Lecture 23: Messianic Approach
Course: Psalms by Dr. Bruce Waltke
Lecture 23: Messianic Approach
I. Introduction, Background and Definition
We continue to look at the different approaches in studying the Psalms in order for us to understand the mind of writers of Psalms. We have looked at the Spiritual Approach and the Historical Approach. We have studied Form Criticism and their various branches. In our last lecture we looked at the Rhetorical Approach. Now we are up to the Messianic Approach; these are psalms that have references to the Messiah. As we have already said in studying the Psalms, we keep one eye on the historical king and another eye on the real king, that is, Jesus Christ. I have divided the lecture into several parts: the definition, historical background, and then at Jesus Christ being the fulfilment of the ideal of the Messiah. The second part of the lecture will include a close look at Psalm 16, a psalm that deals with Jesus’ resurrection. This will be covered in the next session: lecture 24.
In regards to the definition, it’s the realization of God’s promise to give Israel an ideal king who will establish a universal rule of righteousness and peace at the end of the age. The word Messiah comes from the Hebrew word, ‘Mashiach’ which comes from the root word ‘Mashac’. Mashac means to paint or to anoint. We saw yesterday how the king is anointed by the prophet using a flask to pour over the anointed person. In doing so, the king became God’s property, being set apart from God. And also he was validated by God and thirdly with that anointing came empowerment upon the King. So the root word means the anointed one. In talking about the Messiah, we are talking about the ideal king who at the end of history will bring in the ideal of a universal ideal kingdom and thus this king will establish a universal rule of righteousness and peace. Now we look at the historical background to this theology that God is going to send an ideal king to establish his rule, according to the Ten Commandments and righteousness. According to the Biblical Narrative, the origins are already found in the Garden of Eden when God sentenced the serpent. The woman who on her own had identified with the serpent and his lie, that God would intervene and he would put a new spirit in the woman. He would put rejection between the serpent and the woman and thus would identify with God. The seed of the woman would destroy the head of the serpent and this seed would establish his kingdom through suffering. As you know, the remainder of Genesis is a matter of identifying that seed, those who are righteous against those who are antagonistically against God.
B. The Lineage of Christ
This eventuated into Seth and his line to Noah and out of Noah’s sons, it is going to be Shem from which brings us to Abraham. And of course, from Abraham, we have Isaac and then Jacob. Then Jacob has the twelve tribes and we are told that it will be the tribe of Judah that brings fourth the Scepter. And that is where Genesis ends and the next person on the list is David. God anoints David to be the King and entered into a covenant with David assuring that his house will endure forever. His dynasty will be an eternal dynasty, realized in an eternal Son. The serpent has constantly tried to destroy the House of David. At one point, he almost succeeded by destroying all the kings except for one person. Then finally we have the Son of David being Jesus. He becomes the eternal Son. He is assured of an eternal moral kingdom ruled by the Ten Commandments. He is also assured of an eternal throne as a symbol of his rule. Though God took the throne away from his offspring for a while, yet it always belonged to the House of David. In the history of Judah and Israel, David’s sons lost the throne during the intertestamental period but eventually Christ as in the Coronation Psalms is on the throne in heaven at God’s right hand. So this is the origin for the hope of an ideal king from the House of David that will establish a universal righteous kingdom. Now, for people like Mowickel and their presuppositions of the lateness of Genesis; he along with others believes that Genesis was written much later than David and so they begin with the House of David as most Academics do. But the Biblical narrative begins at the Garden of Eden, not with the House of David. I believe the timeline starts with the Garden of Eden.
C. Psalms and its Messianic Expectation
We now look at the Psalter’s contribution to this Messianic expectation and hope. We have seen that the Psalms largely pertain to the King and many of the Psalms praise the king and present him in very idealistic terms. We saw in Psalm 2 that they were to establish a righteous kingdom. In Psalm 110, we saw another coronation liturgy of the expectation of David’s son who will be seated at God’s right hand. He will be a king and a priest who establishes a universal kingdom. Gunkel did not interpret those as an expectation of a real person. He didn’t interpret it as a reference to a future king and to a Messiah. For Gunkel, it was all hyperbole or exaggeration of an idea but never really with the expectation that anyone would fill such a large image. So, the Psalter glorifies the king with these Psalms of Praise for the king and elaborates upon his rule from sea to sea and shore to shore so that it actually expands the Abrahamic covenant physically from the River of Egypt to the Euphrates and makes it universal as a righteous kingdom.
The Psalter was probably completed in the early post-exilic period; all the royal psalms were projected to the reconstituted House of David. The Psalter was edited with a view to the coming king, perhaps compiled about the time of Haggai and Zechariah in the exile. They were really sung for the historic king during the time of the first temple. These Psalms that are in reference to the king now become future for the future Messiah. At the coronation, for example, these Psalms were on the shoulder of the historical king who presented the sight and sound and hope for the ideal. The kings that follow grew less and less in importance and in godliness. Israel was left with these Royal Psalms waiting for a king to wear them. It wasn’t until Jesus who was worthy to take on these Psalms and he was draped in this royal messianic expectation and ideal. Another contributing factor to the Messianic prophesies was the apocalyptic literature. This was characterized by a dualism, a radical dualism that included the present age as radical distinct from the future age. Furthermore, the present age is thought as a time of sin and death and evil. The future age is an age without sin and without death, the ideal age. The present evil age is under the rule of Satan and the future age is under the rule of the Messiah. This Messiah who Jesus identifies himself as being the Son of Man was with God from the beginning and he will bring this new rule of righteousness upon the earth. So they had a radical dichotomy between this age and the age to come. They saw this as a cataclysmic event that would separate the old age under Satan from the New Age under Christ. Christ in introducing the New Age, said, I saw Satan fall from heaven, which means that Satan loses his ascendancy. Jesus is greater than Satan and he will triumph over Satan, thus he is introducing a New Age with a message of repentance for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Those who repent of their sins can enter into this kingdom under the Messiah.
II. New Testament and Psalms
A. Jesus, the Messiah
John the Baptist said that Jesus was the ideal king. John considered himself unworthy to even untie his sandals. There are two advents of Christ: the first one included suffering for sin and death while the second one will be the triumph over sin and death. Jesus came and took the penalty of death for our sins. In his second coming, he will establish the universal ideal kingdom. For the first advent, he is already inaugurating the new age. So, what is realized in eschatology, he is now inaugurating in the new age but it is not a radical dichotomy. Jesus talks about the mysteries of the kingdom and what had been hidden and the present evil age and future age of righteousness, now becomes more extended. So, you have the Son of Man who is sewing the seed of wheat but at the same time Satan is still operative. He is inferior to Christ but still operative and Satan is sewing the weeds and the two are growing together until a future time comes where there will be a radical separation of the wheat from the weeds. So, instead of having a simple dichotomy, we have a new model. We now wait for the consummation at the end of the age. There are also two aspects to the fulfillment of the Messianic: there is the fulfillment and resurrection which has already happened and then there will be the eventual consummation and resurrection of all covenant people.
B. New Testament References
We also have the Psalter and its references to the coming Messiah. It quotes the Psalms 116 times, cited as proof texts of the meaningfulness of episodes in the life of Jesus. It is cited in defense of theological positions along with liturgical passages that in some way refer to the psalms. Jesus Christ is alluded to some fifty different times in Psalms. In Luke 24:44, Jesus said to them, this is what I told you while I was still with you. Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms. So, forty-one percent of the quotes from the Old Testament are from Psalms. This is divided up into his passion, fervor and his glory. So Christ is seeing David as a type of himself and he sees himself as the fulfilment of the royal expectation. So, this is far more than ten Psalms that deal with the king. Much of the psalter is about the king and therefore they are referring to Christ. Even when he cleanses the temple, the zeal for his house comes out of Psalm 69. Read some of those references.
|Psalms New Testament|
|6:4 "my soul is troubled" Jn 12:37|
|22:2 "why have you forsaken me" Mt 27:46|
|22:18 "divided my garments Jn 19:24|
|31:6 "Into your hands I commit" Lk 23:46|
|34:20 "not a bone broken" Jn 19:36|
|35:19 "hated me without reason" Jn 15:25|
|40:6 "a body prepared for me" Heb 10:5-10|
41:8 "lifted up his heel against me" Jn 13:18
|42:6 "my soul is downcast" Mt 26:38|
69:22 "vinegar for my thirst" Mt 27:34,48
|109:25 "they shake their heads" Mt 27:39|
|2:1 "against the Anointed" Ac 4:25-26|
|109:8 "another take his place " Ac 1:20|
|69:9 "zeal for house" Jn 2:17|
|78:2 "I will open my mouth" Mt 13:35|
37:11 "meek will inherit land/earth" Mt 5:5
|48:2 "Jerusalem... city of Great" Mt 5:36|
|78:24 "bread from heaven" Jn 6:31|
|82:6 "you are gods" Jn 10:34|
|8 Humiliation and glory Heb 2:5-10; 1 Co 15:27|
|2:7 My Son Ac 4:25-28; Heb 1:5; 5:5|
|45 Throne forever Heb 1:8-9|
|110:1 "David's lord" Mt. 22:44|
|118:22f rejected stone the capstone Mt. 21:42|
C. Jesus, the Stone They Rejected
The Jews expected Christ to bring in a new political age that would have destroyed Rome. But, instead, Jesus would bring in a spiritual kingdom and to do so, he would have to die. So, this is why the Jews could not understand or accept this. Jesus spoke to the people about the parable of the land owner with his vineyard. This land owner had a vineyard and he put a wall around it to protect it and dug a wine press within it and he built a watchtower. He had everything prepared for the vineyard. He rented it out while he went on a distant journey. When it came time to collect the harvest of the vineyard, he sent the servants to collect his due but they killed the servants. So, he sent more servants and they did the same. Finally the land owner sent his own son. But, they did the same to him and they seized him and put him to death. He will take the vineyard and give it to new people. Jesus says that this is fulfilment. Have you never read what is in Psalm 118:23, that the stone the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. So God took the Kingdom away from Israel and he gave it over to the gentiles. By the second century, the church was almost entirely gentile. Jesus became the chief corner stone of that kingdom. Their rejection had been anticipated. You have direct fulfilment in the case of Judas also. Here was one that Jesus chose but Judas betrayed him. This was from Psalm 41 where David shares his bread with a person who turned against him. This was a type of prophesy about Judas. Did David understand that it was prophesy; perhaps not. Whereas in the prophesy where the Lord would sit at God’s right hand was real prophesy. So, you have real prophesy on one hand but on another hand, you have typology. When you go through a type, you don’t know that the type is intended as a prophesy for a future event.
We see this with Balaam and his donkey; Balaam’s donkey is a type of the king of Moab. As the donkey was to Balaam, Balaam is a type of Balix. The donkey could see the angel of the Lord but Balaam could not see it. So in the fulfilment of the type, Balaam could see what Balix, the king of Moab could not see. The donkey sees the angel of the Lord three times and the first time, he goes off into a field and the second time, he crushes Balaam’s foot against the wall and the third time, he just lies down. Each time, it gets more painful to Balaam. Balaam gives three prophecies and each time the revelation becomes more painful as he sees the ascendency of the king. The 3rd time this happened, the donkey saw the angel of the Lord and responded painfully to Balaam and Balaam got angry. Then Balix got angry to hear the prophesy the 3rd time. The climactic moment is that where upon when he wants to beat the donkey but the donkey speaks. It is a type of Balaam who speaks as God opens the mouth of the donkey and of Balaam. While Balaam is going through this experience, he doesn’t know that he is being a type of a greater event. And I think this is how typology works. While you are going through it, you are not aware that it is imagery of a greater event. Therefore, I don’t think that David knew in that particular situation, that it was a type. It is only in later revelation and Jesus’ experience that you realize that it was a divinely intended type.
So, the Psalter was also used by the apostles to teach doctrine. For example, when Paul in Romans 3 talks about the universality of man’s corruption and sin, he cites several Psalms to do it. This includes Psalm’s 14 and the synoptic parallel of Psalm 53. We see the Psalms teaches prophesy, seated at God’s right hand becomes part of the liturgy of the confessions of the church. So Jesus asks us to read the Psalms with reference to himself. But I am astounded with evangelical academics with how little they do read the Psalms in reference to Christ.
D. Kinds of Messianic Psalms
So, finally, we have four different kinds of Messianic Psalms. One is called indirect and typical. David, the earthly king, foreshadows his greater son, the heavenly king. I don’t think David necessarily knew that he was a type. Note that a type is a divinely intended picture of a great event in the future and it takes the full revelation before you see this. But in light of the total revelation, you only see typology in light of the total revelation. So in light of the total revelation, you can see how the historical king is a type of his greater son, Jesus Christ. So, the psalms that refer to the king are at least indirectly typical of Jesus Christ because that is how the New Testament reads it. Secondly, there is typico-prophetic where David is a type of Christ but he uses language to refer to his experience which is exaggerated to some extend but finds it fulfilment uniquely in Christ. For example, we have Psalm 22 where David seems to be going to some crises and feels abandoned by God; yet he describes his experience in terms of the Cross. The language transcends his own historical experience. It actually becomes prophetic of the Christ when it is fulfilled literally in the life of Christ. David’s suffering and glory typifies Jesus Christ, but his language transcends his own experience and finds its fulfilment in Jesus Christ. Some Psalms are purely prophetic, like Psalm 110 when the Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand until I make the enemies your footstool. This Psalm has been uniquely fulfilled in Jesus Christ. And finally, we have these enthronement Psalms of 93 and 99 where the Lord reigns. They are interpreted in the New Testament as a reference to Jesus Christ.
In regards to types, are we free to see types that are not articulated in the New Testament. I am of the opinion that it is a way of interpreting the Scripture that we are free to see types. The problem with it is, you have no control over that. But there is another way of hearing God in poetry. We see though that it is open to the Spirit and often it is more than what is actually in the text. Thus, it takes us beyond the text.