The words of Psalm 23 come from the lips of someone who has suffered. When we read Psalm 23 in tandem with Psalm 22, we learn that the psalmist has walked through the darkest valley and has come out the other end. Psalm 23 offers words of praise only after Psalm 22 had dared to speak words of lament. Reading Psalm 23 in light of Psalm 22, we see the confidence of a people who have known deep pain and who know the care of the shepherd.
In response to the lamenting heart, Psalm 23 invites trust in God. The sadness of Psalm 22 juxtaposed with the delight of Psalm 23 reminds us that delight does not forget pain. Confidence in God’s care is a balm for the hurting heart that beats in Psalm 22.
Lament can offend conventional religious sensibilities. In its most extreme form, lament is not just complaint to God but complaint about God, as in Job’s lament: “I cry to you and you do not answer me” (Job 30:20), or in the words of Psalm 22 on the lips of the crucified Christ: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). Lament seems to indict God. Yet psalms of lament typically end in a confession of trust in and praise of the God who will answer. Praise arises precisely because God hears our lament and acts in response.
Psalm 23 assures us that we can trust in God. Whatever threatens us will not prevail because God is with us through suffering and joy.
Beginning and End of all my longing, embolden me so that I cry out to you even when you do not seem to answer. Hold me in the hope of the promise that you will. Amen.
The reading from Acts picks up the themes of mutual love and fellowship from last week’s readings and records that the display of these qualities captured the attention of the people in Jerusalem. When the church displays these qualities today, they still attract people to the Lord. The psalm and First Peter are linked by the theme of suffering. In Psalm 23, David is confident that God will stay with him even through the darkest valley. Peter encourages his audience to walk through that same valley, strengthened by the knowledge that God will never abandon them and that they are following the example of Christ. In John, Jesus declares that he is the way to safety for God’s sheep, so we should listen to his voice alone.
Read Acts 2:42-47. How do you see Good Time and Bad Time coexisting in your life or in your community?
Read Psalm 23. How do this psalm’s joys and comforts change when you consider the suffering of the psalmist in Psalm 22?
Read 1 Peter 2:19-25. When you have been caught in a struggle, how have your actions helped or worsened your situation?
Read John 10:1-10. How have you or someone you know attempted to enter God’s abundance by stealth? What does it mean for you to rectify this and enter through the gate?
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