day 8 – put a psalm in my heart

Psalm 22 (a sick man’s cry to God for help) and Psalm 23 (a favorite psalm of confidence/trust) make up our reading today. Read Ps. 22-23 this morning and Ps. 22-23 tonight.

This morningPsalm 22. You likely know some of the 22nd Psalm even if you don’t know it as such. For some of Jesus Christ’s last words before his death were the opening words of this psalm: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27.46; Mk. 15.34) And other portions of the Psalm are alluded to elsewhere in the NT. However, this familiarity can actually work against us.

How so? Just because Jesus’ quotation of this psalm looms so large in our mind. For that reason alone we may never even have considered reading the whole of it without Christ in view; to read it as it existed for centuries before the Incarnation. However, if we read this psalm without the assumption that it is at heart a prediction or prophecy of Christ’s experience on the tree, it instantly becomes obvious that this psalm is just like any number of others (e.g. – Ps. 6,30, etc.). Namely, it is the imploring cry to God of someone who was in dire straits (vs. 1-21) and then – speaking either in confidence of God’s future response or sometime later in thanksgiving for his having intervened – the author praises and thanks God for their deliverance (vs. 22-31).

Ps. 22 is not so much a “prediction” of Christ’s crucifixion as it is a word of “identification” (i.e. – a Scripture Jesus can “relate to”). That is, on the cross, Christ identifies himself with humanity’s long-standing experience with the problem of suffering and pleas to God for rescue. How wonderful it is to grasp that this psalm is not “just about Jesus,” but “about Jesus relating to us!” Or as the author of Hebrews put it: “… he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people.” (2.17)

This eveningPsalm 23. Though the 23rd Psalm is perhaps the best known and most loved of all the psalms today, it may come as a surprise that though several dozen psalms are directly quoted in the New Testament, the 23rd isn’t one of them! And yet, in reading it, who cannot help but think of our Good Shepherd and his shepherding of us? But, try reading it this way this time: put Christ at the front of your thoughts and read Psalm 23 as though they were the words of Jesus to God the Father.