The paradox of “Holy Saturday” – the space between Good Friday and Easter Sunday – can be disorienting. How can the joy of holiness and the gloom of death coexist in the same space? Can anything good come out of the death of God?
The Shepherds’ psalm, when seen through the bi-focal lens’ of David and the Son of David, seems to offer some answers.
Messianic psalms make up a significant minority of the psalms. These are psalms which not only describe the current experience of the penman, but also point to the future experience of the Messiah. As the Holy Spirit inspired the authors to write the words to their respective Psalms, unbeknownst to them, they were describing the future experience of Jesus through their pain, problems, or pleasures.
OT scholars who hold a high view of Scripture tend to agree that Psalm 22, for instance, is a messianic psalm recounting the suffering of Jesus as He hung on the cross:
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“My God, My God have you forsaken me?…..
“They pierce my hands and feet….”
All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads.“He trusts in the Lord,” they say..”
“They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment…”
David? Definitely. Jesus? Very likely.
The high Christology evident in Psalm 24 has led other scholars to suggest that it is, in fact, a Davidic praise celebrating the victory of the Messiah over the redemption of Israel – what we as Adventists now know as the victory of Jesus over the grave.
So what about Psalm 23? What are the connections between Easter and this much-beloved Psalm?
I believe that there’s enough contextual evidence to suggest that Psalm 23 is not only a psalm describing an anxious experience of David as he almost went into the grave, but a description of the agony of Jesus as he actually went into the grave.
In other words, psalm 23 is a poetic transcript of Jesus’ thoughts right before he chose to face death. For you. For me.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil. For you are with me..”
David does not walk TO the valley, as if the valley is the intended destination. He walks THROUGH the valley, as if the valley is simply an inevitable transit on the way to the actual destination. And yet, David is not phased nor apprehensive. He fears no evil.
I like to think that somehow the Comforter, as He inspired the wording of this Psalm, alleviated the anxieties of David by reminding him that the Messiah would one day go to the grave so that he’d have access through the grave!
There is more cause for his courage. For David seems to appreciate the luxury of passing through the valley of the shadow of death, for one who is greater will pass into the valley of death itself, for His name’s sake.
That on the cross, Jesus absorbed the substance of your pain, so that you can, through Him, only have to endure the shadows of your pain,
Jesus absorbed the substance of your dysfunctions, so that you can, through Him, only have to endure the shadows of your dysfunction,
Jesus absorbed the the substance of sin itself, so that you will, through Him, only have to endure the shadows of sin,
Not forever. For the valley is still a transit.
But it’s easier said that done, right? alliteration makes for good discourse, but can irritate rather than soothe. What does one do when the shadows are too real? What if the shadows look like the substance?
David was still un-phased. For in the midst of menacing shadows and impending doom, David knew that shadows are not the absence of light but the evidence of light. The presence of shadows too near indicated light not too far. Therefore David fears no evil, for the Good Shepherd – the Light of the world – was right by His side, leading and guiding Him through the valley.
David would not be the only one to trust the light. For a few centuries later, Jesus Himself, as he hung upon the cross couldn’t see past the portals of the tomb. The darkness of sin was too dark that even the Light of the world didn’t know if He was going to make it out alive. And yet, Jesus went to the grave, trusting the Light of the Father and the hope of heavenly, eternal, existence for those going through their own valleys.
“..and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever..”
The shadows can mess with you, but they can also mean that light is nearby. As you go through your own valleys, realize that your journey with the Light does not end in the valley. It ends at His house. For psalm 23 is a journey with the Light, led by the Light, To the light.
Perhaps “Holy Saturday” need not be a paradox.