Friday, 15 October 2010
Psalm 23 Study: Singing to Our Shepherd
Psalm 23 is not just a psalm. It’s a bone.
We often hear we should meditate on Scripture, but that sounds like a lot of work, and we’re often not sure how to do it. Let’s take a lesson from a dog. My dog.
What does Sasha do all day, especially when we’re gone? Not much. She doesn’t read, listen to music, talk on the phone, or text. Mostly she sleeps. Sometimes she chews on her bone. I’ve noticed she seems to like some bones better than others. The dental chews we bought for her at Costco don’t get much attention. The rawhide sticks were more to her taste, but only last a few minutes. But the elk antler, now that’s a bone. She holds it between her paws, licks then marrow thoroughly, then gnaws long and steady on all sides. Deep sighs, occasional grunts, undivided attention. Savored.
Psalm 23 is that kind of Psalm, one to be savored, not just studied.
A Song To Be Sung
Like all the other psalms, Psalm 23 is a song to be sung. That’s one of the best ways to meditate. Good songs are truth distilled to poetry and set to music. The truth sticks and goes deep. If you know a musical version to Psalm 23, now’s the time to pull it out. There’s one in my hymnal and another one on the Sovereign Grace Psalms CD. If you have a favorite, feel free to share it with us.
This is a great time to mention that David was not just a King, but a singer. His audience changed over time–from his sheep to King Saul to his own court–but his subject didn’t. He always sang about himself and his LORD. Surely many of his songs disappeared into history. But those that were preserved in Scripture continue to be sung to God by his people.
David’s greatest son, Jesus, was also a singer. He would have grown up singing the psalms. He would have known and sung Psalm 23. The late theologian Edmund Clowney once said,
“It’s important to know that we have a singing Savior. Jesus sang the Psalms. When we sing them, we sing them with him. And we sing them to him.”
Let’s study this familiar Psalm so we can sing it better.
Study Questions for the week:
Day 1 & 2: Study it as a shepherd
1. David was a shepherd. How did his experience shape this psalm? See 1 Samuel 16:11, 19; 17:14-15, 34-37; 2 Samuel 5:2-3
2. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. How did this psalm influence the way he revealed himself in John 10:1-16? See also Ezekiel 34:11-16.
3. I am a shepherd. Who do I take care of during my week–children? students? employees? others in my world? How does my experience of caring for others give me greater appreciation for the care of my Shepherd?
Day 3 & 4: Study it as a sheep
1. David was a sheep. He experienced the LORD’s care as an individual and as a member of the flock (Psalm 95:7). How did his experience of the Shepherd’s care shape this psalm? See 1 Samuel 23:1-14 for one historical example.
2. Jesus was a sheep. He experienced the Father’s care during his days on earth. What might he have had in mind as he sang Psalm 23? See Mt. 4:11; Mark 4:38; Luke 5:16; 14:23, 22:43; John 4:6 for biographical examples.
3. I am a sheep. (Baaaaa…) Where have I experienced God’s personal care, leading, courage, blessing or presence recently? Praise him and share it. How do I need his care today? Ask him.
Day 5: Meditate on it as a singer
1. David was a singer. Here are a few songs he wrote (in addition to Psalm 23) to ask and praise the LORD for his care: Psalm 5:8, 19:7, 27:4, 31:3, 103:1-5, 139:10.
2. Jesus was a singer. He sang on the very night of his betrayal. See Matthew 26:30. He was literally singing on the way to the cross. When else might he have sung to his Father?
3. I am a singer. Use one of the Psalms to sing to the Lord today. Sing it with the Savior. Sing it to the Savior.
“O come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!”