*Yesterday I was able to post our study earlier than normal. Today, well..., I'm late. I have a good excuse. I have the privilege of serving with the Greater Kanawha Foundation Task Force, and today was our quarterly meeting. Oh well, better late than never. Today we continue looking at the Psalms. Again, I will not cover all the Psalms, but will focus on a few of them. Please see yesterday's study, if you haven't already, for an overview. For today's lesson I will do something not normal (My wife may tell you I'm not normal anyhow). I will start with a passage that is not found in the book we are covering.
"And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama, sabachthani?--which means, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'" (Mark 15:34)
That is often viewed as one of the "last seven statements" of Jesus from the cross. In all actuality there is only one final statement of Jesus from the cross as far as Mark was concerned, and the one quoted above was it. But, for those who may have heard Jesus say what he said, they would have recognized his words to not have been his own. Why? Jesus was quoting Psalm 22:1.
The twenty second psalm is a psalm of tribulation. It is also often referred to as the song of the cross. Yes, I did say song. The psalms were meant to have been sung, or chanted, and not read as we often read them today. So, let's put things in perspective by asking a question. Is there evidence that Jesus was a singer? Yes, there is. In Mark 14:26 we are told: "When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives." Who was "they"? Well, it was Jesus and the Gang. (Sounds like a good, or bad '70's boy band.)
So, can we know what they sang? I want to be sarcastic and say, "Well of course! They sang 'Victory in Jesus!" but, I'll behave. Yes, we can know what they sang. Psalms 113-118 were the standard fare to be sung on the first and last nights of Passover.
Now that we established that Jesus did sing every now and then, what about the Psalm that he quoted from the cross? Did Jesus sing these words and not speak them? I would argue, yes. A good Jew would never just speak the Psalms. But, as we look more at the 22nd Psalm and at the "final" words of Jesus we will discover something else very interesting. The first verse of this psalm was not the only line Jesus quoted from the cross. In the fifteenth verse we hear the psalmist crying: "My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth..." Does this sound familiar? Well, in John's Gospel we hear Jesus cry from the cross: "I am thirsty." (John 19:28) Then, the psalm concludes: "They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn-for he has done it." (Psalm 22:31) Hmm...what were Jesus' final words in John's Gospel? "It is finished." (John 19:30) So, from beginning to end this psalm contains words echoed by Jesus from the cross. Why? Perhaps Jesus was sending a message to those at the foot of the cross. After all, the centurion made that wonderful confession: "Surely, this man was the Son of God" after hearing Jesus. Did Jesus actually sing the entire psalm? I believe that it is quite possible, or he did just enough to help the hearers to put everything in perspective.
Perhaps there is not a more recognized Psalm than the 23rd Psalm. I would venture to say that folks who are not even in church know this psalm. It is also the one psalm that needs to be read from the King James Version of the Bible. Why? Because of its poetic nature. It is truly a song of comfort and assurance. David, who is credited for writing the psalm, declares: "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters..." (Psalm 23:1-2) It is said that sheep will only lie down when they are full. It is a psalm that is just peaceful. God is leading David and will not lead him into harm.
When I was in Israel I got to look out over the terrain and from a distance see a shepherd leading his flock. When I was living in Missouri I lived on my father's farm. We often had to "work" the cattle. (I won't go into detail as to what that all means) We would have to "drive" the cattle into lots where we would do what we had to do. By "drive" I don't mean the cattle jumped into the truck and we went for a spin. No, we had to get behind them and prod them, yell at them, sic the dogs on them, etc. Usually, this was the hardest part of our day. The shepherd led the sheep. They followed the shepherd. They trusted the shepherd. David says that this shepherd, the Lord: will always be there for him: "though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I will fear no evil: for thou art with me..." (Psalm 23:4) The same area I got to observe the shepherd was the area believed to have been where David wrote this psalm. It is also the area known as the "Jericho Road." This is rugged terrain where thieves would often hide and wait for their next victim. David was not worried for the shepherd was with him. This psalm assures that the Lord is with David (also us) not only hear and now, but "I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever." (Psalm 23:6b)
When it comes to the Psalms everyone that is familiar with them will name their favorite. Why? Because at least one will have a deep meaning for them. In the Psalms we see the authors being up and down. They cry out, they offer praise. They lament and they complain. In the Psalms we discover real human emotions. Tomorrow, we will look at another Psalm of David that I believe is critical for us today. Please join me tomorrow. -Pastor Rick