I want to pick up where we left off last Sunday evening. We had explained how Paul read the Old Testament differently from the Jews. We briefly examined a verse in Psalm 119 and Psalm 1, two psalms that said obedience to the Law brings life. But we then asked how the Apostle could say in Gal 3 that the Law was never meant to give life. The answer to that dilemma was the understanding that Christ fulfilled the psalms. Christ was the pray-er of the psalms. Christ did receive life for His obedience to the Law, for He obeyed it perfectly.
We also looked at that passage in Luke where the resurrected Lord opened the mind of His disciples and revealed to them the proper understanding of the Old Testament. Jesus defined this proper understanding as seeing how Christ Himself fulfilled all that was written about Him in the Law and the prophets and the Psalms. Thus we can read our Bibles in one of two ways. The way Christ taught us to read it or the wrong way.
You see it’s not enough to simply know what the Bible says. Many people know the Bible. Turn to John 5. Here Jesus rebukes the Jews for seeking to kill Him because He called God His Father. Jesus also has something to say about knowing our Bibles. Let’s pick up in v. 37: And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen his form. But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. Then down to v. 46; For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for He wrote of Me.
The problem was not that the Jewish leaders weren’t reading the Scriptures. They read them daily. The problem was that they didn’t see Christ as the fulfillment of the Scriptures. Our Lord could even say to them in v. 38 that they did not even have the word abiding in them. Here were people who almost knew their OT’s by memory, but Jesus says that the word was not in them. Thus we see the seriousness of not interpreting the Old Testament with the eyes of faith and the centrality of Christ.
Now I want to consider again the Psalms this evening, and specifically this matter of seeing Christ as the fulfillment of the Psalms. In one sense our job is done for us, in that the Psalms are the most quoted book in the New Testament. And almost every time a Psalm is quoted in the NT, the phrase, “and the Scripture was fulfilled” precedes it; if the phrase isn’t there the idea is.
Let me give you some examples. Matt 27:35. Here Matt quotes from Psalm 22, the Psalm we read together a moment ago. Matt 27:35 says, Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet: They divided My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots. It is important to emphasize that word “fulfilled.” Matthew is not saying that this is a neat analogy to what happened to King David. Matthew is saying that King David’s psalm is fulfilled in Christ. This is underscored by the fact that Matthew calls David a prophet. Davis wrote the Psalms prophetically. David wrote them knowing another would come and fulfill these words.
Let’s consider a couple other examples: John 13:18: Jesus is speaking here of Judas’ betrayal? I do not speak concerning all of you. I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, He who eats bread with me has lifted up his heel against Me. That phrase is taken from Psalm 41. David was betrayed by one of his closest friends. But that wasn’t yet fulfilled with David.
One more example – John 15:25; But this happened that the Word might be fulfilled which was written in their law, “they hated me without a cause.” This quote was taken from Psalm 35:19.
There should be no question then as to how the New Testament authors considered the Psalms. They saw no possibility of understanding the Psalms apart from their fulfillment in Christ. Thus there is no such thing as a bare reading of the Old Testament without following the principle that the New Testament interprets the Old Testament for us. Apart from this principle you will not interpret either testament correctly. The relationship between Old Testament and New Testament is the relationship of promise and fulfillment.
Therefore when you come to the Psalms, the first question that must be asked is, “how is this fulfilled in Christ?” As far as the New Testament authors were concerned, that was the key question.
Now the Psalms have become the book God’s people throughout the history of the church have turned to devotionally, especially during the more difficult trials of life. It is no wonder, for in the Psalms we find every expression of emotion known to man, and that emotion and passion is directed toward God. Whether a cry of confusion, a call for help, a plea for forgiveness, or a hymn of praise, they all make up the prayers of the saints in the Psalms. We certainly see in the Psalms that true religion involves the whole person; the mind, the emotions and the will.
The Psalms were written for both public temple worship and private devotion. But we enter into the true rich meaning of the Psalms when we enter into the mystery of Christ. You see, David wrote most of the Psalms, and David was the best of the Old Testament kings. The Psalms are the responses of God’s people to God’s promise both of a kingdom and a king. When the psalms are suffering psalms, they are cries to God to fulfill His promise to His king and to the people of the king. When the Psalms are praises psalms, God’s people are rejoicing that God has established His king on the throne and ushered in His righteous kingdom.
But all these prayers and desires were written in the context of the typological kingdom of Israel. David knew that. David understood he was not the messianic king God had promised to eternally lead His people. He knew that this kingdom within the confines of Israel was not that final and eschatological kingdom. And David knew that the true king would truly be righteous, unlike himself. Thus David understood that the kingdom that he inaugurated in Israel was only a picture of something greater and that this greater kingdom would have a greater king.
So for example, when Saul was pursuing David, the kingship promised to David was in jeopardy. David cries out to God to end the suffering and bring him to the throne, and to establish righteousness for the people of God. But David knew that another would come and enter into His sufferings, and that He would cry out to God, and God would raise Him up on His throne and establish His eternal kingdom. Thus in one sense David was writing for himself, but at the same time he looked ahead and wrote of the Christ. When David wrote a praise psalm glorifying God for establishing His kingdom, David looked ahead to the Messiah and the establishment of His greater kingdom.
So then, when we interpret the Psalms, we do so as the Scriptures themselves instruct us. Who is the one who fulfills the Law in the Psalms? Who is the one who can expect deliverance when He is suffering? Who is the one who will be raised to the throne of Israel? Who is the one who can pray, “save me according to my righteousness?” Who is the one who can confidently know that though he walks through the valley of the shadow of death God is with him, and that he will dwell in the house of the Lord forever? Christ is the sweet Psalm singer.
But we are not yet finished interpreting. Remember that our relationship with God flows completely out of our union with Christ, that he is the king who represent us before God, and therefore what is Christ’s is also ours. By virtue of our trust in his federal headship these psalms become ours on the most personal way. This is how David could claim these as his own. David saw the Christ as his savior and king. David trusted in him, and by virtue of David’s union with Christ the cries and praises of the Psalms became his; and ours.
Because Christ was heard in the valley of the shadow of death, and because Christ dwells in the house of the Lord forever, then as I am in the valley of the shadow of death these cries become mine, and His declaration of trust become mine. Because Christ called out in lament, I too can call out in lament, for as God heard the Son He hears all those untied to the Son. Because Christ rejoices in heaven at the work of God, so I too may sing those praises.
This becomes true even in regard to those psalms known as the imprecatory psalms. In some of the psalms the Psalmist calls upon God to curse and destroy all those whom hated him. The psalmist called for the destruction of all of God’s enemies. Now let’s ask our question. How are these psalms fulfilled in Christ? For OT Israel, the enemies of God such as the Canaanites were wiped out in judgment, the OT described this judgment as a time when their iniquities had piled up to the full.
We do not live in Israel, but is there not a coming judgment on the world? Does not the Book of Revelation describe judgment as a time when the iniquities of the world had piled up in full? So the Old Testament saints awaited the finality of the kingdom, for they knew that God would come and judge the wicked. They called upon God to send His king, to judge the wicked, and to establish complete righteousness. When will this happen in our age? At the return of the king of course. What do you think is going to happen when Christ returns? Will not God dash the feet of the wicked against the rocks? Thus when you pray for the Lord to return you are praying the imprecatory Psalms.
Now we do not pray for these things before the time, because Jesus taught us how to pray until before final judgment, specifically, “forgive them, for they know not what they do.” That is our prayer until then. Until that time we are as the Good Samaritan seeking to be good neighbors to others; to ask for God to bless, not curse. But when you pray for Christ to return you are asking him to come judge the wicked also.
Finally, if you will turn to our passage in Psalm 22, you note from the beginning that we are dealing with one of David’s suffering psalms, when he cried out to God to raise him from suffering to His kingship. At this low point in David’s’ wilderness wanderings he felt abandoned and forsaken by God. But as David cried out those famous words of v. 1, in the background is the voice of another.
Though most likely for David these descriptions of physical distress are figurative, for the Christ these descriptions would take on a most literal quality. In v 14 and 15 David cries out that his bones are out of joint, a situation that for Jesus on the cross would literally be true. Also his tongue cleaves to his jaws and he was at the point of death. Clearly in v. 18, as David describes the humiliation of nakedness before his enemies, David is speaking figuratively; but for Christ on the cross they are literal descriptions of his sufferings.
David turns from a description of his sufferings to a cry to God for salvation in vv. 19&20. Deliver me from the sword… save me from the lion’s mouth. At the end of v. 21 David looks ahead to that time when God would fulfill his promise and place David on the throne. In confidence he declares, you have answered me.
It is that 22nd verse that I want to leave you with this evening. In v. 22 David vows to God that when God rescues David and places him upon his throne in Jerusalem, David will declare God’s name in the assembly of God’s people. To declare God’s name is to declare His mighty acts of redemption. David’s vow included not only public proclamation of God’s redemption, but also public praise, again in the context of the public assembly. David will join the chorus of praise to God in the assembly.
The author of the Book of Hebrews wanted to drive home the import of verse 22 to the suffering church in Rome. Please turn to Heb. chapter 2. You see the author of Hebrews is most interested in the assembly of God’s people. Some had begun to forsake the assembling of the saints because they were discouraged, many of those Jewish Christians longed for the old days when their worship was outwardly glorious, with symbols and priests and decorations.
But the author of Hebrews wants the people to understand the glory of the New Covenant, and the glory of our worship. In Heb. 2:10, he speaks of the Savior who suffered in identifying with us; but through his sufferings was made perfect, that is, He fulfilled all righteousness. In v. 11 the author explains how Christ, in identifying with us, has become our brother. Then strangely enough the author quotes Psalm 22:22, that vow of David to both declare and praise the name of the Lord in the midst of God’s assembly. Do you see it?
The author of Hebrews is not speaking of David; he is speaking of Christ. When you meet in your simple assemblies for public worship, when you gather together without all those outward forms of the Old Covenant temple worship, the resurrected Christ is in your midst fulfilling His vow to the Father, that vow He made on the cross; that vow prophetically revealed in Psalm 22:22.
You see, Christ is present in our assembly fulfilling His vows. He fulfills His vow through the preaching of the Word. When the gospel is declared in the assembly of God’s people, Christ is offering up praise to the Father for raising Him up and for raising us up with Him.
But that’s not all. Christ promised to fulfill His vow in two ways. Notice the second half of the quote. Christ is fulfilling his vow when we sing our praises to God. When Gods people assemble in the name of Christ, the resurrected Lord by His Spirit joins us in our singing. As we praise the Father for His redemption, Christ by his Spirit, who is in our midst, praises the Father with us. We dare not forget that we sing with the Son.
As those rescued with Christ, He has become our brother, so His song becomes our song. This is the glory of the Psalms. This is the unity of the Scriptures. And thus is the great privilege of our simple worship. Amen