THE MESSIAH: EVEN THE PSALMIST SAW HIM

THE MESSIAH: EVEN THE PSALMIST SAW HIM

 

 

 

 

 

Presented to

Dr. Michael Heiser

Of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary

Lynchburg, VA

 

 

 

 

In Partial Fulfillment

Of the Requirements for

OBST 620 LUO

The Poetry of the Old Testament

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By

William James Carter, The 1st

Baltimore, Maryland

20 August 2010

 

 

 

Table of Contents

 

Introduction…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….2

 

Body………………………………………………………………………..……………….………………………….………3

 

Conclusion……………………………………………………..…………………..………………………………………13

 

Bibliography……………………………………………………………..……………………………………………….14

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 The Messiah: Even the Psalmist Saw Him

Introduction

It was said of Paul that much studying made him mad. Yet the contention might really be due to the lack of study. In fact the Scripture say that God’s people are destroyed for the lack of knowledge. This point cannot be made truer concerning the Book of Psalms. And while the book is certainly a series of songs there is more to the Psalter than singing and rejoicing.

This is said because of the many occurrences of Messianic prophecies and honor to Him. And while there are definitely praises sang to the Messiah the Psalter also takes time to recognize Him as being the Son of God, the Deliverer of God’s people and His eternal positioning. And while the Psalter does show these areas as they relate to the Messiah they are but a few things that the Psalms point to regarding this Anointed One.

For instance, at least one psalm goes into some prophetic detail concerning not only the crucifixion of the Messiah but also shows events around it. This is psalm is but one of many examples of the Psalms not only giving credence to the Messiah but the New Testament servers as an answer to the prophecies made many years prior. This latest example prophetic utterance cannot be denied by even the most critical of skeptics.

With this background in mind this paper will examine some of the Psalms presenting biblical truths despite the fact that there are those that would take issue with the Messiah being mentioned in the Psalter. But the New Testament continues to serve in showing that God is faithful to His people as He was concerned enough to show the Messiah would come. In doing this He used the psalmist to prophecy for the nations and the people to come.

The Messiah: Even the Psalmist Saw Him

Many have heard the cry that Jesus can be found in every book of the Bible. Where there may be considerable truth to this there is no greater truth than that the Messiah is found in Psalter. Among the places found perusals of Psalms 1, 2, 22 and 110 present pictures of the coming Messiah. Further, not only do these psalms look to His coming but they correspond greatly with New Testament writers. One of the more obvious psalms that point to the Messiah is Psalm 110.

A cursory reading of Psalm clearly shows discussion of Deity. Verse one presents two occurrences of Deity with the Terms “LORD” and “Lord”.  It is obvious that the first instance is Deity by reason of the term being in all capital letters. This is notable considering the second term bears only one capital letter which is the first letter. This is not common practice for figures that are not deity. As such, David (as this is one of his psalms) seems to be recognizing two figures. This recognition is not to suggest two gods but merely alludes to the fact of the Godhead.

With this, it seems that all do not follow this reasoning. For instance, The Cambridge Bible Commentary (CBC) merely capitalizes the first letter of the first instance of lord and the second instance shows in all lower case.  In fact, CBC goes on to suggest that “More probably the following promises are made of David himself or a Davidic king”.[1] With this there is a pointing to five items of promise in the text that have been interpreted to show David (or a Davidic king) as the recipient of the promises. Even so, CBC does not ignore the Christian point of view. It is noted that Christians see the Psalm as Messianic[2] but gives little ground in support of the Christian view.

With a less jaundiced eye, David Aloisi expounds on the point by showing that the LORD speaking is Yahweh which “signifies a divine oracle”.[3] Aloisi’s observation serves to undergird the fact that not only is Deity present but there is also a prophetic tone to the statement. Further, Matthew Henry notes the prophetic statement in respect to the Messiah while showing that David praised God concerning the prophecy.[4] Agreement between Aloisi and Henry is buttressed by Scripture; specifically Matthew 22:43-45. These verses in Matthew expressly have Jesus making reference to David’s comments in Psalm 110 as he speaks in the spirit.

These agreements only serve to present further argument that the Lord mentioned in Psalm 110 is the Messiah because of the unique nature of His position. That is that this Messiah would not only serve as king but also priest; specifically, he would be King-Priest after the order of Melchizedeck. Aloisi is careful to point out that it was not normal for one person to be king and priest because the former by law had to come from the tribe of Judah and the latter from the tribe of Levi.[5] The only other king-priest was Melchizedeck (Genesis 14:18) and the only other One to follow suit would be the Messiah (Hebrews 5:6).

Psalm 110, however, is not the only Psalm that looks to the Lord. Psalm two also paints a picture of the Messiah. Verse seven presents the Lord as God’s anointed. Specifically, it says “thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee”. The term “begotten” is significant in that it is shown in the Septuagint as yahid which means “only one”.[6] Although the related term here is actually “only begotten” with New Testament ties it is doubtful that any would argue against the Son named here as being the Messiah particularly considering John 3:16 showing the Messiah as being given by the Father for the restoration of life.

The term “only begotten” is used only of the Messiah in Scripture. Additionally, John 3:16 shows the Son being instrumental in the giving of eternal life. No human has the authority or ability to give eternal life. It is for these reasons that Psalm 2:7 must be about the Messiah. Despite these findings, CBC continues to reason against Christian understanding of the passage. In fact it explains that “The theme of the decree is the pledge of adoption given to David’s heir in 2 Sam. 7:14”.[7] And yet the fact of the Messiah being mentioned in Psalm two continues with verse twelve where the kings are advised to “kiss the Son”.

This kissing of the Son is significant because it hails from the ancient custom of kissing kings or the practice of vassal kings kissing the ground immediately before the representative of the Overlord.[8] Furthermore, Waltke shows that the kissing of the king far exceeds common respect but is suggestive of “submission and reverence” to the subject being kissed.[9] John 5:23 solidifies this reverence by the words of the Messiah “That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father.”

Psalm 68 is another in the Psalter that not only honors the majesty of the Messiah but also foresees the victory wrought by Him on behalf of those that believe. Verse 18 looks through the annul of time and sees Christ ascending heavenward (Mark 16:19) and leading the captivity captive (Ephesians 4:8). William L. Pettingill concurs with the idea that the psalm is a reference to the Messiah particularly in light of verse 18 and its Pauline reference.[10] Additionally, Oden links the two verses together by showing Christ as Victor during His ascension. [11]

The above examination of the Messiah in Psalms serves to show that redemption for mankind was in the heart of God even before the time of David. But the writers were far from complete in giving homage to the Messiah in worship as well as prophetically. For instance, one Davidic psalm points to the very act of the crucifixion of the Messiah and events surrounding the crucifixion. Psalm 22:16 reads in part “they pierced my hands and feet”. Matthew Henry takes time to describe the event in the following fashion:

He is here crucified. The very manner of his death is described, though never in use among the Jews: They pierced my hands and my feet (v. 16), which were nailed to the accursed tree, and the whole body left so to hang, the effect of which must needs be the most exquisite pain and torture. There is no one passage in all the Old Testament which the Jews have so industriously corrupted as this because it is such an eminent prediction of the death of Christ and was so exactly fulfilled. [12]

 

Even while Henry makes keen observations concerning the 22nd Psalm McLeister is just as keen in his observations. He notes that the Messiah’s body was emaciated due to the cruelty of His enemies.[13] In his discussion, McLeister does not merely expound upon the savage treatment of the Messiah but goes on to show the victorious conclusion shown in verse twenty-two of the Psalm. This victorious end of suffering is shown as the resurrection which continues with yet another reason to praise and exalt the Messiah.[14]

While the above examinations of the Messiah in the Psalter certainly points to the Christ of the New Testament it should be noted that there are no occurrences of the term “Messiah” found in the Book of Psalms. Further, in the Old Testament the Messiah was not considered one person but three – the Son of Man, suffering servant and the future king of Israel.[15]  But, unless there is an understanding of what “Messiah” means the task of finding references to Him in the Psalter can be very daunting. This said there is one clear understanding of “Messiah” and that is “anointed one”.[16] An understanding of Who the Anointed One is clears the way for finding the Messiah in Psalms. And that understanding has to lead us to Christ (Anointed One) Jesus.

Psalm 18:50 is one such occurrence where the term “anointed” is a direct reference to the Messiah. The Scripture reads “Great deliverance giveth he to his king; and sheweth mercy to his anointed, to David, and to his seed for evermore”. The latter portion of the verse is significant in that the discussion is about three separate entities. The first mentioned is “his anointed” which points back to verse 49 which has to do with the magnification of the LORD. In fact, the entire Psalter is one that highly exalts the LORD. This exalting of the LORD is highlighted in the discussion by Longman and Dillard as they examine different aspects of Psalter. They specifically show Psalm 18:49 as giving homage to Him.[17]  That magnification continues as the LORD reciprocates and delivers the king and by showing mercy to his anointed who clearly is not David in this instance.

Psalm 45:7 presents another instance of the Anointed One being the Messiah.  And while the reference may not be completely obvious it shows that God has anointed a specific Subject above His fellows. There is no human being that has been elevated to such a position. In fact, Isaiah, when making prophecy concerning the Branch of the root of Jessie, makes a point to show that “righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins” (Isaiah 11:5). Again, there is no other person that is able to exude righteousness to the extent that it is tightly wrapped about his loins.

Furthermore, Erickson makes a point of linking Hebrews 1:8 with Psalm 45.[18] The Scripture reads “But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.” However, Erickson warns that to see the work of the Anointed One as completely futuristic is an error.[19] He further observes that Christ was at work at the time his observations were penned and goes further to point out that “he is in control of the natural universe”[20]. And if the Messiah is in control of the universe now, then one can safely say that His control is a perpetual state without limits to time.

The Anointed One is not always given the praise that is due to Him in the Psalter. It is not that the psalmists do not worship Him but that there was realization that some trampled on Him. Psalm 89:51 is a prime example of that. It reads “Wherewith thine enemies have reproached, O LORD; wherewith they have reproached the footsteps of thine anointed.” The significance in this verse rests in the latter portion discussing the footsteps of the anointed of God being reproached.

In his discussion of Psalm 89:52, Henry originally leans to David as being the anointed. But he quickly turns his attention to the Messiah and the feelings of those that were waiting on his coming. According to Henry “They have reproached the delays of the Messiah”.[21] The reasoning of the reproach was that the Jews were in bondage and seeking relief. Their enemies were greatly oppressing them and there was great need of relief. To buttress his point regarding reproach for the Messiah Henry turns to II Peter 3:3-4.

With this New Testament link, Henry seems to be showing that present-day “scoffers” are looking to be delivered from their oppressors. They long for the second coming of the Messiah but He seems to be prolonging His return. However, the Messiah will not be returning for the scoffers and is true to His promises (II Peter 3: 9). He is faithful but not to those that doubt Him but to those that are faithful, to those that honor Him.

Despite those that would reproach the Messiah David saw no reason to follow suit. David rather chose to pray to the Father that God not turn the face of the Anointed from him. Psalm 132:10 records this prayer. Henry chimes in on this verse but does not fully attribute the reference of the anointed to the Messiah. Yet context seems to demand that the anointed referenced in this latest psalm is the Messiah.

While linking the term anointed may be challenging when studying the Psalter there is some ease in at least one other term referencing the Messiah. “Holy One” is a term not easily brushed over and assigned to David. Conversely the term “Holy One” is found three times in the Psalter. Those mentions are 16:10, 71:22 and 78:41.

Psalm 16:10 clearly shows Davidic reference to the Father and the Holy One. The verse reads in part “neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption”. The Blue Letter Bible also shows the term “Holy One” as mentioned above but has within its definitions the idea of Holy One being faithful, pious and Godly and faithful ones.[22] In its translation, the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) uses the term “faithful one” in lieu of Holy One.[23] Henry sticks with the term “Holy One” as he argues that the prophetic utterance of David was concerning the Messiah’s earthly body not being corrupted in death.[24]

Seeing that Psalm 16:10 is prophetic concerning the Messiah it was a truth realized by the Messiah as His time was drawing closer. Speaking of Himself the Messiah said, “And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again. In both instances, there was absolute truth and accuracy because the Scripture clearly shows that the body of the Holy One did not succumb to natural degradation but was raised up before corruption could take place (Matthew 28:6; Luke 24:1-7).

The second instance of the term “Holy One” in the Psalter is found in Psalm 71:22b which reads “unto thee will I sing with the harp, O thou Holy One of Israel”.  However, this palm is not specific to the Messiah. There is agreement with Henry[25] and Oden[26] that the reference is to God the Father. The point is that despite terms being the same there may be distinct differences.

Likewise Psalm 78:41brings to light the Holy One. It references God the Father as He deals with backsliders among the Israelites. And while Longman and Dillard focus on the recollection of redemptive acts of the Holy One there are no indications that this psalm is relative to the Messiah.[27] Still, there is absolute, indisputable evidence that the Psalter has a number of references to the Messiah.

Thus far the examination of the Messiah in the Psalter has focused on terms such as “Anointed One and “Holy One”. But not all references to the Messiah in the Psalter use such terms. For instance, Psalm 69 has at least two references to Messianic that show His suffering surrounds the events of the crucifixion.  Psalm 69:20 explicitly describes the suffering Christ endured with the aid of no one. The text “Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none” clearly shows the Messiah in turmoil and in His trouble he could depend on no one to assist Him.

Henry’s exposition on the verse suggests that anyone suffering for the cause of salvation is truly honored. His discussion puts Christ at the center of the verse with the following words:

See what a stress is laid upon this; for, in the sufferings of Christ for us, perhaps nothing contributed more to the satisfaction he made for sin, which had been so injurious to God in his honour, than the reproach, and shame, and dishonor he underwent, which God took notice of, and accepted as more than equivalent for the everlasting shame and contempt which our sins had deserved…[28]

 

Henry’s discussion in this instance points to the reason for the Messiah. He had to suffer the effects of sin so that mankind would not suffer what it deserves. Additionally, Henry’s point of view is in keeping with other Scripture to include Isaiah 53:3 which paints a clear picture of the rejection of the Messiah. Clear fulfillment of these prophetic utterances is found in Luke 23:18.

Psalm 69:21further expounds on the suffering of the Messiah. The text “They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink” clearly shows a suffering Messiah on the cross as His suffering was exasperated by hunger and thirst. The NRSV says “they gave me poison for food”[29] which not only perpetuated the suffering of the suffering Messiah but added insult to injury. Additionally, Erickson further buttresses Psalm 69:21 showing that Christ fulfilled the prophecy by saying “I thirst”.[30] Not only does Erickson buttress the obvious prophetic utterance of the Davidic but he secures all thoughts that the Messiah is the subject of Psalm 69:21 but he also shows that Christ endured significant suffering in fulfillment of the prophecy.

Moreover, John 19:28-29 shows the very fulfillment of the prophetic utterances by showing “After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth”. With this the Messiah knew what was to become of Him but He was not to be deterred. As mentioned above there was a mission to be accomplished and that mission was the salvation of man. Christ had to fulfill the promises of the Psalter. Perhaps this is why Henry penned the words:

This was literally fulfilled in Christ, and did so directly point to him that he would not say It is finished till this was fulfilled: … See how particularly the sufferings of Christ were foretold, which proves the scripture to be the word of God, and how exactly the predictions were fulfilled in Jesus Christ, which proves him to be the true Messiah.[31]

With this Henry encapsulates prophetic reasoning of the Psalter. It points to the work of the Messiah, the reason for the work and the consequence thereof. As such, Christians can join in praise of the Holy one as stated in Psalm 67:3 with the words “let all the people praise him” for the things He has done and continues to do.

 

Conclusion

 

With this brief overview of the Messiah in Psalms once can certainly say that the psalmist certainly did see Him. He is mentioned in several ways to include Anointed and Holy one. The psalms show adoration and praise for the Messiah while opportunities for prophetic utterances are used to bring forth the truths of the Word of God.

Even when looking outside the psalms there are multiple other references to the Messiah. For instance, references in Genesis and Isaiah which point to the Messiah are given support in the Psalter. Further, the prophetic mentions of the Psalter were not only mentioned by the Messiah but fulfilled by Him as well. Therefore instances of the Messiah in the Psalter prove not only to be seen by the anointed of God but that the Anointed One served to fulfill the prophetic utterances.

The Psalms are certainly songs that give credence to the majestic godhead and provide comfort in distressing times. They have proven to lift the downtrodden and encourage the faithful. Yet, the Psalter points to the work of the Messiah and that work was and continues to be to restore man in his rightful place with God.

[1] J. W. Rogerson and J. W. McKay, The Cambridge Bible Commentary on the New English Bible (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1977) 2:65-67.

[2] Ibid.

[3] John Aloisi, “Who is David’s Lord? Another Look at Psalm 110:1” Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal 10 (2005): 103-123.

[4] Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., Matthew Henry’s Commentary Commentary On the Whole Bible (Chicago: Hendrickson Publishers)538.

[5] Aloisi, Who is David’s King?, 110.

[6] Walter A. Elwell. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1984)866.

[7] J. W. Rogerson and J. W. McKay, The Cambridge Bible Commentary on the New English Bible (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1977), 1: 21.

[8] Bruce K. Waltke. “Ask of Me, My Son: Exposition of Psalm 2” Crux 43(2007): 2-19.

[9] Ibid., 13.

[10] James Montgomery Boice, Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996)2:561

[11] Thomas C. Oden, Classic Christianity: A Systematic Theology (New York: HarperOne, 1987)455

[12] Henry, Commentary, 254

[13] I. F. McLeister, “The Book of Psalms: the Suffering Messiah” The American Holiness Journal(1956): 16:25-30

[14] Ibid., 29

[15] Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary, 764

[16] Thomas Nelson Publishers,  Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary  (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1995)

[17] Tremper Longman III and Raymond B. Dillard An Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 251-251.

[18] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1983)786

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Henry, Commentary, 475

[22] Blue Letter Bible. “Dictionary and Word Search for chaciyd (Strong’s 2623)“. Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2010. 18 Aug 2010. http:// http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm? Strongs=H2623&t=KJV

[23]Cambridge University Press. The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (New York: The Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge, 1989)

[24] Henry, Commentary, 237

[25]Ibid., 412

[26] Oden, Classic Christianity, 64-65

[27] Longman and Dillard, Old Testament, 250

[28] Henry, Commentary, 405

[29] Cambridge, NRSV, 495

[30] Erickson, Theology, 376

[31] Henry, Commentary, 405

Bibliography

Aloisi, John. “Who is David’s Lord? Another Look at Psalm 110:1.” Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal, 2005: 103-123.

Baker Book House Company. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell. Grand Rapids: Baker Academics, 1984.

Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2010. http://www.blueletterbible.org (accessed August 18, 2010).

Boice, James Montgomery. Psalms. Vol. 2. 3 vols. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996.

Cambridge University Press. The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. New York: The Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge, 19889.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 2nd Edition . Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1983.

Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible. Vol. 3. 6 vols. Chicago: Hendrickson Publishers, 1991.

Longman III, Tremper, and Raymond B. Dillard. An Introduction to the Old Testament. 2nd Edition . Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994.

McLeister, I. F. “The Book of Psalms: the Suffering Messiah.” The American Holiness Journal , 1956: 25-30.

Oden, Thamos C. Classic Christianity: A Systematic Theology. New York: HarperOne, 1987.

Rogerson, J. W., and J. W. McKay. The Cambridge Bible Commentary on the English Bible. Vol. 1. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1977.

—. The Cambridge Bible Commentary on the New English Bible. Vol. 2. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1977.

Waltke, Bruce K. “Ask of Me, My Son: Exposition of Psalm 2.” Crux 43 (2007): 2-19.

 

 

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