Lesson 6 | October 23, 2016
Prepared by Daniel L. Segraves, PhD
In our previous lesson, we saw substantial evidence that Psalm 69 is a messianic psalm. 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….”
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. 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,” 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. But we have previously taken a position similar to Dodd’s, who saw quotations from the psalms as carrying their context with them. 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).
In Gaebelein’s view, verse 5 indicates that “He [the Messiah] owns the foolishness and trespass of lost sinners as His own.” 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. 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.” 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.
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.
The Messiah bore the reproaches of those who reproached the Lord God (verses 7, 9b). He was so closely identified with God in these reproaches that He was rejected even by His siblings (verse 8). In the context of bearing God’s reproaches, the Messiah was consumed with zeal for the purity of God’s house (verse 9a). 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Verse 21 anticipates Jesus’ experience on the cross when He was given vinegar laced with gall – a poison – to drink.
Verses 22-23 anticipate the consequences of rejecting the Messiah for unbelieving Israelites. 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. 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.
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. 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, One who was wounded: 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. 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. 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.
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. 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.”
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).” 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.”
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.
 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.
 See also Psalm 35:19 and the comments there.
 See Matthew 26:4; Luke 4:28-29; 22:2; John 5:18; 7:1, 19, 25; 8:37, 40.
 Michael Wilcock, The Message of Psalms 1-72: Songs for the People of God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 241.
 Wilcock, 241.
 See Steve Moyise, The Old Testament in the New (New York: Continuum, 2001), 12.
 James Luther Mays, Psalms (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1994), 230.
 Arno Clemens Gaebelein, The Book of Psalms (New York: “Our Hope” Publications, 1939), 272.
 See comments on Psalm 31:10; 40:12 in Segraves, The Messiah in the Psalms, 101-102, 139-141.
 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.
 Daniel L. Segraves, Hebrews: Better Things, vol. 2 (Hazelwood, Mo.: Word Aflame Press, 1997), 48-49.
 See Isaiah 8:14; Romans 9:33; Galatians 5:11; I Peter 2:8.
 See Romans 15:3.
 See John 7:3-5.
 See John 2:17.
 See Matthew 4:1.
 See Matthew 12:24; John 8:41, 48.
 See also Psalms 9:15; 28:1; 30:3, 9; 35:7; 40:2; 55:23; 57:6.
 See Isaiah 42:1; 52:13; Zechariah 3:8.
 See Matthew 26:56; Mark 14:50.
 See Matthew 27:34.
 See Romans 11:9-10.
 See Romans 9:30-33.
 See Matthew 10:15; 11:22, 24.
 See Acts 1:20.
 See Isaiah 53:4, 8.
 See Isaiah 53:5.
 See I Samuel 1:9; 3:3.
 See Ezekiel 40-47 and comments on Psalm 51:5.
 See Ezekiel 43:1-7.
 See Ephesians 3:1; Philemon 1:1, 9.
 Derek Kidner, Psalms (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1973), 248-249.
 John H. Sailhamer, NIV Compact Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 330.