CHRIST In The Psalms Revealing HimWhat Is The Theme Of Bible? The Lord Jesus answered that question when He said, “Search the Scriptures; for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me” (Jn. 5:39 NKJV). “Then I said, ‘Behold, I come – in the volume of the book it is written of Me – to do Your will, O God’” (Heb. 10:7).
The Lord Jesus is the Word of God: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, ‘This was He of whom I said, “He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.”’ And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (Jn. 1:1,14-18). “He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God” (Rev. 19:13). Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the Bible is also called the Word of God: “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
In these verses we find that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Word incarnate [in bodily form], and the Bible is the Word written. He is the theme of the whole Bible. Even in the Old Testament He is the central figure. Throughout the Book, “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:10).
On the morning of His resurrection the Lord Jesus met two very discouraged disciples on the road to Emmaus. To arouse their hearts the Lord Jesus “said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?’ And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Lk. 24:25-27). Likewise 1 Peter 1:10-11 declares that the sufferings of Christ and the glory that would follow is the theme of the Old Testament writers. In order to open His disciples’ minds to understand the Scriptures, the Lord Jesus taught, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets, and the Psalms, concerning Me” (Lk. 24:44).
In The Psalms
There are a number of Psalms that speak of the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. They are called “messianic psalms” and follow a general guideline: The psalm makes reference to the Messiah and is quoted and applied to Christ in the New Testament. It may include an entire psalm, such as Psalm 22, or simply a few verses, as we find in Psalm 40:6-10.
Some of the messianic psalms are occupied completely with the Lord’s thoughts and feelings while other ones refer mainly to the experience of the psalmist and include only a small reference to the Messiah. We see this in Psalm 69 where David confesses, “O God, You know my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from You” (v.5). There is no doubt that David is referring to himself. But when he says, “They also gave me gall for my food, and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink” (69:21), the Spirit of God applies these thoughts to the Lord Jesus (Mt. 27:34,48).
Three messianic psalms are not quoted in the New Testament:
- Psalm 24 speaking of the King of Glory,
- Psalm 72 outlining the Millennial reign of Christ, and
- Psalm 89 expounding on the Davidic Covenant fulfilled by David’s greater Son, the Messiah.
Completely Messianic Psalms
These are psalms which relate to Jesus Christ exclusively and can only apply to Him. The title of Psalm 22, for example, refers to David as the writer, but nothing in David’s life corresponds to the experiences that are mentioned in the psalm. David’s hands and feet were never pierced, nor did his enemies part his garments among themselves or cast lots upon his vesture. We read there of the suffering one rising above his pain and desertion, rejoicing that his agony will result in bringing the nations of the earth to God. No result like this ever flowed from the persecutions of David. Therefore this psalm can only be speaking of the Man of Sorrows (Isa. 53:3). It vividly portrays the sufferings of the Messiah and the glory that would follow.
The passage describes Calvary as vividly and accurately as the record in the Gospels – the Lord Jesus surrounded by scornful enemies who heaped reproaches [strong criticism, dishonor] and poured out derision [insults, disrespect] on Him in His agony. Psalm 22 depicts the crucifixion scene in unmistakable detail: the burning thirst making the tongue cleave to the jaws, the strength dried up, the bones protruding so that they might be counted, the staring crowd, the piercing of hands and feet and the parting of garments by lot among the executioners. The Lord Jesus when suffering under the burden of the sins of the world cried out the opening words of this Psalm, written more than a thousand years before His crucifixion, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” and thus claimed them forever as pertaining to Himself.
As the psalm mentioned in the Bible more than any other, Psalm 110 begins with the phrase “The LORD said.” We see its prophetic character in the two facts announced concerning the promised Messiah: His exaltation to God’s right hand and His perpetual and royal priesthood. The fact that the Pharisees were unable to reply to our Savior’s declaration of David’s Son being David’s Lord (Mt. 22:41-46) proves the Jews of that day understood this psalm spoke of the Messiah. David, who was unquestionably the writer, could hardly have written of himself as “My Lord” (v.1); and nowhere in all the Scriptures is an earthly king invited to sit at the right hand of the LORD (Jehovah) as His companion. Whether David ever offered sacrifices by his own hand or not, he was never a priest in such a sense as the one here celebrated: “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” – a priest without predecessor or successor, one whose priesthood is forever and to whom his office has been confirmed by the solemn oath of Jehovah Himself. This refers to none other than the Great High Priest who has passed into the heavens (v.4, also see Hebrews 6:20-7:3, 4:14).
Psalms Messianic In Type
We find in the Psalms numerous passages which, though written with primary reference to David and his kingdom, were intended by the Holy Spirit to turn our minds to the person and kingdom of the Son and Lord of whom David was a type [picture, example]. The words “You will prolong the king’s life, His years as many generations. He shall abide before God forever” of Psalm 61:6-7 and “He asked life from You, and You gave it to him – length of days forever and ever” in Psalm 21:4 are made concerning a king. Having a certain application to David, they can only be applied in their full meaning to the King who is enthroned above.
A rejected stone that was ultimately given the place of honor as the cornerstone in Psalm 118 represents the One who was “despised and rejected by men” (Isa. 53:3) and exalted to the supreme place in the wonderful plan of God. “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone” (v.22). In his address before the Sanhedrin Peter fixes the ultimate meaning of these words when he says with reference to Christ, “This [He] is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone’” (Acts 4:11).
In Psalm 72 the reign of Solomon is evidently in mind as a type of the wider reign of King David’s greater Son. As the psalm progresses we find our thoughts carried far beyond that young king to another Son of David whose dominion is to extend to “the ends of the earth” (v.8). “His name shall endure forever; His name shall continue as long as the sun. And men shall be blessed in Him; all nations shall call Him blessed” (v.17). The type gradually recedes as the song advances until our thoughts come to be concentrated entirely upon the glorious Prince of Peace.
We could also study Psalm 8, 16, 40, 45, 69, 89 and 109 – just to name a few.
Features Presented Of The Messiah
The Psalms also set forth the Christ in His offices. As a prophet, a role of mediator from God to man, He says in Psalm 22, “I will declare Your name to My brethren” (v.22) and in Psalm 40, “I have proclaimed good news of righteousness in the great assembly … I have declared Your faithfulness and Your salvation” (vv.9-10). As to His priestly office, mediating on behalf of man before God, the LORD says to Him, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” (Ps. 110:4). His kingly office is declared in Psalm 2, “Yet have I set My King on My holy hill of Zion” (v.6), and in Psalm 45, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom” (v.6). These are but a few of the references to the three-fold work of our Redeemer.
The book of Psalms also fully presents the person of Christ. It has been suggested that we could compile a biography of Jesus from this book. We see His eternal Sonship in Psalm 2: “The LORD has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, today have I begotten You’” (v.7). His incarnation is foretold in Psalm 40 as applied in Hebrews 10:5, which says, “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me” and in Psalm 22 where we read: “From My mother’s womb You have been My God” (v.10). The verses are suggestive of the supernatural birth of Jesus – while speaking repeatedly and tenderly of a human mother, there is not one word concerning a human father. His name “Son of Man” is taken from Psalm 8 as well as from the book of Daniel. Back in Psalm 2 He is presented as the Son of God and is called the “Anointed” (v.2), that is, “the Christ.” Psalm 23 is evidently the origin of “the Good Shepherd.” All the usual names applied to Him in the New Testament are given in the Psalms except the name “Jesus.” His trust in God and obedience to Him are beautifully set forth in Psalm 18. In Psalm 45 we see both His moral beauty and anointing of the Holy Spirit: “You are fairer than the sons of men; grace is poured upon Your lips” (v.2). Referencing Psalm 69:9, John wrote of His passionate devotion to God’s service, “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up” (Jn. 2:17); and Paul spoke of the Christ’s life of self-sacrifice, “Christ did not please Himself; but, as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me’” (Rom. 15:3). Also referring to the Lord Jesus, Psalm 22:22 is quoted in Hebrews 2:12: “I will declare Your name to My brethren.”
His rejection is mentioned in verses 4 and 8 of Psalm 69: “Those who hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head … I am become a stranger to my brothers, and an alien to my mother’s children.” Just prior to being rejected, Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem was foreshadowed in Psalm 8:2, which says, “Out of the mouths of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength,” and in Psalm 118:26 saying, ”Blessed is he who comes in the name of LORD!” The conspiracy of His enemies against Him is seen in Psalm 31: “They take counsel together against me, they scheme to take away my life” (v.13). Psalm 41:9, “My own familiar friend … who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me,” speaks of His betrayal by one of the Twelve, as the Lord Himself pointed out in John 13:21-26. The manner of His death is foretold in Psalm 22: “They pierced My hands and My feet” (v.16). Even what happened to His clothes is mentioned, “They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots” (v.18). His cry of desertion in the opening verse of this Psalm is followed by a most accurate description of the whole, pathetic crucifixion scene. Psalm 69:21 adds another line to the dark picture: “They also gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” That His bones should not be broken as were those hanging on either side of Him, as applied in John’s gospel, was predicted in Psalm 34:20, saying, “He guards all his bones; not one of them is broken.” His dying words, “Into Your hands I commit My spirit” (Lk. 23:46) were from Psalm 31:5. His resurrection is foretold in Psalm 16:10; and Peter quoted the verse at Pentecost, “You will not leave my soul in Hades [Hebrew: Sheol], nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption” (Acts 2:27).
His ascension is also mentioned: “You have ascended on high” (Ps. 68:18) and “God has gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet” (Ps. 47:5). The kingdom of Christ and its ultimate triumph are described in Psalm 72. We read of His coming in judgment in Psalm 50 and Psalm 98: “Our God shall come, and shall not keep silent … He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that He may judge His people” (Ps. 50:3-4). “For He is coming to judge the earth. With righteousness He shall judge the world, and the peoples with equity” (Ps. 98:9).
The Psalms are full of many more beautiful pictures of the Lord Jesus Christ! We have only mentioned a few. But when we open up the Psalms and all the Scriptures may we be able to say like those on the road to Emmaus, “Did not our heart burn within us … while He opened the Scriptures to us?” (Lk. 24:32). May He continue to open up our understanding in a deeper way as a result of seeing Christ in the Psalms!
By Timothy P. Hadley
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org