“The Shepherd Trilogy”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Psalm 22
In preparation for the Lord’s table tonight, I’d like to ask you to turn to Psalm 22. It has often been pointed out that the psalms are not put together at random. They may follow each other with a purposed order. In fact, I’m aware various studies that argue that there is an actual reason why one psalm follows another.
Case in point: what we have in Psalm 22-24 is what some have called the Shepherd trilogy. Just glance at Psalm 22 and you’ll realize that this psalm is about the cross.
For example, take the first line of Psalm 22:1 My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”
Jesus quotes that phrase while on the cross in Mark 15:34, which we read earlier Mark 15:34 At the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “ELOI, ELOI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?” which is translated, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?”
So, Psalm 22 is set in the past. This is the Good Shepherd at the cross who lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:11). This is the Savior dying for the sins of the world.
Now, the next psalm, Psalm 23 is set in the present. Psalm 23:1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. [he does, actually do this now … ] Psalms 23:2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.
He is doing this right now for the psalmist. Peter describes Jesus as the “Shepherd and Guardian” of our souls (1 Peter 2:25). 1 Peter 2:25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.
And that word “returned” in the 1 Peter 2:25 is the same word “restores” in Ps. 23:3 in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament … Psalms 23:3 He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.
“Returned” in 1 Peter 2:25 is the same word “restores” in Psalms 23:3 He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. 1 Peter 2:25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.
So before in Psalm 22 Jesus is the Good Shepherd and in Psalm 23 He is the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls. In Psalm 22 the Shepherd dies on the cross and in Psalm 23 he has his shepherd’s crook, or a shepherd’s staff.
Now, Psalm 24. Look at Psalm 24 verses 7-10. Psalms 24:7-10 7 Lift up your heads, O gates [gates of the city of Jerusalem. Gates refer to the gates of an important city…], And be lifted up, O ancient doors, [why? So…] That the King of glory may come in [the King of glory will one day come in to the gates of the city of Jerusalem.]! 8 Who is the King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, The Lord mighty in battle [Thus, the Lord will enter into the gates of Jerusalem after a battle…]. 9 Lift up your heads, O gates, And lift them up, O ancient doors, That the King of glory may come in! 10 Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory.
Psalm 24 is describing a time in which God Himself will enter into the gates of Jerusalem.
This is just as 1 Peter 5:4 says “And when the Chief Shepherd appears [speaking to elders of the church], you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
So in Psalm 24 we have described the Chief Shepherd appearing in those ancient doors in the city of Jerusalem after the battle of Armageddon.
And so he returns with a crown as it were, as the King of glory. This is his glorious future when he comes again.
[*left*] So in the past in Psalm 22 we have the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep on the cross. He is the Savior who dies.
[*center*] And in the present in Psalm 23 we have the Shepherd and Guardian who restores our souls with his crook. He is the Shepherd who redeems.
[*right*] And in the future and Psalm 24 we have the chief shepherd who reigns with a crown. He is the Sovereign who will reign in Jerusalem.
So as we come to the Lord’s supper tonight, let us be mindful of whose table this is.
He is the Good Shepherd lays down his life, who guards our souls and who will return again. He himself bore our sins in his own body on the cross, and today he as a Master Shepherd restores his people to himself. And he is the King All Glorious who will sit on his throne with a crown atop His head.
He is the Savior and the Shepherd and the Sovereign. He has died, yet He lives, and is coming again. And it is He who graciously invites us, yea, commands us to eat at His table tonight …. “Take, eat, this is my body.”
So Psalm 22-24 are the Shepherd’s trilogy Psalms.
TRANS: Now, look at Psalm 22 a little more closely.
The Psalm begins with the Shepherd’s familiar cry of God forsakenness. “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
But the Psalm ends predicting what will happen in future generations. Psalm 22:30-31 30 Posterity will serve Him; It will be told of the Lord to the coming generation. 31 They will come and will declare His righteousness to a people who will be born, [what will they declare? …they will declare] that He has performed it.
And you could translate that last line this way … Psalm 22:31 They will come and will declare His righteousness to a people who will be born, that it is finished.
That is very similar language to Jesus’ declaration on the cross just previous to when He gave up his spirit when he said, “It is finished.”
No Historical Background?
What is interesting about Psalm 22 is that we have no historical background in the life of David that would match the events that are described here.
Notice how he describes himself in verse 14: I am poured out like water and all my bones are out of joint. My heart is like wax, it is melted within me.
Notice what it says in the last line of verse 16, “they pierced my hands and my feet.” Verse 17 “I can count all my bones.”
Clearly, this is not a normal hymn of praise! Often the Psalms, David is running from those who are persecuting him. However here, this is clearly not a normal description of persecution. This is a description of execution.
We have no record of David ever having been pierced by his hands or his feet. We have no record of him going through such a physical trial where he can say that all of his bones are out of joint and his heart is like wax. Clearly then, David is here acting as a prophet as he foresaw and spoke of the Good Shepherd who would lay down his life for the sheep.
So, verses 1-21 look forward to the execution of the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep … while all alone.
But verse 22 begins a remarkably different tone. We have the resurrection of the Good Shepherd. How could an individual survive all his bones being out of joint, His heart like wax along with piercing of his hands or feet? This is execution.
But in verse 22, we have a dramatic shift. There is praise to the Lord among the brethren and the assembly. How? How could there be, after execution? Answer: Resurrection of the talking in Psalm 22. This is clearly the Messiah. In fact, Hebrews 2:12 quotes from this 22nd verse. There, the author to the Hebrews argues that this is the Messiah speaking. He proclaims God’s name to his [*ARMS OUT*] brethren, who also share the same flesh and blood as He does.
So Psalm 22 is a recounting of the Messiah dying and rising again.
TRANS: First, in Psalm 22:1-5 we have the Good Shepherd forsaken by God.
Good Shepherd forsaken by God (22:1-5)
Think of him hanging there on the cross as He makes the case before His Father in verses 1-5.
Psalms 22:1-5 1 My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning. 2 O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer; And by night, but I have no rest. 3 Yet You are holy, O You who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel. 4 In You our fathers trusted; They trusted and You delivered them. 5 To You they cried out and were delivered; In You they trusted and were not disappointed.
“You delivered our fathers when they cried out to you and trusted in you.”
He is praying, but it seems that God does not answer. He is crying out to the Lord for deliverance, but the Lord does not hear. And of the Messiah here argues the point and says in verses four and five that their ancestors trusted in God and God delivered them.
“They cried and were delivered; they trusted in you and they were not disappointed, but what of me?” Verse one, the Messiah says that deliverance is far away and He cries by day and night, but the Father does not answer.
The Lord Jesus uttered those words of being forsaken by God while He had been on the cross for three hours. He was suffering at the hands of godless men and at the same time he did not utter one selfish, complaining word and was not even concerned for himself.
As he hangs there on the cross, he looks down and he says to John, “Behold your mother” and to Mary “Behold, your son.”
And in another clear act of selflessness he asks for the forgiveness of this jeering crowd blasphemes his name Luke 23:34 But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.
He also speaks to the thief on the cross. Luke 23:42-43 42 And he was saying, “Jesus, remember Me when You come in Your kingdom!” 43 And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”
And you remember that when Jesus was on his way to the cross just a few hours earlier and the women were morning over his eminent crucifixion and Jesus says Luke 23:28 But Jesus turning to them said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.
Jesus uttered no threats and didn’t even think selfless thoughts.
And then at noon, the sun is darkened with a thick darkness. And perhaps you remember when we studied the book of Mark, that in that darkness God was judging the sins of the world upon mankind and when he cries out “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” we understand that the Father had forsaken the Son as the Son became sin for us. He was forsaken so that we might not have to be forsaken.
The righteous and the holy one of God forsaken by his own Father.
But because of the Father’s holiness, he does not answer His own Son’s prayer for deliverance … at least not yet. No, first He had to die for my sins and your sins.
So God the Father has forsaken God the Son and the Son is alone on the cross.
TRANS: Well, not entirely alone, right? You remember that at the cross, he has scoffers beneath him. That’s described in verses 6-10. In these verses, we have the Good Shepherd surrounded by scoffers.
Good Shepherd remembers His Father while surrounded by scoffers (22:6-10)
Psalm 22:6-8 6 But I am a worm and not a man, A reproach of men and despised by the people. 7 All who see me sneer at me; They separate with the lip, they wag the head, saying, 8 “Commit yourself to the Lord; let Him deliver him; Let Him rescue him, because He delights in him.”
As the son of God bore the sin of the world, he descended lower than the state of a normal man. As he says, “I am a worm and not a man.”
Men reproach him and the people despise him and all who seek him are sneering at him and they are shaking their heads saying, “Commit yourself to the Lord let him deliver him let him rescue him because he delights in him.”
In this, those who scoff at the Messiah show their own ignorance. They suppose that God is there for our convenience. You remember when Satan tempted the Lord with … “Command that these stones become bread.” God is not here for our convenience. And as well when the temper says to Jesus, “throw yourself down from Temple, for surely the angels will come and rescue you…”
And now Matthew 27:40-43 40 these scoffers are saying…, “You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41 In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking Him and saying, 42 “He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe in Him. 43 “HE TRUSTS IN GOD; LET GOD RESCUE Him now, IF HE DELIGHTS IN HIM; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.'”
Scoffers mocking all around….
And the Messiah says of Himself that He is a worm.
The “worm” that is referred to here is often used by the writers of Scripture to symbolize the weakness and insignificance of man. And this particular worm had a very valuable use in ancient times. From this worm, ancient cloth makers would extract a brilliant scarlet or crimson red dye. This dye was highly prized and was even used to color cloth in the tabernacle.
The picture is rather obvious. Here is the Messiah shedding His blood …. His red crimson-colored blood.
And he sheds his red blood for my red sin. Sin is also a picture in the Old Testament as red, or crimson-colored.
Isaiah 1:18 Isaiah uses this word for worm to refer to the color that it produces.
Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson [and that’s the same exact word translated worm in Psalm 22:6. Though your sins are red like crimson], They will be like wool.
So here we have at the cross the Son of God dying, and shedding his red, crimson blood. And he is shedding his blood for my sins, that are red like crimson.
Only the Crimson red blood of the Son of God would be enough turn my blood-red sin to be as white as snow.
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Psalm 22
The Lord says to His people …
2 Chronicles 7:14 [if] My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
God promises forgiveness of sins in the Lord Jesus Christ alone.
Have you confessed your sins? Okay, what does God promise? Is it your desire that you turn away from your sin before God? Have you told him this?
Then God promises forgiveness and the cleansing of your sin. If you have confessed your sins to God and God has accomplished the work of salvation in your heart, then you are commanded to eat of this Table tonight.
We’ll have a period of examination. And perhaps during that time you may need to confess sins. And know that as you do that God cleanses you of your sin.