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Christ in the Old Testament 7

Might be worth a little mini-post on Psalms.

It would be tempting to highlight "particularly Messianic" Psalms and say "There, see, Jesus is spoken of here and there in the psalter."  But I'm not sure that's right.  I once told a friend I was helping preach through an 8 week series called "Jesus in the Psalms".  He said "Right, so you'll get through Psalms 1-8, when are you going to do the other 142??"  I was chastened!  That's absolutely right.  It's not like Messianic Psalms form a sub-division of the psalter: like there's imprecatory Psalms, Psalms of lament and messianic Psalms.  You'd never think of having the 'God Psalms' as a sub-category! Christ is not a sub-category of Christian revelation or experience.

And that's the real danger with all of these posts I've been writing.  I've been quoting specific passages in the OT to show that messianically-focussed trinitarian faith is plainly taught there.  But I don't want to give the impression that it's only in those passages.  Rather those passages are meant to show us the dynamics that are inherent to the whole of the Scriptures.

Think of the doctine of sola fide (faith alone) for instance.  There are a number of passages that we can readily turn up to demonstrate its truth.  And a paper on sola fide will spend time going through those specific passages, but not so as to prove that sola fide holds in those cases alone.  We look to the specific passages to show that this pattern holds for all God's dealings with man.  And it holds even for those parts of the Scripture which opponents may erroneously claim refutes it.  It's like this with solus Christus (Christ alone).  We look at the specifics to demonstrate a divine dynamic which holds for all Scripture.

So as we think about Christ in the Psalms we're not going to pick out messianic mentions here and there.  Instead we're going to look at Psalms 1 and 2 and see how these model for us what to expect in the rest of the Psalter.

Psalms 1 and 2 are often called the gateway to the Psalms.  They belong together for many reasons not least the "blessed"s at the beginning and end.  Just as with the Sermon on the Mount, the "blessed"s tell us exactly who is in on what's about to be discussed.  In the Sermon on the Mount, the "blessed"s tell us who's in the kingdom which Jesus describes.  In the Psalter, Psalms 1 and 2 tell us who's in on the worship of the living God.  And who is the blessed man??

Well He is an 'ish - a representative man.  In fact He is the Man.  This is an audacious claim.  (I rarely even claim to be a man!)  Verse 2 says He is a night-and-day Bible-meditator, which makes Him a king (cf Deut 17:18-20; Josh 1:8).  Verse 3, He is also like a tree (think 'Branch' or 'Root' or 'Vine' - kings are described like this).  Not only this but He can make others become prosperous (causative hiphil stem).

This one Man, this definitive Man, is contrasted in v4 to the many wicked. The Psalm does not begin by comparing righteous people to wicked people but rather The Righteous Man is contrasted with the wicked masses.  Then (presumably through the Man/Tree-of-Life causing many others to prosper like Him) we hear about other righteous ones (v5-6).

When we turn to Psalm 2 we see the Man given more names.  The LORD's King (v6) is here called "Anointed One" (Messiah, v2), and "Son" (v7).  Though He is raged against, He will be poured out on Zion (v6) and publicly vindicated by the Father (v7) before claiming universal rule. (v8-9)  All must love and take refuge in Him - both Judge and Saviour. (v10-12)

Here is the gateway to the Psalms.  We ought not to rush into the Psalter without stopping here and asking who is welcome in the Psalter.  And the answer is: "Blessed is the Man... and Blessed are all who take refuge in Him."  We must be rightly related to Christ to be welcome in the worship of the living God.  He, supremely, is the Scripture-meditating, righteous, flourishing, tree-of-life-like Worshipper.  But as Calvin comments on Psalm 22:22, He also is the heavenly choir-master who tunes our hearts to sing God's praises.

Now what implications does this have for how we read the rest of the Psalter?  Well one big help we have received in this, the gateway, is that we've been introduced to the four main characters in the Psalms.  Here we have:

(1)   the LORD;

(2)   the Christ, the Blessed Man;

(3)   The Righteous who take refuge in Him; and

(4)   The Wicked who oppose Him.

All the Psalms are about the interaction of these four groups.  In some, like Psalm 1, the Blessed Man is shown before the LORD and then the righteous and the wicked are contrasted.  In some, like Psalm 2, the righteous complain to the LORD about the wicked and then He reminds them about the Blessed Man, Christ.  In some we have simply the words of Christ.  In others we have the words of the LORD to Christ.  In some we simply have the words of sinners like us taking refuge in Him.  But all of the Psalms are about the inter-relation of these four groups.  And they all work together to speak to us of Christ. Let’s be alert to that as we read the Psalms, they are related to Christ.

Here's a sermon manuscript of mine on Psalms 1 and 2

And here's Mike Reeves on Psalm 1 and on Psalm 15 and on Psalms in general- brilliant stuff!

Next post I'll get down to the implications of all this.... (promises, promises...)

Next post...


10 thoughts on “Christ in the Old Testament 7

  1. codepoke

    I haven't said anything thus far, but I wanted to let you know how much I've appreciated each of these posts, and the series in general. Thank you very much, sir.

  2. The Orange Mailman

    Quote "...we turn to Psalm 2... Though He is raged against, He will be poured out on Zion (v6) and publicly vindicated by the Father (v7) before claiming universal rule."

    Hey Glenn-

    This concept of pouring out in Psalm 2 is foreign to me. The words aren't there. I've never seen verse 7 as a public vindication either. I read most of your sermon manuscript, but did not see the language duplicated there. Instead, in verse 6, the Father installs the King of the world.

    Am I missing something?

    Have fun and stay busy - Luke 19:13

    -The Orange Mailman

  3. jacky

    hey glen!

    I heard people say that psalm 1 is referring to the generic Christian IN Christ, so the blessed man (as you say is Christ) can also mean the Christian in the Holy Spirit. yet I find your argument also quite appealing because I find some discomfort reading Psalm 1 and applying it to me because I definitely cannot do all of what it entails!

    Secondly, there are so many Psalms like this which SEEMS like it speaks of the 'generic' Christian (when I was going thru' Calvin's commentaries he doesn't seem to see the Messianic Psalm theme for all the Psalms, but like you say, he seems to 'divide' it up where some are and some aren't). So for example you have Psalm 24 which Blackham says is Christ himself speaking, rather than the "general" Christian asking for clean hands from some vague person of the Trinity, as opposed to the son calling to the Father.

    Then also there is my qualm for Psalm 27 which Blackham continues to say is Christ speaking again... I've had a little discussion with some friends and Psalm 27:10 seems to suggest that the speaker's "father and mother" has forsaken him... and we came up with two interpretations, which is (1) father/mother forsaking the speaker = the most extreme form of being forsaken (so it is merely a metaphor of God being there even IF your mother/father was to forsake you); or (2) a literal interpretation. if it was merely the (1) interpretation then I can see how Christ speaks there.. but if it was (2) there's the issue of mary NOT have left him... and then of course because of an interpretation using (2), people think it is David speaking and that his parents have left him (this I'm not personally sure about since I don't know if his parents left him).

    Would it be good to speak of Christological Psalms (speaking of Christ, the Lord and the Spirit as 3rd parties) and then Psalms which Christ speaks 1st person TO the Father (Psalm 24/Psalm 110 etc), whilst maintaining the overall framework of the 4 groups you speak of?

  4. glenscriv

    Hi Orange,

    Literally Ps 2:6 says "I have poured out (nasak) my King on Zion." Overwhelmingly 'nasak' is used in OT as the word for pouring out a drink offering. Interestingly it's also used in the "install" sense in Prov 8:23 (the only other occasion I can find in a quick examination). It's a fascinating double-entendre - through sacrificial pouring out the King is established/installed.

    The public vindication of 2:7 I get from

    * "I will proclaim" (see its other uses in Psalms 9:1,14; 22:22; 73:15). This is a public announcement.

    * Its allusive use at Christ's baptism and transfiguration - it's the sort of thing the Father says to publicly announce the Son's identity.

    * Its use in Heb 5:5 - this is the Father exalting the Son, not the Son exalting Himself. it is also spoken of as an appointment to office.

    * Its citation in Acts 13:33 as fulfilled in the resurrection - a very public vindication!

    I think it all adds up. Do you reckon?

  5. glenscriv

    Hi Jacky,

    I think all God's people are meant to be bible-meditating fruitful trees but even so it was supremely the King who was meant to be so. First and foremost Christ is The Man and "Blessed is the Man... and blessed are those who take refuge in Him." I think this takes the language of verses 1-3 seriously and it preserves the crucial gospel dynamic that the Christian life is achieved and fulfilled first in Christ. It is true for us only in Him and with Him and through Him.

    So take Psalm 23 for instance. Millions of Christians on their deathbeds have been comforted by this Psalm even though it is not about Christians. Not first and foremost. First it is about the Anointed One who goes through death before having His life given back to Him and *returning* to the house of the LORD (when we die we don't *return* to the house of the LORD, we go there for the first time). Ps 23 is first and foremost about Christ. But - blessed is Christ and blessed are those who take refuge in Him. We draw comfort from the Psalm because we now experience these things in Him and with Him and through Him.

    And yes I don't think we have to see every Psalm as the words of Christ in order for them to be properly Christian. (Bonhoeffer in 'Life Together' says that's how we should read them). But, for one thing that doesn't really help for the penitential Psalms! For another it takes the humanity of Christ seriously, but what about the divinity - isn't He David's Lord? See Christ not only takes the Psalms on His lips as His own words, He also says the Psalms can be the words of believers concerning Him (e.g. Psalm 110 Mark 12).
    So I'm not into seeing every Psalm as the words of Christ.

    But I think recognizing that the Psalms comprise these four major parties lets you see that they are all Christian (Messiah-an) but without saying they're all necessariyl the words of Christ.

    In which case it's very straightforward to see Psalm 24 as words about Christ. And given that they command the angels, the Spirit as Speaker seems perfectly apt. And using Dev's rule of thumb: assume Christ unless proved otherwise - Psalm 27 is best read as the words of Christ. Certainly His family had their moments with Him - "And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, "He is out of his mind." (Mark 3:21; cf Mark 3:31ff; John 7:5) and certainly "false witnesses" arose against Him (Matt 26:60; Acts 6:13).

  6. The Orange Mailman

    Hey Glenn-

    Thanks for the explanation. It is insightful. I do reckon. I'm still not sure about vindication. There are a couple of definitions for vindication and I was thinking along the lines of clearing one of guilt. But that's not quite what you are referring to. I have taken Psalm 2:7 to be more of a public announcement of an appointment, which you mention in your response.

    But this idea of being poured out as a drink offering there in Psalm 2:6 is fascinating. The way I see it is at some future point in time as an announcement from the Father. He speaks to them in His wrath at the appointed time. And just to make them a bit more terrified, He announces, "I have poured out my King upon Zion."

    It's as if He is saying that the Son is appointed to take this position and there's nothing anyone can do to stop this since He already gave His life. Like you say (write), it is a fascinating double-entendre. He has been poured out, He is fully invested in Mount Zion.

    Have fun and stay busy - Luke 19:13

    -The Orange Mailman

  7. glenscriv

    Yes indeed. On 'vindication' - 1 Tim 3:16 says (NIV) "He was vindicated by the Spirit" - the greek is "edikaiothe" - literally "He was justified by the Spirit." I think this is true in the sense that on the cross He was publicly made sin and died under a curse. As far as the world is concerned, the soul that sins must die, Jesus dies, Jesus is a sinner. The resurrection is Jesus' 'vindication/justification.'

  8. Bob MacDonald

    I am glad to see you coming to the same conclusions as I did about psalms 1 and 2 (and don't forget 149) courtesy of Robert Cole's article.

    Christendom's exploration of Christ in the OT is well gathered in J. M. Neale's grand collection on the Psalms. I think your first comment is right on - the presence of the Anointed is on every 'page' of the Psalter in some very unusual forms.

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