The Christology of the Psalms in Brief Compass (2)

When a born-again Christian looks at the Psalms he sees Christ.  When an unregenerate Bible scholar looks at Psalms he sees little or nothing of Christ.  The reason for this is that while the believer allows God to be the Author of the Bible, and so accepts the real possibility both of predictive prophecy and a “developed Christology” in the Psalter, an unregenerate person’s eyes are blinded by his unbelief.  A person may put on  a good pair of eyeglasses and see things more clearly.  This is what belief if God’s Word does for the Christian reader.  But the unbeliever is like someone who puts a welding mask over his eyes and so sees nothing.  His unbelief effects his reading of Scripture the such a degree that Christ cannot be seen in the Psalms.  

This fact notwithstanding, the believer is rewarded again and again in seeing the Savior in every part of Scripture.  Hence, we continue to trace the Christology of the Psalms.

Christ’s Deity is easily established from Psalm 45:6 and 11:

Psalm 45:6: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.”

Yahweh speaks to the One who receives the scepter.  This scepter is associated in the verse with the “throne” of God and the “kingdom” of righteousness.  The honored recipient takes on the role of King over an eternal kingdom.  This new king is Divine!  Since Yahweh is the Speaker and the recipient is clearly referred to as “God,” we conclude that here we have the Father addressing the Son.  And this is confirmed by the author of the Book of Hebrews in Hebrews 1:8-9.

Psalm 45:11: “So the King will greatly desire your beauty; Because He is your Lord, worship Him.”

In this verse the king of verse 6 is to be worshiped as Lord.  These verses should probably be seen as finding fulfillment in the coming Millennial Kingdom (cf. Isa. 11:1-10; Psa. 89:14; Zech. 6:12-13; 8:2-3).  One should also compare Psalms 24 and 46 in this regard.  More on this below.

Christ’s Humanity is seen in His suffering in Psalm 22 and His becoming human in Psalm 8 as interpreted by Hebrews 2:5-10.  Of course, He couldn’t suffer the torments depicted in Psalm 22:9-18 if He were not human.   We should remember that He could not be in the Davidic line (Psa. 89:34-37) if He were not truly a man.

Christ’s Sinlessness may be gathered from a statement in Psalm 45:7.  In this passage we read, “You love righteousness and hate wickedness.”  This statement on its own might be applied to any man of God, but from what follows we see that God is rewarding the Divine King of the previous verse with a special anointing.  And a sinful man, even if his sins were covered (Psa. 32:1-2), would not be qualified to wield “the scepter of righteousness.”

Two aspects of Christ’s Threefold Office are seen from Psalm 110 (King and Priest).  In Psalm 110:2 the LORD (Yahweh) speaks to David’s Lord (Adonai), saying, “Rule in the midst of Your enemies.”  The Messianic character of this passage is highlighted by Jesus Himself in Matthew 22:41-45 and is accepted by the Jews.  The Messiah is to rule as king (as we have seen and shall see).  But further, the Psalm also highlights Christ’s High Priestly Office when it identifies Him as “a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” in verse 4.  Again, the writer of Hebrews makes much of this reference (Heb. 7), telling us that Melchizedek was a king-priest also (Heb. 7:2).  I cannot find clear reference to Christ’s prophetic office in the Psalms.

Christ’s Sacrificial Death as has already been stated, is seen in Psalm 22.  Not only does Jesus on the Cross cry the first verse, but the descriptions of, among other things, the reproach (vv. 6-8, 12-13, 16),  the dislocation of the bones (v.14), the desperate thirst (v.15), the piercing of the hands and feet (v.16), and the prediction of the dividing of the coat and casting lots over the robe (v.18) force themselves upon the attentive reader.  In writing of the Psalm’s twin emphases on suffering and kingship, Michael Travers concludes in Encountering God in the Psalms, (Kregel, 2003), 185:

“For Jesus Christ, the greatest agony of all is his separation from God (vv.1-2, 14-18), and his greatest joy is the eternal kingdom the Father provides believers through his death (vv.22-31).  Messiah is both the suffering servant and the Great King of an eternal kingdom.”

Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension in Psalms 16:10 (resurrection), and 68:18 (ascension).

Psalm 16:10: “For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.”

It is not fully apparent in Psalm 16 just who the “Holy One” is.  David is the author of the psalm, but would David call himself “the Holy One”?  It is this passage the apostle Peter quotes and applies directly to the Risen Christ in Acts 2:25-30.  Sheol was the place of departed souls and generally has negative connotations in the OT.  David appears to be speaking of it, not as a place of his temporary punishment, but of separation still from the presence of God.  If this is true then the hope of resurrection, and an ascension of some kind, is certainly in David’s mind as he writes, and it is this that Peter picks up and uses.

Psalm 68:18: “You have ascended on high, You have led captivity captive; You have received gifts among men, Even from the rebellious, That the LORD God might dwell there.”

This is another psalm which is applied to Christ by a New Testament writer.  This time it is Paul in Ephesians 4.  From the context of the original quotation we see that the Lord is spoken of, and the captivity that He has taken captive is in the positive sense of deliverance from oppressors.  The apostle Paul utilizes this verse to teach that Christ, while triumphing over the powers, has ascended and has in some way ‘captived’ the captives.  Without getting into the question of who the “captives” are, we can see that the text is employed to teach, among other things, the ascension of Christ.  

Christ’s Second Advent is implied in places like Psalm 46:8-11.  The passage is akin to the Divine Warrior passages in the Bible (e.g. Exod. 15:1-11; Psa. 68; Isa. 63:1-3) where God comes unchallenged.  One sees a similar thing in Psalm 50:1-6, where “The Mighty One” (v.1) shines forth “out of Zion” (v.2).  He comes as a Judge (v.6), and the judgment seems climactic.  Verse 3, with its mention of a devouring fire (Cf. Mal. 3:2; 4:1); and verse 4, with its call to universal judgment, encourage us to see the returning Lord in the passage (Cf. Rev. 19:11-19).

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