Thursday, April 8, 2021

How To Find Jesus In The Book Of Psalms


Luke 24:44 "Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”


    In today's post I want to introduce readers to the Book of Psalms - with particular focus upon how Jesus Himself is referenced among them. The Book of Psalms is essentially the ancient hymnbook of Israel. In the Hebrew Bible, the Book of Psalms is the first book in the third division of the Hebrew Bible called "Ketiviim", or what is known as "The Writings". Whenever Jesus appeared to His disciples in His post-mortem encounter with them on the road to Emmaus, He unpacked how the Hebrew Scriptures spoke concerning Himself. As the reader can note in the opening quotation from Luke 24:44, the three-fold division of the Hebrew Old Testament is enumerated - with "Psalms" representing what I just said about the "Ketiviim" or "Writings".  

    The Book of Psalms itself is a series of five collections of 150 songs in total. Each collection or "Book" is comprised of the following Psalms, arranged in a combination of chronological order and topical arrangement:

Book I = Psalms 1-41

Book II = Psalms 42-73

Book III = Psalms 74 - 89

Book IV = Psalms 90 - 106

Book V = Psalms 107 - 150

    Each "Book" begins with a headline Psalm and ends with a praise song to God (otherwise known as a doxology). The entire Book of Psalms itself (otherwise known as "The Psalter") begins with Psalms 1-2 functioning as "Pillar Psalms" for the whole collection. Whenever the reader arrives at Psalms 145-150, these appear to draw the Psalter to its conclusion and God-focused end. The Bible Knowledge Commentary, page 779, states the following in its introduction to the Book of Psalms:

"Of all the books in the Old Testament the Book of Psalms most vividly represents the faith of individuals in the Lord. The Psalms are the inspired responses of human hearts to God's revelation of Himself in law, history, and prophecy. Saints of all ages have appropriated this collection of prayers and praises in their public worship and private meditations."

    The Book of Psalms occupies the section of "Wisdom literature" in our English translations. Truly, it is appropriate to deem the Psalms as "wisdom literature". Wisdom refers to the God-given skill to relate to God and to others through a lifestyle that can lead in a Godward direction. The greatness of the Psalms lies in how widely varied they are in application across human experience. For instance, different types of Psalms are identified by scholars to express their contents and method of poetically connecting with the Lord or the human predicament:

1. Penitential or prayer Psalms, like Psalm 63.

2. Torah Psalms, which celebrate God's Word, such as Psalm 19 or 119.

3. Enthronement Psalms, which highlight the enthronement of the king in Jerusalem, such as Psalm 2. 

4. Imprecatory Psalms, which feature the author praying down curses against his enemies, as in Psalm 69.

5. Mourning Psalms, which detail a time of grief in the author's life, as in Psalm 42 or Psalm 43.

6. Confessional Psalms, in which the author is confessing their sins to God, as in Psalm 51.

7. Messianic Psalms, which, though closely related to enthronement Psalms, seem to focus attention on the (then) future Messiah as related to the throne of David in Jerusalem, as in Psalm 110.

8. Rejoicing Psalms, which focus attention on the worship of God, as in Psalm 150.

    There are several other categories, but the above gives a general sampling of how far-ranging the Psalms are. What I find very helpful is using the Psalms in times of prayer. Who, for instance, cannot miss seeing Christ in Psalm 23, or hearing His voice on the cross in Psalm 22? Psalm 110, quoted or alluded to over fifteen times in the New Testament, is a prime example of how the Psalms direct our focus upon the Triune God - and particularly the second Person of the Trinity - the Son of God Himself.

How the Psalms show us Jesus

    Whenever we read those particular Psalms that are referred to as "Messianic Psalms", we need to keep in mind a few principles that aid us in discerning the Person and work of Jesus. 

    First, we must pay attention to the immediate context of the Psalm. Most of the Psalms will contain "headings" which inform readers about the author and perhaps the situation in which the Psalm was written. Sometimes though, some Messianic Psalms may not have a heading - such as Psalm 2. Oftentimes, we know we are dealing with a Messianic Psalm whenever it contains the term "Messiah" or "Anointed One", which refers to King David or some other King on Jerusalem's throne in the immediate context. Often, the Messianic Psalms can "switch worlds" to an ultimate Messianic figure yet-future to the Psalm; a "Heavenly Figure" or some combination of the two. If we take Psalm 2, for instance, its context suggests the coronation and enthronement of David as king over all of Israel, yet, the Psalm then "switches worlds", speaking of some Heavenly figure that is referred to as "You are My Son, Today I have Begotten You" (Psalm 2:7).

    The second trait of a Messianic Psalm which tells us that we will likely link to Jesus is when that Psalm is quoted in the New Testament. If we consider Psalm 2 once again, Psalm 2:7 is quoted by the Apostle Paul in his sermon in Acts 13:33 and twice by the writer of Hebrews in Hebrews 1:5 and 5:5. Now if we consider that Psalm 2 originally first described the enthronement and establishment of King David, coupled with it "switching worlds" to focus attention on a conversation between Yahweh and another whom He call "My Son", we can see then why Paul and the writer of Hebrews would connect Psalm 2 to the resurrection and eventual coronation of the ascended Jesus in Heaven. Also too, the identity of the "Heavenly Figure" in Psalm 2 is truly Divine, that is, the Person of the Son in Psalm 2 is truly God in the same sense as Yahweh who is addressing Him. Such observations "set-the-table" for the full revelation of the equality of the Father and Son in the New Testament and the full revelation of the Trinity itself.

    Thirdly, and lastly, the way we can see how a Messianic Psalm is pointing us to Jesus is in how it may very well relate to other Messianic Psalms. For example, if we take the two above criteria for identifying Jesus in the Messianic Psalms and consider this current criteria, we can observe how Hebrews 1 strings together several of these Psalms. For instance: Hebrews 1:5 quotes Psalm 2:7; Hebrews 1:9 cites Psalm 45:7; and then Hebrews 1:10-12 replicates Psalm 102:25-27. Whenever we see such a "string of pearls" with respect to the citation of one Messianic Psalm after another in affirming the person and work of Jesus in the New Testament, we know we are well within our rights to look for Jesus in that Psalm. 

    As I close out this post today, I want to simply list the Messianic Psalms in which we can see the Person and work of Jesus. Below the reader will note how each Messianic Psalm corresponds to at least six particular activities or fulfilled events in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ.

1. Christ's eternal pre-existence: Psalm 102:26-28

2. Incarnation: Psalm 8:4-7; 40:5-7

3. Crucifixion: Psalm 22:1,19; 69:2,10; 109:25

4. Burial: Psalm 16:8-11

5. Ascension/Enthronement: Psalm 2:7; 16:10; 45:7; 102:26-28; 110:1,4

6. Second coming/reign on earth: Psalm 89:3-4,27-29,36-37; 110:1,4; 132:10-11,17