There is an interesting section of Scripture at Psalms 22, 23, and 24. These three form a trilogy concerning the shepherding roles of Jesus Christ. Psalms 23 speaks of the Lord as the Good Shepherd. Psalms 24 describes Him as the Chief Shepherd.
But, Psalms 22 shows Jesus Christ as the Good Shepherd, who gave His life for the sheep. It is significant to note that this psalm is designated by the words, “To the chief Musician upon Aijeleth Shahar.” Aijeleth Shahar is a very beautiful title, which means “The Deer of the Morning.” It is also a very meaningful title, for it describes the suffering and victory of Jesus Christ, for it is the deer that is persecuted unjustly according to the divine inspiration of the psalmist and prophet, King David.
Nonetheless, David gives us a most valued insight about those critical moments of the Cross when our eternal future and God’s justification literally hung in the balance. As the Deer of the Morning, He was persecuted for destruction. This is noted profoundly by the content of this twenty-second Psalm. How so?
First, as the Deer of the Morning, Jesus Christ was oppressively opposed. The sadists oppressively opposed Him. A sadist is one who is gratified by giving out pain. Clearly, all those who were oppressive in the opposition to Jesus were gratified to give Jesus what they thought He deserved. The Scripture describes their administration of pain as though He were a worm. They gaped upon Him with their mouths like a ravening and roaring lion (22:13). The gaped mouth was an obscene gesture of eating up an opponent. They taunted and threatened and teased Him mercilessly from what the Psalmist indicates.
Though sadists oppressively opposed the Deer of the Morning, Jesus endured the Cross because what it would accomplish for you and me.
But Satan also oppressively opposed Him. Satan’s Anti-Christ activities are poignantly described in the Psalm by referring to Satan as a dog (22:20b), a lion’s mouth (22:21a), and a unicorn (20:21b).
The “dog” is a filthy reference to Satan and his oppression. Like a ravenous dog, Satan pursued Christ with a heated passion — like a dog chasing a deer.
The “lion’s mouth” refers to Satan’s oppressive tactics of intimidation. Imagine, if you will, the fear that staring into the mouth of a lion would bring.
Furthermore, we read, “For thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorn.” The unicorn is mentioned eight times in the Bible. It probably refers to a wild ox, which had two horns. When seen in profile, the two horns appeared as one. Since the unicorn was characteristically strong and untameable, its horns refer to tossing and turmoil.
All told, Satan did all that he could — in conjunction with the sadists — to destroy Jesus, to detain Jesus, and to deter Jesus. But, Satan and the combined powers of his forces could not stem the tide of Gospel love from Heaven on behalf of all. As the Deer of the Morning, Jesus persevered despite being oppressively opposed. Faithful and true all the way through, the Deer of the Morning ran the range of redemption without giving in or up.
Yet, all of this turns on us. From the vivid descriptions of oppression and opposition Christ endured, we, too, are confronted by the quality of own committed response to Christ.
Unfortunately, some people say, “If only I could get a feeling about it.” Others say, “If only I could have the time.”
We owe Jesus death! But, all He asks is commitment.
We need to be better about commitment.
Pastor Ron Branch lives in Mason County and is pastor of Hope Baptist Church, Middleport, Ohio. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.