The Messianic Psalms
This is the seventh article by Dr. John Boyd, Hollywood, Ireland, on the Messianic Psalms. We have always appreciated the Doctor’s written ministry, and consider these articles an excellent contribution to an understanding of these prophecies concerning Christ.
(7) Psalm 40
Messiah — The Obedient One
Messiah’s Recurring Supplication
Stanza 5: The Psalmist’s Request for Mercy (vv. 11-12)
The Psalmist finds himself in a new experience of trouble, and asks for a continuation of the mercies he had before received from God. He seeks for preservation according to God’s lovingkindness and the truth which he had declared to the great congregation of Israel. David pleads that God on His part would not withhold His mercies even as he (the Psalmist) had not withheld (same word as ‘refrained’ in v. 9) his testimony concerning God. The reason for this request is that evils from without had surrounded him, and iniquities, moral crookedness from within, had overtaken him. His iniquities were innumerable and such as to blur his vision. As a result his heart, his courage had failed him. David here seems to be referring to the troubles of Absalom’s rebellion, and confesses his iniquities as slackness in the upbringing of that wilful son.
The application of these two verses to Messiah can only be with regard to His mystical Body, the Church, Only on this basis can we understand the reference to “Mine iniquities.” Calvary is finished; the resurrection has been announced in verse 2; the perfect sacrifice has been outlined in verses 6-8; the proclamation of the gospel is declared in verses 9-10. Here we have come to the High-Priestly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ as He makes intercession for His people (Heb. 7:25). They are His Body. To persecute them is to persecute Him (Acts 9:4). The Lord knows their infirmities and their sins, and His High-Priestly intercession obtains for them mercy and grace (Heb. 4:14-16). As the Psalm was David’s desire for the continuance of the mercies he had before received from Jehovah, so Messiah here requests the continuance to the Church, His Body, of the mercies He had experienced at Calvary.
Stanza 6: The Psalmist’s Request for Deliverance (vv. 13-15)
David pleads with God for deliverance from his foes, and seems to be impressed with the urgency of the matter. He asks for a threefold judgment of his enemies: (a) shame and confusion for those who seek his destruction, (b) defeat and dishonour for those who delight in his hurt, (c) desolation, literally, the paralysis of terror, for a reward of those who heaped shame upon him (R.V. marg.).
Such imprecatory prayers are often found in Messianic Psalms, and present difficulties. They were written prophetically under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and indicate the final and irrevocable wrath of God against men who had despised and rejected His Son. The imprecations were used by One who was consumed with zeal for God’s house, that the violated majesty of God’s law should not pass unpunished. They constitute a prediction of what will happen rather than a desire for their accomplishment. Viewed in this light they should not prevent us from seeing Messiah in the Psalm. Instead, we should be led by them to adore the retributive justice of God as well as His love and mercy.
As Messiah seeks deliverance for the saints, the members of His body, He presents here a prophetic foreshadowing of the judgments that will overtake those who seek to destroy the Church, delight in its discomfiture, and continue to pour shame upon it. Just as the mention of “Mine iniquities” (v. 12) does not refer to Christ personally, so also here the Lord is not seeking vindication for Himself for the treatment He received at the cross, but for afflicted believers. His prayer on the cross, “Father, forgive them,” presents us with a different appreciation of His attitude to His own persecutors.
Stanza 7: The Psalmist’s Request for God’s Glory (vv. 16-17)
Finally David is concerned with God’s glory. In contradistinction to those who oppose Him, in verses 13-15 he mentions here those who are on his side, those who seek God with him. He requests that God will enable them to rejoice in His salvation, thus giving them cause continually to magnify Jehovah with him (v. 1), recognizing His greatness and His majesty. In the present plight brought about by Absalom’s rebellion, he feels his poverty and need, yet from past experience he realizes that Jehovah has not forgotten him, but was thinking of him for good. He calls on God who had helped in the past to haste again to his deliverance.
So does Messiah continue to supplicate God’s throne and intercede for the saints; His purpose in incarnation was that He might glorify the Father; His desire is that now the saints would magnify God for His repeated deliverances in times of trouble, as did the early disciples (Acts 5:41). They were poor and afflicted, but Christ was ever solicitous on their behalf. The God who had helped Messiah during His passion would hasten to the succour of the sons He was leading to glory. Such is Christ’s High-Priestly ministry for His own that He seeks mercy for their shortcomings and deliverance from their enemies. He longs even now that they may be “to the praise of the glory of God’s grace,” as they will be in a future day (Eph. 1:6).
May we rejoice in such a Great High Priest! May those of us who seek God’s face for deliverance from trouble have cause to rejoice, and be glad, and magnify the God of our salvation! Let us follow the example of our exalted Head. Let us supplicate God’s throne continually on behalf of our brethren passing through times of trial, for they are one with us in the Body of Christ.
Every experience of God’s deliverance draws out our hearts to Him. Let us not forget to glorify Him with our lips! Let God be magnified! How worthy He is of all this!
“How good is the God we adore,
Our faithful, unchangeable Friend,
Whose love is as great as His power,
And knows neither measure nor end!