Psalm 23 is probably the most well-known, and one of the best-loved, psalms. But what is interesting is that Psalm 23 comes right between Psalm 22 and Psalm 24. Well, of course, you say, they are after all in numerical order! But these seem to be placed here in this order because these three psalms are a clear picture of the Lord Jesus and His ministry as the Shepherd of His people.
In Psalm 22, we have a picture of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. This psalm is a clear prophecy of the Crucifixion of Christ. The psalmist cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He speaks of the piercing of his hands and feet, and of people casting lots for his clothing—all words and events that were fulfilled at Calvary 2,000 years ago. Jesus justified His sheep when He died for them as their Savior. In John 10:11, Jesus speaks of Himself as the Good Shepherd: “I am the Good Shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.”
Psalm 24 portrays Jesus as the Chief Shepherd. It speaks of a time yet to come when Jesus will come for all His sheep—for those who have heard His voice and have followed Him. All who belong to the Chief Shepherd will be glorified when He returns. Psalm 24 proclaims the fulfillment of God’s purpose and plan and proclaims the crowning of the King of Glory. 1 Peter 5:4 tells us, “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”
And sandwiched between these two great psalms is Psalm 23. Here, Jesus is pictured as the Great Shepherd. This psalm speaks of the risen Lord who protects, directs, and corrects His sheep, sanctifying them. Sheep are very foolish creatures. They wander off the path and need the Shepherd’s crook to keep them headed in the right direction.
Hebrews 13 20-21 reminds us of the sanctifying work of God in our lives: “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that Great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
|Psalm 22||Psalm 23||Psalm 24|
|Jesus: the Good Shepherd
|Jesus: the Great Shepherd
|Jesus: the Chief Shepherd
(1 Peter 5:1–4)
|Died for His sheep||Lives for His sheep||Will return for His sheep|
|The Shepherd as Savior||The Shepherd as Sanctifier||The Shepherd as Sovereign|
|His Cross||His Crook||His Crown|
|The Good Shepherd has saved us from the penalty of sin.||The Great Shepherd is saving us from the power of sin.||The Chief Shepherd will save us from the presence of sin.|