that even though we are we are many, we are one body. This is not a promise, these are statements of fact. To enter into these realities, you must be able to say “My.” You can’t afford to know him through a middle man, you can’t be quoting your Pastor like He is Jesus Christ. Do you know him? Is he personal to you?
4. Shepherd – A shepherd is difficult to define except you understand what a sheep is. Of all the animals for God to compare his people with – Sheep. The clear reality is, a Sheep needs a Shepherd. There is no self-sufficiency, discovery or help for a sheep outside it’s shepherd. A shepherd takes care of sheep. A sheep is – Dumb: Stupid, unintelligent, ignorant, dense, brainless, mindless, foolish, slow, dull, simple, empty-headed, stunned, vacuous, vapid, idiotic, half-baked, imbecilic – they really need a shepherd). Defenceless:(can’t see further than 14 feet, can’t run fast, have nothing to defend themselves with – they rely on shepherds rod), Directionless: (once lost, they can’t find their way back without the shepherd), Easily disturbed: frightened by small things, Little resistance to dying (Dumb before their shearers), they flock together (Do better together than alone), they follow each other (without the shepherd can lead each other astray). A sheep without a shepherd is disaster. If we have survived without a Shepherd it’s either we were following other sheep or we are not sheep.
5. I shall not Want – This is very different from I will not lack. It’s not I will want and it will be satisfied. It is, I shall not want. This is not about all our wishes being granted, and all our high unconnected dreams being satisfied. This is about our shepherd knowing what we need in line with His will, and supplying them. Our Shepherd knows we need pastures – real places to glean his word, He provides, He knows I need still waters – depths and refreshing that only His spirit provides, and he provides. He knows we needs restoration and reconciliation, he provides, He knows we need need correction, all he knows we need, He graciously provides. The Message translations says I don’t need a thing. Do you want? Do you have what you need that is not supplied? Are you demanding for the wrong things? Paul understood this I shall not want when he rendered it in Philippians 4:11-13 – “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” The Apostle is saying – I shall not want.
Is the Lord your shepherd? Stop wanting. Eternity belongs to those who want nothing. Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity – 1 John 2:15-17.
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