Might be worth a little mini-post on Psalms.
It would be tempting to highlight “particularly Messianic” Psalms and say “There, see, Jesus is spoken of here and there in the psalter.” But I’m not sure that’s right. I once told a friend I was helping preach through an 8 week series called “Jesus in the Psalms”. He said “Right, so you’ll get through Psalms 1-8, when are you going to do the other 142??” I was chastened! That’s absolutely right. It’s not like Messianic Psalms form a sub-division of the psalter: like there’s imprecatory Psalms, Psalms of lament and messianic Psalms. You’d never think of having the ‘God Psalms’ as a sub-category! Christ is not a sub-category of Christian revelation or experience.
And that’s the real danger with all of these posts I’ve been writing. I’ve been quoting specific passages in the OT to show that messianically-focussed trinitarian faith is plainly taught there. But I don’t want to give the impression that it’s only in those passages. Rather those passages are meant to show us the dynamics that are inherent to the whole of the Scriptures.
Think of the doctine of sola fide (faith alone) for instance. There are a number of passages that we can readily turn up to demonstrate its truth. And a paper on sola fide will spend time going through those specific passages, but not so as to prove that sola fide holds in those cases alone. We look to the specific passages to show that this pattern holds for all God’s dealings with man. And it holds even for those parts of the Scripture which opponents may erroneously claim refutes it. It’s like this with solus Christus (Christ alone). We look at the specifics to demonstrate a divine dynamic which holds for all Scripture.
So as we think about Christ in the Psalms we’re not going to pick out messianic mentions here and there. Instead we’re going to look at Psalms 1 and 2 and see how these model for us what to expect in the rest of the Psalter.
Psalms 1 and 2 are often called the gateway to the Psalms. They belong together for many reasons not least the “blessed”s at the beginning and end. Just as with the Sermon on the Mount, the “blessed”s tell us exactly who is in on what’s about to be discussed. In the Sermon on the Mount, the “blessed”s tell us who’s in the kingdom which Jesus describes. In the Psalter, Psalms 1 and 2 tell us who’s in on the worship of the living God. And who is the blessed man??
Well He is an ‘ish – a representative man. In fact He is the Man. This is an audacious claim. (I rarely even claim to be a man!) Verse 2 says He is a night-and-day Bible-meditator, which makes Him a king (cf Deut 17:18-20; Josh 1:8). Verse 3, He is also like a tree (think ‘Branch’ or ‘Root’ or ‘Vine’ – kings are described like this). Not only this but He can make others become prosperous (causative hiphil stem).
This one Man, this definitive Man, is contrasted in v4 to the many wicked. The Psalm does not begin by comparing righteous people to wicked people but rather The Righteous Man is contrasted with the wicked masses. Then (presumably through the Man/Tree-of-Life causing many others to prosper like Him) we hear about other righteous ones (v5-6).
When we turn to Psalm 2 we see the Man given more names. The LORD’s King (v6) is here called “Anointed One” (Messiah, v2), and “Son” (v7). Though He is raged against, He will be poured out on Zion (v6) and publicly vindicated by the Father (v7) before claiming universal rule. (v8-9) All must love and take refuge in Him – both Judge and Saviour. (v10-12)
Here is the gateway to the Psalms. We ought not to rush into the Psalter without stopping here and asking who is welcome in the Psalter. And the answer is: “Blessed is the Man… and Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.” We must be rightly related to Christ to be welcome in the worship of the living God. He, supremely, is the Scripture-meditating, righteous, flourishing, tree-of-life-like Worshipper. But as Calvin comments on Psalm 22:22, He also is the heavenly choir-master who tunes our hearts to sing God’s praises.
Now what implications does this have for how we read the rest of the Psalter? Well one big help we have received in this, the gateway, is that we’ve been introduced to the four main characters in the Psalms. Here we have:
(1) the LORD;
(2) the Christ, the Blessed Man;
(3) The Righteous who take refuge in Him; and
(4) The Wicked who oppose Him.
All the Psalms are about the interaction of these four groups. In some, like Psalm 1, the Blessed Man is shown before the LORD and then the righteous and the wicked are contrasted. In some, like Psalm 2, the righteous complain to the LORD about the wicked and then He reminds them about the Blessed Man, Christ. In some we have simply the words of Christ. In others we have the words of the LORD to Christ. In some we simply have the words of sinners like us taking refuge in Him. But all of the Psalms are about the inter-relation of these four groups. And they all work together to speak to us of Christ. Let’s be alert to that as we read the Psalms, they are related to Christ.
Here’s a sermon manuscript of mine on Psalms 1 and 2
Next post I’ll get down to the implications of all this…. (promises, promises…)