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Isaiah 40:8

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14. Psalms 12, 42, 72, 102, 132: Reading Across Psalms for a Complete Messianic Portrait

Bibliography

Outline of Series

I. Introduction

A. General Comments

I recommend the tiny devotional Bible, 31 Days of Wisdom and Praise: Daily Readings from the Books of Psalms and Proverbs (See Bibliography). Although the publishers labeled the book “devotional,” it contains not a single word of commentary. It is, rather, a Bible. What makes it unique is the arrangement of the Psalms for the thirty-one days of consecutive reading. Day 1 contains Psalms 1, 31, 61, 91, and 121; Day 2 Psalms 2, 32, 62, 92, and 122; and so forth, each day following the same numerical pattern of adding thirty to arrive at the next psalm.

While there is nothing magical about this arrangement, it gives the reader opportunity to read across the Psalms in a way which, whether by chance or design, often provides a spiritually profitable mix. For those readers who are familiar with the author of this blog’s understanding that the Psalms are basically and wholly about Christ, reading across the Psalms in a single setting provides connections among them that otherwise might be missed in a sequential only reading. That is, if a person only reads the psalms in numerical order, portions of the back-and-forth dialogue among them might be missed.

For example, sometimes themes, or topics, become apparent when reading across. In my personal 31 Days Bible, I have written short thematic titles for some of the days, such as, “Yay, God!” for Day 3. This signifies for me that these psalms celebrate God’s victories. Again, I’ve written, “God Saves His Own,” for Day 11, and “War,” for Day 19. These examples are just my personal, devotional responses to what I read, as I discover what appear to be themes in a certain day’s grouping.

As another example, I find that some days contain sequences of the major events in Christ’s life, even though the numbers for the contiguous psalms are separated by thirty. These are the days I love the best. We see this in Day  28, where Psalm 88, which is often called the “darkest” psalm, is followed immediately by Psalm 118, a psalm filled with glory and light. Psalm 88 describes Christ’s crucifixion, his death, and his descent to the grave. Psalm 118, its sequel on Day 28, is a description of Christ’s resurrection and ascension to glory in tones of pure, joyful victory.

Psalm 88:15-18 From my youth I have been afflicted and close to death; I have suffered your terrors and am in despair. Your wrath has swept over me; your terrors have destroyed me. All day long they surround me like a flood; they have completely engulfed me. You have taken my companions and loved ones from me; the darkness is my closest friend.

Psalm 118:17-24 I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done. The Lord has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death. Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord through which the righteous may enter. I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation. The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

In these two quotations placed side by side, we see the complete gospel: the wrath of God on account of sin poured out upon Christ, Christ’s death, and immediately afterwards, his resurrection and ascension to be the head of the church, the gates of righteousness having been opened to life.

B. Day 12

It is not hard to find meaningful groupings of psalms when using 31 Days of Wisdom and Praise. For today’s study, I chose Day 12, which includes Psalms 12, 42, 72, 102, and 132. In this grouping, we see 1) in Psalm 12, the battle line drawn between good and evil as the lies of the wicked versus the truthful goodness of God’s word. In verses 5 and 7  we also see a promise of the Lord’s rising up to take action, which is what God did in Messiah in the New Testament. We also find 2) in Psalm 42,  a faithful man who suffers, 3) in Psalm 72, prayers for Messiah the King, 4) in Psalm 102, a poor, afflicted man pouring out his heart to the Lord and to whom the Lord replies in strong terms, attributing divinity to him, and 5) in Psalm 132, a celebration of God’s victories over hardship and enemies in the life of King David, who is a royal type of Christ. In this final psalm, both the suffering and glorious victory of the great King are clearly presented together. What this sequence of five psalms accomplishes, therefore, is to link the suffering man with the glorious, divine, and victorious Creator King Messiah, a link which apparently nearly everyone in Jesus’ time missed.

After his resurrection, Jesus said to his disciples with reference to the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer…” (Luke 24:44-46). But where in Psalms do we find that Messiah will suffer? Surely nowhere is such a direct statement made within the bounds of any single psalm. And yet, by reading across the psalms and by making reasonable literary connections among them, even as prompted by the Holy Spirit, we distinctly arrive at a portrait of Messiah that includes both suffering and glory, humanity and divinity. Such is “Day 12” in “31 Days of Wisdom and Praise.”

 

II. The Individual Psalms of Day 12

 

Psalm 12: God’s Word the Victor as the Battle Lines Are Drawn

1 Save, O Lord, for the godly one is gone;
    for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man.
Everyone utters lies to his neighbor;
    with flattering lips and a double heart they speak.

May the Lord cut off all flattering lips,
    the tongue that makes great boasts,
those who say, “With our tongue we will prevail,
    our lips are with us; who is master over us?”

“Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan,
    I will now arise,” says the Lord;
    “I will place him in the safety for which he longs.”
The words of the Lord are pure words,
    like silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
    purified seven times.

You, O Lord, will keep them;
    you will guard us from this generation forever.
On every side the wicked prowl,
    as vileness is exalted among the children of man.

A. Theme: God’s Truth Defeats the Enemy’s Lie as the Battle Lines  Are Drawn

1.  Characteristics of Liars and Their Lies

a. Verse 1: They are the norm everywhere

b. Verse 2: Everyone hides the truth and speaks falsely to the people around them, saying one thing out loud and saying something quite different to themselves. They pretend to be pleased by others, to agree, and to like these others, their neighbors, while at the same time their hearts stand poised against them.

c. Verse 3: The liars give meaningless compliments and agreements and speak proudly of themselves.

d. Verse 4: Those who deceive think they can get away with everything.

e. Verse 5: The purpose of much of the false words is to oppress the already poor and needy.

(Note on Verse 5: New Testament writers often quote from the Septuagint, which was the translation of the Old Testament in common circulation during their day. The English translation of Septuagint verse 5 proclaims God’s mind to clearly speak, that is, to prophesy, his intentions regardingsalvation.

LXE Psalm 12:5 {011:5} Because of the misery of the poor, and because of the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the Lord, I will set them in safety; I will speak to them thereof openly. [Brenton, BibleWorks, Septuagint numbering Psalm 11:5])

2. Characteristics of the Lord’s Words, Verse 6: The Lord’s words are pure–not mixed, not hiding double meanings, exact and to the point, reliable, and of great value.

B. Outcome: The Lord Fights and Vanquishes the Wicked

1. Verse 7: The Lord has promised–he has spoken–and he will do as he spoke. He will keep the poor and needy safe forever from the oppressors of their own generation.

2. Verse 8: The wicked, in the meantime, will continue to walk about everywhere, honoring what is vile.

C. Sidebar: Internal Dialogue Present Within the Psalm

1. Verses 1-2 are a third person statement of the situation. The speaker is not identified; it may be a narrator or more likely either David speaking for the poor and needy or the congregation of the poor and needy themselves.

2. Verses 3-4 are a petition to the Lord by the unknown speaker.

3. Verse 5 is the Lord’s spoken response to the petition stated in verses 3 and 4. The Lord’s specific mention of the poor and needy in his reply adds weight to the view that these are the unknown, collective petitioners.

4. Verses 6 is a third person statement describing the Lord’s words.

5. In verse 7, first person plural speakers address the Lord in second person. This also adds weight to the view that the unknown speaker of the petition in verses 3 and 4 is the collective of the poor and needy.

6. Verse 8 is a third person narrative-like summary of the situation, a repetition in content of verses 1 and 2.

7. Even in this short psalm, therefore, at least two and possibly three speaking voices can be identified.

Takeaway: What do we learn from this psalm? What should our actions be?

I learn that I should not listen to the myriad of voices around me, voices that try to lead me away from the sure ground of faith in the Lord and in His Word. God’s Word is eternal, and in his Word I should trust, stand, and abide.

Can you put in your own words what this psalm means to you?

Summary: Psalm 12 sets the stage for the remaining psalms of Day 12. The battle is between the Lord and the wicked, and the weapons are the durable, true words of the Lord against the deceptive untruths of his enemies.  The Lord promises to arise and take salvation action to save the poor and needy.

Psalm 42: Faith Fights Depression

To the choirmaster. A Maskil of the Sons of Korah.

1As a deer pants for flowing streams,
    so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
    for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
    “Where is your God?”
These things I remember,
    as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
    and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
    a multitude keeping festival.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

My soul is cast down within me;
    therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
    from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
    at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
    have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
    and at night his song is with me,
    a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God, my rock:
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
    because of the oppression of the enemy?”
10 As with a deadly wound in my bones,
    my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
    “Where is your God?”

11 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

A. Portrait of a Faithful Man Who Suffers

We’ve all been in this situation. We’ve placed all our hope in the Lord and have been careful to obey all the principles of his Word. We’ve gone regularly to church and have truly enjoyed worshiping with like minded believers. But then, God disappears. He no longer speaks to us, especially in the night watches of our souls. News from a godless culture assaults us day by day. Personal troubles come, and it seems as though we are drowning in a sea of difficulties. Worse still, it seems as though the attacks upon us are coming from God himself! (Vs 7: “all your breakers and waves have gone over me.”) And we have enemies, adversaries, those who oppose us with intent to harm. Then these, not only trying to hurt us, taunt us in our suffering, “Where’s your God now?” “Why doesn’t your God save you?” “What good is your faith?” “Why has God abandoned you?” “See, we don’t need God. God is not even relevant.”

B. Faith’s Response

1. The suffering believer in this psalm does what believers always do–he turns to the Lord, crying out to him from his pain and sorrow:

1 As a deer pants for flowing streams,
    so pants my soul for you, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God,
    for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God? …

6 My soul is cast down within me;
    therefore I remember you…

I say to God, my rock:
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
    because of the oppression of the enemy?” …

11 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

2. The psalmist has a strong apprehension that it is God himself who afflicts him, even though there is an actual enemy oppressing him.

7 Deep calls to deep
    at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
    have gone over me.

I say to God, my rock:
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
    because of the oppression of the enemy?”

Does this make sense to our faith? If God is the one who afflicts us, then what hope do we possibly have?

Two things:

1) If it is God who afflicts, then it is also God who will save.

2) We know positively that our enemy does not love us, whereas we also know positively that God does love us. Eventually his love will pull us through.

3) No matter how strong the storm, if God is with us in the boat, then we are safe.

3. The fact that the psalmist ultimately places responsibility for his affliction at the feet of God causes us to think of Christ, because he knew that it was the Father’s will that he suffer and be sacrificed for our sins. It was exactly the Father’s will that sent Christ to the cross. Further, in this one specific instance of Christ, it was indeed God’s wrath against sin that poured out upon him in punishment and inflicted pain.

4. Nevertheless, this psalm itself does not specify that this suffering person is Christ. That will come later in Day 12.

5. [SIDEBAR] There is however an important theological understanding to be gained here. Once the connections among psalms have been made, once the disciples’ eyes had been opened to the reality that all the prophets and psalms speak of Christ and his suffering (Luke 24:25-27 and Luke 24:44-47), then it was possible for the New Testament writers to go back and learn of Messiah’s suffering as proceeding from his Father’s own will.

 ESV Hebrews 2:10 For it was fitting that he [God], for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.

ESV 1Peter 10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully,
11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them
was indicating when he [the Holy Spirit present within the Old Testament prophets] predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.

Where then in the Old Testament do the prophets specifically speak of the sufferings of Christ? One place is in Psalms, and in this psalm in particular, if the reader can see Christ in it, as for example in verse 4, which reminds us of Christ leading the jubilant throng to the temple on what came later to be known as Palm Sunday.

C. Doubt and despair are two of the enemies afflicting the psalmist, and against these two he fights back mightily, knowing that God’s love will manifest and save him in the end.

… Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
    and at night his song is with me,
    a prayer to the God of my life.

Psalm 72: Prophetic Prayer for Messiah the King

(Link to Text of Psalm 72)

This is a prayer psalm that speaks blessing upon the King, the Son of the King of Kings. As the psalm closes with the transition from verse 17 to verses 18 and 19, it becomes difficult to decipher whom is being spoken of–God the Father or the Royal Son, so close are they in nature and glory. It can be seen that verse 17 supports the view that verses 18 and 19 are also about the Royal King, since the blessings desired for the Lord are eternal. The “Lord, the God of Israel,” in verse 18 is Yahweh Elohim in Hebrew, which the Septuagint version renders as, “the Lord, the God, the God of Israel.”

17 May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun! May people be blessed in him, all nations call him blessed!

18 Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things.

19 Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory! Amen and Amen! 

A. Petitions for the King’s Endurance and Blessing

5 May they fear you while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations! 

8 May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth!
9 May desert tribes bow down before him, and his enemies lick the dust!
10 May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands render him tribute; may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts!
11 May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him! 

15 Long may he live; may gold of Sheba be given to him! May prayer be made for him continually, and blessings invoked for him all the day!

17 May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun! May people be blessed in him, all nations call him blessed! 

19 Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory! Amen and Amen! 

B. Characteristics of and Petitions For His Nature

1 … Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to the royal son!
2 May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice!
3 Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness!
4 May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the children of the needy, and crush the oppressor!

6 May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth!
7 In his days may the righteous flourish, and peace abound, till the moon be no more!

12 For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper.
13 He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.
14 From oppression and violence he redeems their life, and precious is their blood in his sight.

C. Messiah as Glorious King

Notice that in Psalm 72, which has been considered Messianic, there is no mention of suffering or of hardship of any kind. The psalm deals only with the glory of the King, his righteousness, the peace that shall accompany him, and the eternity of his reign.

Recap:

  • Psalm 12–Messiah but no suffering
  • Psalm 42–Suffering but no Messiah
  • Psalm 72–Messiah but no suffering

Psalm 102: The Afflicted Man and Messiah God Joined

Psalm 102 is one of the more puzzling psalms in Scripture, predominantly as a consequence of the way it is quoted in the book of Hebrews.

(Link to Psalm 102 Bible Gateway)

Reading through Psalm 102 in most, if not all, of the English translations gives many people the sense that the voice of the poor, afflicted suppliant continues throughout the entire psalm. That is, many, if not most, commentators hear one person speaking throughout the psalm, that person being the poor, afflicted suppliant. In verse 24, most English versions add punctuation and some add grammatical changes which preclude any other interpretation. The ESV, for example, adds the grammatical interpretation, “you whose years” in place of the accurate  translation, “your years” (ESV Psalm 102:24). The King James Version is literal and conveys an accurate translation of the actual Greek words in Psalm 102:24 (KJV). Except for the punctuation marks, which of course are not present in the Greek, and the word “please,” the New English Translation, though not literal, is accurate as well (NET). (See these three versions in Parallel).

Contrary to the single speaker interpretation of Psalm 102, the writer of the letter to the Hebrews appears to hear additionally the voice of God speaking to the person pleading to him in this psalm. The writer of that letter hears two speaking voices, not one:

Hebrews 1:10 And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; 11 they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, 12 like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.” (ESV) [This is a quotation of Psalm 102:24b-27.]

To perceive that the writer of the letter to the Hebrews hears God in Psalm 102 addressing the Son, it helps to read Hebrews 1:10-12 in the  context of the entire chapter, since verses 10-12 are part of a longer sentence that begins in verse 8 and part of a longer argument, which begins in verse 1.

ESV Hebrews 1:1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 

Hebrews 1:8 But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. 9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” [a quotation of Psalm 45:6,7]

Hebrews 1:10 And [this conjunction links verse 10 to the portion of verse 8 which reads, “But of the Son he says…”], “You, Lord [i.e., you Lord, the Son], laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; 11 they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, 12 like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.” [Psalm 102:24b-27]

[Link to the entire chapter: Hebrews 1]

Following the rules of plain, common sense English, an ordinary reader can perceive that the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews sees a reference to Christ in Psalm 102:24-27 and that in his mind it is God speaking to Christ from within that psalm:

 …God spoke (Hebrews 1:1)…But of the Son he [God] says (:8)…And (:10) [God continues to speak of the Son] You, Lord, (:10) laid the foundation of the earth…etc. [from a direct quotation of that portion of Psalm 102]

The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews plainly perceives more than one speaker in Psalm 102:24-27. He hears the voice of the poor suppliant pleading with God that he might live. Secondly, he hears the voice of God replying to the poor suppliant’s request. The nature of that reply indicates that the first speaker, the poor suppliant, is Christ the Son, and the second speaker is God.

The alternative single speaker point of view claims that only one person, the poor suppliant, speaks throughout the entire psalm. That is, all the words of the entire psalm, including those in verses 24-27, belong to the voice of the poor suppliant. Those who cling to this point of view interpret that the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews, divinely inspired,  perceives the Holy Spirit as having taken the words of the poor suppliant addressed to God in verses 24-27 and applied them as having been addressed to Christ by the poor suppliant. In other words, the single speaker point of view claims that in the poor suppliant’s prayer to God is buried a prayer to Christ as Creator, recognizable apparently only to the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews because he was under the influence of the Holy Spirit. I have every confidence that the writer of Hebrews was indeed divinely inspired. Nevertheless, this interpretation contorts the contexts of both Psalm 102 and Hebrews 1 beyond the bounds of plain, literary credulity.  It is an interpretation to which most ordinary readers would never arrive. Thus, Hebrews 1:10-12 has remained a puzzle for ages: How did the writer of Hebrews arrive at his conclusion that Christ is present as divine Creator in Psalm 102:24-27?

Despite the difficulties just described, very few writers embrace the viewpoint of two speakers in dialogue within Psalm 102. A two speaker viewpoint inescapably implies that the poor, afflicted suppliant pleading for his life in Psalm 102 is also Christ the divine Creator. Is it because such a viewpoint would upset the hermeneutical rules of many that most commentators fall short of this mark? Is it difficulty in ascribing the mindset of the poor suppliant to Christ? Or is it something else? Why does it seem impossible that the poor suppliant in Psalm 102 prophetically speaks out the voice of Christ in his incarnation and passion? Doesn’t Christ himself just before his ascension teach his disciples that any of them who do not see the predictions of Messiah’s sufferings in the Old Testament, including the psalms, are both “foolish” and “slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” (Luke 24:25 ESV and Luke 24:44-46)?

Perhaps reading Psalm 1o2 in the Septuagint, which the Hebrews’ author most likely did, will help a great deal, as the context clearly proclaims two speakers:

LXE Psalm 102:23 He [Speaker 1: the poor suppliant] answered him [Addressee: God] in the way of his strength: [Note that this narrative sentence must be spoken by a third party, neither the suppliant nor the addressee.]

[SUPPLIANT:] tell me the fewness of my days. 24 Take me not away in the midst of my days:

[ADDRESSEE, GOD, AND HERE, SPEAKER NUMBER TWO:] thy years are through all generations.
25 In the beginning thou, O Lord, didst lay the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands.
26 They shall perish, but thou remainest: and they all shall wax old as a garment; and as a vesture shalt thou fold them, and they shall be changed.
27 But thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.
28 The children of thy servants shall dwell securely, and their seed shall <1> prosper for ever.

Written in paragraph style:

He answered him in the way of his strength, “Tell me the fewness of my days. Take me not away in the midst of my days.” 

“Thy years are through all generations…”

(Link to NETS translation of Septuagint Psalm 102 {101}) (Link to Brenton’s translation of Psalm 102)

The Septuagint’s use of the phrase, “He answered him…,” is a textual signpost indicating that two speakers are present and engaged in ongoing dialogue. If a reader becomes aware that the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews quoted from the Septuagint, then he can readily follow the logic of his divinely inspired understanding in Hebrews 1:10-12 that God is indeed speaking to Christ in Psalm 102:24-27, since Christ is identical to the poor suppliant.

Concerning the text the author of Hebrews may have used, the Septuagint reading quoted above is present in all versions of the Septuagint this author could find, and no content variants seem present that might challenge the two speaker viewpoint. Clearly, if, as is widely assumed, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews 1) had the Greek version of Psalm 102 in front of him, 2) had the Holy Spirit within him, and 3) was aware of Christ’s teaching on Old Testament prophecy in regard to the sufferings of Messiah, then today’s reader can more readily understand how he came to the conclusion he did regarding Christ as Creator within the context of Psalm 102. I want to add that any reader today, who reads Psalm 102 from the Septuagint or from an accurate English translation of the Septuagint, using a clear mind and following the rules of ordinary, plain, common sense language construction, should be able to see and agree that the concept of two speakers in dialogue within this psalm holds considerable merit, especially as confirmed by the book of Hebrews.

One can also notice that the author of Hebrews perceives many of the Old Testament passages he quotes in chapter 1, including those from Psalms, as having been spoken by God to the Son. Indeed, internal dialogue by various parties within single psalms is not uncommon. See, for example, the dialogue present in Psalm 12, discussed just above.

(For further direct speech from Father to Son see Psalm 110 and for a further example of speech/content blocks see Psalm 21 and Psalm 21: A Structural Analysis on this blog).

SUMMARY: If, as the writer of Hebrews indicates, God addresses his Son within the bounds of Psalm 102, then this psalm directly connects the suffering man with Messiah Lord God in a most powerful way.

Following are quotations from authors who subscribe to the single speaker interpretation of Psalm 102 in which the words of the poor suppliant to God are wrenched from their context and applied out of context in Hebrews 1, as though 1) God through the Holy Spirit were taking the poor suppliant’s words addressed to himself and using them as the poor suppliant’s words addressed to Christ, or 2) as if the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews through inspiration of the Holy Spirit were taking the poor suppliant’s words to God throughout the entire passage and applying them in these few sentences as God’s words to Christ. Neither of these two interpretations follows the rules of plain, ordinary grammatical and literary understanding. They seem rather to be contortions employed to avoid the conclusion that in Psalm 102 the poor suppliant is Christ in the suffering of his incarnation addressing God his Father. That is, there are two speakers in dialogue, not one.

Footnote 1.1

Albert Barnes sums up well the predicament of many commentators who attempt to explain in this portion of the Letter to the Hebrews what is for them the author’s surprising use of Psalm 102 as direct speech by God to the Son.

No one, on reading the Psalm, ever would doubt that it referred to God; and, if the apostle meant to apply it to the Lord Jesus, it proves most conclusively that he [Jesus] is divine. In regard to the difficult inquiry, why he applied this to the Messiah, or on what principle such an application can be vindicated, we may perhaps throw some light by the following remarks. It must be admitted, that probably few persons, if any, on reading the Psalm, would suppose that it referred to the Messiah; but (1.) the fact that the apostle thus employs it, proves that it was understood, in his time, to have such a reference, or, at least, that those to whom he wrote would admit that it had such a reference. On no other principle would he have used it in an argument. This is at least of some consequence, in showing what the prevailing interpretation was. (Barnes, Albert, “Notes on the New Testament Explanatory and Practical: Hebrews,” Christian Classics Ethereal Library, Available at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/barnes/ntnotes.xxii.i.x.html?highlight=psalm,102#highlight, accessed July 30, 2017.)

Footnote 1.2

Charles Spurgeon sets the tone perhaps for many commentators who perceive a single speaker throughout, according to Spurgeon’s view, a patriot who mourns for the plight of his nation and yet who ultimately finds hope in God:

24. “I said, O my God, take me not away in the midst of my days.” He betook himself to prayer…”Thy years are throughout all generations.” Thou livest, Lord; let me live also. A fullness of existence is with thee, let me partake therein. Note the contrast between himself pining and ready to expire, and his God living on in the fullness of strength for ever and ever…25 “Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth.” Creation is no new work with God…[the quote continues in this same vein.] (Spurgeon, Charles, The Treasury of David: Containing an Original Exposition of the Book of Psalms; A Collection of Illustrative Extracts from the Whole Range of Literature; A Series of Homiletical Hints upon Almost Every Verse; And Lists of Writers upon Each Psalm in Three Volumes, Peabody: Henrickson Publishers, No Date, Vol. 2, 257.)

Footnote 1.3

Craig C. Broyles succinctly expresses the majority viewpoint that Psalm 102 is breathed by a single speaker throughout. Notice in the following text, however, that he focuses on the clear contrast between verses 23-24a and 24b-28, which in the dual speaker view is exactly where the dialogue occurs. He also accurately identifies the other major blocks of texts and their easily recognizable transitions.

102:23-24a / Although the praise of God’s permanence continues in verses 24b-28, a lament and a petition that resume the earlier theme of my days are interjected here. Their effect is to create a striking contrast. While the lament is brief, it focuses entirely on God’s role in the distress: he–that is, the praised Yahweh of verses 12-22–cut short my days. The petition then returns the psalm to direct address: Do not take me away…in the midst of my days; your years go on through all generations. Thus, although verses 24b-28 are formally praise, there is also a note of complaint: “I am not permitted to live a full generation, but you continue through all generations.” [My comment here: in a devotional sense, I personally cannot help but feel that for someone to be jealous and even mildly to chastise God regarding his eternity in view of the plaintiff’s own short days would be somewhat blasphemous. Is that a viewpoint God would want to exult in Scripture?] (Broyles, Craig C., Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Psalms, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999, 392-393.)

Following are quotations from sources who subscribe to a dual speaker interpretation of Psalm 102. Christ is the poor suppliant addressing the Father in this psalm, and within the psalm the Father replies. His reply to Christ, the poor suppliant/Creator, is recorded in Hebrews 1:10-12.

Footnote 2.1:

101 [102. The Orthodox Study Bible uses the Septuagint numbering system, in which Psalm 101 Septuagint is Psalm 102 in most other English translations. The superscription is also numbered separately as verse 1.] Ps 101 is about a [present in the source] a poor man, when he was depressed and poured out his supplication before the Lord (v. 1). This Man is Jesus, who became poor for our sakes and interceded with the Father for our salvation (see also 2Co 8:9; Heb 5:7). The Lord to whom He prays is the Father (v.2) [vs 1 in most English translations], and vv. 3-12 [vv 2-11 in English translations not using the Septuagint numbering system] describe Jesus’ extreme anguish for us (see also Mt 26:38). He also rose again for our salvation, for He is the Lord over death (when You rise up, v. 14) [13]. He is the Creator of the world (vv. 26-28 [25-27]; see also Heb 1:10-12), and He also created the Church (vv. 19, 23, 29) [18, 22, 28], composed of Gentiles as well as Jews (v. 16) [15].

1:10-12 [Hebrews 1:10-12] In this quotation from Ps 101:26-28 [102:25-27], God the Father (v. 9) is addressing Another as “Lord,” that is, as God.

[Both quotations above are from: The Academic Community of St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology, The Orthodox Study Bible, Thomas Nelson: Nashville, et al., 2008, copyright by St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology, Used by permission. All rights reserved, 748 and 1654.]

Footnote 2.2:

PSALM CII. In this Psalm we behold the sufferings of Christ, as expressed in his own person, by the Holy Ghost, from the beginning to verse 12, contrasted with the following glory, as declared by the same Spirit in the person of the Father, from verse 12 to 23. Then, from the 23d to the middle of verse 24, the dialogue is again renewed, as at the beginning of the Psalm, in the person of the Son–to whom, from the middle of verse 24, to the end of the Psalm, the Father is again represented, as replying according to the former manner, mentioned from ver. 12 to 23: for so this Psalm, ver. 25, &c. is expressly applied and interpreted by the Holy Ghost, Heb. I. ‘Unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever–And thou, Lord, in the beginning, hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands,’ &c.–‘And they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.’ (Barclay, John, The Psalms of David, and the Paraphrases and Hymns: With a Dissertation on the Book of Psalms, and Explanatory Introductions to Each, Edinburgh: James Gall, 1826, page 336. Digitally reproduced by Forgotten Books, London: FB&c Ltd., 2017, http://www.ForgottenBooks.com.)

Note that as presented in the above quotation, John Barclay views Psalm 102 as a two speaker dialogue throughout. He divides the Psalm in this manner:

Speaker 1, Christ: verses 1-11,

Speaker 2, God the Father: verses 12-22,

Speaker 1, Christ: verses 23-24a,

Speaker 2, God the Father: verses 24b-28.

Barclay credits the Holy Spirit for assigning these divisions. He appeals to Hebrews 1:10-12 to confirm these divisions, as by the same Holy Spirit .

Footnote 2.3

Psalm 102 is one of the most, perhaps the most, remarkable of all the psalms, and presents Christ in a way divinely admirable. Verse 10 gives the occasion of the cry with which the psalm begins. Christ is fully looked at as man chosen out of the people and exalted to be Messiah, and now, instead of taking the kingdom, He is rejected and cast off…He looks to Jehovah, who cast down Him whom He had called to the place of Messiah, but who now meets indignation and wrath...The whole scene, from Christ on earth to the remnant in the last days, is one...His strength had been weakened in His journey, His days shortened. He had cried to Him able to deliver, to save from death. Was Zion to be restored and no Messiah—He weakened and cut off? Then comes the wondrous and glorious answer: He was Himself the creator of the heavens and the earth. He was ever the same. His years would not fail when the created universe was rolled up like a garment. The children of His servants would continue and their seed be established before Him. The Christ, the despised and rejected Jesus, is Jehovah the Creator. The Jehovah we have heard of coming, is the Christ that came. The Ancient of days comes, and Christ is He, though Son of man. This contrast of the extreme humiliation and isolation of Christ, and His divine nature, is incomparably striking. (Darby, John, John Darby’s Synopsis, Whole Bible, Psalm 102, Available at Christianity.com, “Psalm 102 Bible Commentary: John Darby’s Synopsis,” https://www.christianity.com/bible/commentary.php?com=drby&b=19&c=102#%5B1%5D, Accessed on November 17, 2017.)

Footnote 2.4

The apostle refers to the 102nd Psalm–a psalm which, without apostolic teaching, I doubt if any of us would have had the boldness so to apply; for in many respects it s the most remarkable of all the psalms–the psalm of the afflicted One while His soul is overwhelmed within Him in great affliction, and sorrow, and anxious fear…Then it is that God the Father replies to Him, “Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands.”  (Saphir, Adolph and Cortesi, Lawrence. The Epistle to the Hebrews: An Exposition. Public Domain. Available at http://juchre.org/saphir/heb2.htm, accessed July 30, 2017.)

Psalm 132: Prayer for the People of the Victorious King Who Endured Hardships

(Link to the Text of Psalm 132)

 Psalm 132 unifies and completes both the psalm portion of Day 12 of 31 Days of Wisdom and Praise and the life and mission of Jesus Christ.

In Psalm 132 we see a prayer (vss  1 and 10) for God’s anointed one, David’s descendant, that the mission begun in David’s humiliation would find its eternal completion in God’s anointed one, whom God promised would be King in Zion. In Zion, with the anointed King and with his people, God would have his final resting place.

A. Prayer for God to Remember David’s Hardships and Desire: Verses 1-10

A Song of Ascents. Remember, O LORD, in David’s favor, all the hardships he endured, (Psa 132:1 ESV)

Commentators agree that “hardships” in the ESV refer to David’s meekness and humility in placing God before his own interests in his desire to find Him a dwelling place.

Psalm 132:4 I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, 5 until I find a place for the LORD, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.” (ESV) (1 Chronicles 22:7 and Acts 7:46)

B. God’s Anointed One Fulfills David’s Desire

Psalm 132: 10 For the sake of your servant David, do not turn away the face of your anointed one.
11 The LORD swore to David a sure oath from which he will not turn back: “One of the sons of your body I will set on your throne. (ESV)

13 For the LORD has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his dwelling place:
14 “This is my resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it. (ESV)

C. Petition and Promise

Verses 9-10 are a prayer that embodies what God has already promised (praying Scripture). Verses 9-10 state the prayer, and verses 11-18 state the promise/reply.

D. Plot Line

For Christians who believe that Christ is all in all, Psalm 132 sums up his life and mission very well.

  • As incarnated deity, Christ is typified by David. As David in the psalm placed concern for God’s dwelling place above the needs of his own life, so Christ always kept the Father’s will foremost in his thought, prayers, motives, speech, and actions.
  • David’s purpose in Psalm 132 is to find a permanent dwelling for God. Christ, whose name Emmanuel means “God with us” (Matthew 1:23), came to open the way back to God by means of the cross and to establish a permanent, eternal dwelling place for God among his people. Indeed, Christ’s mission and life throughout all ages fulfills the message of the entire Bible.
  • The place of God’s dwelling in both Psalm 132 and the unfolding of the New Testament is a people, Zion, God’s people, in whom Christ, the Anointed One, lives and reigns as eternal King.

E. A Fit Conclusion for the Five Psalm Series

Because Psalm 132 contains all the elements of humiliation, deity, promise, and eternal kingship, it captures and weaves into one all the various threads of the prior psalms.

III. Summary

Day 12 packs a great deal of vision and meaning into these five psalms.

Psalm 12 1) states the problem: sin, deception, and oppression, and 2) states the means of its solution: God’s word of truth and his salvation.

Psalm 42 paints an intimate portrait of an unnamed Christ in the days of his humiliation. It also presents faith as the effective weapon of choice.

Psalm 72 is a prayer for God’s royal son, the eternal King whose kingdom will last forever.

Psalm 102 for those who have eyes to see it and willingness to receive, reveals that the suffering one in this psalm, and by extension in all the psalms, is none other than the Lord himself, Creator (John 1:1-3; Hebrews 1:2, 10), and second person of the Trinity.

Psalm 132 brings it all together in a brief overview of 1) David’s life goal of finding a final dwelling place for God among his people, and 2) God’s promise to David that He would fulfill that goal in David’s descendant, God’s anointed, eternal King (vs 18), and that 3) Zion would be the eternal dwelling of God, his anointed King, and his people (Psalm 132:11-18).

Christ is that King. Believers in Christ from every age are God’s people.

 

 

 

This is the End of the current series. My prayer is that you will be greatly blessed in your own journey of discovering Christ in the Psalms.

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Psalm 21: A Structural Analysis

Photo by Christina Wilson

 

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Outline of Series

Psalm 21

How cold is the title of this post? Why would anyone want to “structurally analyze” any part of God’s Word, especially the poetry of Psalms?

There are living voices in the psalms–various points of view and various speakers within single psalms. Not everyone hears these voices. Yet Christ after his resurrection cited Psalms to his disciples as one of the areas of Old Testament prophecy that  foretold his sufferings, death, and resurrection.

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, (Luke 24:44-45).

Verse 45 above says that Jesus “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” I take this to mean that he spent some time with them going over specific examples and giving them keys to unlock passages. Afterward, they would be able to find and see these things themselves, as the Gospels and letters bear witness.

Psalm 21 is a psalm of resurrection.

Psalm 21 enjoys the agreement of traditional church interpretation both East and West that it is messianic and regards the resurrection and beyond.

Patrick Reardon writes, “Holy Church, both East and West, rather early decided that Psalm 20 (Hebrew 21) is best prayed during the earliest hours of Sunday morning, the Resurrection day of her Lord Jesus Christ” (Reardon, 39).

Andrew Bonar writes of it, “We are at once shewn the King Messiah, already triumphant at the Father’s right hand; and yet, as King, to triumph more ere all be done” (Bonar, 71).

Its positional context in the Psalter corresponds to its messianic nature.

Positioned just before Psalm 21, Psalm 20 is a psalm of prayerful intercession for the salvation of the King in his day of trouble. Undoubtedly the Jewish congregation prayed it through the centuries from David to Christ, and some, such as Anna and Zechariah, most likely knew that when they prayed this psalm, they were indeed praying for the Lord’s Anointed Messiah, not just for King David in retrospect.

Psalm 21 gives God’s answer to the petitions of Psalm 20, and Psalm 22, quoted in the New Testament and widely acknowledged as messianic, gives the details of the struggle prayed for in Psalm 20 and recaps the victory of Psalm 21.

Charles Spurgeon, who is relatively conservative in naming certain psalms as messianic, writes in his forward to Psalm 21, “Probably written by David, sung by David, relating to David, and intended by David to refer in its fullest reach of meaning to David’s Lord. It is evidently the fit companion of Psalm Twenty, and is in its proper position next to it. Psalm Twenty anticipates what this regards as realized. [Notice that Spurgeon here acknowledges reading across the psalms for connected themes]…The next Psalm [Psalm 22] will take us to the foot of the cross, this introduces us to the steps of the throne” (Spurgeon, Vol. 1, 312).

As a note, Psalm 21 is not quoted in the New Testament (Archer, Gleason L. and Gregory Chirichigno). This is apparently the reason why this psalm, widely regarded as being messianic throughout church history, does not appear in “official” lists of prophetic messianic psalms, such as those found in certain popular study Bibles. The author of this blog strongly feels that, as regards the reading of Psalms, current post modern academia has thrown buckets of icy water upon the Holy Spirit of God (1 Thessalonians 5:19), who moves so deeply throughout all of Scripture, breathing the life of Christ everywhere in its pages, and nowhere moreso than in the psalms. Sadly, this atmosphere of strict academia has seeped down into many, if not most, western evangelical churches, so that the power of Psalms as the voice of Christ has been largely lost to the weekly evangelical worshiper.

The Internal Structure of Psalm 21

Psalm 21

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

O Lord, in your strength the king rejoices,
    and in your salvation how greatly he exults!
You have given him his heart’s desire
    and have not withheld the request of his lips. Selah
For you meet him with rich blessings;
    you set a crown of fine gold upon his head.
He asked life of you; you gave it to him,
    length of days forever and ever.
His glory is great through your salvation;
    splendor and majesty you bestow on him.
For you make him most blessed forever;[a]
    you make him glad with the joy of your presence.
For the king trusts in the Lord,
    and through the steadfast love of the Most High he shall not be moved.

Your hand will find out all your enemies;
    your right hand will find out those who hate you.
You will make them as a blazing oven
    when you appear.
The Lord will swallow them up in his wrath,
    and fire will consume them.
10 You will destroy their descendants from the earth,
    and their offspring from among the children of man.
11 Though they plan evil against you,
    though they devise mischief, they will not succeed.
12 For you will put them to flight;
    you will aim at their faces with your bows.

13 Be exalted, O Lord, in your strength!
    We will sing and praise your power.

–ESV  (Psalm 21)

As much as possible, when reading the ancient poetry of psalms,  it is necessary to observe and identify within single psalms changes of viewpoint and even changes of speakers.

For example, at times a psalm may include one or more direct quotations and identify the speaker. One example is the well-known Psalm 110:1.

Psalm 110:1 A Psalm of David. The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” 

While Psalm 110:1 itself identifies both the speaker, LORD, and the addressee, my Lord, the reader is further helped to recognize who is speaking by Christ’s use of this psalm in verses such as Mark 12:35-37.

Mark 12:35 And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David?
36 David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.”‘
37 David himself calls him Lord. So how is he his son?” And the great throng heard him gladly. 

Even beyond this, the writer of the letter to the Hebrews, by means of the context and grammar of the paragraph containing the quotation, explains that Psalm 110:1 was God speaking directly to his Son Christ (Hebrews 1).

From the above example alone, readers learn that 1) God speaks directly within the poetry of psalms, 2) sometimes Scripture identifies to whom he is speaking, 3) at times the addressee is his Son, 4) that Father and Son both appear in certain Old Testament psalms, and  5) that a single psalm may contain more than one speaking voice or speaking point of view.

Who is speaking in Psalm 21?

First, the superscription identifies Psalm 21 as a psalm of David.

Next, we notice that verse one begins in both second (you) and third person (he, the king) and continues this way through the first twelve verses. Verse thirteen alone uses one first person plural (we).

The speaker of the psalm is not identified.

Possibilities

  1. Perhaps King David is speaking. In this scenario he would be referring to himself in third person (he, the king).
  2. However, when the reader arrives at verse 8, it stretches plain literary common sense to continue thinking that David is the speaker.
    1. It is clear that the speaker is addressing God throughout verses 8-12.
    2. If David is the speaker, then God as addressee is the actor in the prophecies spoken throughout these verses.
    3. While it is true that God does act and that his will directs all, Scripture teaches that God himself does not appear; he remains invisible–

John 4:12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

4. Yet verse 9 says, “when you appear.

5. Therefore, it seems unlikely that David is the speaker in the block of verses 8 through 12.

3. Likewise, it seems clear without explanation that God is not speaking in any portion of Psalm 21.

4. Who is left? None but a narrative voice, a chorus, a body of speakers, given that the final verse is plural first person.

5. It does appear possible that David the King might be speaking in the first block from 1 through 7, and a chorus speaking from verses 8 through 13.

6. As mentioned in the first point, if David is the speaker in verses 1 through 7, then he would be referring to himself in third person.

7. More likely, the narrative chorus, which steps forward to identify itself in verse 13, is singing the entire psalm.

What structural blocks are identifiable?

There are three.

1. The first block–verses 1 through 7 

A. Verse 1 is a couplet:

O LORD, in your strength the king rejoices,

and in your salvation how greatly he exults! (ESV)

1. The first line of the couplet identifies the second person addressee: the Lord.

2. The first line also identifies the third person referent: the king.

3. The first and second lines together identify the theme of the first block: the king’s joy in the victories of strength God gave.

B . Verse 2 announces answered prayer.

You have given him his heart’s desire and have not withheld the request of his lips. Selah 

The answered prayer of 21:1-6, and especially the phrasing in verse 2, responds to the prayer spoken in Psalm 20, and especially in 20:4–May he grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans! 

C. Verses  3-6 give details of the answered prayer.

D. Verse 7 calls back to verse 1.

For the king trusts in the LORD, and through the steadfast love of the Most High he shall not be moved.

1. In verse 7 is the first appearance of the word “king” since verse 1.

2. Both verses 1 and 7 describe the emotional responses of the king to God’s favorable actions on his behalf, while verses 2 through 6 describe the actions of God.

3. Therefore, verses 1 and 7 form an inclusio. This is a frame, or bracket, around a literary block or section. It’s like the two pieces of bread enclosing the ingredients of a sandwich.

E. It is clear that the chorus of speakers is addressing God in the first block about his actions on behalf of the king.

2. Verses 8 through 12

A. There is an noticeably abrupt switch of topic and addressee immediately in verse 8 and the change continues through verse 12.

What has changed? Not the speaker, as shown above, but the addressee, the topic, and the time frame.

B. Concerning the addressee, as developed in point 2 above in the section called “Possibilities,” the chorus turns from addressing God to addressing the King. This is fairly clear according to the guidelines of plain, everyday speech.

C. The topic has changed from the king’s responses of joy and trust to what God has already done in answering a prior prayer to naming and describing what the king, and the Lord in verse 9, will do to the king’s enemies at a future time of judgment.

D. The time frame has shifted from past–actions that God has already taken–to future–actions that the king will take. Notice that verse 7 does contain a small bit of transition in the phrase, “he shall not be moved.

E. It is the changes in addressee (point B), topic (point C), and time frame (point D) which signal to the reader that indeed verses 7-12 form a poetic block within Psalm 21 that is distinct from the block occupying the first seven verses.

3. Verse 13 

A. Verse 13 stands alone as the only verse in which the voice of the psalm changes in one place from second and third persons singular (you, he) to first person plural (we).

Be exalted, O Lord, in your strength!
    We will sing and praise your power.

B. This change in grammar signals both a new block, if one verse alone can be so considered, and the end of the poem itself.

1. A new block

a. This final verse introduces the third player in the poem–the chorus itself. The other two players have been the Lord and the king, while the chorus-narrator has remained offstage, so to speak.

b. In the final verse, the chorus reveals itself, having stepped into the action of the poem, by describing their own responses of singing and praising the Lord, apparently for an undefined amount of time into the future, most likely corresponding to the eternal life specified in verse 4.

2. The end of the poem.

a. The final verse narrows the theme of the poem to a celebration of song and praise to the Lord for his strength.

b. The first line of the final couplet references the Lord.

c. The second line of the final couplet references the chorus-narrator.

d. The chorus-narrator ends the poem with a personal description of its own response.

Who is the chorus-narrator?

The introduction in the last verse of the chorus as actors in the poetic drama of God and King is a large, extremely important theological step for readers of the poem. Who are these people? Who is the speaker of the entire psalm?

1. We know it’s a group.

2. We know that these people love both the Lord and the King.

3. It seems entirely reasonable to conclude that the chorus is both the congregation of Israelites in King David’s day and the congregation of the church in Greater King David’s day, the day of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Final Thoughts from a Personal Point of View

1. I find the psalms to be highly interactive. There’s lots of lively drama happening in them.

One example is point 3 in the above section. God, who designed and wrote all Scripture by his Holy Spirit, intends the reader to be pulled into the action and to have personal responses. Theologically, there is tremendous hope and promise to the church for an eternal future with Christ and God, evidenced by its presence in Psalm 21. The Lord, King Jesus, and the believing reader, who is also part of the narrator-chorus in Psalm 21. God, his Son, us! If that doesn’t amaze and speak of the tremendous love of the Lord (“the steadfast love of the Most High”–vs 7), then what will?

2. Through reading and rereading this psalm, its intent becomes clearer. Although the Lord and the King are distinguishable throughout, they are clearly very closely intertwined, reflecting what we know about Christ and the Father.

9 You will make them as a blazing oven when you appear.

The LORD will swallow them up in his wrath, and fire will consume them. 

3. Jesus throughout his ministry directed everyone’s eyes to God the Father. Just so, while this psalm glorifies both the Lord and the King, its verses make clear that it is God the Lord who is the source of the King’s strength, and ultimately it is God the Lord whom the chorus praises in verse 13.

So is it cold or not cold?

This was lots of work for me as a writer!

As a reader, however, I want to say that since the Lord many years ago gave me the key of Christ to open the door of Psalms, it hasn’t been as difficult as this step-by-step analysis may indicate. When reading the psalms, the reality of the interactions between God and Son break through rather rapidly, like a great tidal wave of wonder and awe.

It is God the Holy Spirit who anoints each believing reader to perceive the gorgeous interplay between the various speakers and content blocks of Psalms. The perception comes rapidly, fed by the Spirit, and in response to reading and rereading a particular psalm. Yes, fine points need to be cleared up through analysis and by consulting other sources. For me, as regards this psalm, the fine point was whether or not the king was the speaker in the first block referring to himself in third person. As cited above, Andrew Bonar helped me with that one. Later analysis convinced me that the speaker is what I have termed the chorus-narrator throughout.

My personal testimony is that the discovery of two God-beings in Psalms is not cold, but very hot! While the king is not presented as the Lord in Psalm 21, he has been crowned with gold by God (verse 3), he has been given eternal life (verses 4 and 6), and he has been given glory, splendor, and majesty (verse 5). All this is true of Jesus Christ God’s Son, while not all is true of King David. For God the Holy Spirit to reveal this inside a believing reader’s heart is exciting life indeed.

 

 

 

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Bible Study at Home: A Simple How-To

Do you have a Bible study you attend regularly? Either at a church, a group, or online? If not, you are not alone.

There are many reasons why a person hungry to learn more about God’s word cannot attend a Bible study, one of the most likely being that they cannot find one or the ones available to them meet at the wrong time or the wrong place. This doesn’t mean that you cannot learn the Bible–you can! I’m going to give you a simple way to begin studying at home. It is called a Word Study or Topical Study.

1. Pray.

Always pray and ask God to help you know him more and to help you obey and apply what he shows you. All teaching from God begins and ends and is through the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit, God himself, breathing his life into his word as he shows it to you inside your heart, the best knowledge of God’s word will only be dead knowledge.

Pray that God will lead you to the right Bible for you at this time in your life.

Pray that God will direct you to the right verses that he wants you to study.

Pray that God will help you to understand and apply what you read.

2. Second, buy yourself a reference Bible. 

You may have one already. What is a reference Bible? A reference Bible is not necessarily a study Bible. A reference Bible is a Bible that simply has a list of other verses in a center column, or a side column, or at the foot of the page.

Center Reference Bible

You can see from the example above that the text on the left has verse numbers that correspond to a list of verse numbers running down the middle of the page between the two columns of scripture.

Verse 33 at the top of the page, for example, has a small, italicized letter a before the word “teach.” “Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes.” That’s what the Lord is doing right now. He is teaching you how to study Scripture.

The center column has the number “33” corresponding to the verse you just read. There is a small letter “a” followed by “Ps 119.5, 12.” This means that if you turn to Psalm 119 verses 5 and then 12, you will find more verses that use the word “teach.”

Psalm 119:12 Blessed art Thou, O LORD; Teach me Thy statutes.

Verse 36, which is underlined, has the small letter “a” before the word “incline.”

Psalm 119:36 Incline my heart to Thy testimonies, And not to dishonest gain.

Turning to the center column, the number “36” is followed by a small “a” and the reference “1Ki 8:58.” Looking up that verse we see:

1 Kings 8:58 that he may incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his rules, which he commanded our fathers.

When we read the above verse, we see that it begins half way through a sentence. To get the full meaning, we need to go up a verse to the beginning of the sentence, and we read:

1 Kings 8:57 The LORD our God be with us, as he was with our fathers. May he not leave us or forsake us, 58 that he may incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his rules, which he commanded our fathers.

Perhaps a small desk dictionary might be useful here to understand the meaning of “incline” in this sentence. This is from Merriam-Webster.

1 :to cause to stoop or bow :bend

2 :to have influence on :persuade

  • his love of books inclined him toward a literary career
3 :to give a bend or slant to

Putting this together, we see that the psalmist in Psalm 119:36 is asking the Lord in prayer to “incline” or bend, that is, to persuade his heart to prefer obedience to the Lord’s way rather than preferring to spend his time trying to get rich. 1 Kings tells us that when God is with us, he does just that. The psalmist is praying to God, asking God to influence his heart to prefer the Lord’s way above the way of the materialistic world. This tells us that we are not alone, that God is the one who influences us to desire him and his word.

How might a reader apply this verse to her own life? Does she sense that her heart is growing cold towards the Lord? She should turn to the Lord and ask him to help her. Do someone else find that worldly interests of career and money are drawing their attention away from God? They should turn to him, just as the psalmist does, and ask God to help them, to influence their heart and the things their heart desires.

3. Summary

What I have showed today is very simple. The more you practice looking up all the little verses in the reference column, the better you will become at it. 

Also, you will soon see that the Bible is a unified whole. It all connects and teaches the same message. Each part repeats in a different setting what the other parts are also saying.

You also will be studying topics, such as love, light, truth, life, faith and any of the other Christian words you can think of.

Your beginning point will be a single verse. For example, 

John 3:16 “For God so (a) loved the world, that He (b) gave His (1)(c) only begotten Son, that whoever (d)believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. 

Looking up the verses in the reference column for each one of these letters gives us the following list:

(a) loved the world Rom 5:8; Eph 2:4; 2Th 2:16; 1Jo 4:10; Rev 1:5

(b) gave Rom 8:32; 1Jo 4:9

(c) only begotten Son Joh 1:18; Joh 3:18; 1Jo 4:9

(d) believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life Joh 3:36; Joh 6:40; Joh 11:25f. (The letter “f” here means “forward.” That is, read John 11:25 and keep reading, since there are more verses that continue on the same topic.)

(1) While letters refer to verses, numbers refer to notes by the editors or translators of the particular Bible you may have. Here the (1) says the following, “unique, only one of His kind.” That is what the translators or editors are saying about the word “only begotten.”

I guarantee that by the time you have looked up all the above verses, you will have a good idea of the topic of God’s love to all people in the world!

 

 

 

 

 

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6 What Do Authors Say About Christ in Psalms?

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Are the Psalms about Jesus Christ?

 

Some say yes, to a great extent, while others limit their yes to specific “Messianic” verses quoted in the New Testament and labeled as such.

Among those who limit their “yes” are those who say that the original verses most likely referred specifically to some king in Israel’s past and down through a line of succession became applied to Christ. They might say that Christ “quoted” a psalm, such as Psalm 22:1 while hanging on the cross. By saying “quoted,” they mean that Christ appropriated the psalm and made it apply to himself. In other words, Christ did not originate the psalmic words at the moment he spoke them. By whatever means they may have entered his mind at the moment, he repeated  what had already been written about someone else on a different occasion and then applied those words to himself and his own situation. This is quite different than saying that the original psalm meant Christ all along, even from the beginning.

Among those authors who say “yes!” unreservedly are those who may feel that the original words as first written were always prophetic utterances by the psalmists, which from the beginning point forward to the life and prayers of the Son of God during his incarnation. I fall into this category.

Most of the authors who write academic books and have good academic reputations, no matter what their opinions on the matter, build good biblical cases to support their views. Therefore, this author–myself, has come to the conclusion that whether or not any given reader perceives Jesus Christ of Nazareth, Son of God, in the psalms as written is a personal, subjective matter representative of the faith of that reader and the activity of the Holy Spirit in that reader’s heart. In other words, one’s belief occurs first, and the academic rationale follows. This means that for the most part, academic arguments will convince very few to change their minds.

For example, reading many academic arguments against my own point of view on this topic has never changed my mind that Christ in his incarnation is why God willed the psalms to be written. Does this indicate that I am close minded? No, it simply means that I continue to believe that I correctly heard God speak into my heart through the Holy Spirit via certain psalms that these words are the voice of Christ prophetically spoken through the psalmist. Yet because I do have an academic awareness, I simply kept searching until I found some academic arguments that match my own presuppositions, or in my case, experiences. (I am not saying that those who think differently than I do not believe in God or do not have faith in Christ.)

Because faith comes by believing and by the Holy Spirit, academic arguments perhaps most often fall short of leading one to either salvation or devotion. And because my great interest in Psalms is devotional, this blog presentation will be for the most part devotional. I am not seeking to build an academic argument. I am seeking to share what I have discovered and to lead others who may be so disposed to seek God in prayer to ask him to reveal Christ to their hearts through the Old Testament, and in particular through Psalms. The Holy Spirit can open to eager heart what Jesus himself opened to his disciples shortly after his resurrection:

Luke 24:25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”  27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Luke 14: 44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”  45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,  46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead,  47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  48 You are witnesses of these things.

Quotations from Authors Who Find Christ in Psalms

 According to the witness of the Bible, David is, as the anointed king of the chosen people of God, a prototype of Jesus Christ. … And he is not unaware of this, but “being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne, he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ” (Acts 2:30 f.). David was a witness to Christ in his office, in his life, and in his words. The New Testament says even more. In the Psalms of David the promised Christ himself already speaks (Hebrews 2:12; 10:5) or, as may also be indicated, the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 3:7). These same words which David spoke, therefore, the future Messiah spoke through him. The prayers of David were prayed also by Christ. Or better, Christ himself prayed them [the prayers of Psalms] through his forerunner David [emphasis added]. (Bonhoeffer, Psalms, 18-19.)

The emphasized portion of the above quotation perfectly expresses my own perception of very many of the psalms, a conclusion I arrived at independently of Bonhoeffer. He goes on to explain how we as believers can pray the same prayers because and only because Christ prayed them first.

Not just those psalms that directly mention the king or aspects of his reign and kingdom are Messianic psalms. The New Testament implies that all psalms have a relationship to Jesus Christ [emphasis added]. Thus Psalm 31, which in its Old Testament context does not seem to have a Messianic emphasis, is messianic in the sense that it refers to the person or work of Jesus Christ, as is clearly shown in its use in Luke 23:46. This does not mean we are dependent on the New Testament for which psalms are Messianic because a broader principle is at work, a principle rooted in Jesus’ statements in Luke 24:44-47…this principle, which is the basis for the view that all the psalms relate to the person and/or work of Jesus Christ. (Belcher, The Messiah and the Psalms, 30.)

The psalter is the book most often quoted in the New Testament, with the same status as the prophets. David is given there the role of a prophet (Acts 2.30; 4.2). For their part, the rabbinical writings recognize the prophetic inspiration of David and the psalmists. This is clear from the Targum on the psalms: Ps. 14.1, ‘To praise, in the spirit of prophecy, through the intervention of David’; (Tournay, Seeing and Hearing God with the Psalms, 31). [Tournay cites many more examples.]

The greatest evil people can suffer is loneliness. But God has taken the initiative in overcoming this: thanks to the psalms, we can directly see and hear God (Tournay, Seeing and Hearing God with the Psalms, 32).

 

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Spiritual Versus Concrete Continues in John 6

Week 7 Part 4 John 6:22-71: Focus–Concrete (Concrete Literal) vs Spiritual (Spiritual Reality)

(Link to Outline of John)

John’s Theme: John 20:31 … these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

In chapter 6 John continues the steady development of his presentation of the great salvation theme of his letter, and he continues to contrast the concrete-only understanding of the religious pundits of his day with the spiritual realities of eternal life.

I. John 3: Nicodemus and the necessity of being born again of the Spirit

John 3:3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

II. John 4: The Woman at the Well and Christ the giver of living water that springs up in believers to a fountain of eternal life

John 4:10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

John 4:24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

III. John 6: Christ the bread of life and the necessity of eating his flesh and drinking his blood

John 6:31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

John 6:41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?

John 6:48 I am the bread of life.

John 6:51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” 52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.

Recap:

  • To Nicodemus Jesus said, You must be born again. Nicodemus responded concretely–asking whether he needed to crawl back into his mother’s womb as an old man.
  • To the Woman at the Well Jesus said, I will give you Living Water. The woman initially responded concretely by asking for the water so as not to have to go to the well to fill her bucket every day.
  • To all the listeners in John 6 (the religious pundits, his larger circle of disciples, and his own group of 12 disciples) Jesus reveals that he himself is the living water, and that those who want the fountain of water springing up to eternal life must eat his flesh and drink his blood. He was not speaking of cannibalism, but of the spiritual necessity of fully embracing himself in deepest communion–also known as believing in him. Many who heard him interpreted his words as though he were speaking of cannibalism, and they were repulsed.

This one verse sums up Jesus’ teaching well–

John 6:63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

Application:

  1. Can you find other verses in which a teaching of Jesus is interpreted concretely rather than as the spiritual truth he intends?
  2. Given the strength and clarity of Jesus’ teaching concerning Spirit and flesh (see John 6:63 above), why do you suppose there are some today whose minds still focus on concrete fulfillment of spiritual words rather than on the spiritual realities to which the concrete symbols point?

 

 

Jesus’ Categorical Statements in John 6: The Impossibility of Faith Without God

Week 7 Part 3 John 6:22-71: Focus–God’s Sovereignty in Election and Human Choice and Responsibility

(Link to Outline of John)

John’s Theme: John 20:31 … these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Four Verses that Function as “Necessary/Sufficient” Couplets

I. Couplet One–John 6:37 (Necessary Condition) and John 6:65 (Necessary Condition)

A. John 6:37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

X = “all that the Father gives me”

Y = “will come to me”

In this construction, X is a subset of Y.sufficient-copy

• There may be others in Y whom the Father has not given.

• Everyone who is in X must be in Y.

• Y is necessary for X.

• X at this point is not necessary for Y.

Paraphrases of John 6:37

• If the Father gave you to me, it is necessary that you come to me.

• This necessity is called Irresistible Grace

B. John 6:65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless is granted him by the Father.”

X = those who come to me

Y = those whom the Father granted sufficient-part-2

Jesus’ statement “no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father” can be translated as–

No X (those who come to me)   If Not   Y (granted by the Father)

or,

No X unless Y = Y is necessary for X.

In this construction, X is still a subset of Y. Notice, however, that the terms have changed.

• The X of verse 37 has become the Y of verse 65.

• The Y of verse 37 has become the X of verse 65.

In both verses, however, X is still a subset of Y.

Conclusion: If “those whom the Father gives” is a subset of “those who come,” AND “those who come” is a subset of “all that the Father gives,” then both terms are subsets of each other. This can happen only if the terms are identical. Therefore, both terms are Necessary and Sufficient for each other.

necessary-sufficient-copy

All whom the Father gives will come, and all who come were given by the Father. God’s grace is both Irresistible and Necessary.

 Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

II. Couplet Two–John 6:47 (Necessary Condition) and John 6:53 (Necessary Condition)belief_eternal-lifesufficient

A. John 6:47 Truly, truly I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.

X = whoever believes

Y = those who have eternal life

X is a subset of Y.

Y is a necessary condition for X. However, as stated, it is not a sufficient condition.

B. John 6:53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”

First, to “eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood” is understood as a metaphorical, symbolic, or spiritual, way of saying, “believe in Jesus.”

Paraphrase: Unless you partake fully in the being and life of Jesus the Son of Man, you have no life in you. sufficient-couplet-2

Shortened Paraphrase: Unless you believe in Jesus, you have no life in you.

X = those with life

Y = those who believe in Jesus

If not Y, then not X

Y is necessary for X

As stated, Y is not sufficient for X.

Again notice, Jesus in these two statements has interchanged the X and Y terms. In verse 47, “whoever believes” (X) is a subset of “those who have eternal life” (Y), while in verse 53, “those with [eternal] life” is a subset of “those who believe in Jesus” (Y).

Conclusion: If “whoever believes” is a subset of “those who have eternal life,” and “those with [eternal] life” is a subset of “those who believe in Jesus,” then each subset is identical with the other. Again, belief in Jesus is both necessary and sufficient for eternal life, and in order to have eternal life, it is both necessary and sufficient to believe in Christ.

christ-eternal-life

There is only one set of believers–those who have eternal life, and only one set of those with eternal life–those who believe. Jesus has just demolished the “many pathways to God [eternal life]” argument. One may believe that there are many pathways to God and eternal life, but such a belief is not Scriptural; nor does it adhere to the teaching of Jesus.

III. These are not the only places in Scripture where Jesus has made these claims.

John 6:36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.

John 6:54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

The People Respond

When taken as whole, Jesus’ statements in John 6:22-71 presented a stumbling block to his listeners. These were–

1. The Jewish leaders

John 6:41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”

John 6:52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man [this fellow] give us his flesh to eat?”

2. Christ’s disciples, those who had been following him regularly for some time

John 6:60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”

John 6:66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.

3. The Twelve, those closest to Christ, his intimate friends and companions

John 6:67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” 70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him.

Believing the words of Christ presents problems for millions of those who hear him today. This is why God’s “sovereign choice in election” is a blessing, an aid, a help, a gracious act of forgiveness, not a hindrance nor any unfairness on his part. Without that gracious drawing of God, no one would come to Christ, as Jesus explains in John 6. We do not know why God draws some to Christ and not others.

We do know that nowhere in John’s gospel, nor any other place in Scripture of which I am aware, does God or Christ ever say that he will turn anyone away who seeks him. Rather, Christ says that all who seek him will find.

Matthew 7:8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

Luke 11:10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

Joel 2:32 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls.

Acts 2:21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

Romans 10:13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Are you one who struggles against placing your faith and confidence in Jesus Christ? Perhaps you find the bluntness of his words difficult to receive? If this is so, there is no need to turn away from Christ. God provides a remedy for your condition.

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,

The remedy for an unbelieving heart is prayer. If you want eternal life, humble yourself and ask God to reveal himself to you. When God reveals himself to anyone, he also reveals Christ.

John 6:45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me–

Father, I pray that anyone reading this right now, who does not know you, will be found of you, and because of your drawing them, will come to know you, and that knowing you, they will come to know and receive Jesus Christ and through believing his Word, receive eternal life in his name. I pray, precious Father, that the gift you gave me when you drew my heart to know and believe in you, will be multiplied as the loaves and fishes, and reach out to many unto eternal life. Thank-you, Father, for hearing my prayer. In Jesus I pray, amen.

So Where in John 6 Is Human Responsibility and Choice?

Having said all that, God still provides for human responsibility and human choice. !!!!! How can this be? Well, God is God and he is infinite–we are finite, and unfortunately, still under the curse of the Fall. Some things that seem paradoxical are; perhaps God in humanity’s eternal future will explain all which is unexplainable now. What is known now is that God somehow takes our choice into account as he makes his own sovereign election.

In John 6 we find human responsibility and choice in the following verses:

John 6:25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”

John 6:28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

John 6:67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?”

Definition of want: “Gingrich, (θέλετε from θέλω,2. wish, will of purpose or resolve, wish to do Mt 20:14; Mk 3:13; J 6:21, 67; Ac 18:21; Ro 7:15f, 19f; 2 Cor 8:10; Col 1:27; Rv 11:5. οὐ θέλω I will not Mt 21:30 v.l.)” (See Bibliography for Gems from John)

Our faith is the mechanism, the means, which God uses to accomplish his own sovereign will.

All of us need God’s will–his help–in returning to him, in being drawn to Christ, and in choosing Christ, because our own will was destroyed at the Fall (Genesis 3). Regeneration is necessary in order to believe, simply because dead men don’t choose—they cannot. Faith is for the living; dead people have no faith, because they are dead. God regenerates us in Christ—we choose to believe.

 

 

 

Jesus Heals Paralyzed Man in a Miraculous Display of Grace, Love, and Power

 Click here for: Link to the Outline of the Gospel of John

 ESV  John 20:31 … these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Week Five: The Third Sign–Healing the Paralyzed Man (Link to John 5:1-18)

ESV  John 5:1 After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. 3 In these lay a multitude of invalids–blind, lame, and paralyzed. 4  5 One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” 7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” 9 And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath. 10 So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” 11 But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.'” 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. 14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. 16 And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” 18 This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

Summary: While the first two signs both occurred in Galilee, this the third sign occurs in Jerusalem. Its reservoir was uncovered in 1888 at the time of repair work on the church of St. Anne in northeast Jerusalem. (Hendriksen, Vol. 1, 190) Jesus saw a man there who was “withered,” that is, dried up or paralyzed. He couldn’t walk and had other difficulties with movement (vs 7). Jesus knew that he had been there a long time and asked him, “Do you want to be healed?” Not giving a direct answer, the man described his difficulty in being healed by the only means he knew–self-effort to move his disabled body into the water quickly, before others, who had outside help, got in. Apparently, they believed that only the first person into the water during moments of “stirring” would be healed. Jesus then gave him a direct command, “Get up, take up your bed [which was about the size of a yoga mat], and walk.” And the man did so.

It happened to be the Sabbath when Jesus healed the man. Immediately the religious leaders of the day challenged the man with the accusation that lifting and carrying his mat on the Sabbath was illegal, according to their Jewish law, as interpreted by them. He announced his healing to them by saying that the man who healed him had told him to pick up his mat and walk. Not knowing who the man was, the conversation ended. The healed man next shows up in the temple, where it says, Jesus “found” and encouraged him with the words, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.”

The man went back to the Jewish leaders and told them that Jesus is the one who had healed him. From that moment on, the Jewish leaders began to persecute Jesus for breaking the Sabbath law by healing and commanding the one healed to pick up his mat and walk. When confronted, Jesus replied, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” The Jewish leaders understood this statement to mean that Jesus was calling God his Father, thereby claiming to be the Son of God, equal to God. From that moment forward, they not only persecuted Jesus, but they also wanted to kill him (vs 18).

Comparisons and Contrasts Between This Sign and the Two Previous Signs–1) water to wine (John 2:1-11) and 2) healing the nobleman’s son (John 4:43-54)

  1. In changing water to wine, Jesus demonstrated his power over inanimate nature and the laws of physics and chemistry. By changing matter itself, he demonstrated himself to be outside the material realm. In the two signs of healing, Jesus demonstrated his re-creative powers over biological matter.
  2. In the first sign, the inanimate substance displayed no self-will, for such is nonexistent. In the second sign, Jesus responded to the will of the sick boy’s father, a third party. In the third sign, Jesus responded to his own will, since the paralyzed man, unlike the boy’s father, requested nothing.
  3. In the first sign, the initiator of the encounter with the water was Christ in the sense that the water asked for nothing, while Christ responded to a direct request from his mother. The nobleman initiated the encounter by persistently “begging” Jesus to heal his son. Christ initiated the healing of the paralyzed man with no prompting whatsoever, thereby placing his own sovereignty of choice in bold relief. (Why did he heal this man and not someone else or many of the “multitude”?
  4. Both the nobleman petitioning for his son and the paralyzed man at the outset displayed insufficient faith, the paralyzed man showing far less than the nobleman.
  5. This is the first miraculous sign for which Jesus is persecuted.

A Sign That Displays Christ’s Amazing Power, Grace, and Loving Compassion for the Powerless, Unloved, and Alone

Some commentators appear to criticize the paralyzed man for a perceived lack of will, as though he engaged in a self-pity party. Yet, Lazarus, a dead man who had no will, is never criticized for himself not having improved his dead condition. Nor is Saul, who became the Apostle Paul, ever criticized for not having initiated his own salvation. Thirty-eight years is a very long time. The text indicates that the paralyzed man had attempted on several occasions to move himself into the healing water before the others (vs 7). And if his desire for healing had died along with his hope of its ever becoming a reality for him, doesn’t this all the more establish Christ’s perception and compassion?

Of all the multitude of disabled people lying by the sides of the pool (vs 3), Jesus chose this one, who had grown old with infirmity as his sole companion. This shows us that Christ is indeed sovereign in his election and that salvation and healing are by grace and not by any virtue of will-power (John 1:13) or positive thinking.

Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.

Similarities with Jesus’ Raising of Lazarus from the Dead (John 11:1-54)

When Jesus raised Lazarus, no one, not even his believing sisters Martha and Mary, expected or asked him to perform such a miracle. Likewise, the possibility of healing never entered the paralyzed man’s head.

Jesus began his miracle by calling out to the dead man, “Lazarus…” Jesus began his miracle of healing by calling out to the paralyzed man, “Do you want to be healed?”

Jesus finished his miracle by commanding Lazarus, “…come out.” Jesus finished his miracle by commanding the paralyzed man, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.”

  • In Lazarus’ case, coming back to life had to occur with the calling out of his name, since a dead man can neither hear nor obey a command to “come out.”
  • In the paralyzed man’s case, healing had to occur simultaneously with the command to “Get up, take up your bed, and walk,” since a paralyzed man cannot obey such a command. The text then says, “and at once the man was healed” and obeyed.
  • In both of these cases, the initial calling was effective: 1) Lazarus came back to life, and 2) the paralyzed man’s interest and hope had been aroused.

Isaiah 60:1 Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.

Ephesians 5:14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Ephesians 2:5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–

Isaiah 26:19 Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead.

  • Application: Do you recall a specific “wake-up call” from the Lord? If so, why not share your story with another?

Fallout

  • The formerly paralyzed man now healed gets chastised and interrogated by the Jewish leaders for breaking their law by lifting and carrying on the Sabbath day, the day of his great and wonderful healing.
  • He goes to the temple.
  • Jesus, again taking the initiative, “finds” him in the temple and performs one of only two “follow-ups” ever presented in all four Gospels (of which this writer is aware), by leading him towards a healing of the spiritual condition of his soul. Here again, Christ prominently displays his great love for the unlovely and otherwise unloved. (See John 9:34-38 for the other follow-up.)
  • The healed man returns to his interrogators, presumably the only people besides Jesus who knew of his healing, to boldly proclaim his positive confession that “it was Jesus” who had healed him.
  • The Jewish leaders turn upon and persecute Jesus for healing on the Sabbath day (vs 16).
  • They later determine to kill Jesus for announcing himself to be equal to God, and therefore, divine (vss 17-18).

 

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