Monday, November 10, 2008

pSunday Psalms: The King's Prayers

In his work, An Old Testament Theology, Bruce Waltke gives an overview of the Book of Psalms:
The book of Psalms consists of five books of psalms (1-41, 42-72, 73-89, 90-106, 107-150). Psalms 1-2 are its introduction, and 146-50 its climactic finale of praise. Psalm 1 introduces the individual who submits to God's rule a blessed person, and Psalm 2 introduces the principal subject of the Psalter, the king in prayer. (p. 159)
The king in prayer—this is the main perspective of the Book of Psalms. David and his heirs are the main pray-ers of these worship and wisdom songs. Especially in Books I, II, and V, we see King David himself in continual conversation with God.

Now, remember that this book was written long after the days of David, and after the kingdom had failed and fallen and been taken captive into exile. Those who returned from the Babylonian Exile were without a king to lead and guide them as they struggled to rebuild their lives and nation. Yet the Book of Psalms was given to assure them that, though the nations may rage against them, the Lord himself was reigning in their midst and would one day rule the world through his Anointed (Messiah). Psalm 2 called them to place their hope in the One to whom God would say, "You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession" (2.7-8).

In order to flesh out the character of this coming Messiah, the Book of Psalms sets forth David as his prototype. As David trusted God, so would his greater Son. As David suffered the opposition of the wicked, so the Messiah. As David persevered and triumphed by God's grace, giving praise to his Lord, so the ultimate King would be vindicated and raised to the throne.

Therefore, when we read the psalms, we are not to simply understand them in the light of David's experiences, rather, these are the prayers of the Messiah himself!

Dietrich Bonhoeffer saw this clearly:
According to the witness of the Bible, David is, as the anointed king of the chosen people of God, a prototype of Jesus Christ. What happens to him happens for the sake of the one who is in him and who is said to proceed from him, namely Jesus Christ. (p. 18)
According to an intriguing passage in 2Samuel 23, David himself may have intended this. The NRSV translates it like this:
Now these are the last words of David:
The oracle of David, son of Jesse,
the oracle of the man whom God exalted,
the anointed of the God of Jacob,
the favourite of the Strong One of Israel:
The spirit of the Lord speaks through me,
his word is upon my tongue.
The God of Israel has spoken,
the Rock of Israel has said to me:
One who rules over people justly,
ruling in the fear of God, is like the light of morning,
like the sun rising on a cloudless morning,
gleaming from the rain on the grassy land.
Is not my house like this with God?
For he has made with me an everlasting covenant,
ordered in all things and secure.
Will he not cause to prosper
all my help and my desire?
But the godless are all like thorns that are thrown away;
for they cannot be picked up with the hand;
to touch them one uses an iron bar
or the shaft of a spear.
And they are entirely consumed in fire on the spot.
Verse one may be understood in the sense that David is writing "about the Man whom God raised up, the Messiah of the God of Jacob, the One about whom sweet songs of Israel are sung." The rest of the passage speaks of God's covenant with David concerning an everlasting kingdom in his household.

The Book of Psalms is about the Lord Jesus Christ. It records his prayers, his sufferings and his triumphs. He is the King for whom the returned exiles were to wait with expectation. He is the Savior and Lord to whom the apostolic Gospels and Epistles testify. The Son of David. The Son of God. The King through whom God's blessing will be restored to all the earth.

No comments: