We are now just a bit over half way through the psalms and we have read many things. There are different types of psalms. Some psalms point right at the Messiah. Some have spoken of suffering and feelings of abandonment. Others have been songs of soaring praise. Today I would like to look at several random topics that we have seen so far. New Testament authors have looked at the psalms and made some very strong connections between them and Jesus, because Jesus completes David’s dynasty. All of the earthly kings failed, some quite spectacularly, at being obedient and following the law. But in Jesus there is great hope that all nations will submit to Jesus, God’s king. The psalmists have used many different titles for the Messiah in their writing. We have seen Messiah (2:2), Son of God (2:7,12), and sovereign king (8:4-6). Jesus has been referred to as the suffering servant (22) and the faithful servant (40:6-8, 69:1-36). Psalm 68:18 called Jesus a victorious king and psalm 110:1 calls Jesus the Exalted Lord. He is also the Royal High Priest (110:4), precious stone (118:22), and the blessed king (118:26). The gospel writers, Matthew in particular, have used these descriptions but so has the writer of the Book of Hebrews and the apostlePaul.
We have seen salvation in some of the psalms. Many of these depict a rescue from evil in the world. Many were well acquainted with grief. Others were sure God had abandoned them. And the wicked took advantage of apparent injustice to ridicule the godly. These psalmists cried out for justice because they knew the Lord was their only hope. They were completely dependent on Him. Often times the psalmists waited on the Lord for rescue and as they waited they demonstrated faith that the Lord was with them, keeping watch over them. We have seen that God graciously rescues His needy servants and answers their prayers. When the Lord does rescues His people He receives glory through their thanksgiving, praise, and testimony. God’s mighty acts are recorded in scripture so that His people will praise Him for what He has done and in turn trust Him to rescue them.
The psalms encourage the godly to identify themselves with these stories of salvation. We see that salvation excludes the wicked, those who ridicule the ones who hope in the Lord and His rescue. These wicked may cry out to the Lord in their hour of judgement, but He will not rescue them. Hope in God’s salvation requires living in faith, and loving the Lord. This kind of faith casts out fear because the Lord does what is right. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ came to save sinners. He ministered to the needy and the marginalized, though He Himself died under oppression. He came to rescue people from themselves too. He rescues us from the evil one, death, and adversity. Jesus has the power to vindicate the faithful, judge sinners, and completely save all of God’s children. He will renew all things and the wicked will be excluded from His everlasting salvation. That seems harsh but if people have spent a lifetime rejecting the Lord and His offer of grace, mercy, and salvation then they have shown they want nothing to do with the Lord.
Another thing we have seen from the psalmists is their desire to experience God’s close presence. Some of the psalms portray our God as a very intimate God, knitting us together in our mother’s womb for example. In the experience of intimacy, God’s rich goodness and love are all that people need. But by the same token, the absence of God’s presence is distressing and damaging. Israel’s poets often spoke of God’s face as a way of expressing His presence or absence. Many times they sought His face. We read that as God’s face shone on His people, they experienced His blessings, provision, and protection. But when God hides His face it is a picture of abandonment, almost like they did not exist. It is God’s presence alone that satisfies their deepest longings and brings them lasting pleasure. Everything about God delights them.
Sometimes in the psalms we see questions and doubt. The psalmists are not afraid to ask questions and express their doubts. That comes from having a solid relationship with the Lord. Typically, the number of questions in a psalm indicates the mood or the significance of the issue at hand. The psalms with the most number of questions raise some of the most significant issues…like the prosperity of the wicked or the feeling of abandonment. Sometimes these questions help to clarify life issues. Some ask if the Lord is really the true God. And still others wonder if God really has abandoned His people. Other questions ask about the issue of injustice, the power of God or the election of Zion. The psalmists question, examine, challenge, doubt, and occasionally despair over God’s seeming lack of concern for His people. At times the questions drive their worship. For example psalm 106:2 asks “Who can list the glorious miracles of the Lord? Who can ever praise Him enough?” For many questions, the implied answer brings praise to the Lord. Questions such as “Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on this earth.” Other questions express wonder at God’s grace. However, asking questions is a great way to begin a dialogue with the Lord that leads us along the path of wisdom. It will also result in worship and praise.
Some of you have asked questions about Zion. Zion is the Hebrew name for the mountain in Jerusalem where the temple was located. It is also used as a synonym for Jerusalem. Zion is the actual city of Jerusalem that was destroyed in 586B.C. and again in 70 A.D. Zion also signifies the city of God that transcends geographical location. It is also God’s universal kingdom, the city in which He dwells. Many of the prophets and poets in Israel spoke of the city of God as being more extensive than the physical city. The citizens of this city come from Judah, Israel, and the nations. It is on a high mountain at the center of God’s kingdom on earth and His throne is in Zion. That means godly prayers and praise focus on Zion and redemption is sought there. Zion is symbolic of God’s protection and blessings. Anyone who trusts in the Lord is as secure as Mount Zion. But those who reject the Lord also reject the security of Zion and have no future. The New Testament speaks of Mount Zion as a heavenly Jerusalem, the spiritual home of those from all nations who have been reborn through faith in Jesus Christ. These are just a few observations from our reading. There are many more, but I will save them for the next free day!
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W