Skip to main content

Psalm 23: "Biblische Ausbildung"

I had something else planned to post today - and I may still get to it - but I ran across this blog and wonderful art/post that I just had to share: Biblische Ausbildung. 

Professor Stephen Cook, Virginia Theological Seminary:

“Lord is My Shepherd,” Eastman Johnson, 1863

My student Grace King brought this painting to our attention as we studied Psalm 23 in class. The painting provoked some good comments and discussion. Now that I’ve had a chance to look at the piece more closely, I am even more intrigued by it. Johnson painted his depiction of a free black man reading Psalm 23 the year that Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation went into full effect. At a basic level, the young man’s literacy is a powerful statement of black inclusion in an emerging new America. Probing deeper, there is a powerful interpretation of Psalm 23 here.
Eastman Johnson (American painter, 1824-1906) The Lord Is My Shepherd 1863
Psalm 23 occurs in the middle of the Bible, but Johnson’s figure is reading the front of the Bible, the Book of Exodus (see image detail below). The artwork is thus suggesting that Psalm 23 is not the calm, individual-oriented poem that most people assume. Psalm 23 is about God vigorously leading an entire flock, as all shepherds do, not merely a private soul. Allusions to the Exodus story in the psalm convey a message of this-worldly liberation: “Let my people Go!”
IMG_8031
The Hebrew clause "I shall lack nothing" in v. 1 of Psalm 23 recalls God's care in the exodus journey: "These forty years the Lord your God has been with you; you have lacked nothing." (Deut 2:7). The Hebrew verb for "lead" or "guide" in v. 3 of the psalm is used in a metaphor of God shepherding Israel out of Egypt to freedom in Psalm 78:52-53 (cf. Ex 13:21): “Then he led out his people like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock. He led them in safety so that they were not afraid. . . . And he brought them to his holy hill.” As J. Severino Croatto has noted, the Hebrew behind v. 3b’s “paths of righteousness” (KJV) can equally be translated as “paths of liberation.”
IMG_8030
So the painting correctly captures how Psalm 23 is about the individual joining with an entire flock being led by God out of slavery! Such joining in God’s work of liberation may even entail taking up God’s cause of liberation into your own hands. As the detail immediately above reveals, the young man here has a Union army blanket. Has he joined with the soldiers in taking up arms against the Confederacy?

 

Comments

Post a Comment

I love comments, even if you don't agree, but please don't leave anonymous posts. A well-mannered reader leaves a name!

Popular posts from this blog

Trying to "end run" God

If you're a football fan, you know what an end run is. From Merriam-Webster:
a football play in which the ballcarrier attempts to run wide around the end of the line We try to "end run" God a lot. I do. I figure I know better. I've got this - no need to worry the Big Guy about such a trivial thing.

Of course, it never works.

Like the puppy above, when we try and evade the tough obstacle (even though we KNOW we will eventually have to do it), we end up - well, off in the bushes.

But oh! How I wished my way worked. I'd love to take a flying leap and land smoothly and gracefully. People would be in awe, as if watching Simone Biles nail a balance beam routine that no one else would even attempt. I would shyly look down and blush - just lightly - and acknowledge (But humbly! Oh so humbly!) my achievement.

But no: I am the one pulling myself out of the bushes, scratches all over my legs and twigs in my hair. I'd hear that gentle but loving voice of God saying, &quo…

Trauma Mama

Dear Husband and I both enjoy certain medical shows, such as "ER" and "Code Black." ("St. Elsewhere" was another fave!) These shows revolve around trauma: humans who'd been ambushed by life: a car accident, a fire, and abuse, as examples.

More often than not, these shows also highlight the trauma the doctors and nurses needed to deal with. Having a patient die is always offensive to a doctor: they are charged with saving lives and losing one is the ultimate failure. Nurses spend more time with patients, and can forge strong bonds with people that may be in their lives for just a few days.

But trauma doesn't always look like a bloody body being wheeled into an emergency room, or a house surrounded by fire trucks and police cars. Trauma comes in many forms.

According to one website, trauma can look like surgery. It can look like moving. Trauma can be losing a beloved spouse or more horrifying, a child. Trauma can also be chronic pain, loneliness, m…

Be Brave

A few years ago, it came to my attention that a young family member was struggling with anxiety and depression. I was able to share with her a bit of my own struggles, and let her know she wasn't alone.

A few weeks after our talk, I saw the movie, "Brave." It struck me that the young protagonist, Merida, modeled a great quality. She was indeed brave.

Being brave is not about recklessness. It is not about confidence. It's not about being foolish, or looking for glory in the eyes of others.

Bravery is about doing what is right, even when you are a quivering mess. It's about knowing that things may not turn out the way you expected, but forging ahead anyway. Being brave is standing by the hospital bed while a loved one is dying, and all you really want to do is turn back time. Bravery is standing up to a bully, when your legs are screaming for you to run. Brave is doing what needs to be done even when you're scared and tired and feeling helpless and hopeless.

I …