Monday, October 16, 2006

David: Brilliant Poet-Playwright of Psalm 23

With scant apologies to W. Phillip Keller's A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, I will offer a vision of Psalm 23 that does not try to shoehorn every phrase into a shepherd-sheep metaphor. David does something far more brilliant.

In Psalm 23, David presents a 3 act play of Yahweh's relationship to his people. Each of the 3 scenes in the play are very clear:


verses 1-4 The Pastoral Imagery: The Lord is Shepherd, We are sheep.

Terms: "green pastures" "quiet waters," "paths," dark valley," "rod and staff." Yahweh guides, provides, protects us. As a royal metaphor--Ancient Near Eastern kings called themselves "shepherds"--Yahweh takes responsibility to care for and protect all in his realm.


verse 5 The Tent: Yahweh is Host, We are guests.

Terms: "table," anointing oil,"overflowing cup." Why make these terms mean something foreign to David's meaning? Yahweh welcomes us into his tent and sets a lavish banquet before us. We are honored by our Host as our enemies are humiliated before our eyes. In his tent we experience joy and security.


verse 6 The Tabernacle- "house of the LORD": Yahweh is Father, We are children.

Terms: "goodness and love," "follow me" (literally "chase me down"), "dwell (as a family member) forever," "in the house of the LORD." The dark valleys of death are history, the enemies lurking in the dark outside the tent are gone, and we now are breathing God's "goodness and love" forever.

Note the progression: Yahweh is shepherd, then host, then Father. There is progressing depth and value in the relationship. There is a progressing value in us as well---we are first sheep, then guests, and then family members! Rather than fleeing from bears and lions (as sheep) or fleeing enemies, we are chased down into God's house by Yahweh's "goodness and love."

With stunning Hebrew poetic brevity and precision, David has written a breath-taking play. He has given a riveting drama of God's hesed or loyal love.

I think Keller's "nice" devotional book pales in comparison.

Next, let's consider how Jesus of Nazareth played Yahweh's part in each scene of the play.


At 10/18/2006 5:15 PM, Anonymous Ted Gossard said...


Can't remember if I've read Keller's book or not. But I love your thoughts here. Makes great sense, and even better reality.

At 10/19/2006 6:39 AM, Blogger John Frye said...

Many people's view of Ps 23 has been shaped by the popular devotional approach of Keller. The problem is that some of Keller's stuff would have never entered David's mind.

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