The Old Testament Presents... Reflections of Christ
[ For further study of these and other Psalms, see the Book Notes: Psalms of the Messiah.]
by Paul R. Van Gorder
- Next in the order of the canon of Scripture is the best-known book in the Bible, the Psalms. The Hebrew title means ''the book of praises.'' The predominant thought of the book is expressed by the word ''worship,'' a term that means ''prostration.'' This kind of worship recognizes both the supremacy of God and our place of submission as worshipers. What a remarkable collection of inspired writings is found in the book of Psalms!
Edward Irving wrote, ''Every angel of joy and of sorrow wept as he passed over David's heart; and the hearts of 100 men strove and struggled together within the narrow continent of his single heart.'' And James H. Brooks said that the Psalms ''describe so largely in prophecy the inner life of the Lord Jesus Christ, who was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin; and unless that fact is kept constantly in view, the Psalms cannot be read intelligently.''
Many of the psalms were written by David himself. At least one is said definitely to be a ''prayer of Moses'' (Psalm 90). Some were penned by Asaph, the chief musician in David's choir.
- DIVISIONS OF THE BOOK--
- Although there is usually no connection between one psalm and another, the Psalms were divided into five books by the Hebrews. Each [division] ends with ''amen'' or ''hallelujah.''
- Psalms 1-41: Davidic Psalms
- Psalms 42-72: Levitical Psalms
- Psalms 73-89: Psalms of the Time of Hezekiah
- Psalms 90-106: Pre-captivity Psalms
- Psalms 107-150: Post-captivity Psalms
- As with the book of Job, the Psalms were not written as a treatise on science. But when they speak about scientific matters, they are not only accurate, but years ahead of their time.
Two-thirds of all the Old Testament quotations made by our Lord and His apostles were from the Psalms. No other book of the Old Testament portrays the past, the present, and the future work of our Lord so vividly. Remember, Christ said to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, ''...all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning Me'' (Luke 24:44). It is recorded that ''He expounded unto them, in all the scriptures, the things concerning Himself'' (Luke 24:27). This most certainly included the Psalms, for they tell of the sufferings of Christ and the glory that would follow. What do the Psalms say about Christ? I suggest to you the following:
- Psalm 2 --
- Christ, the Son of God, is depicted as the appointed Ruler, the King of kings. ''I will declare the decree: The Lord hath said unto Me, Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee'' (v.7).
- Psalm 8 --
- The Son of God becomes the Son of man in order that we might be made the sons of God. Verses 4 and 5 of this psalm are answered in Hebrews 2:9-18.
- Psalm 16 --
- Christ's deliverance from death is prophesied here. Verses 10 and 11 find their fulfillment in the death and resurrection of our Lord. These words were quoted by Peter on the day of Pentecost, showing that David was a prophet [Acts 2:25-32].
- Psalm 22, Psalm 23, Psalm 24 --
- These songs are examples of divine inspiration in the arrangement of the Psalms. They are filled with Messianic teaching about the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus. We shall return shortly to these.
- Psalm 40 --
- The New Testament counterpart to this psalm is found in the obedience of Christ (read Hebrews 10:5-7). Consider especially verses 7 and 8 of Psalm 40. Notice also verses 1 through 3, which prefigure the experience of Christ as He is brought forth from death by resurrection.
- Psalm 69 --
- The humiliation of Christ is shown in verses 4, 8, 9, 12, and 21. These foreshadowings find their fulfillment in Matthew 13:55,56; 27:33,34; John 2:17; and Romans 15:3.
- Psalm 118 --
- This psalm is part of the special passage that was used as a prayer on Passover night. It more than likely was sung by the Lord and His disciples at the Lord's supper, as recorded in Matthew 26:30.
- - Verse 22 of this psalm speaks definitely of our Lord, as proven by Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10; and Luke 20:17. Christ specifically applied this verse to Himself.
- THE SHEPHERD PSALMS (Psalms 22 - 24) --
- The New Testament referred to the work of the Lord Jesus Christ as that of a shepherd in three distinct ways. They correspond to Psalms 22, 23, and 24, which present three aspects of our Lord's ministry on earth.
- The Good Shepherd (Psalm 22).
- The Lord Jesus made this key statement about Himself: ''I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd giveth His life for the sheep'' (John 10:11). As you read Psalm 22, you can see a picture of the Lord Jesus, who is the Good Shepherd. In your mind's eye, you are immediately transported to Calvary. The very first verse of Psalm 22 reads, ''My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?'' These words were spoken by our Lord from the cross a thousand years later. James M. Gray said, ''In the gospels we read of what He said and did, and what was done to Him; in the Psalms we find how He felt and lived in the presence of God.''
- In verses 7 and 8 of Psalm 22, you can almost hear the taunting of the crowd, the scorn of the people, and the words they hurled at the Savior on the cross.
- Verse 16 graphically and accurately describes crucifixion, the means of capital punishment used by the Romans. This mode [of execution] was unknown to the Jews of David's day.
- Verse 18 records prophetically that the soldiers would divide the dying Messiah's garments among themselves, casting lots for them.
- The latter part of the psalm is marked by a jubilance which portrays the glory of the salvation purchased through the affliction that is so graphically described. The resurrection is not mentioned, but the Sufferer has been delivered and His people will experience indescribable blessing because of what He has done (v. 22-31).
- The closing verses describe the universal nature of this blessing: it will extend down through coming generations.
- The very last phrase, ''that He hath done,'' is seen by some as a reference to the fact that on the cross our Lord could say, ''It is finished.''
- Thus Psalm 22 is the crucifixion psalm. The Good Shepherd has given His life for the sheep.
- The Great Shepherd (Psalm 23).
- What tender emotions and thoughts of praise fill our hearts as we read Psalm 23! This is not a song about a dying or a dead shepherd, but of a living and leading One. It is in the present tense; it speaks of today. Christ arose from the dead to be our Great Shepherd. ''Now the God of peace that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant...'' (Hebrews 13:20).
- - Psalm 23 is the story of the present work of Christ. It is not the work of the cross, but of the crook, the curved end of the staff used by the shepherd to lead, to guide, to direct his sheep. It is symbolic of the outstretched hand of the Shepherd in protection of His flock. Psalm 23 is the story of the abiding presence of Christ; it is the psalm of the Great Shepherd.
- The Chief Shepherd (Psalm 24).
- The apostle Peter wrote, ''And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away'' (1Peter 5:4).
Listen! Someone is coming! Who is it? The King of Glory! Yes, One is coming who has the right to reign, for ''the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they who dwell therein'' (Psa 24:1). Psalm 24 is the psalm of the Chief Shepherd, who is coming to rule over the earth. It reminds us of Psalm 2, which is also a psalm of the King of Glory.
- Lack of space prevents us from presenting the full scope of the portrayal of Christ in the Psalms. I suggest that you read the Psalms reverently, meditating and rejoicing in the glory of Christ reflected in this glorious ''book of praises.''
Return to table of contents for ''The Old Testament Presents... Reflections of Christ,''
written by Paul R. Van Gorder, Copyright 1982 by RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI.
Used by permission [within The Book from thebookwurm.com].
Further distribution is not allowed without permission from RBC.
For another brief look at this book of the Bible,
see the related chapter in Christ in All the Scriptures, by A.M. Hodgkin.
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