Discovering Christ in Unexpected Places Lesson 7

Lesson 7 | October 30, 2016

Prepared by Daniel L. Segraves, PhD

Psalm 34

The superscription of this psalm declares it is “a psalm of David when he pretended madness before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he departed.”  Abimelech is apparently the same person as Achish the king of Gath.  (See I Samuel 21:10-15.)  It may be that Abimelech was the king’s official royal name and that Achish was his personal name.  Abimelech means “my father is king.”  Achish has a variety of meanings, including “only a man.”

David fled from Saul’s violent anger (see I Samuel 18-20) to Achish.  The servants of Achish recognized David, causing David to fear for his life.  (See I Samuel 21:10-15.)  So David pretended to be insane, scratching on the gate and drooling.  Achish said to his servants, “Look, you see the man is insane.  Why have you brought him to me?  Have I need of madmen, that you have brought this fellow to play the madman in my presence?  Shall this fellow come into my house?” (I Samuel 21:14-15).

David’s pretense resulted in Achish having a lack of interest in him, and David was able to escape.  He wrote Psalm 34 in thanksgiving to God for his deliverance.

The question before us, however, is this: Is there any sense in which this psalm, which originally had to do with David’s deliverance from Abimelech, should be viewed as pointing ahead to the Messiah?  The general context of the Psalter would certainly suggest that this, like all previous psalms, is messianic, but is there anything in the psalm itself to advance a messianic theme?

Five points indicate that we are to read this psalm as pointing to the Messiah.

First, it is placed in the Psalter in the context of other psalms that are clearly messianic in intent.  If Psalm 34 is not about the Messiah, the continuity that we have seen to this point is broken.

Second, the general content of the psalm, including the blessing of the Lord, praise, deliverance, the righteous, and trust in the Lord, is in harmony with the general content of the previous psalms.

Third, there seems to be an allusion to verse 8 in Hebrews 6:4, where to “taste the heavenly gift” is descriptive of the New Covenant, and thus messianic, experience.[1]

Fourth, the Septuagint translation of verse 5a “was early used in the Christian baptismal liturgy.”[2]  If early Christians used the words of this verse in conjunction with Christian baptism, it means they read Psalm 34 as a messianic psalm.

Fifth, the psalm is an acrostic.  Verse 1 begins with aleph, verse 2 with beth, and so forth.  The waw, however, is missing.  There are twenty-two letters in the Hebrew alphabet, and the twenty-two verses in this psalm are maintained by the addition of the final verse, which is outside of the acrostic.  This final verse connects the psalm to the general theme of the previous psalms as established in Psalm 2:12b: “Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.”  Psalm 34:22b reads, “And none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned.”  The structure of the psalm suggests that in its original form, as written by David to celebrate his escape from Abimelech, there was a verse beginning with waw, and the psalm ended with what is now verse 21.  When the Psalter was arranged into its present shape during the post-exilic era, an inspired shape that points to the Messiah, the verse beginning with waw was not included, and the current verse 22 was added.  Although this is speculation, it seems reasonable to conclude that the verse beginning with waw was not included because it did not advance the messianic intent of the Psalter, and verse 22 was added to contribute to the messianic theme.

Sixth, and perhaps most convincing, is the fact that verse 20 is quoted in John 19:36 as being specifically fulfilled in the events surrounding Jesus’ death.  Verse 20 reads, “He guards all his bones; not one of them is broken.”  In John’s account of Jesus’ death, he points out that the Jews asked Pilate to have the legs of Jesus and those who were crucified with Him broken so they would die quickly enough to be taken down from the crosses before the beginning of the Sabbath (John 19:31).  The soldiers broke the legs of the thieves, but “when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break His legs” (John 19:33).  John wrote, “For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, ‘Not one of His bones shall be broken’” (John 19:36).  This indicates that an inspired writer of a New Testament book viewed Psalm 34 as a messianic psalm.  If he did, so should we.  Since Psalm 34 is intentionally placed and composed, the entire psalm is messianic, not merely verse 20.  As with Psalm 31 (see verse 5) and Psalm 22 (see verses 1-22), Psalm 34 should be read as expressing the sentiments of the Messiah wherever possible.  The words that originally expressed David’s gladness at being delivered from Abimelech now express the Messiah’s gladness at being delivered from death by means of the resurrection.

The psalm begins with praise and blessing given to the Lord (verse 1).  The second verse continues this theme, and introduces the idea that those who are humble will be glad when they hear the Lord exalted.  The third verse begins with a command to join in magnifying the Lord and concludes with an invitation to join in the exaltation of His name.  (Compare with the messianic intent of Psalm 22:22.)

The reason the Lord is to be praised is that He heard the Messiah when He sought Him and delivered Him from all His fears (verse 4).  It may seem strange to think of the Messiah as praying for deliverance from fear, but this seems quite in keeping with Hebrews 5:7: “[W]ho, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear.”  If it seems problematic to think of the Messiah as facing fear, we should note that the Septuagint, widely quoted in the New Testament with its messianic intent, translates the Hebrew meguwrah [fear] with the Greek errusato, which includes the meanings, “to draw out of danger,” “to rescue,” “to save,” and “to deliver.”

Those who look to the Lord are “radiant” and “not ashamed” (verse 5).  The Septuagint translates this verse: “Draw near to him, and be enlightened: and your faces shall not by any means be ashamed.”

The Messiah, who was made “poor” that we might be “rich,” cried out to the Lord, who heard him and delivered Him out of all His troubles (verse 6).[3]

The role of angels in ministering to the Messiah may be seen in Matthew 4:11 and Luke 22:43 (verse 7).

Verse 8 offers an imperative to “taste and see that the Lord is good” and promises that the person who trusts in Him (compare with verse 22) is blessed.

Similarly, verse 9 is a command for the saints of the Lord to fear Him, with the promise that those who fear Him will not want (lack).  This promise follows a theme seen in Psalm 23:1.

Although young lions may lack, not so those who seek the Lord (verse 10).  We should be careful to note that this verse does not promise that those who seek the Lord will never experience physical hunger.  The promise is that they will not lack “any good.”  As it relates to the Law of Moses, there was a promise of plenty on the condition of perfect obedience to all the commands of the Law.  (See Deuteronomy 28.)  But as it relates to the New Covenant, there must be a willingness to suffer, if necessary, for our faith.

Another imperative is found in verse 11, a command to come and listen and to be taught the fear of the Lord.

If a person wishes to live long and experience good things (verse 12), he must not speak evil or deceit (verse 13), and he must depart from evil, do good, and seek and pursue peace (verse 14).

The Lord sees the righteous (compare with Psalm 1:5-6) and hears their cries (verse 15), but He is against those who do evil (compare with Psalm 1:1, 4-6).  They will be forgotten (verse 16).

Again, as in verse 15, the righteous are assured that the Lord hears them when they cry out; He delivers them from all their troubles (verse 17).  This doesn’t they will never experience trouble; it means God will not abandon them to their troubles.  (See verse 19.)

The Lord values a broken heart and a contrite spirit (verse 18).  As seen elsewhere, He resists the proud, but He extends grace to those who are humble.  (See Proverbs 3:34; James 4:6; I Peter 5:5.)

The Lord does not promise that those who are righteous will not experience afflictions, but He does promise to deliver them (verse 19).  (Compare with I Corinthians 10:13.)

As this psalm relates to the Messiah, there is a precise fulfillment in that not one of His bones was broken (verse 20).  (See John 19:36.)

The evil in which the wicked engage shall slay them, and those who hate the righteous will be held guilty (verse 21).  (See Psalm 7:15-16.)

The final verse, apparently added by inspiration during the post-exilic period, ties this psalm together with all the preceding psalms: “the Lord redeems the soul of His servants, and none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned” (verse 22).  (Compare with Psalm 2:12b; 16:9-10.)

In view of the content of Psalm 34, the context in which it is found, the acrostic arrangement with the missing waw and the non-acrostic final verse, and the precise messianic fulfillment of verse 20, it seems quite clear that the entire psalm should be viewed as advancing the messianic theme of the Psalter.

The videos and study guides for this class can be accessed at www.danielsegraves.com/blog.

[1] See F.F. Bruce in Gordon D. Fee, gen.ed., The Epistle to the Hebrews, rev. ed., The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990), 137, n. 5.

[2] Ibid., 145, n. 40.

[3] See II Corinthians 8:9.

Discovering Christ in Unexpected Places Lesson 6 Study Guide

Lesson 6 | October 23, 2016

Prepared by Daniel L. Segraves, PhD

Psalm 69b

In our previous lesson, we saw substantial evidence that Psalm 69 is a messianic psalm.[1] We will continue our exploration in this lesson with Jesus’ reference to Psalm 69:4a in John 15:25.

As He described His solidarity with the Father, a solidarity so complete that those who hated Jesus hated His Father also, Jesus said, “But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, ‘They hated Me without a cause’” (John 15:25).  This refers to Psalm 69:4: “Those who hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head….”[2]

The idea here and in John 8:17; 10:34 may be that, when the Old Testament is read without a Christ-centered consciousness, it becomes a book other than what God intended.  Jesus did not say, “As it is written in our law,” or even, “As it is written in the law.”  Suddenly, the “law” becomes the law as it is identified with and owned by the unbelieving Jewish leaders who rejected the central theme of the law: The Messiah.  This is not God’s law; it is their law.  The words are the same, but the words – stripped of the meaning intended by God – are no longer His; they are theirs.

The enmity of the religious leaders who – had they been able – would have killed Jesus is bound up with the words of verse 4.  They were numerous (“more than the hairs of my head”) and mighty.[3]  The wrongfulness of their enmity is captured in the words, “Though I have stolen nothing, I still must restore it” (verse 4).  Wilcock observes that we “do not know in what sense the psalmist was forced to restore what [he] did not steal,[4] but this could be a reference to the view of Jesus’ unbelieving enemies that He had “stolen” the messianic claim.  They did not believe it was rightfully His, so they demanded that He “restore it.”  Even if this is not the point, the statement indicates that their claims – whatever they were – were false.

Verse 5 is the only one in the psalm that may seem to prohibit us from reading the text as a reference to the Messiah: “O God, You know my foolishness; and my sins are not hidden from You.”  If this is indeed a necessary reference to the foolishness of the speaker and to sins he has personally committed, the verse cannot refer to the Messiah.  In that case, if we view the psalm as an integrated unit, we shall have to deny that it has any reference to the Messiah.  But the psalm’s use in the New Testament does not allow this position.  Perhaps we could agree with Wilcock that although much of the psalm has to do with the Messiah, some of it does not.[5]  But we have previously taken a position similar to Dodd’s, who saw quotations from the psalms as carrying their context with them.[6]  If the individual psalms are integrated units within which some words are attributed to the Messiah, and if there is no change of speaker within the psalm, the entire psalm must be attributed to the Messiah.

But what are we to do with the statement, “O God, You know my foolishness”?  As Mays points out, verse 5

can be read two ways.  It is either a further claim of innocence (“If I had committed folly, you, God, would know”) or it is a statement that what folly he has done is known by God and not a cause for those who hate him and seek to destroy him (v. 4).[7]

In Gaebelein’s view, verse 5 indicates that “He [the Messiah] owns the foolishness and trespass of lost sinners as His own.”[8] The second half of verse 5 (“and my sins are not hidden from You”) can be understood in the same way as the sin references in previous messianic psalms.[9]  That is, the reference is not to personal sins committed by the Messiah, but to His role as a sin-bearer.  In this case, the word ’ashmah, translated “sins,” has within its semantic range the meaning “trespass-offering.”[10]  If the verse is read this way, the meaning is similar to that of II Corinthians 5:21: “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us ….”  The fact that ’ashmah is plural in verse 5 may seem to be a problem for understanding the verse this way (i.e., is it appropriate to think of the Messiah’s redemptive work in terms of trespass offerings?).  But this would not be the only place in Scripture where the concept of Christ’s offering for sins is described with a plural word: “Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these” (Hebrews 9:23).

That the heavenly things are cleansed with “better sacrifices” does not mean that the one sacrifice of Christ is insufficient.  In view of the author’s insistence that Christ’s singular sacrifice was sufficient (9:28; 10:10, 14), we should understand the word “sacrifices” as a generic plural that, still in the language of the old covenant, states the necessity of sacrifice to deal with the sin problem.  The focus is not on how many sacrifices are necessary under the new covenant, but on the need for something superior to the blood of animals to cleanse the heavenly things.[11]

If we read ’ashmah as a reference to the Messiah bearing the sins of the people as in Isaiah 53, the plural form poses no problem.  If we read it as a reference to the trespass-offering made by Christ in His death, with the plural form picking up the language of the Old Covenant, no problem is posed.  There is but one sacrifice for sin, but that one sacrifice fulfills the prophetic significance of all of the sacrifices for sin offered under the Law of Moses.

Verse 6 is the Messiah’s plea that none that wait for the Lord God (i.e., those who trust Him) would be ashamed or confounded because of Him.  This prayer was certainly answered, as were all of Jesus’ prayers.  No person of genuine faith found Christ to be a stumbling block.  But He was a stumbling block to those who lacked faith.[12]

The Messiah bore the reproaches of those who reproached the Lord God (verses 7, 9b).[13]  He was so closely identified with God in these reproaches that He was rejected even by His siblings (verse 8).[14]  In the context of bearing God’s reproaches, the Messiah was consumed with zeal for the purity of God’s house (verse 9a).[15]  The Messiah was reproached for His weeping and fasting (verses 10-11a).  Although we don’t read a specific reference in the New Testament reflecting this, we do read that Jesus’ fasting experience was for the purpose of being tempted by the devil.[16]

The Messiah became a byword, the object of verbal opposition, and the subject of drinking songs (verses 11b-12).  Some of this may be seen in the claims that Jesus was a Samaritan who was possessed of a devil, that He was born of fornication, and that He was empowered by Beelzebub.[17]

In the face of the opposition He faced, the Messiah prayed (verse 13a).  He prayed that at the right time (verse 13b), on the basis of His mercy (verse 13c), God would hear Him (verse 13d) and deliver Him “out of the mire,” a metaphor for those who hated Him (verses 14-15).  The description of His dangerous circumstances as a “pit” connects with a theme reaching all the way back to Psalm 7:15.[18]

In verse 16, the words of the Messiah’s prayer echo the words of David’s prayer in Psalm 51:1.  This may reflect the purpose of Psalm 69 as originally written; perhaps it was a prayer of David in the midst of dire but unspecified circumstances.

The identification of the supplicant as God’s “servant” in verse 17 connects with the Messiah’s identification as His “servant” elsewhere.[19]

The prayer for redemption in verse 18 does not require the idea of redemption from sin, although it certainly could have that meaning in the right context.  But if this is a prayer of the Messiah, it could simply be a plea for deliverance from His enemies.  The word translated “redeem” (ga’al) is also used, for example, of the deliverance or redemption of Israel from bondage in Egypt.

The Messiah refers again to His reproach, shame, and dishonor (verses 19-20a).  He had no human comforters (verse 20).  Indeed, all of His disciples forsook Him and fled.[20]

Verse 21 anticipates Jesus’ experience on the cross when He was given vinegar laced with gall – a poison – to drink.[21]

Verses 22-23 anticipate the consequences of rejecting the Messiah for unbelieving Israelites.[22]  It is significant that these verses follow immediately on the heels of a verse (verse 21) that describes Jesus’ experience on the cross.  Their rejection of Jesus came to its ultimate expression in His crucifixion; its consequence was spiritual blindness.  The “table” was a symbol of blessing.  Because of their rejection of the Messiah, the covenant God had made with the nation of Israel became a snare and trap for them.  Because their eyes were darkened so they could not see the truth, they focused on the Law of Moses rather than on the Messiah to whom the law pointed.[23]  Metaphorically, the nation experiences continual shaking of the loins.  That is, they have no peace, no stability, no relief from suffering.  As the Septuagint puts it – and as quoted by Paul – their backs are always bowed down.

The prayer that those who rejected Him would experience God’s indignation and anger (verse 24) indicates the severity and magnitude of the nation’s sin. As Jesus warned the Israelites who rejected Him, it would be more tolerable for unbelieving Gentiles – including Sodom – in the day of judgment than for unbelieving Israelites who were recipients of special revelation and who had every reason to believe.[24]

Although verses 25-28 refer in the plural to those who persecute others who are stricken by God, Peter interpreted verse 25 to refer to one specific person – Judas – who betrayed Jesus.[25]  The fate of Judas is the fate of all those who reject the Messiah.

The plural references in verses 25-28 suggest that in its original form, before it was placed in its context in the Psalter, Psalm 69 had other referents.  But in its context here, the plural referents can be read as generic plurals; they are collapsed down to one whose dwelling place will be desolate, to one who persecutes, to one who has iniquity added to his iniquity, to one who will not come into God’s righteousness, to one who will be blotted out of the book of the living: Judas.  The plurals are also collapsed down to One who has been struck by God,[26] One who was wounded[27]: Jesus.

The Messiah confesses to His poverty and sorrow, praying for God’s salvation to set Him “up on high” (verse 29).  As Isaiah put it, the Messiah was “a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).  Paul described the richness of the Christian experience as a consequence of the Messiah’s poverty (II Corinthians 8:9).

The Messiah promises to “praise the name of God with a song” and to “magnify Him with thanksgiving” (verse 30).  This connects with Psalm 40:3, where the Messiah has a “new song.”  Verse 30 is one of those places where the name of God represents God Himself in poetic parallelism.

As in Psalm 51:15-17, verse 31 sees sincere worship as being better than animal sacrifices.  This, together with the Messiah’s zeal for the temple in verse 9, seems to point to a day when the temple will not feature sacrifices that are efficacious for sin.  In other words, a temple is standing in Psalm 69.  This may indicate a post-exilic date for the psalm, since there was no temple during David’s reign.  But, on the other hand, the tabernacle was also referred to as a temple.[28]  But the psalm’s messianic focus, and its reference to an offering more pleasing to God than animal sacrifices, may point ahead to the temple described by Ezekiel.  Although sacrifices will be offered at that temple – and they are referred to as sin offerings – they may serve as memorials.[29]  There is no ark in the Holy of Holies upon which to sprinkle blood; the Messiah occupies that most sacred place as His throne room.[30]

Verse 32 reprises Psalm 34:2: Those who are humble (i.e., they are people of faith) rejoice at heart-felt worship.  These are people who seek God; they shall live.  If we read the superscription of the psalm as does the Septuagint, with an eschatological reference to those who will be changed, the idea connects with the promise of life found in verse 32.

It is certain that those who seek God shall live, for “the Lord hears the poor, and does not despise His prisoners” (verse 33).  The concept of believers being God’s “prisoners” is picked up by Paul.[31]  As Kidner points out, the term “His prisoners” is an expression that “reveals what touches God particularly closely … and brings out the contrast between Him and the grasping gods of heathendom; namely our relationship to Him, and our need.”[32]

Universal praise is called for in verse 34, in view of the fact that “God will save Zion and build the cities of Judah, that they may dwell there and possess it” (verse 35).  This connects with the Zion theology theme that begins in Psalm 2:6. The psalm expresses “the fervent desire of the psalmist for God’s salvation of Zion and the establishment of his kingdom (vv. 34-36).”[33]  It looks “back to God’s promise to David (cf. Ps 2:7; 2 Sa 7:16) and eagerly await[s] its fulfillment in Zion.”[34]

The land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will be inherited by their descendants; those who occupy it will be those who love God’s name (verse 36).

Psalm 69 advances the messianic theme of the Psalter.  It is one of the psalms relied on most heavily by the writers of the New Testament to describe and interpret the events of the Messiah’s life.


The videos and study guides for this class can be accessed at www.danielsegraves.com/blog.

[1] This lesson is abbreviated from the comments on Psalm 69 in Daniel L. Segraves, The Messiah in the Psalms (Hazelwood, MO: WAP Academic, 2007), 276-290.

[2] See also Psalm 35:19 and the comments there.

[3] See Matthew 26:4; Luke 4:28-29; 22:2; John 5:18; 7:1, 19, 25; 8:37, 40.

[4] Michael Wilcock, The Message of Psalms 1-72: Songs for the People of God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 241.

[5] Wilcock, 241.

[6] See Steve Moyise, The Old Testament in the New (New York: Continuum, 2001), 12.

[7] James Luther Mays, Psalms (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1994), 230.

[8] Arno Clemens Gaebelein, The Book of Psalms (New York: “Our Hope” Publications, 1939), 272.

[9] See comments on Psalm 31:10; 40:12 in Segraves, The Messiah in the Psalms, 101-102, 139-141.

[10] Francis Brown et al., The New Brown Driver, Briggs, Gesenius Hebrew and English Lexicon: with an Appendix Containing the Biblical Aramaic (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1979), 80.

[11] Daniel L. Segraves, Hebrews: Better Things, vol. 2 (Hazelwood, Mo.: Word Aflame Press, 1997), 48-49.

[12] See Isaiah 8:14; Romans 9:33; Galatians 5:11; I Peter 2:8.

[13] See Romans 15:3.

[14] See John 7:3-5.

[15] See John 2:17.

[16] See Matthew 4:1.

[17] See Matthew 12:24; John 8:41, 48.

[18] See also Psalms 9:15; 28:1; 30:3, 9; 35:7; 40:2; 55:23; 57:6.

[19] See Isaiah 42:1; 52:13; Zechariah 3:8.

[20] See Matthew 26:56; Mark 14:50.

[21] See Matthew 27:34.

[22] See Romans 11:9-10.

[23] See Romans 9:30-33.

[24] See Matthew 10:15; 11:22, 24.

[25] See Acts 1:20.

[26] See Isaiah 53:4, 8.

[27] See Isaiah 53:5.

[28] See I Samuel 1:9; 3:3.

[29] See Ezekiel 40-47 and comments on Psalm 51:5.

[30] See Ezekiel 43:1-7.

[31] See Ephesians 3:1; Philemon 1:1, 9.

[32] Derek Kidner, Psalms (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1973), 248-249.

[33] John H. Sailhamer, NIV Compact Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 330.

[34] Ibid.

Discovering Christ in Unexpected Places, Lesson 5

Lesson 5 | October 16, 2016

Prepared by Daniel L. Segraves, PhD

Psalm 69a

The rich vein of messianic prophecy found in Psalm 69 is mined frequently by the writers of the New Testament.[1]  Together with Psalms 22 and 110, Psalm 69 “is one of the three psalms most often quoted in the New Testament.”[2]  The following verbal connections may be readily seen:

Those who hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head … (verse 4a).

But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, “They hated Me without a cause” (John 15:25).

Because zeal for Your house has eaten me up … (verse 9a).

Then His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up” (John 2:17).

And the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me (verse 9b).

For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me” (Romans 15:3).

They also gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink (verse 21).

… they gave Him sour wine mingled with gall to drink. … Immediately one of them ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink (Matthew 27:34a, 48).

 

Let their table become a snare before them, and their well-being a trap.  Let their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see; and make their loins shake continually (verses 22-23).

And David says: “Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a recompense to them.  Let their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see, and bow down their back always” (Romans 11:9-10).

Let their dwelling place be desolate; let no one live in their tents (verse 25).

For it is written in the book of Psalms: “Let his dwelling place be desolate, and let no one live in it …” (Acts 1:20a).

            In addition to these verses which are specifically connected in the New Testament with the person of Christ or with the affairs of His kingdom, there are other statements in Psalm 69 which may not be quoted by the writers of the New Testament but which are conceptually related to the Messiah, His experiences, or His kingdom.  For example:

 

I am weary with my crying; My throat is dry; My eyes fail while I wait for my God (verse 3).

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?”  that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46).

After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” (John 19:28).

Because for Your sake I have borne reproach; shame has covered my face (verse 7).

… looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2).

 

I have become a stranger to my brothers, and an alien to my mother’s children (verse 8).

His brothers therefore said to Him, “Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing. … For even His brothers did not believe in Him (John 7:3, 5).

 

When I wept and chastened my soul with fasting, that became my reproach.  I also made sackcloth my garment; I became a byword to them (verse 10-11).

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry (Matthew 4:1-2).

 

In addition to these conceptual links, we will see that there are other thematic indications that Psalm 69 should be read as pointing ahead to the Messiah.  The New Testament sees Psalm 69 as specifically fulfilled in the life, experiences, and kingdom of Christ.  Jesus Himself considered verse 4 to be fulfilled in His own experiences.[3]  This, together with Jesus’ broader statements about the nature of messianic prophecy, lifts texts such as Psalm 69 above the level of mere generic instruction.[4]  If we read the Old Testament as the New Testament does, we will see these texts as specifically anticipating the Messiah and the events of His life and kingdom.  When Jesus cleansed the temple, it caused His disciples to remember Psalm 69:9a.[5]  Paul saw Christ’s selflessness as having been anticipated in Psalm 69:9b.[6]  He also saw the consequences of Jewish rejection of the Messiah as having been foreseen in Psalm 69:22-23.[7]  Peter appealed to Psalm 69:25 for support in the need to replace Judas.[8]  As Wilcock points out, “the New Testament relates [Psalm 69] directly to Christ.”[9]

In view of the nature of the use of Psalm 69 in the New Testament, the larger view of Jesus and the New Testament church concerning the messianic focus of the Old Testament, and the influence of the messianic context of the Psalter, we will read Psalm 69 as a psalm that specifically points to the person of Christ, to His experiences, and to the affairs of His kingdom.  Like Psalm 22, Psalm 69 could well be one of the prayers of Jesus, the entire content of which is not revealed in the New Testament.

The fact that Psalm 69 is set to the tune “The Lilies” distinguishes it from all but three other psalms.[10]  David Mitchell sees eschatological significance in the Septuagint translation of ‘l shoshannim [“Set to ‘The Lilies’”] as huper tōn alloiōthēsomenōn [“for those who will be changed”] in Psalms 45, 69, and 80, and as tois alloiōthēsomenois eti [“for those who shall yet be changed”] in Psalm 60, Mitchell points out that

At first glance this seems to be no translation at all.  But there is an underlying idea that links lilies and the transformation (of the year) – the idea of springtime, when lilies bloom.  So this may be an interpretation rather than a departure from the Hebrew.  And there may be eschatological implications.  For the idea of the transformation of the earth in spring connotes the image-complex of Passover, new creation and resurrection, for which lilies are an ancient symbol.[11]

If we accept Mitchell’s suggestion, it may further strengthen the idea that Psalm 69 is specifically messianic: It points ahead to the Messiah, whose sufferings – so vividly described in the psalm – result in new life for those who believe on Him.  That the psalm includes the promise of new life for those who trust in the Messiah may be seen in verse 32: “The humble shall see this and be glad; and you who seek God, your hearts shall live.”

It is not difficult to read Psalm 69 as a prayer of the Messiah in the midst of His suffering.  The prayer begins with a plea for deliverance (verse 1).  The danger is described metaphorically as deep mire and waters that make it impossible to stand (verses 1-2). The Messiah has cried to the point of exhaustion; His throat is dry.  The combination of tears and dehydration has hindered His eyesight (verse 3).  Lest we think this is too dramatic a description, we must remember that the New Testament describes the Messiah’s prayers as “vehement cries and tears” (Hebrews 5:7).

As He described His solidarity with the Father, a solidarity so complete that those who hated Jesus hated His Father also, Jesus said, “But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, ‘They hated Me without a cause’” (John 15:25).  This is, of course, a reference to Psalm 69:4: “Those who hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head….”[12]

The idea here and in John 8:17; 10:34 may be that, when the Old Testament is read without a Christ-centered consciousness, it becomes a book other than what God intended.  Jesus did not say, “As it is written in our law,” or even, “As it is written in the law.”  Suddenly, the “law” becomes the law as it is identified with and owned by the unbelieving Jewish leaders who rejected the central theme of the law: The Messiah.  This is not God’s law; it is their law.  The words are the same, but the words – stripped of the meaning intended by God – are no longer His; they are theirs.

The enmity of the religious leaders who – had they been able – would have killed Jesus is bound up with the words of verse 4.  They were numerous (“more than the hairs of my head”) and mighty.[13]  The wrongfulness of their enmity is captured in the words, “Though I have stolen nothing, I still must restore it” (verse 4).  Wilcock observes that we “do not know in what sense the psalmist was forced to restore what [he] did not steal,[14] but this could be a reference to the view of Jesus’ unbelieving enemies that He had “stolen” the messianic claim.  They did not believe it was rightfully His, so they demanded that He “restore it.”  Even if this is not the point, the statement indicates that their claims – whatever they were – were false.

In our next lesson, we will examine the rest of Psalm 69, including verse 5, which may seem impossible to reconcile with the idea that the entire psalm is messianic.


[1] This lesson is abbreviated from the comments on Psalm 69 in Daniel L. Segraves, The Messiah in the Psalms (Hazelwood, MO: WAP Academic, 2007), 276-290.

[2] Michael Wilcock, The Message of Psalms 1-72: Songs for the People of God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 239.

[3] See John 15:25.

[4] See Luke 24:25-27, 44-48.

[5] See John 2:17.

[6] See Romans 15:3, and note how Paul connects this quote from Psalm 69 with the fact that “whatever things were written before were written for our learning” in the next verse (Romans 15:4a).  The point seems to be that when we read the Scriptures messianically, “we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4b).

[7] See Romans 11:9-10.

[8] See Acts 1:20.

[9] Wilcock, 241.

[10] See Psalms 45, 60, and 80.

[11] David C. Mitchell, The Message of the Psalter: an Eschatological Programme in the Books of Psalms (Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997), 19-20.

[12] See also Psalm 35:19 and the comments there.

[13] See Matthew 26:4; Luke 4:28-29; 22:2; John 5:18; 7:1, 19, 25; 8:37, 40.

[14] Wilcock, 241.

Discovering Christ in Unexpected Places Lesson 4

Lesson 4 | October 2, 2016

Prepared by Daniel L. Segraves, PhD

Psalm 45[1]

Psalm 45 is “a contemplation of the sons of Korah” addressed to the “Chief Musician.”  It is “set to ‘The lilies’.”

The superscription of Psalm 45 further identifies it as “a song of loves.”  This is connected to the wedding theme of the psalm.  In the psalm, the marriage of an idealized King is portrayed.[2]  It is typical to view Psalm 45 as “a royal psalm [that] functioned as a wedding song at the occasion of the wedding of a royal couple.”[3]

Our chief concern, however, is not with the use that may have been made of this psalm as it was originally composed in isolation from other psalms, but with the use it is given in its new context in the Psalter.  This is connected with the remarkable use made of Psalm 45 in the New Testament.

As it relates to its immediate context in the Psalter, Psalm 45 is the answer to the cry for redemption that concludes Psalm 44: “Arise for our help, and redeem us for Your mercies sake” (Psalm 44:26).[4]  In Psalm 45, the Divine King arises to defeat the enemy.  (See Psalm 45:3-6.)

The messianic connection of Psalm 45 with the New Testament may be seen by comparing verses 6-7 with Hebrews 1:8-9:

 

Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.  You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions (Psalm 45:6-7).

But to the Son He says:  “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.  You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions” (Hebrews 1:8-19).

The writer of Hebrews, in a discussion of the superiority of Jesus Christ to the angels, appeals to Psalm 45:6-7 to demonstrate both the deity and humanity of the Son.  The angels are inferior to Him.  They are not Sons of God in the sense that the Messiah is.  (See Hebrews 1:4-5.)  They worship the Son.  (See Hebrews 1:6.)  They are serving spirits.  (See Hebrews 1:7.)  The Son, on the other hand, is identified as the God and Lord Who created all things.  (See Hebrews 1:8, 10-12.)

Since the New Testament reads Psalm 45:6-7 as being about the Messiah, and since the Person addressed in these verses is the subject of the entire psalm, we should read the entire psalm as being about Him in some way.

Following the superscription, Psalm 45 begins, “My heart is overflowing with a good theme; I recite my composition concerning the King; my tongue is the pen of a ready writer” (verse 1).  The words translated “a good theme” (dabar tov) mean literally, “a good word.”  In view of the messianic connection between this psalm and the New Testament, it may be appropriate to read “a good word” as a reference to the gospel message.  The gospel is, by definition, “good news.”  The same letter that connects Psalm 45 with the Messiah, Hebrews, identifies New Testament believers as those who have “tasted the good word of God” (Hebrews 6:5).  Since the theme of Psalm 45 is “the King” (verse 1), and since the King is God (verse 6), it seems reasonable to understand the psalm as a poetic description of events surrounding the proclamation of the gospel message.  (The contrastive connection with Psalm 44 is remarkable.  Psalm 44, a psalm of national lament, cries for the Lord to awaken and redeem the people.  Psalm 45 declares the means of this redemption; it is the “good word.”)

The King, the Messiah, is “fairer than the sons of men” (verse 2a).  As the “Son of man,” He is the most excellent of all men.[5]  Grace “is poured upon” His lips (verse 2b).  When Jesus ministered in Nazareth, the people marveled “at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth” (Luke 4:22).  John wrote that “the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).  The Messiah is eternally blessed of God (verse 2c).

The Messiah, identified as the “Mighty One” prepares for battle against His enemies by girding His sword upon His thigh (verse 3a).  The word translated “Mighty One” (gibbor) may be compared with Isaiah 9:6, where the Messiah is identified as the “Mighty God” (’el gibbor).  The Messiah is girded not only with a sword, but also with glory and majesty (verse 3b).[6]  (See Jude 25.)

In His majesty, the Messiah is pictured as a conquering King on a steed, riding “prosperously because of truth, humility, and righteousness” (verse 4a).  In other words, His military campaign will succeed because He is characterized by truth, humility, and righteousness.  A parallel may be seen in Revelation 19:11: “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse.  And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.”  (See also Revelation 19:12-16.)  In the New Testament, humility is connected with faithfulness.  (Compare Micah 6:8 with Matthew 23:23.)

The “right hand” metaphor is connected with the military imagery (verse 4b).  The “right hand” symbolizes military strength, and the phrase could be translated, “Then your right hand will accomplish mighty acts!”[7]  (Compare with Psalm 2:9; Revelation 2:27; 19:15.)

The military imagery continues in verse 5: “Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the King’s enemies; the peoples fall under you.”  (Compare with Revelation 19:15; I Corinthians 15:24-25.)  This picks up and continues the theme of the Messiah’s conquest of those who rebel against Him.  (See Psalm 2:7-9; 110:1-2, 5-6.)

The use of verses 6-7 in Hebrews 1:8-9 indicates that Psalm 45 has definite messianic content.  According to the writer of Hebrews, the words of verses 6-7 are “to the Son” (Hebrews 1:8).  The words “Your throne … is forever and ever” reflect the promise of the Davidic Covenant.  God promised David, “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.  He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.  … And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you.  Your throne shall be established forever” (II Samuel 7:12-13, 16).  As it related to David’s purely human descendant, Solomon, there was an additional promise and warning: “I will be his Father, and he shall be My son.  If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men.  But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you” (II Samuel 7:14-15).  If David’s descendants through Solomon were unfaithful to God, they would be punished, but their disobedience would not invalidate the covenant God made with David.  (See Psalm 89:20-37.)  Wickedness among Solomon’s descendants reached a low point with Coniah, also known as Jeconiah.  He was so wicked that his removal from the throne was the beginning of the Babylonian captivity of Judah.  Jeremiah declared, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Write this man down as childless, a man who shall not prosper in his days; for none of his descendants shall prosper, sitting on the throne of David, and ruling anymore in Judah’” (Jeremiah 22:30).  This precipitated Israel abiding “many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar, without ephod or teraphim” (Hosea 3:4).  But for Israel to be without a king was not to be a permanent situation: “Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God and David their king.  They shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days” (Hosea 3:5).

The ultimate fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant would come through a human descendant of David: “The Lord has sworn in truth to David; He will not turn from it: ‘I will set upon your throne the fruit of your body’” (Psalm 132:11).  But how could this be, in view of Coniah’s unfaithfulness and the fact that none of his descendants would continue the Solomonic lineage from David?

The precise fulfillment of God’s promise to David came through the incarnation, wherein the virgin Mary conceived and brought forth the Son of God, who was at the same time the Son of David.  (See Luke 1:31-35.)  Mary was a descendant of David through David’s son Nathan, not through Solomon.  (See Luke 3:23-31.[8])  Joseph was a descendant of David through Solomon.  Thus, Jesus’ legal claim to David’s throne came through His legal father, Joseph.  If Joseph had been Jesus’ physical father, Jesus would not have qualified to sit on David’s throne due to Coniah’s defilement.  But this defilement was avoided because Mary was also David’s descendant, but through Nathan.  God’s promise to David that the Messiah would descend physically from him to sit on his throne was thus fulfilled.  (See Acts 2:29-31.)

As it was originally written in isolation from the Psalter, Psalm 45 may have been a royal psalm functioning as a wedding song at a royal wedding.[9]  But as it is included in the Psalter, in its new messianic context, it functions to declare the deity of the Messiah and the eternality of His throne.  Verse 6 identifies the Son, the One on the throne, as Elohim.  His rule is characterized by righteousness.

Verse 7, however, declares that the Divine King is somehow human: “You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions.”  First, this Divine King has “companions” (habar).  Habar indicates a real equality of some kind.[10]  As quoted in Hebrews 1:9, the Greek metochous also indicates a real sharing, partaking, partnership, participation, and fellowship.  The context in Hebrews indicates that the Messiah’s companions are human beings; since He is human, He stands in solidarity with humanity.[11]  Second, God is the God of this Divine King.  In order for this to be true, the Divine King must be not only divine, but also human.

The Messiah is “anointed … with the oil of gladness more than” His companions (verse 7b).  All of Israel’s merely human kings were anointed, but the anointing of the Divine-human King exceeded their anointing.  (Compare I Samuel 16:1, 13 with Luke 4:16-21.)

At verse 8, the psalm turns to a discussion of the preparations for the wedding of the King and His bride.  The King’s garments “are scented with myrrh and aloes and cassia” (verse 8).  The phrase translated “out of the ivory palaces, by which they have made You glad” could be translated “from the luxurious palaces comes the music of stringed instruments that makes you happy.”[12]

Verse 9 addresses the members of the wedding party that include the bride, the queen, and her attendants.  The queen’s adornment includes “gold from Ophir.”  Ophir was known as the source of fine gold.[13]  In conjunction with its messianic theme, this should be compared to Revelation 19:7-9.

The queen seems to be from a foreign country; she is urged to forget her own people and her father’s house (verse 10).[14]  This may be intended to foreshadow the fact that the Messiah’s bride would not be characterized by a prescribed ethnicity.  (See Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11.)  If this is the case, the bride is not exclusively Jewish.  Thus, it is not the nation of Israel.

The King will “greatly desire” His bride’s beauty.  But He is more than her husband; He is her Lord, and she is to worship Him (verse 11).  This “strongly suggests that she is to be taken as a figure of the congregation’s faithful trust in the King.”[15]

The facts that the “daughter of Tyre will come with a gift” and that the “rich among the people will seek” the bride’s favor (verse 12) evoke prophecies found elsewhere concerning the universal homage that will be paid to the Messiah and thus to His royal court.  (See Isaiah 60:3; Zechariah 14:16-17; Revelation 21:24-26.)

The queen’s beautiful clothing is described in verses 13-14a.  This may be compared with Revelation 19:7-8.[16]

The queen’s companions, the members of the wedding party who accompany her, are brought before the King “with gladness and rejoicing” (verses 14b-15).  These may be the wise virgins to whom Jesus referred in Matthew 25:1-13.  They may also be in view in Revelation 19:9 as those who “are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”

Where the Messiah’s human ancestors have previously reigned, His sons will share in His reign as princes (verse 16).  (See Romans 5:17; II Timothy 2:12; Revelation 5:10; 20:4-6.)

The Messiah’s name will “be remembered in all generations” and the people shall praise Him forever and ever (verse 17).

 

The videos and study guides for this class can be accessed at www.danielsegraves.com/blog.

[1] This lesson is from Daniel L. Segraves, The Messiah in the Psalms: Discovering Christ in Unexpected Places (Hazelwood, MO: WAP Academic, 2007), 159-166.

[2] See John H. Sailhamer, NIV Compact Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 324.

[3] Willem A. VanGemeren, in Frank E. Gaebelein, gen. ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 5 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1991), 343.

[4] See Sailhamer, 324.

[5] The NIV translates the phrase, “You are the most excellent of men.”

[6] See VanGemeren, 345.

[7] http://www.bible.org/cgi-bin/netbible.pl#note_14.

[8] Luke records Jesus’ physical descent through Mary; Matthew records his legal descent through Joseph.  Joseph’s father was Jacob.  (See Matthew 1:16.)  Joseph was Mary’s husband, but he was not the physical father of Jesus.  The words “of whom” (ex hes) require Jesus to be born of Mary, but not of Joseph.  Hes is the feminine singular pronoun.  Luke’s genealogy from Abraham to David is identical to Matthew’s genealogy from Abraham to David.  (Compare Matthew 1:2-6 with Luke 3:31-34.)  The difference between the genealogies begins with David’s descendant.  In Matthew, it is Solomon (Matthew 1:6).  In Luke, it is Nathan (Luke 3:31).  In Luke, the father of Joseph is not Jacob, but Heli (Luke 3:23).  It was customary in Jewish genealogies not to list the mother as the final ancestor, but the father.  Luke points out that Jesus was only “supposed” to be the son of Joseph (Luke 3:23).  Heli was Joseph’s father-in-law.

[9] VanGemeren, 343.

[10] See the use of habar in Exodus 36:10; 39:4; Psalm 119:63; Proverbs 28:24.  See the use of various forms of metochous in Luke 5:7 and II Corinthians 6:14.

[11] See comments on Hebrews 1:9 in Segraves, Hebrew: Better Things, vol. 1, 52-53.

[12] http://www.bible.org/cgi-bin/netbible.pl#note_26

[13] See I Kings 9:28; 10:11; 22:48; I Chronicles 29:4; II Chronicles 8:18; 9:10; Job 22:24; 28:16; Isaiah 13:12.

[14] See VanGemeren, 347.

[15] Sailhamer, 324.

[16] The word translated “white” (lampros) by the KJV includes within its range of meaning “shining, brilliant, splendid, magnificent.”