In the Messsianic Psalms
T. Ernest Wilson, USA
The Bookof Psalms has been* called The Book of the Sanctuary'. Each of the five books in the centre of the Old Testament has a different theme. In Job it is suffering; in Proverbs it is sonship; in Ecclesiastes it is 'under the sun'; in the Song of Solomon it is 'under His shadow', but in the Psalms it is the Sanctuary. In this great collection of inspired poetry we are conducted right into the holy of holies and meet the Saviour Himself. There arc sixteen Messianic Psalms which cover practically every phase of His Person and work. Five of these give details of His sufferings and sacrificial death on the cross, His burial. His resurrection and His exaltation to God's right hand. Some of them speak of His physical sufferings at the hands of man and others of His inward feelings and communion with His Father. We approach them with holy reverence and worship in the following order:
(1 Psalm 40 6-8 The Burnt Offering
(2 Psalm 16 8-11 The Meal Offering
(3 Psalm 22 The Sin Offering
(4 Psalm 69 4, 20, 21 The Trespass Offering
(5 Psalm 118 21-29 The Festal Thank Offering
Psalm 40. 6-8. The Burnt Offering. In the study of the Messianic Psalms we are repeatedly confronted with the difficult problem of determining that which refers to the author and that which refers to Christ. Very often the psalmist, under the Spirit's power and inspiration, is lifted beyond the limits of his own personality, to present the Person of the Messiah. The difficulty is greatly increased when only a part of the Psalm is quoted in the New Testament with reference to our Lord, and the remainder of the Psalm would seem to refer to the Psalmist himself. This is especially so in Psalm 40.
In this psalm there are three verses which are quoted in Hebrews 10. 5-7, taken from the Sepiuagint Version and applied to the Lord Jesus.
The passage first of all mentions the inadequacy of the Levitical sacrifices. Four Hebrew words are used corering the principle offerings of the Levitical code. Sacrifice, zebach, is a general term for all the eucharistic sacrifices, the peace, votive, and thank offerings. Offering, minchah, the meal offering, which is connected with the drink offering. Burnt offering, olak, is the highest offering. Sin offering, chataah, refers to rhe expiatory sacrifices, the sin and trespass offerings.
In the Mosaic sacrificial system millions of animals were sacrificed and rivers of blood flowed. All had meaning, and all pointed to the cross. This was the kinder/garden period of Israel's history. But Psalm 40 renders a twofold verdict. 'Sacrifice and offering thou didsi not desire, mine ears hast thou opened. Burnt offering and sin-offering hast thou not required. Then said I, Lo I come, in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God; yea thy law is within my heart.' The opened ear of the servant, cf. Exod. 21. 1-6, the fulfilling of the Old Testament predictions concerning a suffering Messiah and His incarnation in Bethlehem Ephratah, Mic. 5. 2, all point forward to the atoning sacrifice of the cross. A great passage in the Epistle to the Hebrews expounds this section of the Psalm.
Psalm 40 in Hebrews 10. 5-7. The writer of Hebrews quotes the Septuagint Version of the psalm. This is the Greek version of the Old Testament translated in Alexandria in the third century BC. The Holy Spirit sanctions the translation here. There is no discrepancy. It is simply an evidence of inspiration. The change of 'mine ears hast thou opened', to 'a body hast thou prepared me', is apparently an allusion to the Hebrew servant of Exodus 21. The pierced ear is an evidence that the whole body is dedicated.
The Hebrews passage emphasizes:
the will of God, v. 7.
the work of Christ, v. 12.
the witness of the Holy Spirit, v. 15.
all is sealed by the new covenant, vv. 16-17.
the old system is set aside by the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all, v. 10.
Then twice we have the final word 'forever'. 'After he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God, v. 12. 'For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified', v. 14.
This is the fulfilment of the great Messianic prophecy of Psalm 40, and the climax of teaching concerning the incarnation and the vicarious atoning sacrifice of the Saviour on Calvary's cross in the Epistle to the Hebrews.
Psalm 16. 8-11. The Meal Offering
H. A. Ironside calls Psalm 16 'the psalm of the meal offering'. It describes the holy, pure life of the Messiah, ending with His exaltation to God's right hand. The typical ingredients of fine flour, oil, salt and frankincence, and the exclusion of leaven and honey, and their meaning, were manifested in our Lord's pathway here on earth.
The Psalm is quoted by Peter in his pentecostal address, Acts 2. 25-28, and by Paul in his address in the synagogue in Antioch in Pisidia, and applied by both to the Lord Jesus, giving us our authority for regarding it as a Messianic Psalm, Acts 13. 35.
The Psalm is in two parts:
The pathway of faith. The meal offering, vv. 1-7.
The pathway of life. The burial, resurrection and exaltation to God's right hand, vv. 8-11.
1. The Pathway of faith. The first section presents five attitudes of our Lord on His pilgrim pathway here on earth:
His attitude to God, v. 1-2. 'Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust'. This attitude of dependence upon and subjection to the will of His Father was a voluntary position which our Lord took in incarnation. He never acted independently.
His attitude to the people of God, v. 3. 'As for the saints that are in the earth, they are the excellent in whom is all my delight', rv.
His attitude to pagan idolatry, v. 4. 'Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god; their drink offerings of blood will I not offer, nor take up their names into my lips'. Under Herod and during the Roman occupation, the land was dotted with heathen shrines and symbols. His attitude was one of complete separation.
His attitude to material things, vv. 5-6. He mentions five things: His portion, His lot, His cup, the lines (indicate a surveyor's line or linear measure), His goodly heritage. He was perfectly content and thankful for His position and provision from His Father's hand.
His attitude to the will of God, vv. 7-8. Here we have a piece of soul-history of our Blessed Lord. Whole nights were spent in prayer, in communion with His Father. He could say, 'My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work'. And again, in His agony in Gethsemane He cried, 'Not my will but thine be done'. The whole section ends with the same idea as at the beginning. 'I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved'. The Lord, and the fulfillment of His will was the object, the target of His life.
The Pathway of Life. His burial, resurrection, and exaltation to God's right hand, vv. 8-11. This is the great Messianic passage, quoted by the apostles Peter and Paul in the New Testament and applied to the resurrection of Christ. Note the four personal pronouns, My heart, My glory, My flesh, My soul. He is glad and rejoices, 'For thou wilt not leave my soul to Sheol; neither wilt thou suffer thine holy one to see corruption'. The latter phrase speaks of His body, and the former of His soul in the period between His death on the cross and His resurrection from the tomb. The meal offering, always associated with the burnt offering, emphasises the moral beauty and glory of that Blessed One who went down into death and the grave for us, but is now risen and glorified at God's right hand. The sweet savour and fragrance of it goes up to heaven. 'Thou wilt show me the path of life', v. 11. Both Peter and Paul apply this to the resurrection of Christ in Acts 2. 25-28 and 13. 35 respectively. His sacrificial death on the cross is crowned by His bodily resurrection from the dead, and this is consummated by His exaltation to God's right hand. 'In Thy presence is fullness of joy', v. 11. It was for the joy set before Him that He endured the cross, despising the shame, Heb. 12. 2. There was joy mingled with heaviness and sorrow down here, but full joy up there, 'and at thy right hand, there are pleasures for evermore'. Here the position of our Lord in verse 8 is reversed. There Jehovah is at His right hand in communion and counsel during the time of His pathway of faith here below; now glorified in heaven, He is at the Father's right hand, the place of power, priesthood and pleasure.
Psalm 22. The Sin Offering. The Psalm was written by David some thousand years bc. It contains thirty-three items describing death by crucifixion. When we consider that this cruel and painful method of execution was invented many centuries later, it gives us a vivid demonstration of the inspiration of holy scripture by the Spirit of God.
The Psalm divides into two parts. The dividing point comes in verse 21, where the suffering Saviour cries, 'thou hast heard me'. Everything previous to this is suffering; everything after it is unbroken song. Each part has three sections:
Suffering from a threefold source.
Divinely from God, vv. 1-6a-holiness of God. Physically from man, vv. 6b-18-hatred of man. Diabolically from Satan, vv. 19-2la-hostility of Satan.
The second section reveals three circles of blessing in resurrection, vv. 21b-31.
My brethren, v. 22. Seed of Jacob, seed of Israel, v. 23. All the ends of the world, v. 27.
Two banquet tables are spread: The meek shall eat and be satisfied, v. 26; All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship, v. 29.
The Psalm begins and ends with two cries of Christ on the cross: 'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?', v. 1, and 'that he hath done this' (it is finished), v. 31. Between Immanuel's orphan cry' in verse 1 and His triumphant cry of victory in verse 31, there are five distinct items of Calvary's shame.
Alternating periods of light and darkness in verse 2, cf. Matt. 27. 45-46.
Mockery, v. 8. The exact words are recorded in Matt. 27. 43.
The disrobing prior to the crucifixion, v. 18, was fulfilled in minute detail, even to the gambling for the seamless robe, John 19. 24.
The pierced hands and feet, verse 16.
His thirst, vv. 14-15, literally fulfilled, John 19. 28-30.
His resurrection is indicated in verse 21b, in His victorious cry 'thou hast heard me'. See specially Hebrews 5. 7, where the meaning is that He was saved, not from death, but out of death. We worship and adore.
Psalm 69. 4, 20, 21. The Trespass Offering
There are seven quotations from Psalm 69 in the New Testament referring to the Messiah, so we are on safe ground in calling it a Messianic Psalm. The keyword is in verse 4, 'Then I restored that which I took not away'. He paid the price and suffered the penalty for sin. He added the fifth part thereto, making reparation for the sin of the world. His sacrificial death was the fulfillment of the guilt offering, Lev. 5. 1-6, 7.
The psalm falls into five parts:
The Sufferer and His sorrow, vv. 1-12.
The sanctuary-refuge. Weeping turns to praying, vv. 13-18.
The cross; the broken heart, vv. 19-21.
Imprecation; Judas and the nation, vv. 22-28.
The song and the seed, vv. 29-36.
In the trespass offering there are three injured parties:
The holy things of the lord: God's honour has been insulted. Things forbidden in the decalogue: the Law has been broken. The neighbour has been injured: in one or more of five areas.
When the trespass was discovered, then reparation had to be made. Moses the lawgiver, made the valuation of the loss involved in the crime, and restitution had to be made in the shekel of the sanctuary. As well as the actual value of the loss sustained, one-fifth, or 20%, had to be added. Then a sacrifice had to be offered to God. Not a lamb, but a ram; the leader of the flock, Gen. 22.13. If the crime was against his neighbour, restitution had to be made first, and then the sacrificial offering, cf. Matt. 5. 23-24.
Application of the Trespass Offering to the sacrifice of Christ, the infinite value of the atonement. Propitiation was for the whole world, 1 John 2. 1. He gave Himself a ransom for all, 1 Tim. 2. 6.
The sacrifice and the value of the precious blood was infinite. But it is only effective to those who believe, Rom. 3. 22. The doctrine of a limited atonement is unscriptural. The fifth added in the trespass offering makes this plain.
Reconciliation. This again is threefold. 'And having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblamable and unreprovable in his sight', Col. 1. 20-22. The restitution of all things refers to the millennium. The groaning creation restored. Bible history is not just a circle but a spiral. Revelation 22 is higher than Genesis 2. Not just man in innocence, but in perfect conformity to the image of Christ. The image and the likeness restored. Thank God for the One who restored that which He took not away.
Psalm 118. 21-29. The Psalm of the Festive Thank-offering. This is the final Slessianic Psalm. It sums up the teaching in all the others which speak of the Person and work of Christ. It outlines the history of anti-Semitic persecution, ending with the coming of the Messiah to set up His kingdom.
It is also the final song of the Egyptian Hallel, so-called because it celebrates the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt; see Psalm 114. 1. The Hallel consists of six psalms, 113-118. David Baron, the Hebrew-Christian commentator, says that these Psalms were sung at the three great feasts, the Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. At the Passover, Psalms 113 and 114 were sung before the drinking of the second cup, and the other four, Psalms 115-118, after the drinking of the fourth cup, at the end of the ceremony. It is very likely that this was the hymn sung by our Lord and His disciples after the celebration of the Passover and the institution of the Lord's supper, Matt. 26. 30.
The psalm is in three parts:
(1) Three groups are called to praise God, vv. 1-4.
(2) Historical outline of Israel's suffering throughout the centuries, climaxed by the great tribulation, vv. 5-18.
(3) Final deliverance by the appearing of the Messiah, vv. 19-29.
The last section has been called 'a precious Messianic jewel'. On the last three or four days before Calvary, the mind of our Lord seemed to dwell on this great passage, as He girded himself for Gethsemane, Gabbatha, and Golgotha. There are seven significant items:
The opened gates of the city and the temple, vv. 19-21, cf. Psa. 14.
The rejected stone, made the head of the corner, vv. 22-23.
The day which the Lord made, v. 24. The Day of Atonement.
Hosanna, blessed be He that cometh in the name of the Lord, vv. 25-26.
National conversion, v. 27.
The festal sacrifice, v. 27. Feast of Tabernacles.
The final benediction, vv. 28-29.
'Bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar'. The foundation of all these blessings is the atoning work of Christ on the cross. The usual word for 'sacrifice' in the Old Testament is zebach. But the word used here is chag. It is the frequently used word for 'feast', the feast of the Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. It has to do with the sacrifices offered at these feasts. In this sense, it occurs fifty-two times, but only three times is it rendered 'sacrifice', see Exodus 23. 18. In the only place where it occurs in the Pentateuch, it means 'a festal sacrifice'.
If it is true that this was the hymn sung in the upper room at the Passover Supper and the institution of the Lord's Supper, what a solemn light it throws on the thoughts in the mind of our Lord, as He went out to Gethsemane and the cross. It was the Passover season. Bands of pilgrims from near and far were on their way to the feast. In the centre of each company would be a lamb. It was led to the altar and there slain. It was the festal sacrifice. On that tragic night the scriptures record that our Lord was bound. First in Gethsemane, John 18. 12, where Judas was responsible; then by Annas, who sent Him to Caiphas, John 18. 14. In the morning He was bound by the chief priests and elders and sent to Pilate, Matt. 27. 2. The scourging by Pilate's men would involve a binding, John 19. 1. Finally, uplifted on the cross, He was bound, not with the cords of men, but with iron. 'They pierced my hands and my feet', Psa. 22. 16. We worship and adore that it was not the nails that bound Him to the cross, but the fourfold cords of love.
First, the will of God: 'Not My will but Thine be done'.
Secondly, the word of God: 'That the scriptures might be fulfilled'.
Thirdly, 'For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross', Heb. 12. 2.
Fourthly, the Hebrew servant, Exod. 21.1 love my Master, I love my wife, I love my children.
'Thou art my God, and I will praise Thee: Thou art my God, I will exalt Thee. O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good: for His mercy endureth for ever', Ps. 118. 28-29.