The Politics of the King’s Shepherd

Although the 23rd Psalm might be the most familiar of all, I believe that there are dimensions of its meaning that often go unnoticed. Over on Political Theology Today, I suggest that there is a political aspect to the message of the psalm that might have striking implications for contemporary societies.

And here we encounter another dimension of the psalm that is often neglected: this is a psalm attributed to the anointed leader of YHWH’s people. While we are (rightly) accustomed to singing or praying this psalm as a private expression of God’s goodness and our trust in him as individuals, there is a political dimension to it that should not be missed. The psalmist to whom the psalm is attributed is not a private individual, but the representative of his people, blessed with a kingdom by YHWH, yet assaulted by enemy forces seeking his destruction.

2 Chronicles 7:6 refers to David giving praise by the hand of the Levites, singing, as it were, the ‘King’s Song’.[5] In the Old Testament, the ruler of the people often led the nation in its worship on important occasions. In psalms associated with the king, the people are invited to join in the worship of the representative in whom they are summed up, to locate themselves within the life of their leader, and to find his experience resonating with their own.

The fact that the king, himself regarded as the shepherd of his people, would look to YHWH in his fraught military and political situation as a weak sheep looks to its shepherd is a striking image of dependency. Comparing this with our own political leaders, who typically project a public image of confident assurance in their own sufficiency before the struggles and dangers facing our nations, the contrast is noteworthy.

Read the whole post here.

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christian Experience, Guest Post, OT, Politics, Psalms, Theological. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Politics of the King’s Shepherd

  1. quinnjones2 says:

    Reblogged this on yieldingtothewind and commented:
    This is worthy of a much wider readership

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