Psalm 49 and the Death Shepherd

We are used to hearing of Jesus the Good Shepherd of John 10 and its companion psalm 23, in which we confess “Yahweh, our shepherd leads his flock away from the rushing torrent to quiet waters, where pastures green provides plenty of safe grazing.  His rod protects and his staff draws back the wandering sheep.”

However, our entrance Psalm for Pentecost 8, Aug. 4, presents quite another image.  “Listen to this…open your ears, all who live in the world- common people or important ones, rich and poor.”  The psalmist has discovered that he has no reason to “be afraid in times of trouble when slanderers surround me with evil.”  Nor those who “trust their riches and brag about their abundant wealth.”  No one, no matter how powerful can buy themselves out of death.  “They must always give up their riches.  It will not save them from living forever and ever in the pit.  Even if they have named lands after themselves, whether wise or foolish or stupid everyone meets the same end.” If one follows that path, of foolish self- confidence, “Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol; death will be their shepherd.”

The psalmist is avoiding that path.  He lives in trust that God will ransom him back from the grave.  God, like a shepherd will lead him to a banquet surrounded by God’s goodness and mercy.  Yahweh will not lead him to the house of forever death, but he will live in the Lord’s house for days without end.

All that we said on Sunday as our worship leader prepared to walk to the altar where we would join in giving thanks and praise for the Lord Jesus Christ who is Lord Most High with the Holy Spirit in the glory of God the Father.

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