Wednesday, 27 October 2010

A Trinity of Psalms: King David's vision of Christ, 1000 b.c.




When Saint Patrick was a herd on Slemish mountain in county Antrim, he found liberation in the words of Psalm 23 which begins "The Lord is my Shepherd ...". Thousands of years earlier, and thousands of miles away, King David had written this Psalm with its images of shepherds and green pastures that struck a chord with Patrick.

I don't understand the replacement theology of some "New Testament Alone" churches. There are many reasons why it doesn't hold up, but for me it is like trying to ride a 1-wheeled bicycle, or rather, a 2-wheeled bicycle with one of the wheels removed. I heard two sayings recently that struck home. The first was that "Christ is in every page of Genesis", and the second was:
"the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed, while the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed".

The 23rd Psalm is the one that every Christian, of any denomination, still knows best. Maybe it is because it contains a complete summary of the gospel message that very few folk read it in the context of the two psalms that embrace it, the one before and the one after. It sits in the middle of a 'trinity' of psalms (Psalms 22, 23 and 24) that take the central one out of the realms of symbolism and metaphor into the sphere of prophetic detail.

The first Psalm of this trinity is Psalm 22 and it is a quite stunning vision of Christ's death and passion on the cross, while the third Psalm 24 is a breath-taking vision of Christ's victorious entry into and enthronement in the Kingdom of Heaven - on the third day.
It is only when I read these three Psalms together that the full impact of those 3 pivotal days in world history comes alive.

Psalm 22 (I have highlighted some verses for reasons which will be obvious to anybody familiar with the gospel accounts of the Crucifixion)

1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? 6 But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people. 7 All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: 8 "He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him." 14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax;it has melted away within me. 15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. 16 Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.
17 I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.
23 You who fear the LORD, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! 24 For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help. 25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you will I fulfill my vows. 26 The poor will eat and be satisfied; they who seek the LORD will praise him — may your hearts live forever! 27 All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, 28 for dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations. 29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him — those who cannot keep themselves alive. 30 Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. 31 They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn— for he has done it.

...

Moving then to Psalm 24, the scene moves to the Resurrection, but not from the perspective of the empty tomb on the third day, but that of Christ's triumphal entrance to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Psalm 24

1 The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
2 for he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the waters.
3 Who may ascend the hill of the LORD
Who may stand in his holy place?
4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart

7 Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. 8 Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle. 9 Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. 10 Who is he, this King of glory? The LORD Almighty— he is the King of glory.


...

With these two pillars of support to the 23rd Psalm, like the prelude and finale to a pastoral symphony, I leave this (King James) version of the old, old story without further comment.

Psalm 23
1 A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

17 comments:

  1. Great post Philip.

    It amazes me as well that people do not see Christ all over the Old Testament. Even the New Testament tells us about this. One has to be blinded to the truth to miss it.These Psalms are so beautiful in pointing to the death and resurrection of Christ. The Old Testament is full of such beauty. If we neglect it we are truly missing out.

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  2. Great post Philip.

    I was struck afresh recently by this verse: "And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself" (Luke 24:27) - a lovely picture of Jesus working through the entire Old Testament to show his listeners on the Emmaus road that the entire OT is really about Him. And the result was that their hearts burned within them.

    Here is a good video clip on the same topic (the voiceover is by Tim Keller, but is perhaps a bit too fast)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LkNa6tLWrqk&feature=related

    Mark

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  3. Too many Christians forget that the apostels used SCRIPTURE to convince listeners of the validity of Christ. What "scriptuers" existed at that time? Only what we call the Old Testament!

    Great post, Phil!

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  4. Mark,
    Yes that clip and the text does sum it up. Thanks for the link and kind comments. Must be my "Pressed-beef" background that makes me zero in on the Psalms when there is so much more!

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  5. Godthinker,
    I really appreciate your observations here, and I stand in awe at your own postings linking and weaving OT foundations into our present understanding of the 'fulfilling' nature of the New Testament.

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  6. Gorges,
    Spot on with your usual down to earth common sense! Not only the apostles, but I don't know how many times Jesus himself said, "It is written ..."
    I like the story about the only time Jesus is recorded as writing something down himself. It was when the woman caught in adultery was about to be stoned and he wrote something with his finger in the sand before saying "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone". I would love to know what he actually wrote but!

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  7. Thanks Philip. You had mentioned the "trinity of psalms" several weeks ago in your comments concerning my hymn ALL THE EARTH BELONGS TO JESUS, taken from Psalm 24. All of your commentors see the reality and beauty of Jesus in the Old Testament, and we can certainly see Him in every book, if not every page.

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  8. Hi Gary (fellow Psalmophile),
    Yes, that comment on your blog I suppose triggered the idea of this post. Hope your mammoth task is going well. Did any other Psalms strike you as "Messianic" (if that's the right term).

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  9. Hello Phillip, I am ashamed to say I have never read to realise, the 22nd Psalm. You know, the Muslims go by the old testament and should realise the validity of Christ! yet they call him a prophet?
    You may have read, Hinds Feet in High Places. It so beautifully depicts the 23rd Psalm.
    I enjoyed this so much. Thank you.CML

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  10. Hi Crystal Mary, I checked out the book you recommended and the review said it was a must for anyone who loved "Pilgrim's Progress". It's funny but I was just about to re-read that and so must also get "Hinds Feet in High Places". Thanks.

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  11. There ARE other Psalms quoted in the NT that are understood by NT writers to refer to Jesus. Certainly Psalm 8 (near its end) says that "God put all things under [humans'] feet. I think it may be the writer of Hebrews who quotes this in reference to Jesus, saying "but right now we don't see all things beneath his feet." There are other Christological psalms, I'm sure...

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  12. Keep well Phillip. Enjoy your reading and God Bless.

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  13. Happy Happy Christmas.. Blessed be.

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  14. God Bless you and your wife this New Year!! From Oz

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  15. Crystal Mary, Many thanks, and may you and your whole family have a restored and refreshed 2011 to keep up the good work!

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  16. And I thought none of my friends in the choir had known about these 3 Psalms until one said - "yes, they are: The Cross; The Crook; and The Crown"!

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