TODAY’S READING: PSALMS 43-49
Psalm 44:22 says, “Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
Many are likely more familiar with this scripture because Paul quoted it in Romans 8:36.
But, it seems to me that Paul is using this scripture in a different way than the writer of Psalm 44. In fact, it seems to me that Paul is using it in almost the exact opposite way.
Psalm 44 starts with the writer saying that they have heard all that their fathers told them about what God did in the days of old. What deeds of God is the writer referring to? Specifically, the writer is referencing God driving out the nations from the promised land so that he could plant Israel there. The psalmist says that it was not by their own sword or arm that they took the land, but that it was God’s right hand and arm that took the land for Israel.
Then, the psalmist acknowledges God as king. God defeats their foes and treads down those who rise up against them. God saves them from their enemies. He even puts to shame those that hate them. So, they will boast in God and give thanks to him continually.
Then, there is a pause.
And a change in though.
Now, the psalmist says that God has rejected and disgrace them. They have been turned back from their enemy, and their enemy has spoiled them through war. Indeed it has gotten so bad that the psalmist says, “You have made us like sheep for slaughter and have scattered us among the nations.” (verse 11).
Clearly, the psalmist does not see being sheep for the slaughter as a good thing. God has made them the taunt of their neighbors, a byword among the nations, and laughingstock among the peoples. They are disgraced and ashamed.
The writer says that all this has happened to them even though they have not forgotten God. The psalmist claims they have not been false to the covenant, have not turned back from God, and have not departed from his ways.
From the moment that God delivered Israel out of Egypt they grumbled and complained in the wilderness, desiring to return to their slavery. And, from the moment God took them into the promised land they forsook the ways of God and did what was right in their own eyes. Over and over, the prophets record God calling Israel back to him. Yet, they refuse to give up their idolatry and go into exile.
The psalmist sums all this up by saying, “If we had forgotten the name of our God or spread out our hands to a foreign god, would not God discover this? For he knows the secrets of the heart. Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered?” (verses 20-22)
The psalmist is saying that God knows the secrets of their hearts. He knows they have not forgotten his name nor have they worshiped foreign gods and idols. But, since God seems to be sleeping and hiding his face (verses 23-24), for your sake we will die all day long and be regarded as sheep for the slaughter. The psalmist seems to be saying to God that we have kept the covenant with you yet you don’t seem to be keeping it along with us so we will die for your sake.
So, being killed all the day long and regarded as sheep for the slaughter is anything but an encouragement. In fact, it seems much more to be lament, a resignation to how God is going to treat them.
But, this is not at all how Paul uses Psalm 44:22 in Romans 8.
In Romans, Paul shows that it was all mankind that had worshiped the creature instead of the Creator. All men were guilty of idolatry. Even Israel, who has to show the world what God was like, gave in to idolatry, desiring to be like every other nation.
But, Paul shows that despite Israel’s unfaithfulness to the covenant and all of mankind’s idolatry God was faithful. Indeed, God is going to be so faithful that he is going to restore all of creation. This is exactly the opposite of what the psalmist was saying.
Paul says that this will come about provided that we suffer with Christ, who was the lamb of God. But, these sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us by God.
For those that love God all things work together for good, which is to be conformed to the image of Jesus. What image is that? A lamb that laid his life down for the world in the ultimate act of self-giving love.
So, Paul says what can we say about all these things?
Well, if God is for us, then who or what can be against us.
The psalmist thought God was against them, allowing them to be shamed and disgraced before their enemies. But even though God was against them, they would be as sheep for the slaughter for God’s sake.
But, Paul says that God did not even spare his own son. But, if he gave us Jesus, then how will God not give us all things?
So, nothing can come against us. Nothing can condemn us. And, no one can bring a charge against us. Absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.
Therefore, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” (Romans 8:36)
To Paul, this is a glorious thing because it is how we are conformed to the image of Jesus, the lamb of God, and we participate in the restoring of all creation. Indeed, it is “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)
To the psalmist being regarded as sheep to be slaughtered was a defeat. Dying at the hand of your enemy was not a victory.
But, to Paul being regarded as sheep to be slaughtered was a victory. Since this was the manner of Christ’s victory over the powers of darkness and wickedness, this too would be the way for us to be more than conquerors.
According to our natural man, to be like Jesus, to lay down our lives, to die, is a defeat.
But, according to the Spirit in us, to be like Jesus, to lay down our lives, to be regarded as sheep to be slaughtered, is to be glorified as he was glorified. This is how the glory that God gave to Jesus, Jesus gives to us so that we can be even as God and Jesus are one (John 17:22).
So, let us all be regarded as sheep to be slaughtered, killed all day long for the sake of God.