Gather round, says the songwriter, and listen up. Incline your ears and I’ll tell you a story. A story comprised of many stories. Stories you have heard and known. Stories which we should not forget. Stories that should be passed on to our children and to our children’s children. Stories of “the glorious deeds of the LORD, and His might, and the wonders He has done” (Ps. 78:1-4).
And so Asaph the psalmist recounts the mighty works of God from of old concerning His people — those He desired as His heritage. And set against God’s wondrous work of deliverance from Egypt . . . set against His faithful and abundant provision in the wilderness . . . are the stubborn and rebellious hearts of a people who forgot His mighty works and took for granted that He should care for them in the manner to which they thought they were deserving. And so, for sixty-seven verses, the song is sung. The opus of God’s glorious deeds counter-melodied with the minor chords of a people who did not believe and whose hearts were set only on themselves.
But . . . and what a glorious word, “but” . . . but then, at the end, the song takes a turn . . .
He rejected the tent of Joseph; He did not choose the tribe of Ephraim, but He chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion, which He loves. He built His sanctuary like the high heavens, like the earth, which He has founded forever. He chose David His servant and took him from the sheepfolds; from following the nursing ewes He brought him to shepherd Jacob His people, Israel His inheritance. With upright heart He shepherded them and guided them with His skillful hand. (Psalm 78:67-72 ESV)
But He chose the tribe of Judah. Though God’s people would provoke Him to anger with their rebellion, though they would move Him to jealousy with their unfaithfulness, though He would judge them for their sin, yet He would not disown them, He would not utterly destroy them, but He would persist in providing for their redemption and their care. And so He chose the tribe of Judah. There He would establish His holy dwelling place . . . a little bit of heaven on hearth. And from there He would chose a man to shepherd His people. He would raise up His servant, one who had proved faithful and fearless. A man with an upright heart. And who could skillfully gather the flock of God’s people and lead them to feed only on the pastures of God’s provision and to offer praise only to the holy name of the One who had delivered them.
But He chose Judah. And He chose David His servant.
And my mind immediately goes to the greater David. To Him who is called the Lion of the tribe Judah and the root of David. To Him who is conqueror over sin and death though, when He is beheld, He is seen as “a Lamb, as though it had been slain” (Rev. 5:5-6). And I praise God that He chose Judah.
For this Lion came not to devour, but to deliver. Not to reject, but to redeem. Not to judge, but to justify. Not to shun, but to shepherd.
I am the good shepherd. I know My own and My own know Me, just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. (John 10:14-15 ESV)
And for all who will believe and receive, this One of Judah has promised to give new life so that they might become children of God (John 1:12-13). To lead them on their own exodus from the bondage of sin and the fear of death. To gather them to Himself and lead them to a land of promise. How can I be sure? Because of this holy week which culminates in an empty tomb and a joyous celebration. The Lion of th tribe of Judah, the Lamb of God, is risen! He is alive!
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21 ESV)
Gather round. It’s a story worth retelling and worth remembering. Amen?