The New Covenant
Finally, although it is not named as such, the New covenant is represented in such psalms as Psalm 96:11-13; 98:3 130:7-8, and 147:12-14, although it is central to the realization of eschatological hope in the Book since the themes of Kingdom and Messiah are allied with it. In Psalm 96:11-13 many of the themes we see in Isaiah 11:4-9; Jeremiah 23:5-6, and Ezekiel 34:24-31 are present, such as universal justice and peace, and blessing upon the productivity of the earth. As Yates put it,
Perhaps this refers to a ceremonial enthronement which may have been a part of the New Year’s celebration. However, the main emphasis is eschatological; God is pictured as King of the nations and Judge of the earth.
We see a celebration of this in Psalm 147; a psalm usually dated to the post-exilic period because of its dependence on other Old Testament passages:
Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion!
For He has strengthened the bars of your gates; He has blessed your children within you.
He makes peace in your borders, and fills you with the finest wheat. – Psalm 147:12-14
The descriptions are much more befitting a kingdom restoration rather than a post-Babylon return.
The following categories are given simply for navigational reasons. As a matter of fact, they are more often than not mixed together in the passages where they belong. For example, hope and kingdom are part and parcel of the Messianic expectation, which is itself wrapped up in the Davidic covenant and the New covenant. The hopes of Zion draw upon the pledges in the Davidic and the Priestly covenants. Israel’s land expectations, and their national aspirations are rooted in the Abrahamic covenant. As we shall see, the Church’s hopes will also be found in the Abrahamic covenant, although not in its national and land aspects. Of course, these things are true not only for the Psalms, but for all the Scriptures.
The Second Coming
At the close of Psalm 96 it is announced that Yahweh, “is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth. He shall judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with His truth.” (Psa. 96:13). The specter of coming judgment at the second coming is a major theme in the Hebrew Bible.
There is an earnest plea that God would come in judgment against the unrighteous nations so that “they may know themselves to be just men” (Psa. 9:19-20). This will one day be answered (Psa. 22:27-28). He will come in fire and glory (Psa. 50:1-3; 18:7-14).
Eschatological themes such as the government of the coming kingdom are found in several psalms. In Psalm 9:8 we are told that “He shall administer judgment for the purpose in uprightness.” At the same time, the same Psalm foretells a time when the nations will be “judged in your sight.” (Psa. 9:19).
Although the Book of Psalms contains many laments and open confessions of discouragement and uncertainty, there are moments when faith takes hold of God’s covenant truth and hope rises. This is seen for example in the following places: Psalms 64:10; 71:16; 73:22-24; and 130:7-8.
The final verse of Psalm 30 David reaches out from amid his earlier despair in the middle of the psalm (30:7b-10), to apprehend God by the realization that he has been made to praise and glorify Him forever (30:11-12). Our souls should learn to wait upon the Lord in hope (Psa. 33:20-22), because “all His work is done in truth” (33:4), and God’s lovingkindness characterizes His dealing with the saints (Psa. 48:9). As an old writer says in another place, “The judgment of Jahve is the redemption of the righteous.”
For hope to be real it has to reach beyond the grave. The ending of Psalm 17 comes as close as anywhere in the Hebrew Bible to giving validation of a physical afterlife:
As for me, I will see your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in your likeness.” – Psalm 17:15
All of the Creation Project is transcribed in hope, even in its darkest episodes. Why? Because of the truth of the parallel lines of teleology and eschatology which are the two rails upon which the Creation Project runs on. The grammar of faith is provided by God’s covenants.
One would expect that in a book so pregnant with hope that the kingdom envisaged in such grand prophetic passages as Isaiah 2:2-3; 9:6-7; 11:1-10; 62:1-4 (to pick just one prophet), would be readily seen; and, indeed it is. Psalm 24:5-10, is often viewed in a symbolic sense, but we see here the Lord bringing salvation (24:5), and a “generation” seeking Him (24:6). In response to this the gates and doors of Jerusalem are addressed to open to let in “the King of Glory” (24:7, 9-10). VanGemeren describes it thus:
The Creator-God is the King of Glory and has come down to dwell in the midst of the city of man.
I would alter the generic phrase “city of man” to Jerusalem or Zion, since verse 3 refers to “the hill of the Lord”, and “His holy place” (24:3). This locates the scene of Yahweh’s coming in Jerusalem (cf. Psa. 132:13-14). The whole scene could easily be describing the second coming and the rejoicing of Israel as God comes to dwell there with His covenant people. Psalm 47 is very much along the same lines, with the covenant dimension more to the fore with the inclusion of “the God of Abraham” in the last verse (Psa. 47:9). (more…)