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Love Letter from the Cross: Psalm 42

Photo by Phil Botha on Unsplash

Psalm 42 is a remarkable love letter from the Son to the Father. The Son used to have an eternal existence in heaven face to face with his Father (John 1:1-3). But now, by his Father’s will, he has come to earth as a human being to open a pathway for humans back to the throne of God, their creator who loves them.

God the Son had many enemies on earth. The loudest of these were those who claimed for themselves the position of God’s favorites. They weren’t. They studied God’s books of law and interpreted them according to the standards of their own wicked hearts. They completely missed God’s love for his people. These self-styled favorites lorded it over others and condemned everyone who didn’t worship God exactly as they themselves did. They were blind to the fact that they worshiped themselves, not God, and what they really wanted was to be at the very top of the heap. Far from respecting them, even with outward deference, Jesus called out their hypocrisy. He loved his Father with a true and passionate heart, and he loved his Father’s people. He condemned the false religious favorites, and for this cause, they wanted to kill him. And finally, they did kill him.

Psalm 42 records the heart cries of the Son to his Father during the period when he was being tried and executed by the false religious leaders. His death was very painful, because in those days, the Romans, who performed the actual execution, nailed convicted criminals to a wooden cross and let them suffocate for as long as it took. These are the Son’s words of trust and love to his Father during this horrendous event. Other psalms record Jesus’ thoughts, most notably Psalm 22.

The plot line of Poem 42 runs like this, “Father God, I am all alone here. Where are you? You’ve been hiding yourself for a long while. They’re killing me, and everyone has noticed that you’re not here. This discourages my soul so much. But my soul’s response doesn’t make sense to me, because I know you will rescue me. I know that eventually I will pass through this situation and come to a place where I will be thanking and praising you again. So come on, Soul. Perk up and hope in God. He is my help and my God.”

Here is the poem:

NIB Psalm 42:1 For the director of music. A maskil of the Sons of Korah. As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?
3 My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
4 These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng.
5, 6 Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon–from Mount Mizar.
7 Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.
8 By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me–a prayer to the God of my life.
9 I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?”
10 My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
11 Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
(Psalm 42:1-11 NIV, 1984)

Parallels with Other Scripture, Indicating that Psalm 42 Is a Prophetic Reference to Christ on the Cross

1.    Psalm 42:10 My bones suffer mortal agony… (NIV)

Psalm 22:14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint… (NIV)

Psalm 22:17 All my bones are on display; (NIV)

2.    Psalm 42:10foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?” (NIV)

Psalm 22:7 All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
8 “He trusts in the LORD,” they say, “let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.” 
(NIV)

Matthew 27:42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.'” 44 In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him. (NIV)

3.    Psalm 42:7 Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.

Jonah 2:2 He said: “… From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry.
3 You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. (NIV)

Psalm 42:1 As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? (NIV) [Also, the entire psalm is a heart cry of a prayer to God]

Jonah 2:4 I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’ (NIV)

Jonah 2:7 “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. (NIV)

Matthew 12:40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (NIV)

Final Words

I have been so very blessed to see the heart of the Son’s love for the Father in this psalm, and to see the heart of the Father’s love for his Son in so many other psalms. The love between Father and Son is extended to us, the recipients of the marvelous gift of redemption, a gift that cost the Son so much pain. If you can, ask God to help you soak in the deep richness of Psalm 42, this marvelous love letter from Christ to his God.

For Lovers of God: Psalm 33

Psalm 33 1) beautifully describes God’s nature as reflected in his many activities and 2) encourages people everywhere to worship him loudly and clearly with joyful praise and celebration.

myjoyonline.com

Psalm 33 opens with a clarion call to praise that pictures a scene of genuine celebration:

1 Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him.
2 Praise the LORD with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.
3 Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy. (Psalm 33:1-3 NIV, 1984)

Verses 4 and 5 give four reasons to celebrate God:

  1. For the word of the LORD is right and true; (vs 4)
  2. He is faithful in all he does (vs 4)
  3. The LORD loves righteousness and justice; (vs 5)
  4. the earth is full of his unfailing love. (vs 5)

The body of the psalm develops these four points:

1. For the word of the LORD is right and true (vs 4)

God created by his Word (see footnote 1, technical).

6 By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.
7 He gathers the waters of the sea into jars; {Or sea as into a heap} he puts the deep into storehouses.
8 Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the people of the world revere him.
9 For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.

2. He is faithful in all he does (vs 4)

10 The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.
11 But the plans of the LORD stand firm for ever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. 

As we consider today’s shifting political market and humankind’s long world history, we see that various nations and people groups rise and fall. “But the plans of the LORD stand firm for ever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.” God is faithful, unchanging, ever true, and powerful.

3. The LORD loves righteousness and justice; (vs 5)

12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance.
13 From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind;
14 from his dwelling-place he watches all who live on earth–
15 he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do.
16 No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength.
17 A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save.

The LORD blesses those who follow his ways (vs 12). His ways are righteousness and justice. God did not simply create and then disappear into the vastness of an infinite space (deus ex machina). Verses 13-15 state that God looks and sees everyone everywhere. He judges by his own standards of uprightness, of righteousness and justice. Verses 16-17 state that history is full of examples in which leaders with great armies, great strength, and the best of equipment find all those insufficient to save. It is God who saves.

4. the earth is full of his unfailing love. (vs 5)

18 But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
19 to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.

The LORD knows his own. He watches over them carefully, minutely, and always. The text describes God’s people as those who love him, respect, trust in, and obey him (text: fear him) as well as place their hope in God’s loyal and faithful actions and attitude of love towards them. We might call these actions faith. God delivers from death those who place their faith in him, who give their loyalty to him. He also keeps them alive in famine.

What should our response be?

Verses 20 and 21 recap the introductory verses 1-3.

20 We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.
21 In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.

Verse 22 concludes with a prayer that 1) asks the faithful God to continue blessing his people just as he has done in the past, and 2) expresses the continued loyalty of the people.

22 May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you.

Application:

Explanations of a psalm are never as good as the psalm itself, just as reading a synopsis of a book or movie is never as good as experiencing. When someone tells about a great time they had, the description comes nowhere near the great time itself. Explanations like the above serve at best as a roadmap to lead the way or guideposts to point out interesting sights. Whereas experiencing a psalm and being swept up into its mood or passion can happen in just a few short minutes, digesting an explanation can dampen the joy of movement. So read the psalm when you are fresh and celebrate God’s ever present goodness.

_______________

I. Technical Note: The following translations use “word” in verse 6: ESV, NIV 1984, NIB (British NIV, 1984), NAS, BBE (Bible in Basic English), LXE (Brenton’s Septuagint English Translation), NETS (New English Translation of the Septuagint, Pietersma, 2009), KJV, NKJV, NRS (New Revised Standard Version, 1989), and the NIV, 2011. “Word” literally translates both the Greek of the Septuagint and the Hebrew, as the NET points out in its notes. However, the NET model, 2006,  and the NIRV (New International Reader’s Version, 1998) have taken the liberty to interpret the literal “word” of the two original languages and to place the interpretation into the text. NET then puts the literal translation into the notes. Can these two be right and everyone else wrong?

The NET writes for Psalm 33:6, “By the LORD’s decree the heavens were made; by a mere word [breath, or spirit] from his mouth all the stars in the sky were created.” The NIRV writes, “The heavens were made when the LORD commanded it to happen. All of the stars were created by the breath of his mouth.”

The interpretation these two more modern versions have given (although the later NIV went back to using “word”) is a narrow slice of the semantic range of possible meanings of the literal “word” of the original. In the case of the NET, I strongly suspect that this is an editorial decision based upon the philosophy (hermeneutics) of Old Testament interpretation the editors have chosen. NET is fond of placing the literal in the margin and their particular interpretation in the text itself.

Why does this matter? 1) these two versions are changing the literal translation of God’s word. 2) They are interpreting for God the meaning of the text, rather than allowing the readers to do so under the guidance of God.

One of the readers of Psalms was John the Apostle. In John 1:1-5, he writes,

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 He was with God in the beginning.
3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (NIV, 2011)

The author of Hebrews writes,

2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.

Why rob the reader the pleasure of seeing the Word, the Son, in Psalm 33:6 by changing the literal translation “word” to “LORD’s decree“? The semantic domain of “word” includes the concept of “decree,” while “decree” erases the possibility of the Personhood of God’s Word.

The text of Psalm 148:5-6 is interesting in its contextual similarity to Psalm 33:6.

5 Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he commanded and they were created.
6 He set them in place for ever and ever; he gave a decree that will never pass away. (NIB, NIV 1984)

5 Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he gave the command and they came into existence.
6 He established them so they would endure; he issued a decree that will not be revoked. (NET)

In these verses, “them” means everything named in verses 2-4: angels, heavenly hosts, sun, moon, shining stars, highest heavens, and waters above the skies, i.e., creation, apart from the earth. These verses contain the translations “commanded…created,” “set them in place,” and “gave a decree.” Interestingly, NET notes does not mention any of the three verbal phrases.

In comparison with Psalm 33:6, the immediate creation context is identical. “6 By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.” Yet even though the context is identical, the original Greek and Hebrew words referring to the act of creation are different. Psalm 33, as noted above, uses the Hebrew and Greek original for “word,” “logos” (see Strong’s H1697 and G3056), whereas Psalm 148:5-6 uses different words more directly related to “command” (see Strong’s H6680, H8765, G1781, G2476, and G4367).

“Logos,” which is “word” in the New Testament, carries great weight, and one cannot help but wonder why the NET chose to minimize its potential importance in Psalm 33:6, given that NET’s claimed translation “the LORD’s decree” has other specific Hebrew and Greek words that God could have chosen, as for example, those he did choose in Psalm 148:5-6 in an identical context. Are we to think that God pays less attention to details than NET? In Psalm 33:6, if God intentionally chose Hebrew “dabar” and Greek “logos,” both meaning “word,” then “word” it is.

 

 

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

 

Bibliography

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!

 

 

 

 

 

6 What Do Authors Say About Christ in Psalms?

Bibliography

Outline of Series

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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“I and the Father Are One”

Week 10  John 10:1-21  The Good Shepherd and John 10:22-42 I and the Father Are One

(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.

Setting

The text of John 7:10 places Jesus in Jerusalem at the Feast of Tabernacles. Hendriksen locates this event in what he terms the “later Judean Ministry” (Hendriksen, Vol 1., 36). Jesus remains in this location from 7:10 through 10:39. Much of what John records in these chapters are Jesus’ ongoing conversations with the religious leaders, the “religerati,” who eventually instigate his crucifixion.

The conversations of John 9:40 through 10:21 appear to occur in a single location outside the Jewish temple within a continuous period of time; they connect one with another and involve the same people, the Pharisees (John 9:13).

Between verse 10:21 and 10:22, a period of time passes of which John records nothing. Verse 22 opens a new section, made apparent by the word “then,” or “at that time,” signifying a new time than the verses prior. This is how John breaks up his sections by using time markers. The reader also knows that the material beginning in verse 22 is a new section because John says it was the Feast of Dedication and winter, while the prior section had occurred in connection with the Feast of Tabernacles.

22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon.

The Feast of Dedication, known today as Hanukkah, occurs in winter. The colonnade of Solomon was a large covered porch, or portico, constructed as part of the original temple, along the temple’s east wall.

The Dialogue

24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

“The Jews” here refers to the religerati, the self-appointed censors of Jewish law and tradition, who throughout John’s gospel are those who demonstrate great hostility to Jesus. This is made apparent in the ensuing context by the dialogue between Jesus and these religious leaders, including their ultimate action in vs 31 of picking up stones to throw at him.

Given the history of these religious leaders and the dialogue which follows, the reader can discern that their question, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly,” was not spoken in eager anticipation, but as a trap to lure him to speak something for which they might accuse him and arrest him.

25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe…

Jesus had already answered their question both directly and indirectly (Jn 5:17-47; 6:29, 35, 51-65; 7:37-39; 8:12-20, 28, 29, 42, 56-58; and 10:7-18).

25 …The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me,

Jesus does not base his argument on words but in power. The works (miracles) he had already done could only have been done by one whom the Father had approved and was helping. The prime example occurred in chapter 9, where Jesus gave sight to a man who had been born blind. The Apostle Paul uses the same argument in his letter to the Corinthians–

1 Corinthians 2:4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,

The Cause of Their Unbelief

26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.

Which came first–the chicken or the egg? In the case in vs 26, the answer is clear–the religious leaders do not believe in Christ, because they are not among his sheep. In other words, being a sheep of Christ precedes belief.

John 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him…

Do all the sheep come to Christ in belief? Yes.

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

First a sheep, then a believer. So how does one get to be a sheep? Ask the Father for this blessing. As it turns out, only a sheep would want to be a sheep. Those who are not sheep prove that this is so by never coming to Christ. But if you are in doubt, pray and ask God, and he will make you a sheep, because he never turns anyone away who calls on him.

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

Eternal Life and Assurance of Salvation (Final Perseverance of the Saints)

28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

Jesus makes it clear through repetition that “eternal life” means eternal, forever.

  1. “I give them eternal life,”
  2. “and they will never perish,”
  3. “and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”
  4. “…no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”
  5. “I and the Father are one.” I.e., “We are together in full agreement on this.”

The very concept “eternal life” implies assurance of salvation, also known as final perseverance of the saints. If a sheep could by any means at all–through actions by someone else against her or by her own actions against herself–lose the eternal life that Jesus gives, i.e., fall out of salvation, lose her salvation, then the “eternal life” would not be eternal. This is clearly impossible. Eternal life means eternal, forever.

Pause (Selah): Rejoice! If any child of God reading this has sinned grievously and is fearful of having lost God’s favor, then take heart! These words of Jesus teach us that the end has not arrived. Allow your heart to grieve and mourn and sorrow over your sin and the displeasure you know it caused your Father, then lift your eyes and look into the eyes of Christ your Savior, the Lamb of God, and know that for this very moment he died. All your sins are forgiven. Truly sorrow and truly mourn and truly repent and run back into the arms of your Father and your Savior Christ for protection and restoration. One of the biggest lies the enemy tells is that a child of God, one of the lambs of Christ, could sin beyond repair. If you still have doubts, read and reread vss 28-30 and let them permeate your heart. They speak of eternal life in Christ that cannot be broken. Eternal life means eternal, forever, a life that cannot be lost.

Jesus One Substance with the Father

28 I give them eternal life

30 I and the Father are one.

  1. Only God can give eternal life to another.
  2. Jesus clearly and openly states that he and the Father are one.

Jesus in vs 30 does not claim to be the Father, and clearly, the Father is in heaven (Matthew 6:9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name), while Christ is on earth incarnated into a human body. He also states, “I and the Father…”, clearly implying two persons. What Jesus means is that he and the Father are one substance and of one will. Jesus here claims deity and equality with God the Father.

The Religious Leaders Understand Jesus’ Claim to Deity

31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him.

Stoning was the punishment decreed for blasphemy in Old Testament Israel.

“Again” refers to John 8:59: So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

Jesus Defends Himself from Their Charge of Blasphemy

32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?”

Again, Jesus appeals to the tangible and provable evidence of his “many good works” to corroborate his claim to deity (see also verse 25, “…The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me”). In saying this, Jesus adds a touch of irony to the Pharisees’ action of attempting to stone him.

33 The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.”

The religious leaders hostile to Christ place far greater emphasis upon the words of Jesus than upon his actions. They discount Jesus’ claim that his good miracles attest his identity.  However, if all Jesus ever did was speak and make verbal claims, while performing no miracles, then their accusations might be valid. But the fact is that Jesus did many good miracles that only one sent from God could perform, and this fact should have caused these leaders to stop, pause, consider, and inquire further into the identity of Jesus and who he claimed to be.

Then Jesus appeals to what should be their knowledge of scripture:

34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?

Below is a paraphrase of the three verses above and the two that follow:

John 10:34-38The Message (MSG)

34-38 Jesus said, “I’m only quoting your inspired Scriptures, where God said, ‘I tell you—you are gods.’ If God called your ancestors ‘gods’—and Scripture doesn’t lie—why do you yell, ‘Blasphemer! Blasphemer!’ at the unique One the Father consecrated and sent into the world, just because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I don’t do the things my Father does, well and good; don’t believe me. But if I am doing them, put aside for a moment what you hear me say about myself and just take the evidence of the actions that are right before your eyes. Then perhaps things will come together for you, and you’ll see that not only are we doing the same thing, we are the same—Father and Son. He is in me; I am in him.”–The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Jesus in verses 34 through 36 employs a “lesser to greater” form of argument:

  1. Scripture cannot lie.
  2. Scripture itself calls human judges “gods” as they perform their duties of carrying out the justice of God.
  3. The “good works” that Jesus has already performed demonstrate that he is one “whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world.”
  4. Christ’s commission and deeds are greater than that of the human judges whom Scripture calls “gods.”
  5. Therefore, Jesus’ enemies should not be accusing him of blaspheming for saying, “I am the Son of God.”

Jesus then makes one final appeal to the evidence of his good works. Jesus makes this appeal in order to give these spiritually blind leaders a pathway to belief, the result of which would be eternal life for them:

37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

Nevertheless, the leaders persist in their stubborn unbelief–

39 Again they sought to arrest him…

And Jesus once again eludes them, because his time had not yet come.

but he escaped from their hands.

Jesus Ends His Later Judean Ministry

40 He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained.

With his escape from the hands of his enemies, Jesus wrapped up his later Judean Ministry, which  he had begun in John 7:10, returned again to the other side of the Jordan, to the place where John had first been baptizing, and remained there.

And there he  begins what is known as the Perean Ministry, which continues through John 12:11.

41 And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” 42 And many believed in him there.

The “many” of these two verses refers to the people who lived in that region, as opposed to the Judeans, among whom were the hostile religious leaders who had rejected Christ so thoroughly. These “many” remembered the ministry of John the Baptist and the words that this forerunner had said concerning Christ. They believed John’s testimony, though it had not been accompanied by signs and wonders, and “many believed” in Jesus there.

The return to Perea (Joshua 13:8 With the other half of the tribe of Manasseh the Reubenites and the Gadites received their inheritance, which Moses gave them, beyond the Jordan eastward, as Moses the servant of the LORD gave them) marked the end of the Judean Ministry, as well as Jesus’ public ministry. While much of what Jesus spoke and did in Judea was for the purpose of formally presenting his messianic credentials to the nation of Israel and to its religious leaders, the same words and actions expressed the Savior’s evangelistic heart of concern for those who hated him so rismuch.

Jesus will not return to Judea again until the moment that “his time” comes, Passover, the year of his death.

Theological Importance of John 10

Both John and Jesus are master theologians. With simple linguistic images of sheep, shepherds, thieves, robbers, and wolves, four of the most important Christian theological principles are painlessly presented in words easy enough for all to understand.

  1. Election

    • Christ called out “his own” sheep by name (vs 3, 4, 14)
    • He did not make a general call to all the sheep in the pen
    • He had “other sheep” also, not of Israel’s fold, for whom the general scenario of shepherd calling his own remained unchanged (16)
    • The shepherd calls and chooses the sheep; the sheep do not seek out and choose the shepherd (3-5, 14)
    • Those who are not among Christ’s sheep do not believe (26)
  2. Assurance of Salvation (Final Perseverance) (28-30)

  3. One Substance (30)

    • Jesus and his Father share the same qualities and characteristics of deity
    • They both are of one essence
    • Jesus’ statement in vs 30, “I and the Father are one,” refutes the heresy of Arianism, which later denied the claim that Jesus and the Father shared the same essence (both are equal; both are deity)
  4. Two Persons (30)

    • Jesus’ same statement in vs 30, “I and the Father are one,” refutes the heresy of Sabellianism, which later denied that Jesus and his Father were two separate persons.
    • Sabellians claim that while God was on earth as the incarnate Son, he was not also and simultaneously in heaven as Father. They further claim  that while God is Holy Spirit, he is not simultaneously Son and Father. This is somewhat like a glass of water, in which the same water cannot be liquid, solid ice, and vapor at the same time. It must be one of the three at any given moment and not either of the other two.
    • Sabellians deny the Trinity, claiming that God is one person, much like one of Dr. Who’s shape shifters. This, is, of course, not true–Jesus said, “I and the Father,” which signifies two distinct beings.

Final Comment: and let us never forget that Jesus is the Good Shepherd who gives his life for the sheep.

John 10:15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.

John 10:17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.

 

 

Jesus the Good Shepherd

 

Week 10  John 10:1-21  The Good Shepherd and John 10:22-42 I and the Father Are One

(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.

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John 10 breaks into two sections:

• Section 1 (John 10:1-21) continues the discourse with the Pharisees after Jesus gave sight to the man with congenital blindness.

• In Section 2 (John 10:22-42) Jesus claims to be co-substantive (same substance) as God the Father; therefore, equal with God.

 

Section 1: The Good Shepherd

John 10:7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

Jesus presents himself as the Good Shepherd, in contrast with the Pharisees, who are false shepherds–thieves and robbers, i.e., “bad shepherds.”

ESV  Zechariah 11:17 “Woe to my worthless shepherd, who deserts the flock! May the sword strike his arm and his right eye! Let his arm be wholly withered, his right eye utterly blinded!”

Ezekiel 34:1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? 3 You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. 4 The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. 5 So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts.

Allegorical Interpretation John 10:7-16:

  1. Door into the sheepfold, guarded and operated by the gatekeeper (vss 1 and 2)
  2. Door of salvation for all people, Jewish, Gentile, and all future believers. This door leads out of the sheepfold of national Israel into Christ.

 

The Door into the Sheepfold

ESV  John 10:1 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

The above verses speak of the shepherd of the sheep entering into the sheepfold through the door, which the gatekeeper opens. Clearly, the gatekeeper would not open the gate for a thief, a robber, or a stranger.

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“…Christ presented Himself to Israel in a lawful manner, that is, in strict accord with the Holy Scriptures.” (Pink, 555)

Rephrasing the above quotation, Jesus entered the fold of Israel by the door.

“…the ‘door’ was the legitimate and appointed entrance into the fold, and this figure meant that the Messiah came by the road which Old Testament prophecy had marked out beforehand.” (Pink, 512-13)

This helps a great deal to explain why Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” (John 5:19)

See also (Deuteronomy 18:18), “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.”

Christ did not deviate from either the prescribed words or actions the Father had preordained in Scripture, but did everything upfront and legal, according to all the terms of the Old Testament prophecies of the future Messiah.

Jesus entered the fold of Israel by the door, while all who went before him, namely the Pharisees to whom he was speaking, were thieves and robbers trying to climb over the wall.

• The Greek word for “thief” indicates stealth, while the Greek word for “robber” indicates violence.

The Pharisees were self-appointed rule makers and monitors who did not have credentials from the God of Israel–neither their positions, nor their words nor their actions were God’s. They performed no miracles, and they verbally rebuked and severely punished the weak and needy of God’s flock, even casting them out, as they had done to the man born blind.

NIV  Matthew 23:4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

Christ, on the other hand, met all the requirements for Messiah preordained by God through centuries’ worth of Old Testament scripture. God certified Christ as true and genuine both by the words that Christ spoke and by the miracles Christ performed. (Remember the faultless logic of the blind man in chapter 9, when he demonstrated that, “Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” (John 9:32-33)

The Door into Salvation

When exiting the sheepfold, the sheep exit through the door of Christ into salvation. [Yes, the figure changes, and the meaning of the symbols shifts somewhat. I guess that Jesus is allowed to mix his metaphors a bit.]

ESV John 10:9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.

The “entering” spoken of here concerns salvation. The sheep exit the door of the sheepfold of Judaism and national Israel, through which Christ had properly entered. They don’t just exit, however. They simultaneously enter into Christ and the eternal life of salvation which he is.

Jesus is not saying that people go in and out of salvation. The going in and out and finding pasture represent the freedom in Christ of salvation. He explains further the eternal assurance of salvation for believers in the next section of chapter 10.

Jesus’ sheep from Judaism form a new flock with believing Gentiles and other believers (for example, those who lived before Israel became a nation) of all times, peoples, tribes, and languages. This flock is one flock, no longer enclosed by the sheepfold of national Israel and Judaism.

John 10:16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

What Makes Jesus a Good Shepherd?

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(Hendriksen, 103)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Seven “I Am” Statements in John

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Link to the Outline of the Gospel of John

Hey! What’s Your Problem?

Reader Challenge: As you read through this portion of Scripture, John chapters 7 and 8 (see link just below), try to answer the question found in the title of this blog–What is the problem that the enemies of Jesus have that prevents them from seeing Christ for who he actually is?

Week 8 Part 2 John 7:1-8:59  Focus–Jesus Confronts His Enemies

(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.

Summary of Chapter 7 (based upon Hendriksen, Vol. 2, 30-31)

The Galilean Ministry has ended. Jesus has retired to the northern regions of the country. After six months, he returns again to Judea for the Later Judean Ministry and the feast of Tabernacles.

1. John 7:1-13 His blood brothers, not yet believers, (see Acts 1:14 for their later belief) attempt sarcastically to entice him to go to the feast with them. Jesus refuses, but later goes up “not publicly, but in secret” (vs 10). In the meantime, at the feast, the “Jews” are murmuring about where “that man” might be, while the crowds call him a “good man”  They are all afraid to say anything openly, for fear of the religerati©.

2. John 7:14 Halfway through the feast, Jesus goes up to the temple and begins to teach. He causes a stir.

ESV  John 7:37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'”

3. John 7:15-52 The people react.

a. The “Jews” are generally skeptical and oppositional (15, 20, 35-36).

b. The crowd is divided–some derisive and some more or less open (vss 12, 20, 25-27, 31, 40-44).

c. The Pharisees sent guards to arrest him (32, 45-52).

d. The guards sent to arrest him are dumfounded with awe-filled amazement at the manner in which Jesus spoke while teaching (32, 45-46).

e. Nicodemus, one of the Pharisees who had personally gone to inquire of Jesus (John 3:1-12), speaks up in defense of the law, a fairly safe and noncommittal way to defend Jesus himself (50, 51).

Summary of Chapter 8 (based on Hendriksen, Vol. 2, 68-69)

1. John 7:53-8:11 Discussion among experts is inconclusively split concerning whether or not this section should be included in Scripture.

This is the highly popular and famous scene in which Jesus loves unto salvation a woman caught “in the act of adultery.” The great contrast is between the non-judgmental (yet highly aware) love of Jesus versus the callous condemnation and deceitfulness of the “teachers of the laws and the Pharisees.”

2. John 8:12-59 The confrontation between Jesus and the religerati© continues (see Hendriksen, Vol. 2, 68-69).

Scene: the temple courts the following day (1-2)

Jesus: [Theme 1–the light] I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (12) [JESUS’ SECOND GREAT “I AM” IN JOHN] (Light of the World: 1:4,5,7,8-9; 3:19, 20, 21; 8:12; 9:5; 11:9, 10; 12:35, 36; 12:46)

Pharisees: “You bear witness of Yourself; Your witness is not true.” (13)

Jesus: [Theme 2–Sent by God] The [my] Father sent me (7:28; 8:14b, 15, 16, 17, 18, 26, 49-50; 5:31, 5:38)

Pharisees: They don’t get it–they remain literalistic and concrete; their scope is narrowly focused on the physical, carnal world only.

• “Where is your father?” (8:19) [slanderous insinuation]

• “You, who are you?” (8:25) [scornful disdain]

• “They did not recognize that he spoke to them of the Father.” (8:27) [ignorance born of prejudice]

The Crowd of Religious People: “While he was saying these things, many believed in him.” (8:30) [mental agreement only, quickly changing to disdain–8:31, 33, 39, 41, 44, 48, 52, 53, 57, 59] [see also The Parable of the Sower, especially vss 5-6 and 20-21]

Jesus: [Theme 3–The Son of Man to be lifted up] “When you will have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am he.” (3:14-16; 8:28; 12:32-33) [Also, Theme 6–I AM]

Jesus: [Theme 4–Truth] “If you remain [abide] in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (8:31-32; 1:9, 14, 17; 3:21, 33; 4:18, 23, 24, 37; 5:31, 32, 33, 45; 6:32; 7:18, 28; 8:13, 14, 16, 17, 26, 32, 40, 44, 45, 46)

The [Supposedly] Believing Crowd of Religious People: “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can you say, ‘You will be made free’?” (8:33)

Jesus: [Theme 5–My Father, your father] “I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father.” (8:38) “If you are Abraham’s children, you are doing the works of Abraham. But now you are seeking to kill, me, a man who has been telling you the truth which I heard from God. This Abraham did not do. You are doing the works of your father.” (8:39-40)

The [by now] Non-believing Crowd of Religious People: “Abraham is our father.” (8:39) “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father–even God.” (8:41)

Jesus: [Theme 5–My Father God, your father the devil]If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me (8:42) [Also Theme 2–Sent by God]. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (8:44) “Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” (8:47)

The [now] Hostile Crowd of Religious People: “Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” (8:53)

Jesus: [Theme 2–Sent by God] “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’  55 But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word.” (8:54-55)

Jesus: [Theme 5–My Father, your father] “Your father Abraham [according to the flesh] rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” (8:56)

The Hostile Crowd of Religious People: “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” (8:57)

Jesus: [Theme 6–I AM] “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” (8:58)

The Hostile Crowd of Religious People: [Theme 7–Jesus’ Enemies want to kill him] So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. (8:59; 5:18; 7:1, 19, 20, 25; 8:37, 40)

So how did we do in the Reader Challenge? (see top of post)

Hint: What is the one thing that Jesus had that none of his enemies had? L-O-V-E.

1. See Jesus’ many miracles:

• water to wine demonstrates compassion for a groom, his bride, and the parents (2:1-11)

• healing the nobleman’s son demonstrates love for a social class not his own (4:46-54)

• healing the paralyzed man demonstrates Jesus’ love for the outwardly weak and defeated, the unattractive and unlovely (5:1-9)

• healing the paralyzed man on a Sabbath demonstrates Jesus’ (and God’s) love for people above an overly zealous and ungodly love for human religious tradition

• feeding the 5,000 people demonstrates love for people’s physical needs 6:1-15

2. Jesus’ actions demonstrate love:

• cleansing the temple demonstrates love for God and for God’s house of prayer (2:13-22)

• Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus demonstrates love for potentially hostile people (3:1-21)

• Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well and his long visit in her village demonstrates his love for ethnic and religious classes not his own (Jesus was Jewish by human birth) (4:4-43)

• Jesus’ long discourses with his enemies in chapters 6, 7, and 8 demonstrate his love for those who hate them

• These same discourses demonstrate Jesus’ love for God in his willingness that none should go without hearing the gospel of salvation, even those whom he knows will use this gospel against him in order to kill him

3. Lack of love prevented Jesus’ enemies for recognizing that Jesus was a good man.

Yet, even without LOVE, two other attributes would have worked to help these blind enemies of Christ: KNOWLEDGE and OBEDIENCE

 

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1. Obedience

2. Knowledge

John 7:17 If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.

obedience–if anyone’s will is to do God’s will

knowledge–he will know

Obedience–John 7:19 Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?”

John 7:23 If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well?

Knowledge–John 7:27 But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from.” 28 So Jesus proclaimed, as he taught in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I come from? But I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true, and him you do not know. 29 I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.”

Obedience and Knowledge–John 7:49 But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.” 50 Nicodemus, who had gone to him before, and who was one of them, said to them, 51 “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” [The chief priests and Pharisees do not obey the law that they claim to know.]

Knowledge and Obedience–John 8:4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” … John 8:7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. [In their claimed knowledge of the Law, the Pharisees test Jesus to see if he will deny the love for common folk, which he often displays, or deny his obedience to the Law of Moses. Jesus’ outwits them by causing them to recognize their own guilt of disobedience.

Knowledge and Obedience–John 8:49 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. [The religious leaders did not know God, nor did they obey him. They dishonored God by dishonoring his Sent One–Christ.]

Summary: If they had known God and wanted to obey him, they would have investigated Jesus’ claim of being God’s Son with an open mind and an open heart, given that God backed up Jesus’ claims with astounding miracles, and that Jesus taught with astounding teaching. If these Pharisees had sought to honor God (to know, obey, and love him), they would have fairly investigated Jesus’ claims, as Nicodemus, who was one of them, apparently did. Seeking to do God’s will (obedience), they would have discovered (knowledge) that Jesus truly was who he claimed to be. Knowledge of God and his Son leads to love for both. So, in love, they would have honored God by honoring the Son. They did none of these, thereby showing that they had neither knowledge of God, nor a heart of obedience towards him, nor did they have the love of God in their hearts. Jesus told them flat out that they had none of these because they were not “of God” but of their father, the devil (8:44).

 

 

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