Christ in the Psalms
Scripture reading Hebrews 10:1-18; Luke 24:44
We come now to the Psalms which were classified as “The Tidings” in the third section of the Hebrew Bible. These are in turn divided into three sections called the poetical books of Psalms, Job and Proverbs: the rolls which were read on special feast days, Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and Esther; and the non-prophetical books of Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah and Chronicles. Daniel is called a prophet by our Lord, but his book is so placed because of his ministry to heathen and Greek kings. He was God’s witness to earthly kings that the Ancient of Days was yet to rule and reign. Chronicles closes the sacred canon because it deals with the revival of religion and the rekindling of national faith. It ends on a note of worship and points the way to God’s design, the worship of the one True God at the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem.
In the Psalms Christ is presented in a rich and varied manner. Many of them are Messianic, dealing with things pertaining to the place, work, and glory of the Messiah. The Psalms are divided into five books—revealing the feelings of the heart of God. If the five books of the Law interpret the Character of God, the five books of the Psalms illustrate the compassion of God. In the Law we have the greatness of God; in the Prophets we have the glory of God; and in the Psalms, the grace of God. Whilst the Torah (Law of Moses) emphasizes the God of the Hebrews the Psalms reveal the God of the human heart.
The first three Psalms are the key of the book. In Psalm 1, we have the excellency of the Law of God; in Psalm 2, the exaltation of the Messiah, and in Psalm 3, the experience of the believer. In the first Psalm Christ is seen as the Son of Man; in the second Psalm, as the King, and in the third Psalm, as Lord and Saviour. Thus these Psalms set forth Christ as The Man, the Messiah and the Mediator, or as the Law and Prophets tell Him out as Prophet, Priest and King. In the teaching of the other Psalms it is impossible to exhaust the treasures of the five books. Our desire is to confine our attention to the person of Christ and to learn what we can of the meaning of His word, “In the Psalms concerning Me.”
The fact that the book of the Psalms is divided into five sections is not to be thought trivial or of little importance. In Scripture the numerals are used with divine design and precision. To the Jew the number five is sacred and is suggestive of grace or favour. When Joseph desired to shew special favour to his brother Benjamin we read, “And he took and sent messes unto them from before him: but Benjamin’s mess was five times so much as any of theirs” (Gen. 43:34), see also, (Gen. 45:22). The number five is seen many times in the construction of the Tabernacle. It was with five loaves the Lord Jesus fed the hungry multitude. When Christ healed the impotent man at the pool of Bethesda we read, “having five porches.” Surely this is to remind us of the Grace of God to the impotent nation at that time. As Moses gave to the Israelites the five books of the Law revealing the mind of God, so corresponding with these David gave them the five books of the Psalms telling out the heart of God. In the Law you have the figures of Christ; in the prophets, the foreshadowings of Christ, but in the Psalms, the feelings of Christ, Here the Christian must feel the message for his own soul, and feel it in the presence of God. These messages are as precious to the Jew as to the Christian for they reflect the experience of the man of faith in the world in any dispensation. Let us look for Christ in five ways. First of all as the ideal Man.
Book I (Ps. 1-41) corresponds to Genesis in that it has much to say about man. Man is crowned king of creation (Psalm 8) and under his feet all things have been placed. The original purpose of God for man has not been fulfilled because of sin, yet the divine plan has not been frustrated, for God Himself has become Man, and we behold the Last Adam in death, (Ps. 22), in salvation, (Ps. 23) and in glory (Ps. 24). What a wonderful day awaits not only a groaning humanity but also a groaning earth when all creation shall sing under the rule of Christ (Isa. 11:1-9; Rom. 8:18-23).
Book II (Ps. 42-72) corresponds to Exodus in that it contains the story of the groaning and suffering of God’s people followed by the coming of the King, (Ps. 45), and the establishment of the Kingdom, (Ps. 72). How refreshing to see Christ as king, the anointed of God (Ps. 2, 20, 21, 24, 45, 72, etc.), and in spite of the fact that prophets, priests and kings have failed in the government of the Nation of Israel, the day is set and the King is decreed who will reign in righteousness forever and forever, the Lord Jesus Christ. How true the words soon to be fulfilled, “For Thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory, forever, Amen” (Matt. 6:13).
Book III (Ps.73-89) corresponds to Leviticus in that it is the book of “Holiness unto the Lord.” Much is said about the sanctuary and worship in these Psalms. We are reminded of the words of another in describing this section of Holy Writ: “The Psalms are a rich jewel cluster. made up of the gold of doctrine; the pearls of comfort, and the gems of prayer.” As the Psalmist considered the timeless questions — “Why are the wicked allowed to get away with things? Why do God’s innocent people have to suffer so much? He almost gives way to despair by outward appearances until he shuts his soul in with God and enters into the sanctuary (Ps. 73:17). Problems and perplexities of life that at times seem to defy solution give way to the prayer of faith, and the man of God visualizes things from the standpoint of God and His purposes. The same God who wrought in years gone by is still on the throne and He will never break His word: “My covenant will I not break, not alter the thing that is gone out of My lips,” (Ps.89:34). What assurance comes as we tarry in the sanctuary and remember the words: “Jesus Christ the same yesterday and today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
Book IV (Psalms 90-106), corresponds to Numbers. The opening Psalm was probably written by Moses when he saw the people dying in the wilderness. Other Psalms in this section tell of the sufferings and wanderings of God’s people which will end only when the Lord reigns. Reading through these Psalms of pilgrim people we are reminded of the words of Calvin: “The anatomy of all parts of the soul, for here the Holy Spirit has represented to life all the griefs, sorrows, fears, doubts, hopes, cares, anxieties, in short, all the stormy emotions by which human minds are wont to be agitated.” These Psalms are the mirror of Christ’s soul as He lived and laboured amongst the masses. He entered into the joys and sorrows of life; He manifested wonder and surprise; He was fully aware of anger and love, sympathy and disappointment, and in His life He portrayed: compassion, indignation, self-denial, sincerity, courage, calmness, humility, endurance and goodness. Over the centuries the Psalms have been as balm to the burdened hearts and as the children of Israel in olden times were reminded of their provision at the hands of the Lord, so today the Christian Church is exhorted in Hebrews: “Let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:1-2).
Book V (Psalms 107-150), corresponds to Deuteronomy, for in these Psalms, as in the fifth book of the Law, the Word of God is magnified. Christianity is a singing religion and surely we should do as Paul admonished: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Co1. 3:16). It is only as we revere, relish and remember the Word of God that we shall grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord. Christ found His delight in the law of the Lord and in His walk, work and words, He absolutely trusted in its truth. How essential it is to follow His example and enter into the truth of “The Blessed Man” (Ps. 1:1-3). Surely the Psalms should have a much larger place in our lives as the children of God. To discover Christ in the Psalms will bring comfort and cheer to the tasks of life, strength for the burdens of the day, courage for the conflict, the binding up of the broken heart, light on life’s problems and hope for the future or, as the Psalmist himself said, “Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever” (Ps. 23:6).