The Messianic Psalms
Dr. John Boyd is a Specialist in Medicine. He practises in Belfast, Ireland. In spite of his many duties, he makes time for precise biblical studies. His present contribution is the result of his research in regard to the Messianic Psalms. This is the fifth in the series.
(4) Psalm 22
Stanza 8: Messiah’s Final Appeal to God (vv. 19-21):
Messiah repeated the two lamentations of verse one and verse eleven, (a) Jehovah was afar off, (b) No help was forthcoming. Jehovah alone was strong to help, and help was urgently needed.
The Lord then specified His fourfold oppression from which He asked deliverance, (1) The sword of divine justice (Zech. 13:7); (2) The power of Rome, suggested by the dogs (v. 16); (3) Satan’s attack, the lion (1 Pet. 5:8); (4) The might of Israel, the unicorn (Num. 24:8).
Part 2: Messiah’s Glories that Follow
The words of verse 21, “Thou hast heard Me,” in the Hebrew version are put at the end of the sentence, as though it really was the beginning of the new section of the Psalm. Note the Revised Version, where it is put at the end of verse 21, “Thou hast answered Me.” This section tells of another day, the day of His manifestation. It consists of two stanzas.
Stanza 9: Messiah’s Praise to God (vv.22-26):
In the day of His glory Messiah will praise the name, the fame, the majesty, the might, of Jehovah in the midst of three distinct companies: (1) The Church (v. 22), as expounded in Hebrews 2:12. To them Messiah will reveal the character of the Father as revealed at Calvary. (2) Israel (v. 23), Romans 11:26. To Israel He will show the glory of God who delivered the One at whose liberation they had sneered (v. 8). (3) The Great Congregation (v. 25), all the nations that will come up to Jerusalem to keep the Feast of Tabernacles (Zech. 14:16). At this feast the Israelite was wont to offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and invite to it the stranger, the fatherless and the poor — the meek who shall eat and be satisfied (Deut. 16:13-17). This will be the guarantee of life and blessing (v. 26a, Zech. 14:18).
Stanza 10: Messiah’s Accomplishment (vv. 27-31):
This stanza sets before us something that is beyond David’s time, and must apply to Messiah alone. Note that the ‘I’ of the rest of the Psalm is absent. The Holy Spirit is telling of Messiah’s accomplishment. It is the time of the setting up of the Millennial kingdom. As a result of the work on Calvary all will bow and acknowledge Jehovah as God alone. There will be universal remembrance, universal repentance, universal worship, universal rule, universal fellowship, universal reverence. Even the fat of the earth, the great, the rich ones, will bow in dependence to God instead of trusting in their riches, which cannot keep their souls alive (Ps. 49:6-8).
He who was cut off out of the land of the living will have a seed (Isa. 53:8, 10), the Church — those who made His soul an offering for sin. They will serve Messiah as they pass on the account of His passion to the subsequent generations. They will declare His righteousness, how He so perfectly did the Father’s will. They will ever keep fresh the work that Messiah accomplished when He died on Calvary. It is a completed work; it is a work that Messiah did alone; it is a work that fully satisfied God.
Hallelujah! What a Saviour!
(5) Psalm 23
Messiah — The Shepherd
This Psalm as originally written was David’s conception of Jehovah’s personal relationship to himself, but no devout student of the Word would ever doubt its right to be included in the list of Messianic Psalms. What Jehovah was to David in Psalm 23, the Lord Jesus Christ is to the believer today. The shepherd character of Messiah is amply documented elsewhere in Scripture, and His presentation in that role is unquestionable. It was seen in His first advent — the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18). It will be manifest at His second advent — the Great Shepherd (Ezek. 34:23, Isa. 40:11).
The Psalm was written by David, who had been a shepherd and was fitted to appreciate the varied requirements of sheep, and of men with whom they have so much in common. It was possibly written either during or after Absalom’s rebellion, late in David’s life as the Psalm indicates mature observation — the summation of his experiences of God. Its content has much in common with Psalm 3, whose title tells us that it was written at the same time. See also the title and content of Psalm 63.
Psalm 23 is divided into three stanzas, (1) Verses 1-3, (2) Verses 4-5, (3) Verse 6. The first two stanzas are of similar construction — (a) a conviction, (b) four reasons, (c) a lesson. The reasons are set forth in two couplets — the first metaphorical, marking the shepherd’s care for sheep, the second in which the figure is dropped and the Psalmist speaks literally. It is Jehovah and David. The third stanza consists of two conclusions, with regard to (a) time, and (b) eternity. Let us study the Psalm in detail, especially as it applies to Messiah.
Messiah’s Care For His People
David first declares what he, a former shepherd, thinks of the pastoral care of Jehovah for him individually. The Psalm is all “Thou,” “He,” “I,” “my,” “me.” The Shepherd is envisaged as having a selective care for an individual sheep, one needing personal attention. David feels that he is like that single sheep, the special target of Jehovah’s unremitting concern. Arising from this realization his firm conviction is that he will lack nothing. All his needs Jehovah would meet. The word ‘want’ here refers not to all he would wish for, but to all that was necessary for him. Jehovah had not only the pastoral care of a shepherd, but also the possessions and the power to guarantee meeting David’s every need.
How blessed it is for the Christian to recognize that Messiah has this selective care for him! It is as though the Lord had none others to consider. Each of us can say, He thinks of me in particular — MY Shepherd.
David then gives us his four reasons for this conviction, each starting with “He.” He contemplates what Jehovah does for him.
He Gives Rest: The verb “to lie down” used here suggests that resting rather than feeding is the main occupation in the pasture, though both are implied. Green pastures imply pleasant, comfortable resting-places for foot-weary sheep in a barren land. The whole picture is that of feeding in comfort. The Lord did this for His disciples when they were weary. He led them out to rest in a green place; He made them to sit down; He fed them (Mk. 6:31-41). The believer is still made to lie down in the green pastures of the Word of God when he feels harassed by constant activity in this world’s wilderness.
He Gives Repose: “He leadeth me beside the waters of rest” (R.V. marg.). Leading implies driving gently. It is the same word as used in Isaiah 40:11 of the easy pace made for the pregnant ewes. The careful shepherd brings his flock gently alongside waters that speak peace to the sheep. The word “still” does not suggest stagnant waters, but gently flowing waters that inspire stillness in the sheep. The waters are not rushing mountain torrents, but quietly flowing streams where drinking is at leisure and unruffled. Stagnant waters would be unpleasant to drink. This care for the sheep Messiah will manifest when He returns to rule over Israel. Gentleness will mark His every dealing with them. He will gather and support the tender young ones (Isa. 40:11). He has provided for the believer today the Holy Spirit, as signified by rivers of living water (John 7:38-39). The Holy Spirit is designated the Comforter, “One called alongside,” leading the believer into the experience of unruffled calm in a world of manifold troubles (John 14:26-27).
He Gives Restoration: In the next two reasons the Psalmist no longer uses metaphorical language, but speaks plainly. Jehovah restores his soul. He brings the soul back to its normal equilibrium. The fainting heart He invigorates. This is the result of rest and repose, fitting the soul to battle once again with opposing forces.
This will be Messiah’s great function for Israel when as a nation He will restore them to their land again (Mal. 3:4). The Septuagint renders the word here translated ‘restoreth’ by the same word that the Lord used of Peter following His intercession for him, `When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren’ (Luke 22:32). The conversion and re-invigoration of Peter were evident in his activity and boldness following the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 4:13). It is still experienced by believers, for the Lord continually restores their souls.
He Gives Righteousness: Not only did David experience the restoration of Jehovah, but he was led, directed into paths of righteousness. The word for “leadeth” here is different from that in verse two. Here it implies giving direction to one’s life, showing how to walk amid the many perplexing paths of life. David would go astray if left to himself, but Jehovah kept him to the right path. In verse two Jehovah led him gently to a place of rest; here He enables him to walk uprightly in his sphere of activity after repose.
This is the function of the Good Shepherd. Having entered into the fold with His flock, He is next seen calling them, leading them out and going before to guide them aright (John 10:3-4). How often have we today been conscious of the Lord’s whispered instruction, “This is the way, walk ye in it” (Isa. 30:21).
David then mentions the lesson these experiences of Jehovah’s care had taught him. It was all “for His name’s sake” — to maintain the honour of His name.