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The Glorious Psalms (3)

By Rev. James Gracie

This Editorial was published in the Presbyterian Standard, Issue No. 26, April-June 2002.

WE continue from the last issue in addressing the question "Is the Psalter a sufficient manual with which to praise God?" In that issue we considered our first point - how the Psalms contain a most full Doctrine of God: the Trinity, God's Self-Revelation, His attributes, and his work as Creator/Sustainer. Yet there is more.

2. Christ in the Psalms

There is a very full disclosure of the Person and Work of the Messiah within the Psalms. In Luke 24:44-47 it is recorded that the Lord, after the resurrection, said to the disciples, "These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written.....in the psalms, concerning me" (v.44). What was written in the Psalms concerning him? "Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem" (v.46-47).

The disciples had not previously understood this of the Psalms. However, "Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures." (v.45) To argue that the Psalter is insufficient as a manual for Christian and Gospel praise on the ground that Christ is not in the Psalms is to contradict Christ's own understanding of the Psalter. One who argues such is in as much need for the Lord to open his understanding of the Scriptures as the disciples were. THE PSALMS ARE FULL OF CHRIST!

His Person

The keynote of Psalm 2 is the Anointed of Jehovah. We are informed that this 'Anointed One' is the Son of God: "the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee" (2:7). Paul, in referring to this verse, declares that this 'Anointed One' is God: "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever..." (Hebrews 2:8). He also shows that this particular Sonship is unique, for unto which of the angels has God ever uttered such words? (Hebrews 1:5) It is not Sonship by creation, for it was by him that the worlds were made. (Hebrews 1:2) Neither is it Sonship by adoption, for when he was brought into the world even the angels of God were to worship him. (Hebrews 1:6) This Sonship is therefore peerless.

Yet the Psalmist goes further. He reveals something of this uniqueness in divulging the Eternal Generation of the Son: "...this day have I begotten thee." The Person of the Son is begotten of the Father. And like begets like. Thus, the Son "is the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person" (Hebrews 1:3). [The term this day indicates eternity i.e. one continued day - an everlasting now (c/f Isaiah 43:13)]. All that is to be achieved by the Anointed One, as later revealed in Psalm 2, rests on the uniqueness of the Person involved - a uniqueness clearly revealed in the Psalms.

His Work

"What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?" (Psalm 8:4). The Apostle interprets this Psalm for us in referring it to the man Christ Jesus (Heb 2:6). Thus, the Son of God is also Son of Man. Psalm 80 is more specific: "O let thy hand be still upon the Man of thy right hand, The Son of Man..." (Ps. 80:17). Thus, the union of two natures in one Person is set before us in the Book of Psalms. And while we may sing these words today with greater light, the Old Testament saint was able to sing them in anticipation of 'God manifest in the flesh'.

When Christ came into this world, the first civil act by a King was to "seek the young child to destroy him" (Matt 2:13). As predicted in Psalm 2, "the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed" (Psalm 2:1-2).

And yet he is made strong to stand. Where does one find the work of the Lord displayed more than in Psalm 89:19-29. He is the Holy One seen in vision (as at sundry times and by diverse manners) and of whom the Scriptures speak; the One that would be strong to deliver his people. He is the Chosen One to be the head of the Church, to be the Mediator between God and man, and to be the Saviour and Redeemer of lost sinners; to be the foundation and corner stone of His spiritual building, and to be the Judge of quick and dead. The baptism of Christ is predicted when the same psalmist refers to his being anointed with 'holy oil'. The faithfulness of the Lord to God the Father is expounded: "Thou art my Father, he shall cry, thou art my God alone." And just like the disciples later who questioned as to what manner of man this was, the Psalmist marvels at his power over the wind and the sea (v.25). Even the love that the Father reserves for him alone - as expressed from heaven at his Baptism and on the mount of Transfiguration - is predicted in verse 28.

What humility is found with the Son of Man. He who made himself of no reputation stated, "my meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work" (John 4:34). Yet are these words not consonant with those of Psalm 40: "To do thy will I take delight, O thou my God that art; Yea that most holy law of thine I have within my heart" (v. 8). Thus the Lord came not to destroy the Law and the prophets, but to fulfil (Matt. 5:17).

At the same time how gracious and compassionate our Lord was. He dealt with those who called upon him in the most tender manner. When on earth he showed his compassion both to the bodies and souls of men, by healing the one and addressing the needs of the other. He had particular compassion on the ignorant, and them that were out of the way; pitying those that were as sheep without a shepherd. How readily then could the writer of Psalm 145 write; "The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy." (v.8)

The sufferings and death of the Lord are fully encountered within the Psalter; such as in Psalms 22, 31, 40, 55, 69 and 102. From the night season in Gethsemane to Calvary each step of the way is depicted for us. He is not silent during the night season (22:2) but prays even while the disciples sleep. Judas Iscariot is predicted and described in a most intimate way (Ps. 34:14; 41:9; 55:13-14; 88:18), as is the extreme contempt with which the Lord was viewed. The Jews esteemed Christ as a worm (Ps. 22:6), and treated him as such - he was loathsome to them and hated by them. Yet he was hated without a cause (69:4). They part his garments among them and give him vinegar to drink. Ultimately, no man took his life from him but he commended his spirit into the hands of the Father (31:5).

The achievements of the Cross are similarly illustrated. For example, "Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other" (Ps.85:10). In Psalm 68, Christ's ascension and exultation is spoken of in the past tense though it was then future because of the certainty of the event (v.18). As he ascended on high, he received gifts for men: the gifts of the Holy Spirit, qualifying men for the ministry of the Gospel, as they are later interpreted by the Apostle (Eph 4:11). Yet he also received as gift the graces of the Spirit. These, assured to Him, are now communicated through Him to the Church by the Holy Spirit (v.19).

Christ's second coming is a matter of great joy and gladness to the believer. This will be followed by the Judgement Day when both good and bad shall be brought to give an account of the deeds done in the body. Yet even this aspect of our Lord's work is a matter which we may find to sing about in the Book of the Psalms. "He cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth" (96:13).

Not even the eternal well-being of the saints in glory is excluded. His name shall endure for ever, and be continued as long as the sun (Ps.72:17). Along with this "his seed also will I make to endure for ever" (Ps. 89:29). Thus His Throne is an everlasting Throne.

Such is the Lord that "one generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts....they shall sing of thy righteousness" (Ps 145:4,7). How will they do this? God has given us a very adequate manual with which to do so. When it comes to the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Psalms are replete with references to Him. Let us then rejoice to sing of our Saviour, using the very Word given by God for that purpose.

To be Continued (D.V.)