Christ in the Psalms?

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Christ in the Psalms?

Post by steve » Mon Apr 14, 2014 2:38 pm

The following email I received, and answered, struck me as something others here might wish to discuss:
Hello Steve,

I have heard you speak at our SBS [YWAM's School of Biblical Studies] a few times and am now preparing some of my own teachings. I am currently preparing for a Psalms teaching. To start preparing I listened to your introduction to psalms teaching. I was very interested when you said that alot of the psalms point to Jesus. I was hoping you could help me understand that. I have done some research and find a few lists of messianic psalms, but when I read them I don't see the connection right away.

What are some things that you think I should look for, do you have any other resources that could help me understand this better?

Again I hope you are well you continue to be an inspiration for me and push me to continue to teach and learn!

Hi Mark,

The idea behind Messianic Psalms is that certain Old Testament people (David especially) were "types" of Christ. Such types of Christ include Isaac, Moses, Aaron, Israel, Joshua, David, and others (apparently Isaiah also). What this means is that some features of their histories foreshadow or prefigure corresponding features in Christ's life. Because of this, certain things that are said by these people, or about them, are said to be reflective of analogous things that could have been said by, or about, Jesus.

Israel's departure from Egypt (Hos.11:1) thus becomes a type of Christ's departure from Egypt (Matthew 2:15). Isaiah's words about his children (Isaiah 8:18) become words of Christ about His children (Heb.2:13).

On the same principle, words spoken by or about David are often recognized as reflective of what Christ would say, or what would be said about Him. Most famously, Psalms 2, 16, 22, 40, 45, 110 are quoted by New Testament authors as being of this nature. There are others, not quoted in the New Testament, which are commonly regarded as "Messianic" in the same sense (e.g., Ps.72).

I have to assume that the New Testament writers made these connections as a result of Jesus having opened the apostles' understanding, allowing them to comprehend the scriptures (Luke 24:45).

How might we recognize similar phenomena in the Old Testament in instances that are not identified for us by New testament citations? It may not be possible to do so with certainty. However, as we study the instances in which the New Testament writers took Old Testament statements in this manner, we can, no doubt, discern patterns that give us a good idea how they were applying this principle. By doing so, we can reach a degree of confidence about certain cases in the Old Testament, even without specific citations from the apostles (e.g., seeing Joseph as a probable type of Christ).

An example of this process would be in seeing that the Old Testament prophets contain many descriptions of the time of the messiah's reign. Such passages, in Isaiah alone, would include (but not be limited to) chapters 2, 4, 11, 25-27, 32, 35, 40, 54-56, etc. These are only a handful of the dozens of similar passages in the prophets. Not all of these passages are cited by New Testament authors (e.g., Isaiah 2 and 4 are not). Yet a great many of them are. We can thus see, by examining the use of such passages in the cases of their being quoted in the New Testament, precisely how the others should be applied as well, since they all describe the same era.

To some extent, similar methods can be used in identifying messianic statements in Psalms, even when the specific verses may not be cited in the New Testament books.

One resource that you might find helpful in dealing with specific cases is called, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, edited by Beale and Carson. I have not made much use of it personally, but in glancing through it, it seems that it would address these questions in a scholarly, evangelical manner.



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Re: Christ in the Psalms?

Post by dwilkins » Wed Apr 16, 2014 2:52 am

One of my questions about this dynamic is how we are to see statements that David uses for himself in the present tense. In the future tense I think we can see him at least occasionally drifting into speaking as Christ prophetically, but in Psalm 18 he says all sorts of theologically impossible things about himself:

Psa 18:1 To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, the servant of the LORD, who addressed the words of this song to the LORD on the day when the LORD rescued him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. He said: I love you, O LORD, my strength.
Psa 18:2 The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
Psa 18:3 I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.
Psa 18:4 The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of destruction assailed me;
Psa 18:5 the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me.
Psa 18:6 In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.
Psa 18:7 Then the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations also of the mountains trembled and quaked, because he was angry.
Psa 18:8 Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth; glowing coals flamed forth from him.
Psa 18:9 He bowed the heavens and came down; thick darkness was under his feet.
Psa 18:10 He rode on a cherub and flew; he came swiftly on the wings of the wind.
Psa 18:11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him, thick clouds dark with water.
Psa 18:12 Out of the brightness before him hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds.
Psa 18:13 The LORD also thundered in the heavens, and the Most High uttered his voice, hailstones and coals of fire.
Psa 18:14 And he sent out his arrows and scattered them; he flashed forth lightnings and routed them.
Psa 18:15 Then the channels of the sea were seen, and the foundations of the world were laid bare at your rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of the breath of your nostrils.
Psa 18:16 He sent from on high, he took me; he drew me out of many waters.
Psa 18:17 He rescued me from my strong enemy and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me.
Psa 18:18 They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the LORD was my support.
Psa 18:19 He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me.
Psa 18:20 The LORD dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me.
Psa 18:21 For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God.
Psa 18:22 For all his rules were before me, and his statutes I did not put away from me.
Psa 18:23 I was blameless before him, and I kept myself from my guilt.
Psa 18:24 So the LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.
Psa 18:25 With the merciful you show yourself merciful; with the blameless man you show yourself blameless;
Psa 18:26 with the purified you show yourself pure; and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.
Psa 18:27 For you save a humble people, but the haughty eyes you bring down.
Psa 18:28 For it is you who light my lamp; the LORD my God lightens my darkness.
Psa 18:29 For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall.
Psa 18:30 This God—his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.
Psa 18:31 For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?—
Psa 18:32 the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless.
Psa 18:33 He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights.
Psa 18:34 He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
Psa 18:35 You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great.
Psa 18:36 You gave a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip.
Psa 18:37 I pursued my enemies and overtook them, and did not turn back till they were consumed.
Psa 18:38 I thrust them through, so that they were not able to rise; they fell under my feet.
Psa 18:39 For you equipped me with strength for the battle; you made those who rise against me sink under me.
Psa 18:40 You made my enemies turn their backs to me, and those who hated me I destroyed.
Psa 18:41 They cried for help, but there was none to save; they cried to the LORD, but he did not answer them.
Psa 18:42 I beat them fine as dust before the wind; I cast them out like the mire of the streets.
Psa 18:43 You delivered me from strife with the people; you made me the head of the nations; people whom I had not known served me.
Psa 18:44 As soon as they heard of me they obeyed me; foreigners came cringing to me.
Psa 18:45 Foreigners lost heart and came trembling out of their fortresses.
Psa 18:46 The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation—
Psa 18:47 the God who gave me vengeance and subdued peoples under me,
Psa 18:48 who delivered me from my enemies; yes, you exalted me above those who rose against me; you rescued me from the man of violence.
Psa 18:49 For this I will praise you, O LORD, among the nations, and sing to your name.
Psa 18:50 Great salvation he brings to his king, and shows steadfast love to his anointed, to David and his offspring forever.


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Re: Christ in the Psalms?

Post by Paidion » Wed Apr 16, 2014 11:29 am

Psalm 22:1 contains a statement which Christ uttered on the cross, according to Matt 27:46 and Mark 15:34
Psalm 22:8, the statement that the Psalmist's mockers say to him is similar to that which Christ's mockers said to Him, according to Matt 27:43

Man judges a person by his past deeds, and administers penalties for his wrongdoing. God judges a person by his present character, and disciplines him that he may become righteous.

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Re: Christ in the Psalms?

Post by steve » Wed Apr 16, 2014 12:21 pm


I am not saying that David's quoted statements were instances of him prophesying about Christ. His statements are about himself and his own circumstances. It is his life, as a whole, that is a foreshadowing of Christ. Not everything that was true of David was also true of Christ, of course. That's not the way types work. Paul says that Adam was a type of Christ (Rom.5:12) and that the Israelites were a type of us (1 Cor.10:11). However, there are many points of difference between the type and the antitype. It is the points of similarity that identify the typological connection.

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Re: Christ in the Psalms?

Post by dwilkins » Wed Apr 16, 2014 2:26 pm

I think it's obvious that at least most of what David is saying is about himself first. But, it seems like some of it is prophecy (not leaving his body to rot in the grave, etc.). On the other hand, I think that Christ occasionally repeated song lyrics to crowds because he was about to act out the song, and I think he wanted the people to realize all that was going on at the moment. Psalm 22 is a good example. It would have been sort of like if he's yelled out "Don't stop believing" to the crowd, and in their head they finished the sentence (or at least would have been able to if they grew up in the 80's). So, it wasn't that God had forsaken Christ. The Psalm explicitly declares that the first line is a rhetorical question, the answer of which was that God would abandon him. The rest of the song includes details about the events (imagine that once he got the song started in their heads they started humming lines about clothes being gambled away, but that they turn around and see the elements of the song actually happening in real time) that would have indicated to anyone familiar with the song (i.e., all of the Jews there) that it was a single prediction. This is important because of the way that the song wraps up and the essentially Amillennial declaration built into it:

Psa 22:23 You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
Psa 22:24 For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him.
Psa 22:25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
Psa 22:26 The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD! May your hearts live forever!
Psa 22:27 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.
Psa 22:28 For kingship belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations.
Psa 22:29 All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, even the one who could not keep himself alive.
Psa 22:30 Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
Psa 22:31 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it.

Because the rest of the song came true for real, starting at that time, Christ is declaring that this part of it is established as well (v.31 being an interesting prediction of Christianity under the New Covenant).


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