Seeing Jesus in the Psalms

April 9, 2015

In my Good Friday sermon, which I plan on posting later today, I used a few examples from the Old Testament to show that Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross needed to happen in order for us to be saved. I also said that if we read the Old Testament well and often, we learn to see Jesus on nearly every page. This is sometimes referred to as a “Christocentric” reading, an approach I enthusiastically embrace.

Tim Keller, more than anyone, has taught me through his own sermons to read the Old Testament in this way. This doesn’t mean I think that the original authors of the Old Testament always or often understood that they were saying something about the Messiah. It only means that Author behind the authors of scripture was often pointing us to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

What’s the alternative? While the authors of the Old Testament may not always have imagined the kind of Messiah and Savior that God was going to send, the Holy Spirit imagined him completely and perfectly!

This week, in my private devotional reading, I read Psalm 7. This is one of those psalms in which David puts his righteousness on the line and potentially calls a curse down upon himself:

Lord my God, if I have done this,
    if there is wrong in my hands,
if I have repaid my friend with evil
    or plundered my enemy without cause,
let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it,
    and let him trample my life to the ground
    and lay my glory in the dust…

The Lord judges the peoples;
    judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness
    and according to the integrity that is in me.

When I read words like this, I think, “I could never pray that way! I would never pray that way!” If the Lord judges me according to my righteousness, my integrity, I’m doomed! I much prefer those psalms, like Psalm 103, in which David asks, “If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” Certainly not me!

But suppose we read Psalm 7 with Christ in mind? We’re reminded, first of all, that God is a righteous judge who will judge and punish evil. Moreover, we’re reminded that our own sins deserve judgment and punishment: truly, if the Lord judges me according to my righteousness, I’m lost.

Then we remember Jesus: “For our sake, God made him to be sin who knew no sin so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). We’re reminded that we don’t have a righteousness of our own that comes from keeping God’s law, which nones us can do apart from Christ, but a righteousness that comes through faith in Christ (Philippians 3:9). Indeed, we’re reminded that Christ lived the life we were unable to live and died the death we deserved to die.

And by the time we’re finished reflecting on this psalm, our hearts are filled not with guilt, but with gratitude.

2 Responses to “Seeing Jesus in the Psalms”

  1. Tom Harkins Says:

    Well, I agree that Christ “took our place” as far as the judgments of “destination” and “relationship” are concerned. We won’t go to hell if we are Christians, and the devil is no longer our “father”; now God is. However, and I don’t know but what you agree with this, our “fellowship” with God is affected by what we do, whether to sin or act righteously. So, while David may have been using some hyperbole in Psalm 7 (i.e., see Psalm 103), I do think he was speaking of himself–that God would be righteous in allowing punishment to come upon him if David were not acting righteously. Although not quite the same, John says in 1 John that anyone who says he is without sin is a liar, but nonetheless notes that living a life of continuing sin is evidence of a lack of salvation. In other words, are we letting sin “master us” or not, even though we sometimes “slip.” So, I don’t think David is taking his own actions out of the picture in Psalm 7, in calling down “curses.”

    • brentwhite Says:

      I strongly agree that our fellowship with God is affected by the extent to which we sin or act righteously, but I do think a peace comes from knowing that our salvation ultimately doesn’t depend on our own righteousness. This psalm reminds me of that.

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