David with Harp (c) Netta Ewing

commentary by Dr Noel Donnelly for the 4th Sunday of Lent

Ps 22: His goodness shall follow me: words (c) The Grail, England; music (c) St Mungo Music; recording by Grace Buckley

Psalm 22 (23) Commentary.       Lent 4A  2023

Perhaps Psalm 22, The Lord’s My Shepherd, is so popular because it is so personal. “The Lord is MY shepherd; with your crook and your staff you give me comfort”. In verse 4 we find the phrase, “You are with me”.. Even in the darkest of valleys! In Scotland we know the phrase, “I’m with you, Jimmy!” Psalm 22 says, “Lord is with you, Jimmy or Ellen, or whoever you are. A lovely greeting anywhere, especially at the beginning of a church service. 

There’s also an interesting shift from the third person “he” to the second person “you”: in verses 1-4 he gives repose, he guides, he revives, and that becomes “you prepare a banquet with an overflowing cup, you anoint with oil”. The psalm becomes more personal as it develops.  

Verse 5 then says, “In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell”. The Hebrew word used here means not only “dwell” but “return again and again”. The wandering sheep needs to return frequently to the Lord’s house, for sustenance and renewed vitality. 

The joyful psalm occurs in the church’s liturgy on this Laetare Sunday, where it bridges nicely the Old Testament reading about the joyful anointing of the boy David, and the Gospel where Jesus, as Light of the World, brings light to the darkness in the man born blind . 

That image of the shepherd being with us through dark valleys is wonderful in our Lenten journey of course. I also like that modern Japanese adaptation for busy people by Toki Myashina which runs, “The Lord is my pace-setter, I shall not rush; he makes me stop and rest for quiet intervals, providing me with images of stillness, restoring my serenity!”  Yes, Lent is a good time to pause and rest with the good shepherd. Jesus was never in a hurry, was he?