In Jesus, the Lord Is Our Shepherd (Psalm 23:1-2)
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.” —Psalm 23:1-2
The beginning of Psalm 23—"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want"— sounds a lot different from the beginning of Psalm 22— My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Psalm 22:1)
Both are psalms of David placed beside each other with a purpose. We are struck in Psalm 22 with a cry of desperation. We are soothed in Psalm 23 with a declaration of the Lord‘s sufficiency. As the reader, we are supposed to feel this contrast. We are supposed to read them together, walking with the voice of each verse, being led to a confidence in the Lord that declares “I shall not want.”
So there is forsakenness in Psalm 22. It’s real. David has written, but the speaker is the Afflicted One—the one who is mocked in his suffering, the one who is surrounded by dogs (or Gentile soliders), the one whose hands and feet are pierced, whose garments are divided and for which lots are cast. This is Jesus on the cross (Matthew 27:35, 39, 46; John 19:23-24).
Psalm 22 gives us the voice of Messiah in his affliction. We read him and hear his prayers, almost like a proto-Gethsemane. And then David himself steps in to command our praise in Psalm 22:23. The Lord has heard the Afflicted One’s cry (v. 24). More than that, David tells us, “The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord!” (v. 26). David is now exulting in verse 27—“All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.”
What the Empty Tomb Tells Us
From forsaken (v. 1) to heard (v. 24) to satisfied (v. 26) to worshiped by all the families of the nations (v. 27). This is where Psalm 22 takes us. Now how did this happen? Here is where Psalm 23 comes in (and Psalm 24 soon after).
We know that Jesus was not ultimately forsaken. There’s an empty tomb to prove it. Even though he walked through the valley of the shadow of death, he was not left alone. He was not abandoned. In fact, on the third day he was raised. He was raised and declared to be the Son of God, given a name that is above every name. The Lord was his shepherd. He didn’t lack. That’s what the resurrection is saying.
The Same Shepherding Grace
And this is why we love Psalm 23. This is not a mere poem that’s appropriately recited at graveside services. This is the Messianic hope in God’s utter faithfulness, even through the shadows of death. The Lord is our shepherd and he never forsakes us. Never.
This is a confidence in the resurrection rooted in Jesus’ own victory over death. As the Father raised him, he will raise us, too (1 Corinthians 15:23). Because we are united to Jesus, the same shepherding grace exemplified in his victory is the same shepherding grace that will be exemplified in ours.