THE DIVINE ARCH OF HUMAN REDEMPTION (12)
DAVID AND THE PSALMS
“And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for My Name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his Father, and he shall be my son. Even in suffering for iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes due to the children of Adam. But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee. And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever” (2Sam 7:12-16; variation on AV from Brother Thomas).
As we read again that great promise made by God to David, our appreciation of it’s import is perhaps best understood by asking what it meant to David; for it is evident that its message overwhelmed him. His immediate reaction was to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and to offer prayer and praise in thanksgiving to God for the wonder of His condescension, love and mercy. What was it about the promise which brought so fervent a response? The answer is found in the mind of David revealed in his prayer: “Who am I, O Lord God? And what is my house, that Thou hast brought me hitherto? And this was yet a small thing in Thy sight, O Lord God; but Thou hast spoken of thy servant’s house for a great while to come. And is this the manner of man, O Lord God? And what can David say more unto Thee? For Thou, Lord God, knowest thy servant. For Thy Word’s sake, and according to Thine own heart, hast Thou done all these great things, to make Thy servant know them” (2Sam 7:18-21).
It is clear that David had a deep, clear and comprehensive understanding of the purpose of God, in respect both to the things concerning the Kingdom of God and the things concerning the name of Jesus Christ. The Law of God, in regard to both precept and counsel, was his meditation all the day. His whole life, apart from one or two lapses, was governed by the Word of God. We have no doubt whatever that all that we have hitherto laid bare from the Scriptures from the time of Adam to Moses concerning these matters was well understood by this man of God’s own heart. He knew of the lamb slain from the foundation of the world and what it signified. He knew of the exceeding great and precious promises made by God to the fathers of Israel. He knew the Mosaic Law and to whom it pointed forward. He knew all about human nature, of its devilish influence; he had cause to – he had himself succumbed to its power. He was well aware, as he acknowledged, of the consequences of transgression, and the impotence of man, of himself, to remedy either the evil or it’s effects.
MANNER OF THE MAN
When David realised the full import of God’s gracious message to him, his personal involvement in the outworking of God’s plan of the ages, and the implied removal of sin and death, small wonder at his reaction. The manner of the man who should be the means of it’s accomplishment exercised his mind; the recognition that he should be both the Son of God, and the seed of David was a source of deep satisfaction, yet with reverence and humility. He certainly appreciated the honour of having such an illustrious descendent. But in the words of David at this time there is more than a hint that there was revealed to him, not only the general features in regard to the Saviour, but the very details involved in the work of redemption through him. All this is comprehended in an understanding of the ‘manner of the man’ (Compare The Companion Bible, on 2Sam 7:19). It was an understanding which God by His Spirit caused David to record for the instruction of men and women sensitive to Divine things and desirous of knowing these matters, even before the one of whom they spake was made manifest in person.
The Apostle Peter in his First Epistle speaks of the prophets of Israel, of whom David was a prime figure. When writing of the mystery of the Gospel, that is, concerning the manner in which, by the grace of God, Gentiles could be included to become heirs of the promises, he makes this statement: “… Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow” (1:11).
This testimony is interwoven in the oracles of David, particularly in the Psalms, and, as we shall see later, in the writings of the prophets. We can be quite sure that David mulled over every word of God’s covenant to him, and over the fulness of meaning of every inflection. At the end of his life, he revealed how its outworking and consummation preoccupied his mind: “He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain. Although my house be not so with God; yet He hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although He make it not to grow” (2 Sam 23:3-5).
THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST
There we have, in few but telling words, the clarity of David’s mind concerning the future King of Israel, the character of the man and the effects of his reign. We note David’s yearning for his coming, the realisation that his own salvation from sin and death with the fulfilment of the covenant was predicated upon the work the King must accomplish. Though the vision of the Kingdom engrossed his thoughts, he was mindful of what was necessary beforehand and the suffering which it would entail. He had made note of God’s words: “Even in suffering for iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes due to the children of Adam”. He understood their meaning, for it was David who said: “But the sons of Belial shall be all of them as thorns trust away, because they cannot be taken with hands: but the man that shall touch them must be fenced with iron and the staff of a spear; and they shall be utterly burned with fire in the same place” (2Sam 23:6,7). The sons of Belial are the wicked, those who are without worth, valueless, as the word “Belial” means. They are to be utterly consumed with fire, but not by mere human instigation or power. The picture presented to us here has reference to the crucifixion.
In the Messianic Psalm 22 at verse 16 we read: “For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet”. Our Lord in his atoning word was taken by wicked men whom no human hands could restrain – not even those of Pilate the Roman Governor, for he washed his hands of the whole iniquitous episode.
Jesus was the he-lamb; the ram caught in the thorn thicket of men’s evil counsels; trapped, as they thought, in the mesh of their evil and premeditated devisings; but he was fenced (filled) with an iron resolve to defeat the power of the diabolos which they manifested. He told them they were of their father the devil. Though they with iron nails transfixed and crucified him, though in the process he was thrust through with a Roman spear, the iron piercing his side, yet still the victory was his.
Moreover, it was in the same place, Jerusalem, that those responsible were burned with fire and utterly consumed, the legions of Titus and Vespasian being Divinely empowered to effect the judgement. No doubt the words of David have an even fuller meaning, for Psalm 118 records: “all nations compassed me about: but in the name of the Lord will I destroy them … They compassed me about like bees; they are quenched as the fire of thorns: for in the name of the Lord I will destroy them” (V 10,12). This is the work of the multitudinous Christ, when the sons of Belial, the great Gogian host, the opposers and resisters of the truth, gather on the mountains of Israel, and are destroyed.
But it is when we come to consider the Messianic psalms that David’s appreciation of the atoning work of Jesus is made fully manifest. Not only the sacrifice and its purpose, but the particular events and circumstances leading up to it, are revealed. We seem to stand and be witness in person to all that our Lord had to suffer. Not only the general facts, but the details too are given, and in such terms that we relive the whole dreadful ordeal. The sensitive mind is made in measure to share the physical pain and mental agony.
Who can fail to be moved by the words which seem to come from the very lips of Jesus himself, even though they were penned a thousand years before the event? – “All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the Lord that He would deliver him: let Him deliver him, seeing He delighted in him … Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round. They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and Thou hast brought me into the dust of death … I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture” (Ps 22:7,8,12-15,17,18).
These words, coupled with those found in Psalm 69, paint the pain and torment of the crucifixion in a lurid colour. “Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none. They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink” (Ps 69:20-21). We have little doubt that David, in writing by inspiration of God these poignant and dramatic words, knowing to whom they referred, often reflected and was moved. But in addition to these direct and unmistakable references predicting the sufferings of Jesus, there are other references interwoven in the Psalms which fill out the ‘manner of the man’, Christ Jesus.
RESOLVE OF THE SAVIOUR
There is no mistaking the one spoken of in Psalm 16: “I have set the Lord always before me: because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt show me the path of life: in Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand are pleasures for evermore” (V 8-11). There is revealed not only the mind of David towards God and his hope of salvation, but also an insight into the mind of Jesus. The vision of the future glory, redemption from sin and death, life for evermore – these things were ever before David and his greater Son.
Again, in Psalm 17 we are able to detect that nobility of mind which, in the knowledge of the work Jesus was to accomplish, kept his thoughts fixed on the objective. “Thou hast proved mine heart; Thou hast visited me in the night; Thou hast tried me, and shalt find nothing; I am purposed that my mouth shall not transgress. Concerning the works of men, by the word of Thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer. Hold up my goings in Thy paths, that my footsteps slip not. I have called upon Thee, for Thou wilt hear me, O God; incline Thine ear unto me, and hear my speech. Shew thy marvellous loving kindness, O Thou that savest by Thy right hand them which put their trust in Thee from those that rise up against them. Keep me as the apply of the eye, hide me under the shadow of Thy wings, from the wicked that oppress me, from my deadly enemies, who compass me about” (V 3-9)
We have to rise above and beyond even the life of David to appreciate the message fully. The salvation that comes from God’s right hand is His only begotten Son through his atoning work. The strength of his resolve to effect this by perfect obedience is manifest. His mind was stayed at all times on God, his Father.
AGONY OF MIND
The next, Psalm 18, also reveals to us, not only the mind of David in his afflictions, but more especially that of our redeemer in the days of his flesh. The agony of mind is of an acutely sensitive, refined and noble gentle man, and his recourse to God his Father for solace, are opened up to us, as he anticipated the dreadful ordeal and suffering he knew he had to undergo: “I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength, The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. I will call upon the Lord, Who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies. The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid. The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me. In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: He heard my voice out of His temple, and my cry came before Him, even into His ears. Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because He was wroth” (V 1-7).
How these words found their fulfilment at Calvary, when the voice of God shook the earth, and there was a great earthquake! “The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave His voice” (V 13). The Psalm goes on to speak in detail of the future work of the Beloved, his judgement upon his enemies and the salvation of all who put their trust in his redemptive work. Psalm 20 makes reference to the atonement; for David, in praise to God, says: “We will rejoice in Thy salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners: the Lord fulfil all thy petitions. Now know I the Lord saveth His anointed; He will hear him from His holy heaven with the saving strength of His right hand” (V 5,6). The strength of God’s right hand in the work of salvation was Jesus the anointed.
Psalm 21 is another Messianic Psalm. Speaking of the enemies of our Lord, it reads: “For they intended evil against thee: they imagined a mischievous device, which they are not able to perform” (V 11). “For the king trusteth in the Lord, and through the mercy of the most High he shall not be moved” (V 7). So, in the accomplishment of the work of salvation, “… Thou settest a crown of pure gold on his head. He asked life of Thee, and Thou gavest it him, even length of days for ever and ever” (V 3,4).
CONFIDENCE IN GOD
Psalm 31 gives us a moving insight into the mind of our Master, his anguish and sorrow, yet confidence in God: “In Thee, O Lord, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed; deliver me in thy righteousness … For Thou art my rock and my fortress … Pull me out of the net that they have laid privily for me: for Thou art my strength. Into Thine hand I commit my spirit: Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth … I was a reproach among all mine enemies, but especially among my neighbours, and a fear to mine acquaintance: they that did see me without fled from me … For I have heard the slander of many: fear was on every side: while they took counsel together against me, they devised to take away my life. But I trusted in Thee, O Lord: I said, Thou art my God” (v 1,3-5, 11, 13, 14).
Psalm 35 fills in more details. “False witnesses did rise up; they laid to my charge things that I knew not. They rewarded me evil for good to the spoiling of my soul … With hypocritical mockers in feasts, they gnashed upon me with their teeth. Lord, how long wilt Thou look on? Rescue my soul from their destructions, my darling (only one, AV Marg) from the lions … Yea, they opened their mouth wide against me, and said, Aha, aha, our eye hath seen it. This Thou hast seen, O Lord: keep not silence: O Lord, be not far from me” (V 11,12,16,21,22) .
Psalm 40 continues the theme: “I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings” (V 1,2). “Sacrifice and offering Thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do Thy will, O my God: yea, Thy law is within my heart” (V 6-8).
Psalm 41 adds further details: “All that hate me whisper together against me: against me do they devise my hurt. An evil disease, say they, cleaveth fast unto him: and now that he lieth he shall rise up no more. Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me” (V 7-9).
SALVATION IN THE FACE OF CHRIST
The thoughts expressed here in these psalms have a direct reference to the crucifixion, and the events and circumstances leading up to it. The redemption which this atoning work accomplished gives point to Psalms 45 to 50 which follow, speaking as they do in wonderfully expressive language of the Kingdom Age, the fulfilment of the great promises made to the fathers of Israel. We see how the Kingdom blessings are contingent upon the redemption.
The fulfilment of David’s prayer and the realisation of all his heart’s desire, as expressed in Psalm 72, are predicated, as he knew, upon the removal of the power of death which holds men in its thrall. As Psalm 68 expressed it, speaking of the Messiah: “Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them” (V 18).
Psalm 80 recapitulates the history of the children of Israel and pleads for a return of God’s favour upon them. The psalmist reveals the means through which this will be effected: “… Look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine; and the vineyard which thy right hand hath planted, and the branch that Thou madest strong for thyself” (V 14,15). “Let Thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand, upon the son of man whom Thou madest strong for Thyself. So will not we go back from Thee: quicken us, and we will call upon thy name. Turn us again, O Lord God of hosts, cause Thy face to shine; and we shall be saved” (V 17-19); With the taking away of sin, and the provision of the means of reconciliation, so from the faces of the Cherubim the Shekinah glory is made to shine, and the salvation of God in the face of Jesus Christ is manifest – wonderful thoughts repeated for us in Psalm 85.
Psalm 110, in the thoughts it expresses, reveals understanding in the mind of David of the atonement and of the sequel to it. The exaltation of his greater son to the right hand of God, his work as intercessor, as the priest after the order of Melchizedek, and his work of judgement at his return, are all plainly stated. Psalm 118, to which we have already made reference, goes on to speak of the Saviour: “The right hand of the Lord is exalted: the right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly. I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord. The Lord hath chastened me sore: but He hath not given me over unto death. Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the Lord: this gate of the Lord, into which the righteous shall enter, I will praise Thee: for Thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation. The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. This is the Lord’s doing: it is marvellous in our eyes … God is the Lord which hath shewed us light: bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar” (v 16-23, 27).
From all these references in the Psalms (and there are many more) we are able to build up an exact picture of the Messiah, the ‘manner of the man’ – his character, mind and purpose – as well as an appreciation of the precise circumstances surrounding his betrayal, conviction and death.
So David, and all like-minded, spiritually discerning men and women, were able by searching to see in prospect, as we see in retrospect, the work of the atonement with all that would be associated with it and the one through whom all their hopes would be realised. Their perception of this vital matter and their vision of it was as sharply focused in all its details as our own.