Four Approaches to Theology

theology

While theology is the rational reflection on God/god(s) and every religion, regardless of simplicity or intricacy has a theology, Bruce Demarest defines systematic theology as, “the attempt to reduce religious truth to a coherent and relevant whole for the church [which serves to:] (1) edify the believing community, (2) allow the gospel in its fullness to be proclaimed, and (3) preserve the truth content and lived experience of the faith.”[1] Demarest further illustrates, “systematic theology concerns itself with God’s saving history with His people, the utterances of divinely ordained prophets and apostles, and supremely the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”[2]

            In contrast, Demarest explains how, “biblical theology sets forth the message of biblical books by author or other scheme, while historical theology traces the church’s faith topically through various eras of history. [Then,] systematic theology incorporates the data of exegetical, biblical, and historical theology to construct a coherent representation of the Christian faith.”[3] Lastly, philosophical theology is also utilized by systematic theology and Millard Erickson highlights three contributions, “philosophy may: (1) supply content for theology, (2) defend theology or establish its truth, and (3) scrutinize its concepts and arguments.”[4] Philosophical theology prepares one to receive the special revelation revealed in Scripture and Erickson, explains how, “Philosophy also performs the second function of weighing the truth-claims advanced by theology and giving part of the basis for accepting the message.”[5]

When looking at each branch of theology, it is apparent systematic theology and biblical theology are closely connected, however, as Erickson demonstrates, “in biblical theology, there is no attempt to contemporize or to state these unchanging concepts in a form suitable for our day’s understanding, [but Erickson does recognize,] the systematic theologian is dependent on the work and insights of the laborers in the exegetical vineyard.”[6] Historical theology also contributes to systematic theology, as it makes one aware of his or her own preunderstanding or presuppositions, it always one to look back at how other theologians in the past approached a specific topic, tradition, or issue, and it also provides the ability to analyze a specific belief by looking back to exactly where and when it began, which allows today’s scholars the ability to see how people came to various professions of faith, conclusions, and/or deductions.

In a ministerial setting, an understanding of each field of study is necessary, but overall, systematic theology appears to provide the most benefit and context. Demarest demonstrates, “Although Scripture is inviolable, fresh theological understanding and reformation are required in every generation and for every culture, first, because the corpus of Christian truth must be clad in every distinctive cultural form and context, and second, because new issues and problems arise to challenge the church, [so] theologians need to be continually re-contextualized.”[7] Being proficient in systematic theology allows one the ability to openly communicate the gospel message while also being able to provide a relevant rationale why one should choose the Christian faith over other various belief systems. However, without an understanding of the other fields of theology, one will have a difficult time utilizing systematic theology to its fullest potential.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Elwell, Walter A. ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 3rd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2013.

Frame, John M. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013.

[1] Bruce A. Demarest, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd Edition, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001), 1162-1163.

[2] Ibid., 1163.

[3] Ibid., 1164.

[4] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology. 3rd Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2013), 13-14.

[5] Erickson, Christian Theology, 14.

[6] Ibid., 10-11.

[7] Demarest, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 1162.

Biblical Principles for Teaching

Proverbs_22-6

As Octavio J. Esqueda asserts, “The church and Christian ministry exists to glorify God as its single purpose.”[1] From this premise, understanding how to synthesize and implement the critical biblical foundations for teaching is vital to not only success in ministry, but also in bringing glory to God. The first critical principal is, “God the Father is a teacher because He reveals Himself to humanity… and God’s ultimate purpose of His revelation is that we may know Him and obey Him.”[2] Esqueda shows, “God has chosen to reveal Himself through general revelation and special revelation. General revelation can be found in creation and conscience (Psalm 19) and special revelation is found as God discloses Himself through His Word: the incarnate Word (logos) of God, Jesus Christ, and the written Word of God, the Bible.”[3]

The second principle has to do with the importance of theology, which is the study of God. Esqueda demonstrates how theology is central to the teaching ministry of the church and to every dimension of our lives… and how we cannot serve a God we do not know, and we cannot know God and fail to serve Him.”[4] R. B. Zuck cites three additional factors which define Christian education: (1) the centrality of God’s written revelation, (2) the necessity of regeneration, and (3) the ministry of the Holy Spirit.[5] From this premise, Esqueda argues, “Since the role of the Holy Spirit is essential and God’s work relies primarily on His power (Zechariah 4:6), we would be more effective if we spent more time praying and less time planning or talking, [thus] making prayer the essential element in the teaching-learning process.”[6]

            The final principle that guides the practice of this student is faith and obedience. Esqueda demonstrates how “faith should be our appropriate response to the knowledge of God we receive through revelation and without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). God [also] expects our complete obedience in love [because] obedience is the purpose of God’s revelation.” Deuteronomy 29:29 reveals, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” Frank Gaebelein shows, “The hidden things of the future are known only to the Lord, but His people still have reason for great expectations allied with great responsibilities; they have the things revealed. These are within the area of their knowledge and that of their children forever, and that for a definite, specific reason—that they should “follow all the words of this law.”[7]

The Shema found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5 is a confession of faith and Jesus would add to that loving one’s neighbor as ourselves in Matthew 22:37-40. To be true followers of Christ, one must follow all of His commandments and as Esqueda shows, “The purpose of teaching is our transformation. We need to ‘be transformed by the renewal of our minds (Romans 12:1-2) in order to see life as God sees it [and] only when we adapt our thoughts to God’s can we understand His will.” Ben Forrest does a great job summarizing the two main principles for biblical teaching: “(1) God wants to communicate His message to the world and (2) The goal of teaching is to present ‘everyone mature in Christ.’”[8] When all of these principles are implemented, the teacher becomes the means through which God is able to communicate His truth and love. Teaching should start at a young age and continue throughout one’s life. As parents, teachers, and leaders it is important to realize whenever contact is made with another individual, something is always being taught. Based on this truth, it is vital one’s talk always lines up with his or her walk since the most important lessons in life are often caught and not taught. Forrest then “stresses the importance to always remain relational, intellectual, and practical when teaching and interacting with others because we are the conduits of the gospel message. While we do not possess the power to transform others, we are charged with discipleship, which requires the ability to understand God’s Word and apply it to daily living.”[9]

Within the seven activities template for teaching, Warren Benson demonstrates how, “Our metaphysical and epistemological beliefs and commitments are crucial to the formation of our axiological arguments… [and] the formulation of all three adjudications rests firmly on the Bible, so when these beliefs emerge and are consistent with our scriptural convictions, we are on the way to building a Christian philosophy of education.”[10] Upon this premise, George Knight presents seven hallmarks of a Christian epistemology:

(1) All truth is God’s truth; (2) Christians can pursue truth without the fear of     contradiction; (3) forces of evil will always seek to undermine the teaching of biblical      truth; (4) absolute truth belongs solely to God, which allows room for Christian humility;   (5) the Bible sees truth as being related to life; (6) general and special revelation are   complementary, and (7) to accept truth is a faith choice and necessitates a total      commitment to a new life.[11]

All of these principles remain mainstays in communicating the gospel message and truth remains the dominant principle behind each one. If anything were to be modified in the template, it would the presence of roles each individual plays in the learning process. God calls every believing parent to train his or her children in the Christian faith and this model can be traced back to Abraham (Genesis 18:19), Moses (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:1-12; Exodus 12:25-28), and any Jewish home as the primary place for spiritual training (Proverbs 1:8). A paradigm shift must occur in both the church and the foundation of Christian education for these truths to reach the lost and hurting because Satan hates anything God loves, which makes the traditional family a prime target. Only by opening oneself to the special revelation of Scripture and the general revelation of God’s creation, will the blind truly be able to see. God is continually trying to reveal Himself, but the forces of evil will always stand opposed to the teaching of biblical truth. Lastly, teaching should always lead to transformation because as Benson demonstrates, “A true Christian education should help us understand and appreciate the authority of God’s Word.”[12] It should also allow the believer to be transformed into the image of Christ, thus allowing he or she the ability to align one’s will with God’s.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Benson, Warren S. Introducing Christian Education: Foundations for the Twenty-first Century. Edited by Michael J. Anthony. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001.

Esqueda, Octavio J. The Teaching Ministry of the Church. 2nd Edition. Edited by William R. Yount. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2008.

Forrest, Ben. “Theological Principles for Teaching.” Filmed [2014], Liberty University Website, HOMI 601, Course Content, Week One Video Presentation, 7:14. https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_346767_1&content_id=_16730805_1 (accessed March 22, 2017).

Gaebelein, Frank E., ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Volume 3: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992.

Richards, Lawrence O. and Gary J. Bredfeldt. Creative Bible Teaching. Revised and Expanded. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1998.

Stanley, Andy and Lane Jones. Communicating For a Change. Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books, 2006.

Zuck, R. B. Spirit-Filled Teaching: The Power of the Holy Spirit in Your Ministry. Nashville, TN: Word Publishing, 1998.

[1] Octavio J. Esqueda, The Teaching Ministry of the Church. 2nd Edition, ed. William R. Yount (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2008), 31.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., 33.

[4] Ibid., 32.

[5] R. B. Zuck, Spirit-Filled Teaching: The Power of the Holy Spirit in Your Ministry (Nashville, TN: Word Publishing, 1998), 2.

[6] Esqueda, The Teaching Ministry of the Church, 77.

[7] Frank E. Gaebelein, ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Volume 3: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992), 186.

[8] Ben Forrest, “Theological Principles for Teaching,” Filmed [2014], Liberty University Website, HOMI 601, Course Content, Week One Video Presentation, 7:14. https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_346767_1&content_id=_16730805_1 (accessed March 22, 2017).

[9] Ibid.

[10] Warren S. Benson, Introducing Christian Education: Foundations for the Twenty-first Century, ed. Michael J. Anthony (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001), 27.

[11] Benson, Introducing Christian Education, 28.

[12] Ibid., 33.

Four Views of Baptist Origin

Baptist_history

Leon McBeth cites four views pertaining to the sources of Baptist origin: (1) the outgrowth of English Separatism, (2) the influence of biblical Anabaptists, (3) the continuation of biblical teachings throughout the ages, and (4) the succession of organized Baptist churches through the ages.[1] Proponents believing the outgrowth of English Separatism to be the origin of Baptists minimize any role or influence Anabaptists may have played in England before 1600 and instead focus on the diversities between Baptists and Anabaptists. McBeth, illustrates, “They maintain that every distinctive Baptist belief and practice is inherent within Puritanism/Separatism.”[2]

Supporters of the Anabaptist influence view set out to link Baptist origins to the influence of biblical Anabaptists. McBeth highlights, “Most of them acknowledge that Baptists emerged through English Separatism, but they believe Anabaptism both on the Continent and in England prepared the way for Separatism.”[3] Anabaptists can be difficult to classify because the name was associated with a diverse group of believers ranging from extreme mystics, like the Quakers, all the way to extreme rationalists. Some historians contend, “Baptists originated largely in response to the Anabaptist movement, [and] Anabaptists influenced the early Baptists at two points: (1) in preparing the way for Separatism and (2) by leading some to go beyond Separatism to believer’s baptism.”[4]

The latter two views are often both labeled under successionism. McBeth demonstrates, “While almost all recognize that early Baptists were related to the Separatists, disagreement centers around what preceded the Separatists.”[5] This third group looks to trace a continuity of Baptist teachings from New Testament times to the present, asserting the origin of Baptist-like faith and practice never completely died out. Thomas Crosby claimed, “that Baptist principles not only root in the New Testament but also can be traced through various groups since then.”[6]

Arising in the nineteenth century, the final argument for the origin of Baptists goes a step further than the previous. Sometimes referred to as the Jesus-Jordan-John (JJJ) theory, this view contends that Baptists originated with John the Baptist, Jesus, and/or baptisms in the Jordan. McBeth explains, “This theory assumes that John the Baptist represents a denominational affiliation and that Jesus formed a Baptist church and promised in Matthew 16:18 that Baptist churches would never vanish from the world.”[7] There are multiple variations of belief in this view ranging from the premise that: (1) organic succession can be proven and that it is essential, (2) succession is essential and does exist, but cannot be proven, or (3) succession can be proven, but it is not essential.[8]

While each view has merit, it seems the most convincing views pertaining to the origin of Baptists are explained by both the continuation of biblical teaching and that Baptists emerged from the Separatist movement. Tracing Baptist succession back to the New Testament is an admirable attempt to demonstrate provenance, but is seemingly impossible to prove and also unnecessary. While Anabaptist influence is still often debated, McBeth demonstrates, “the earliest Baptists recognized their Separatist background, but later historians obscured that heritage under layers of successionist theory.”[9] In the wise words of William T. Whitley, “For the sources of Baptist life, one must look not to the Anabaptists, but to the Scriptures and the desire for reform…” This new view of Scripture and recognition of what God was calling His followers to do arose as the Separatists moved away from the state church, ultimately leading to the formation of Baptists.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

McBeth, H. Leon. The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing, 1987.

[1] H. Leon McBeth, The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing, 1987), 49.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., 52.

[4] McBeth, The Baptist Heritage, 53.

[5] Ibid., 49.

[6] Ibid., 57.

[7] Ibid., 59.

[8] Ibid.

[9] McBeth, The Baptist Heritage, 50.

Psalm 72: Why We Must Honor and Pray for Our Leaders

psalm-72-5

           Psalm 72 is a royal psalm or coronation hymn marking the change of command ceremony in which power was being transferred from Kind David to his son Solomon. David’s prayer was for his son Solomon to reign in a way, which would reflect the justice of God, but it also contains elements which foreshadow the eternal kingship of Christ. To understand what a psalm means to believers today, or how it might foreshadow a future event, it must first be understood in both its historical-cultural and literary context. Thus, the chief aim of this analysis is to bridge the gap from an exegetical focus, which relies on historical events and principles to more of a contextualized approach, by illustrating the timeless truths found within the text. The end goal is to better understand Psalm 72 historically and then be able to declare what it means today.

HISTORICAL-CULTURAL CONTEXT

            The “why” behind the psalm is the key question to answer in understanding the historical-cultural context. Richard Belcher Jr. illustrates, “Psalm 72 is a prayer for the king asking that God bring about His rule on earth through the reign of the king [and] this psalm begins with the title ‘for Solomon’ and ends with a doxology that closes Book II of the Psalter.”[1] King David is the most likely author, but it is possible either Solomon wrote it about himself or someone else wrote it about Solomon. Either way, the people of the time would have been very familiar with the Davidic covenant,[2] which assured a descendant of David would rule an enduring kingdom, but the Father-son relationship established between the Lord and His descendant was symbolic of a covenant love that could never be taken away. The Lord is essentially adopting the king as His son and serves as His human vice-regent. The rule and reign of the Davidic king in Jerusalem was also a reflection of Yahweh’s heavenly rule and reign.

In addition to David praying, the people are also praying that God would give the king the ability to rule with wisdom and justice, so that the entire nation would be blessed, as a result of the king’s righteous reign. David’s prayer for his son is reminiscent of Solomon’s answer to the Lord when He offers Solomon anything he would ask for. This psalm is asking God to enable His king to rule and reign with righteousness. In Old Testament times righteousness was associated with being in the will of God, while unrighteousness was affiliated with sinful living, being unclean, and not being in the will of God. As a result of this reality, the people for obvious reasons wanted a righteous king, despite God warning them what an earthly king would lead to. So while this psalm began as a prayer from King David to his son Solomon, it was also a community prayer due to the consequences that resulted from an unrighteous king.[3] When looking at royal psalms in their historical context, Belcher clarifies, “[While] the king leads the people in military battle, Yahweh is the one who ultimately fights for His people and wins the victory.”[4][5] Nancy deClaissé-Walford et al. further clarify, “The deification of the human king was pervasive in Israel and these ideas were adapted into a concept of the king being the ‘son of God,’ an earthly representative of the Lord, chosen by the Lord to rule over the people Israel.”[6] Frank E. Gaebelein further explains, “The king was God’s anointed representative [and] submission to the king implied submission to the God of Israel.”[7]

LITERARY CONTEXT

            When approaching the psalms, Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart rightly assert, “The most important thing to remember in reading or interpreting psalms is that they are poems – musical poems, [so] by their very nature, they addressed the mind through the heart.”[8] Psalms is made up of five books,[9] each of which concludes with a doxology and the final form came into existence during the post-exile time period. Belcher highlights, “The common thread in the royal psalms is kingship, [so] one of the main issues is the relationship of the psalm to the historical king.”[10] Clarence Bullock identifies, “The most obvious criteria are they (1) refer to the ‘king,’ (2) mention the ‘anointed’ one as a noun or make use of the verb, and (3) they refer to David by name.”[11] Royal psalms pray for the king of the day, but they also point to Jesus.

As the story of Psalms unfolds in Books I and II, Davidic psalms are prominent and seem to focus on God’s faithfulness over the house of David, so Belcher believes, “The best way to approach a royal psalm is to understand how the psalm fits into the historical setting of the monarchy, especially its relationship to the Davidic Covenant.”[12] Psalm 72 is found at the end of Book II and illustrates how this covenant promise has been passed from King David to his son Solomon. However, when the reader approaches Book III, there is immediately a crisis, the Israelites had been defeated in battle, their temple was destroyed, and God’s chosen people had been carried off to exile in Babylon. In light of these events, the people surely asked themselves what had happened to the promises God made to David and whether or not those promises were still in effect. As John Walton demonstrates, “Psalm 72 is the seam psalm, the conclusion of Book II. As David’s blessing on Solomon, it is one of the anchors of the cantata hypothesis.[13] Also of interest in this psalm is what Gerald Wilson identifies as the only explicit statement within the psalms that exercises an organizational function in verse twenty.”[14] Wilson views Books I thru III, as representative of the rise and fall of the Davidic monarchy, with Psalm 2 marking the inauguration of the Davidic Covenant, while Psalm 72 marked the transition to the future Israelite kings. Walter Kaiser then recognized by, “Leaving Psalm 89 at the end of Book III to lament over what appeared to be Yahweh’s ultimate rejection of the Davidic kingship. This, according to some, would explain why the Royal Psalms later on played a smaller role in Books IV-V in the Psalter.”[15] This coronation hymn defined the kingdom of God and Beth Tanner illustrates how Kind David’s, “Last prayer is for the next monarch and it sets the Psalter within a particular history of a particular people. But it also sets this particular history within the scope of the world and, indeed, within the cosmic scope of all that exists.”[16] DeClaissé-Walford et al. further demonstrate how, Psalm 72 strikes a high note and it is, “Flush with the hopes and dreams for the future. In contrast, Psalm 73 opens Book III on a note of confusion and doubt. Life with God will not be lived in an idyllic world, at least for the moment, but in a world where the values espoused in the previous psalm do not always meet with the realities of life.”[17] In Asaph’s prayer, the righteous suffered while the wicked prospered, which went against everything the people understood to be true. Ultimately, the movement and language throughout Psalms reflects what a life of faith is all about. Moments of disorientation are used by God to reorient the individual and community back into communion with God.

Structurally, in verse three, the psalmist speaks of the mountains bearing prosperity for the people. Karl Keil and Franz Delitzsch explain, “Mountains and hills describe synecdochically the whole land of which they are the high points visible afar off. ‏נָשָׂא‎ is used in the sense of ‏נָשָׂא  פְּרִי:[18]‎ may ‏שָׁלֹום‎ be the fruit which ripens upon every mountain and hill; universal prosperity satisfied and contented within itself.”[19] In verses five thru seven, there is a shift from the work of the king to the king himself. DeClaissé-Walford et al. illustrate, “Long life is associated with the vision of God’s kingdom,[20] and the wishes of the king extend to the people. The king’s good reign is to be like the life-giving showers that provide food.[21] The king is simply to provide the environment where the benchmarks of God’s kingdom can grow.”[22] Verses eight thru eleven focuses on the king’s dominion being from sea to sea and how the kings from surrounding kingdoms will bow and bring gifts. DeClaissé-Walford et al. stress the extent of this adoration demonstrating, “Kings are to fall down before him, and all the nations are to serve him. The final verb is especially important, for it is always a key word for Israel. Hebrew ʿāḇaḏ[23] means both to “serve” and “worship.”[24] Verses twelve thru fourteen contain the conjunction, “because,” which points back to what must happen for the petitions to come to pass. The king must have compassion on the oppressed and is called to save and rescue the weak and needy. Only when the king fulfills the requirements of verses twelve thru fourteen will the petitions and wishes in verses five thru eleven be a reality. Verses fifteen thru seventeen depict the abundance of blessings that will come forth from the kingdom and verse seventeen affirms, “May people be blessed in him, and all nations call him blessed,” which parallels the Abrahamic covenant.[25]

THEOLOGICAL INTERPRETATION

            The first request in Psalm 72 asked God to grant the king justice and righteousness. Jessica Tate demonstrates exactly how:

Justice and righteousness are bound together throughout the psalm just as they are bound in life. Righteousness means to be in right order, to be blameless or godly. Justice can also be translated as “righteousness” or “judgment.” One cannot have divine justice without righteousness, nor righteousness without justice. A word study on the matter suggests that when the king carries out justice, he is an “agent of the divine will.” Justice is associated with the basic requirements of life in the community.[26]

The imitation of God is one of the key principles of the psalms as Gordon Wenham explains, “Those in the best position to promote righteousness are the kings, and they are called on to exercise godlike qualities of justice.”[27]

The second request prayed for a universal ruler who had dominion all over the earth. Belcher demonstrates, “Although some take this psalm as a direct prophecy of the reign of Christ,[28] it is better to take the reign of the king in Psalm 72 as a type of the reign of Christ because the psalm clearly reflects the historical reality of Solomon’s reign”[29] and no earthly king has ever had dominion all over the earth. Wenham demonstrates how Psalm 2 and Psalm 72 are strategically placed royal psalms that open or close a book of the Psalter, but he then explains, “If the Psalter had ended with Psalm 72, we would probably have to agree with form critics that both psalms were just prayers for a coronation, and that the exaggerated language about the ‘ends of the earth’ and ‘all king falling down before him’ were just poetic hyperbole. But the Psalter does not end with Psalm 72; that is only the end of Book II.”[30]

The third request was for long life and prosperity. God promised Solomon his days would be lengthened[31] as long as he remained obedient, but in his later years, he turned away from the ways of the Lord.[32] Wenham highlights the first two books of the Psalter end with King David’s very upbeat prayer for Solomon, but “Solomon of course did not live up to his father’s hopes, either militarily or socially. Instead, Solomon’s reign was marked by oppressive policies.”[33] DeClaissé-Walford et al. note, “Verses 15-16 have much in common with vv. 5-7 but also add references to the lifting of prayers and blessings for the king. At v. 16, the creation reappears, and its abundance is an added wish. Verse 16 has the two most problematic lines of the psalm, and their exact meaning is unclear.”[34] While the failure of the Davidic Covenant appeared problematic, especially to those living in exile, it is important to understand the difference between the messiah in historical and eschatological terms.

Lastly, Belcher emphasizes, “Psalm 72 must be understood in light of the first and second comings of Christ. Now that the righteous king has come and won the victory on the cross, we do not pray for Him as much as we pray for the full coming of His righteous kingdom.”[35] Despite Psalm 72 being classified as a messianic psalm, nowhere is it quoted from in the New Testament, so Daniel Estes and many other scholars agree, “Several psalms have come to be called Messianic psalms even though it is quite likely the original psalmist did not grasp the Messianic dimensions that would later be explicated in the New Testament text.” The New Testament writers came to understand the Old Testament text in a deeper reality than the original authors.

MODERN APPLICATION

            Psalm 72 is historic as David intercedes for Solomon, it is prophetic with reference to another king (Christ,) and it also holds significance for the church today. First, it teaches people should honor all leaders and elected officials and not speak evil of them.[36] Second, God has commanded believers to pray for leaders, specifically regarding the salvation of his or her soul as well as the ability to rule righteously and justly, according to God’s will.[37] As David prayed for Solomon, Christians too should ask God to make leaders Christlike in how he or she rules. Finally, Psalm 72 should also point people to Christ’s return and future coming kingdom, following Peter’s strong example in Acts 3:19-21, which F.F. Bruce shows “If they would turn back in heart to God, the salvation and blessing procured by the Messiah’s death would be theirs. Their sins would be blotted out, even that sin of sins, which they had unwittingly committed in consenting to the death of the Author of life. Here is the heart of the gospel of grace.”[38]

Tanner explains Psalm 72 teaches what righteous leadership is supposed to look like. “God’s kingdom and God’s ways of justice and righteousness are to be the norms. This is the way that God intends the world to be; it was true in Abraham’s time, in the time of the kings, and in the world today. It is the kingdom to which we all press forward and the place in which our future hope is vested.”[39] These lessons are just as relevant today as they were three thousand years ago. By avoiding the traps and lust for power and position that tempts humans, ruling with righteousness becomes the motivation, allowing those in power to remain in the will of God, which, as history demonstrates, provides abundant blessings and justice for God’s people.

CONCLUSION

            The people wanted a king, so God gave them a king. As a result, Psalm 72 becomes universal in its petitions for the king, who with the guidance from the Lord would be greater than all the other kings and would recognize his primary role being to reign with justice and righteousness. The goal of this analysis was to bridge the gap from exegesis to application, so by explaining David’s and the people’s prayer for Solomon was to rule and reign righteously and justly, precedence was established for all people to pray the same today. As history has shown, only God’s perfect and holy Son Jesus Christ can truly fulfill all that David prayed for but that does not negate the obligation for Christians to honor and pray for all leaders or elected officials.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Belcher, Richard P. Jr. The Messiah and the Psalms: Preaching Christ from all the Psalms. Scotland, UK: Christian Focus Publications, Ltd., 2006.

Broyles, Craig C. Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Psalms. Edited by W. Ward Gasque, Robert L. Hubbard Jr., and Robert K. Johnston. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 1999.

Bullock, C. Hassell. Encountering the Book of Psalms: A Literary and Theological Introduction. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2001.

DeClaissé-Walford, Nancy, Rolf Jacobson, and Beth Tanner, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Psalms. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2014.

Fee, Gordon D. and Douglas Stuart. How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth, 3rd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003.

Futado, Mark D. Interpreting the Psalms: An Exegetical Handbook. Edited by David M. Howard Jr. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2007.

Gaebelein, Frank E., ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Volume 3: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992.

_______. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Volume 5: Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1991.

Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry Concise Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1961.

Hughes, Robert B. and J. Carl Laney. Tyndale Concise Bible Commentary. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1990.

Kaiser, Walter. “PSALM 72: AN HISTORICAL AND MESSIANIC CURRENT EXAMPLE OF ANTIOCHENE HERMENEUTICAL THEORIA.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 52, no. 2 (June, 2009): 257-70, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/211193181?accountid=12085. (accessed December 9, 2016).

Keil, Karl and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament – Volume 5: Psalms. Edinburgh, UK: T. & T. Clark, 1891.

Kselman, John S. “Psalm 72: Some Observations on Structure.” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, no. 220 (1975): 77-81. doi:10.2307/1356240. (accessed December 9, 2016).

Leadership Ministries Worldwide, Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible, The – Psalm 72. Chattanooga, TN: Leadership Ministries Worldwide, 2016.

Paul, Shalom M. “Psalm 72:5-A Traditional Blessing for the Long Life of the King.” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 31, no. 4 (1972): 351-55. http://www.jstor.org/stable/543794 (accessed December 9, 2016).

Tate, Jessica. “Between Text and Sermon: Psalm 72:1–7, 10–14.” Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology 68, no. 1 (2014): 66-68. DOI: 10.1177/0020964313505970 (accessed December 9, 2016).

Walton, John H. “PSALMS: A CANTATA ABOUT THE DAVIDIC COVENANT.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 34 no. 1 (March 1991): 21-31. (accessed December 9, 2016).

Wenham, Gordon. The Psalter Reclaimed: Praying and Praising with the Psalms. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013.

[1] Richard P. Belcher Jr., The Messiah and the Psalms: Preaching Christ from all the Psalms (Scotland, UK: Christian Focus Publications, Ltd., 2006), 135.

[2] II Samuel 7:12-16

[3] I Samuel 8:10-22

[4] 1 Chronicles 29:23

[5] Belcher Jr., The Messiah and the Psalms, 132.

[6] Nancy deClaissé-Walford, Rolf Jacobson, Beth Tanner, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Psalms (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2014), 419.

[7] Frank E. Gaebelein, ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Volume 5: Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1991), 347.

[8] Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003), 206-207.

[9] Book I: 1-41; Book II: 42-72; Book III: 73-89; Book IV: 90-106; & Book V: 107-150

[10] Belcher Jr., The Messiah and the Psalms, 121.

[11] Clarence Hassell Bullock, Encountering the Book of Psalms: A Literary and Theological Introduction (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2001), 178.

[12] Belcher Jr., The Messiah and the Psalms, 121.

[13] Views the Psalms as a cantata around the theme of the Davidic covenant.

[14] John H. Walton, “PSALMS: A CANTATA ABOUT THE DAVIDIC COVENANT,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 34, no. 1 (March 1991): 27. (accessed December 9, 2016).

[15] Walter Kaiser, “PSALM 72: AN HISTORICAL AND MESSIANIC CURRENT EXAMPLE OF ANTIOCHENE HERMENEUTICAL THEORIA,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 52, no. 2 (June, 2009): 260, (accessed December 9, 2016).

[16] Nancy deClaissé-Walford, Rolf Jacobson, and Beth Tanner, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Psalms (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2014), 579.

[17] DeClaissé-Walford et al., NICOT – The Book of Psalms, 584.

[18] Ezekiel 17:8

[19] Karl Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament – Volume 5: Psalms (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1891), 480.

[20] Isaiah 65:17-25

[21] The shalom and righteousness of v. 3 appear here again as entities that are independent of human action.

[22] DeClaissé-Walford et al., NICOT – The Book of Psalms, 578.

[23] Israel goes from being “slaves” of the bad reign of Pharaoh to being “servants/worshippers” in God’s kingdom. In Psalm 72, the entire world, through Israel and its king, will become servants in the kingdom of God.

[24] DeClaissé-Walford et al., NICOT – The Book of Psalms, 578.

[25] Genesis 12:1-3

[26] Jessica Tate, “Between Text and Sermon: Psalm 72:1–7, 10–14,” Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology 68, no. 1 (2014): 66. DOI: 10.1177/0020964313505970 (accessed December 9, 2016).

[27] Gordon Wenham, The Psalter Reclaimed: Praying and Praising with the Psalms (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013), 121.

[28] Because of its typological use in 2 Corinthians 6:18 and Hebrews 1:5, verse fourteen has long been considered messianic in a Christological sense.

[29] Belcher Jr., The Messiah and the Psalms, 137.

[30] Wenham, The Psalter Reclaimed, 91.

[31] I Kings 3:14; Psalm 72:15

[32] I Kings 11-12:1-15

[33] Wenham, The Psalter Reclaimed, 149-150.

[34] DeClaissé-Walford et al., NICOT – The Book of Psalms, 579.

[35] Belcher Jr., The Messiah and the Psalms, 138.

[36] Exodus 22:28; Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:17

[37] 1 Timothy 2:1-4

[38] F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Book of Acts (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1988), 83.

[39] DeClaissé-Walford et al., NICOT – The Book of Psalms, 580.

Finding the Messiah in the Psalms

psalms

ABSTRACT & PURPOSE OF BIBLE STUDY

Bible Study Class: How to find the Messiah in the Psalms.

Summary Statement: All psalms have a relationship to the person and/or work of Christ, not just the traditional Messianic psalms.

Goal: This study’s goal is not to uncover Christ in every verse, but instead to understand how the major concepts and ideas of the Old Testament are foundational in understanding the person and work of Christ. Additionally, by understanding the different roles the Messiah/Jesus played in the psalms will enable the reader/student to view the psalms and the Old Testament through a new Christological lens.

PART I: UNDERSTANDING GENRE AND CONTEXT

            Genre classifications are vital to understanding a psalm in terms of proper context, mood, and structure and Richard Belcher correctly shows how the genre of a psalm also has implications for how a psalm relates to Christ.[1] When looking at genre, Belcher emphasizes it is critical to, “take into consideration the context of the psalm in its historical or literary setting, the unfolding of revelation through redemptive history, the unity of the purposes of God for His people, and the fullness of revelation in Jesus Christ.”[2]

Points to Avoid

            The reader must not solely focus only on the human author because this limits the meaning to only the historical or literary context and does not allow for the development of legitimate connections to Christ. Such connections only arise when the major concepts of a psalm are understood in their proper context and when those concepts in redemptive history are also understood.”[3] Additionally, as Gary Yates advises, “We must first do our work of establishing the original and historical message of the Old Testament text, but then we must also consider the canonical implications of the Old Testament text in light of its fuller canonical context in the New Testament. [Above all else,] we must be faithful to both.”

Key Themes About Jesus/Messiah in the Psalms

            One of the greatest ways to identify and understand the Messianic nature of the psalms is to analyze how Jesus viewed the Old Testament, specifically the encounter Jesus had with the two individuals on the road to Emmaus.[4] Belcher demonstrates why this is so significant, because “If Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures, then the Old Testament itself must be seen as preparatory and incomplete, moving toward the coming of the One who would fulfill all things. Thus the Old Testament is anticipatory and always looking ahead.”[5]

The covenant of marriage is a common concept used throughout the Old Testament[6] and New Testament[7] to define the relationship between Christ and His people. Paul portrays the oneness of marriage and the covenant role Christ plays in His relationship with the church[8] and Belcher illustrates, “Jesus points to Himself as the bridegroom and uses the parable of the royal marriage[9] to emphasize the necessity of accepting the invitation to the wedding feast and to come wearing the proper robe given by the king.”[10]

Psalm 22 pictures the Messiah as the suffering servant and is best understood first in its Old Testament context and then in terms of the crucifixion of Jesus. Belcher depicts “the suffering of the individual in Psalm 22 as a type of Christ’s suffering.”[11] This Messianic psalm has elements of both typology and prophecy and is best described as an individual lament, but also includes a section of praise and thanksgiving following God’s answer. Belcher shows the deliverance of the son of Jesse is a foreshadowing of the ultimate deliverance of the son of David and he rightly identifies, “All aspects of the work of Christ come into view in Psalm 22: His priestly work of suffering on our behalf; His prophetic work of proclaiming His deliverance; and His kingly work of reigning over all things.”[12]

When looking at royal psalms, especially in their historical context, the Lord was adopting the king as His son and the Lord was putting him on the throne as His human vice-regent. Belcher illustrates, “[While] the king leads the people in military battle, Yahweh is the one who ultimately fights for His people and wins the victory.”[13][14] Nancy deClaissé-Walford et al. further clarify, “The deification of the human king was pervasive in Israel and these ideas were adapted into a concept of the king being the ‘son of God,’ an earthly representative of the Lord, chosen by the Lord to rule over the people Israel.”[15] Frank E. Gaebelein further explains, “The king was God’s anointed representative [and] submission to the king implied submission to the God of Israel.”[16] John Walvoord brilliantly illustrates how the trilogy of Psalm 22, 23, and 24 gives a panoramic view of Christ. Walvoord expounds how, “Psalm 22 speaks of His work as the Good Shepherd dying on the cross for our sins.[17] Psalm 23 speaks of His present care for His own as the Great Shepherd,[18] interceding for them in heaven. Psalm 24 [then] describes Christ as the King of Glory, the Chief Shepherd,[19] who will enter the gates of Jerusalem.”

The psalms also picture Jesus as being a second Adam, by which communion was restored between God and humanity. Jesus is then pictured being a second David, by which the Davidic covenant truly becomes fulfilled and salvation was made possible. At the same time, while these passages often foreshadow a future event, they also demonstrate the humanity of Jesus. Psalm 41:9 captures the immense betrayal of a close friend, which Jesus would suffer at the hands of Judas Iscariot. Isaiah 53:3 prophesizes the Messiah would be despised and rejected, leading right back to Psalm 41:9, which showed betrayal was not a foreign experience to David.

Scholars use a variety of approaches to determine if a passage is directly or indirectly referring to Jesus. For example, the historical-critical approach has issues declaring any of the psalms as being Messianic because any hope for the future was centered in a historical king and as Belcher illuminates, “The problem with an approach that denies any Messianic elements in the psalms is that it disconnects the original meaning of the Old Testament from the New Testament.”[20] The literary critical approach moves away from a strictly historical view and emphasizes a more literary view, but as Belcher explains, “it still suffers from a dichotomy between the original meaning of the psalms and the New Testament interpretation.”[21] The historical grammatical approach is a step in the right direction, with the goal of affirming the importance of the divine element in the psalms, but “there is still no agreement on how to determine whether a psalm is Messianic…”[22] However, the Christological approach Belcher uses combines elements of the previous three methods by highlighting the “importance of historical context, the grammar of the Old Testament text, the literary characteristics of the text, what the text teaches about God (theology), the significance of the divine author, and sees the New Testament as a guide to how we approach the psalms.”[23] In this final approach, both the human author and divine author play a significant role. Belcher explains, “without taking into account the implications of a divine author, one is left trying to bridge the gap between the historical meaning of a psalm and a later meaning related to Christ. Focusing only on a human author limits the meaning to the historical or literary context and does not allow the development of legitimate connections to Christ.”[24] Ultimately, without Christ, the purpose of the Old Testament can never be fully understood.

PART II: TYPES OF MESSIANIC PSALMS

Royal Psalms

            Royal psalms are prayers offered to the Davidic king during special times, wars, or events based on the covenant promises that God made to the house of David, that his sons would rule forever.[25] Clarence Bullock identifies the common thread that holds these psalms together is the subject of kingship and, “The most obvious criteria are they (1) refer to the ‘king,’ (2) mention the ‘anointed’ one as a noun or make use of the verb, and (3) they refer to David by name.”[26] Royal psalms pray for the king of the day, but they also point to Jesus, specifically the indirect Messianic psalms because only Jesus can fulfill all the prophetic elements. This is clearly seen in Psalm 2 and serves as a great example, especially how verse 6 shows how the Lord has put the king on the throne and given historical context, this would be like the Lord adopting the king as His son. DeClaissé-Walford et al. demonstrate, “The themes of speech and kingship continue to be developed as the king reports God’s words and promises: He said to me, ‘You are my son, today I have begotten you.’ In the Old Testament, as in other parts of the ancient Near East, the king was considered God’s son.[27] Many interpreters interpret the announcement today I have begotten you as a reference to God adopting the king as a son.”[28] Essentially, the Lord was establishing the king as His human vice-regent. Psalm 89 is another important royal psalm, especially considering when it was written. There was a crisis and serious problem when this psalm was penned because the Davidic rule had been compromised due to the Babylonian exile. However, despite the disobedience in the house of David that led to God removing the king from the throne, the purpose of this psalm is to ask the Lord what happened to His covenant promise, so this psalm is uttered in a way that is hoping and expecting God to keep His promise.

Typological Prophetic Messianic Psalms

            These psalms involve typology, which simply means they employ analogies or comparisons. This is commonly seen between David and Jesus or the righteous sufferer and Jesus. Psalm 41 is a great example, specifically verse 9 as DeClaissé-Walford et al. highlight, “The psalmist asserts that the suffering he is experiencing is exacerbated by those around him. When the text of the psalm is examined closely, it seems as if the sin of the enemies is a sin of omission rather than of commission and rather than acting as active agents of evil, the enemies have turned their backs on the psalmist by giving up hope for his recovery and by expecting his demise.”[29] Looking ahead to John 13:18, Leon Morris shows how quoting this psalm, “Represented the betrayal not of an acquaintance but of an intimate friend,”[30] which was exactly what the psalmist had experienced. Another good example is Psalm 69:9, which depicts the psalmist enduring persecution due to his devotion and zeal. Then in John 2:17, Morris explains how the Old Testament is present at every crucial moment in the Gospel and he then illustrates, “The action of Jesus gave evidence of a consuming zeal for the house of God and the ancient Scriptures found their fulfillment in what He did. John’s aim [was] showing Jesus to be the Messiah and all His actions imply a special relationship with God, which proceeded from His Messianic vocation.”[31] One of the most important principles to keep in mind is how the New Testament writers viewed the Old Testament, specifically the book of Psalms, which is the most cited book in the New Testament. In addition to seeing the similar roles between David and Jesus, the introduction of the Holy Spirit adds a prophetic element, which allowed the New Testament writers to make these connections.

Prophetic Typological Psalms

            These psalms are very similar to the Typological Prophetic Messianic Psalms, in that analogies, comparisons, and typology are still present. The noticeable difference is these psalms take on more of a prophetic element because as the writer of the psalms speaks of his own experience, the words that he is speaking and the things that he says actually go well beyond his own literal experience. Psalm 16 deals specifically with the deliverance from enemies and in verses 9-10, the psalmist is convinced God will protect him. DeClaissé-Walford et al. demonstrate, “The assurance that a person shall not be moved (bal ʾemmôṭ) is a statement of confidence, because the psalmist trusts in the external grace of the Lord, who is before me continually and is at my right hand.”[32] In Acts 2:25-28; F. F. Bruce further explains how Peter uses this psalm of confidence in his speech regarding the exaltation of Jesus taking place in the fulfillment of God’s promise to David. “The words, ‘you will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor let your holy one see corruption,’ refer therefore to the Messiah of David’s line, ‘great David’s greater Son,’ whom David himself prefigured and in whose name he spoke those words by the Spirit of prophecy. These prophetic words, Peter goes on to argue, have been fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth and in no one else; Jesus of Nazareth is therefore the expected Messiah.”[33]

Purely Prophetic Psalms

            These are specific and direct prophecies found throughout the Old Testament.[34] While there are not many found in the Psalter, Psalm 110 is a royal psalm that proclaims, “The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’” Writers of the New Testament quote this psalm fourteen times, more than any other passage because of its ability to illuminate the ministry of Jesus Christ, who became prophet, priest, and king over all people. Matthew 22:44 is one such occasion as R. T. France shows, “Apart from this underlying presupposition that the scriptural text is divinely inspired and therefore authoritative, this introductory formula makes three hermeneutical assumptions which will be crucial to Jesus’ argument: (a) that the speaker in Psalm 110 is David; (b) that David is speaking about the Messiah; and (c) that someone described as “my lord” is superior to the one speaking. Of these the third is the most obvious.”[35] What makes this psalm even more profound deals with it being written in the postexilic period, when Israel had no king on the throne. In an attempt to answer why a royal psalm of David was presented here, DeClaissé-Walford et al. explain, “Ancient Israel was seeking a rationale for continued existence as a distinct people within the vast empires. The people chose to find a way to remain a separate entity, so they rebuilt their temple; they resumed their religious observances; they wrote down their history; and they pledged their loyalty to their sovereign God, YHWH, the God of their ancestors.”[36] Here again, the king is depicted as God’s adopted son and while the king fulfilled some of the priestly roles, only Jesus Christ completely fulfills all the prophetic elements of this passage.

Eschatological Kingship Psalms

            These psalms focus on the reign and rule of God Himself and Psalm 47 serves as a great example. In its historical context, this psalm celebrates the kingship of God, making it an enthronement psalm, which also speaks of the lordship of Yahweh over all nations. As Frank Gaebelein indicates, “Its genre conforms to the psalms celebrating Yahweh’s kingship, [but] it also has a prophetic, eschatological dimension as the psalmist longs for the full establishment of God’s rule on earth.”[37] The purpose of this psalm was most likely the celebration of a mighty victory provided to Israel by Yahweh, but it also echoes what will happen in the future when every nation will recognize Yahweh as king. It is important to note every kingship promise found in the Old Testament can be applied to Jesus in the New Testament.[38] Messianic psalms point the reader to Jesus and the psalms are among the most widely cited Scriptures found in the New Testament, as they clearly define the work, role, and worship that Jesus deserves as king.

PART III: A NEW LENS

            Once an understanding of genre and context is gained, the reader is positioned to read the psalms and the Old Testament through a Christological lens. This was something many New Testament writers employed as they witnessed the life, death, and exaltation of Jesus, which provided them with a new insight to interpreting the Old Testament. Daniel Estes and many other scholars agree, “Several psalms have come to be called Messianic psalms even though it is quite likely the original psalmist did not grasp the Messianic dimensions that would later be explicated in the New Testament text.” Essentially, the New Testament writers understood the Old Testament text in a deeper reality that even the original authors might have. One important principle to keep in mind here is the Holy Spirit divinely inspired all Scripture,[39] but until Christ came, many of them were not fully understood.

Whenever contemplating the Messiah and the psalms, context is critical, but it is also important to understand what the fuller implications are as it relates to what Christ has done and what He will come back to finish. New Testament writers understood the historical and literary context of the Old Testament, which enabled them to clearly develop and explain how and why Jesus was the fulfillment of everything the prophetic Old Testament passages spoke of. John Goldingay accurately shows, “In light of Jesus’ coming, the Holy Spirit now inspires people to see significance in the Old Testament that was never there before.” New Testament writers were able to view the psalms in a new way. Psalm 8 is a great example because it is not only is a reflection of God’s creation and man’s role found in the Genesis account, but it also finds fulfillment in Hebrews 2, which applies these verses to Jesus Christ alone and His supremacy. In the original and historical context, man was given dominion, until sin entered the world. As a result, the passage speaks of Jesus and the writer of Hebrews makes a insightful conclusion that while humanity lost the image of God in the Garden, the first coming of Christ restored fellowship with God, and the second coming will make all things new. Jesus not only became a second Adam; He also became and a second David. The writer of Hebrews also recognized that Jesus had essentially become the sin and guilt offering, which was required for the remission of sins.[40] As F. F. Bruce demonstrates, “For a biblical statement of the sacrifice which could take away sins our author goes back to the Psalter,[41] and he finds a prophetic utterance which he recognizes as appropriate to the Son of God at the time of his incarnation. The title of this psalm marks it as Davidic[42] and the words of the psalm could not refer to David in propria persona,[43] and that therefore they should be understood as referring to ‘great David’s greater Son.’”[44]

While the failure of the Davidic Covenant appeared problematic, especially to those living in exile, it is important to understand the difference between the messiah in historical and eschatological terms. Bullock explains, “The historical level refers to the literal meaning: the king is the Israelite king, and David is the David of the Old Testament. By eschatological level, we refer to a future person: the king is a superhuman figure, designated by Yahweh to accomplish a superhuman task, and He is the Messiah, the Christ of the New Testament.”[45]

SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION

            In an effort to find the Messiah in the psalms, this study has sought not to simply uncover Christ in every verse, but instead to understand how the major concepts and ideas of the Old Testament are foundational in understanding the person and work of Christ. Through a proper understanding of genre, historical and literary context, roles of Messiah/Jesus, and how the psalms are viewed through a Christological lens, it is apparent that all psalms have an unbreakable relationship to the person and/or work of Christ, and for that matter, so does the entirety of the Old and New Testament.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Belcher, Richard P. Jr. The Messiah and the Psalms: Preaching Christ from all the Psalms. Scotland, UK: Christian Focus Publications, Ltd., 2006.

Broyles, Craig C. Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Psalms. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 1999.

Bruce, F. F. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Book of Acts. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1988.

_______. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Epistle to the Hebrews. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990.

Bullock, Clarence Hassell. Encountering the Book of Psalms: A Literary and Theological Introduction. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2001.

DeClaissé-Walford, Nancy, Rolf Jacobson, and Beth Tanner, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Psalms. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2014.

France, R. T. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Gospel of Matthew. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2007.

Keil, Karl and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament – Volume 5: Psalms. Edinburgh, UK: T. & T. Clark, 1891.

Morris, Leon. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995.

Gaebelein, Frank E. ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Volume 5: Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1991.


[1] Richard P. Belcher Jr., The Messiah and the Psalms: Preaching Christ from all the Psalms (Scotland, UK: Christian Focus Publications, Ltd., 2006), 197.

 

[2] Belcher Jr., The Messiah and the Psalms, 195.

 

[3] Belcher Jr., The Messiah and the Psalms, 195.

 

[4] Luke 24:26-27, 44-47

 

[5] Belcher Jr., The Messiah and the Psalms, 32-33.

 

[6] Hosea 1-3; Psalm 45:10,16-17

 

[7] Revelation 19:6-8, 21:26; Ephesians 2:11-12; & Matthew 22:1-14

 

[8] Ephesians 5:22-27

 

[9] Matthew 22:1-14

 

[10] Belcher Jr., The Messiah and the Psalms, 133.

 

[11] Ibid., 167.

 

[12] Ibid., 172.

 

[13] 1 Chronicles 29:23

 

[14] Belcher Jr., The Messiah and the Psalms, 132.

 

[15] Nancy deClaissé-Walford, Rolf Jacobson, Beth Tanner, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Psalms (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2014), 419.

 

[16] Frank E. Gaebelein, ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Volume 5: Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1991), 347.

 

[17] John 10:11

 

[18] Hebrews 13:20

 

[19] I Peter 5:4

[20] Belcher Jr., The Messiah and the Psalms, 24.

 

[21] Ibid., 25.

 

[22] Ibid., 28.

 

[23] Ibid., 31.

 

[24] Belcher Jr., The Messiah and the Psalms, 195.

 

[25] II Samuel 7

 

[26] Clarence Hassell Bullock, Encountering the Book of Psalms: A Literary and Theological Introduction (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2001), 178.

 

[27] II Samuel 7:14

 

[28] DeClaissé-Walford et al., NICOT– The Book of Psalms, 69.

 

[29] Ibid., 388.

 

[30] Leon Morris, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), 552.

 

[31] Morris, NICNT – The Gospel According to John. 172.

 

[32] DeClaissé-Walford et al., NICOT– The Book of Psalms, 181.

 

[33] F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Book of Acts (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1988), 64.

 

[34] Isaiah 9 & 11; Jeremiah 23 & 33; Hosea 3; & Ezekiel 34

[35] R. T. France, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2007), 850.

 

[36] DeClaissé-Walford et al., NICOT– The Book of Psalms, 837-838.

 

[37] Frank E. Gaebelein, ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Volume 5: Psalms Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1991), 357.

 

[38] Isaiah 45; Zechariah 14; Philippians 2; & Revelation 19

[39] II Timothy 3:16

[40] Hebrews 9:22

 

[41] Psalm 40:6-8

 

[42] It is found in both the Masoretic and Septuagint texts alike.

 

[43] David did offer sacrifices.

 

[44] F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990), 239.

 

[45] Bullock, Encountering the Book of Psalms, 182.

Spiritual Warfare

full-armor-of-god

Jerry Rankin brings to light the enemy’s intent on rendering every person ineffective in one’s resolve to live for the Lord and ultimately bringing glory to the His name. While some of the examples of the missionary exploits presented may seem sensational to a Westerner’s mind, this writer believes Rankin is overly legitimate in his presentation of spiritual warfare. Rankin has provided, “clear guidance on how to live the promised life, deep conviction about falling out of step with the Spirit, strong encouragement to engage in the battle, and [immense] hope that victory is indeed the Christian’s birthright.”[1]

Rankin further illustrates, “The devil is against us, the world is around us, and the flesh is within us, collaborating to defeat us in our Christian walk.”[2] One of the biggest misconceptions is that flesh and Spirit are viewed as being equals in the battle over sin. Instead, Rankin explains, “There is a tension between good and evil; Satan seeks to entice us to choose his way while the Holy Spirit is jealous for us as God’s possession.”[3] The Lord is referred to as El Kanna, which translates as jealous God, but this literally means there is a zeal that rises up within God when something or someone threatens the covenant that exists between God and His creation. He is not jealous of us; He is jealous for us. There are two dangers presented here: one is to disbelieve in the existence of Satan; the other is an excessive, unhealthy obsession with him. In our minds, the things that happen in life make more sense when the reason behind them is made known; unfortunately, in many cases the circumstances remain eclipsed from view or rationalization. Over the years, this writer has seen the error on both sides of this extreme. Some blame Satan for everything and the devil will always take credit for anything one allows him to, but on the other spectrum is looking for meaning behind everything, especially when bad things keep happening to good people. In Old Testament times, ailments and persecution were related to sin in one’s life and that trend is still unfortunately carried out in many church circles today. This is an area every religious leader must keep a watchful eye out for because it has the potential to dismantle a believer’s faith.

Daily, this writer reminds himself it is imperative to remember Satan is a deceiver, liar, and tempter and as a fallen angel, he attempts to speak into our minds, disguised as an angel of light. While Satan is the lord of this world, his time and power is limited, so we must do everything in our power to keep our minds focused on bringing glory to God, because as Rankin demonstrates, “Anything in our mind that is contrary to the truth of God’s Word is a lie and comes from Satan’s deceitful nature.”[4] When Satan cannot get to us through our sinful nature, he resorts to becoming a hindrance, so it is crucial believers continually pay attention to both the sins of commission and omission. Rankin explains, “If Satan cannot get us to sin by yielding temptation and indulging our carnal nature, he simply hinders us from carrying out God’s will.”[5]

A great Scripture to commit to memory is 1Peter 5:8-9: “Be sober! Be on the alert! Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. Resist him, firm in the faith.” Ephesians 6:16 is also a great addition to this promise: “In every situation take the shield of faith, and with it you will be able to extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one.” And finally, James 4:7: “Therefore, submit to God. But resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” These passages have formed a resolute faith in God and it is crucial to be students of God’s Word because the Bible, the Sword of the Spirit is the only weapon available to Christians, so it is imperative to know the Word of God, so when trials and temptations present themselves, believers will be able to pass the test like Jesus did when Satan tempted Him in the wilderness. This writer has endured much heartache and pain in life, but in God’s hands, He has used it all for good, because I love the Lord and am called according to His purpose. If you do not give everything to God, your heart will grow cold, as you burn with anger and resentment. Additionally, we will never experience healing, until we stop clinging to the source of our pain. Ultimately, we must never forget we belong to God and Satan is nothing more than a thief coming only to try and kill and destroy. Second Corinthians 2:11 reminds us: “To be ignorant of Satan’s schemes and devices is to be defeated by the devil, conformed to the world, and defiled by flesh.” Instead of being conformed, we must be transformed by the daily renewing of our minds and living our lives to bring glory to God!

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Rankin, Jerry. Spiritual Warfare: The Battle for God’s Glory. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2009.


[1] Jerry Rankin, Spiritual Warfare: The Battle for God’s Glory (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2009), x.

[2] Rankin, Spiritual Warfare, 20.

[3] Rankin, Spiritual Warfare, 21.

[4] Rankin, Spiritual Warfare, 46.

[5] Rankin, Spiritual Warfare, 64.

Art & Science of Biblical Interpretation – Hermeneutics & Challenges

hermeneutics

Leo Percer explains, “Hermeneutics is the art and science of understanding Scripture, [which then helps] provide historical and literary background, allowing for modern-day understanding and application.”[1] As believers, it is vital to be able to interpret God’s Word, so the original author’s intended purpose is revealed. Through this process, the role of the author is supreme and deciphering the context is critical to uncovering the honest meaning of the text. William Klein et al. demonstrate, “Hermeneutics describes the principles people use to understand what something means, to comprehend what a message – written, oral, or visual – is endeavoring to communicate.”[2] The art and science of interpretation is especially important when looking at the roles of the author of the text, how the original audience responded, and the role of the interpreter. In regards to the role of the interpreter, Klein et al. demonstrate, “while hermeneutics must give attention to the ancient text and the conditions that produced it, responsible interpretation cannot ignore the modern context and the circumstances of those who attempt to explain the Scripture today.”[3] Regardless of what role is being played, it is impossible to interpret any passage of Scripture without some prior knowledge of contextual data.

When looking at the role of the author, Klein et al. illustrate, “When general living conditions and specific life circumstances are known, [it] can provide helpful information for interpretation. Knowing all the conditions that surround the recipients of the original message provides further insight into how they most likely understood the message at the time of writing.”[4] It is important to note a passage of Scripture cannot mean something today, that was it was never intended to mean for the original audience. Klein et al. also warn against seeking to understand the meaning of a given text through a lens based upon a later revelation. Thus, the ultimate goal of hermeneutics will always be to understand the original author’s intent and how the original audience or first time readers would have responded. While it is often difficult to remain completely objective, Klein et al. cite any valid approach to interpretation must concern itself with two crucial dimensions, “(1) An appropriate methodology for deciphering what the text is about, and (2) a means of assessing and accounting for the readers’ present situation as we engage in the interpretative process.”[5]

Another important piece to proper interpretation comes from understanding while the Holy Spirit inspired the Bible, God still chose man to write it. It is then by combining the science and art of interpretation, and by allowing the Holy Spirit to aid in a person’s understanding of the text, the reader is best positioned to decipher the author’s true message. J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays caution against an over-emphasis of the Spirit’s role in the process of interpretation. Duvall and Hays explain, “Having the Holy Spirit does not mean the Spirit is all you need, [because] the Spirit does not make valid interpretations automatic; the Spirit does expect us to use our minds, proper interpretative methods, and good study helps to interpret the Bible accurately; and the Spirit does not create new meaning or provide new information.”[6] In the end, the role and purpose of the author provides the most valuable information in deciphering the meaning of the text and without this knowledge, it would be very difficult to apply the message in a modern-day application. Klein et al. further demonstrate hermeneutics is, “Essential for a valid interpretation of the Bible, [in order to] discern God’s message, to avoid or dispel misconceptions or erroneous perspectives and conclusions about what the Bible teaches, and to be able to apply the Bible’s message to our lives.”[7]

Distance is the ultimate adversary for biblical interpretation. The distance of time proves difficult since over 1900 years stand between when the last ancient texts were written and today. William Klein et al. explain, “We may be at a loss to understand what a text means because it involves subjects beyond our time span. [Additionally,] another time span that must be considered in interpreting the Bible involves the gaps that existed – more or less in various places – between the time the Bible events occurred and the time when those events were actually written down in today’s text.”[8] There is little question both Jewish and Christian traditions were held in high regard and were preserved as accurately as possible. Many of the stories were eyewitness accounts and written by the author who witnessed the events. However, some used additional sources and others edited preexisting material, so it is vital to understand the motivations behind such actions. Klein et al. demonstrate, “The authors’ unique perspectives and their goals for writing would influence what they felt was important, what deserved emphasis, or what might be omitted. In this process, the writers would consider their readers and the effects they hoped to produce in them.”[9]

The distance of culture is the next challenge that must be addressed, as Klein et al. illustrate: “On the pages of the Bible we encounter customs, beliefs, and practices that make little sense to us, [so] our understanding of ancient customs might be so colored by what we think they mean that we miss their significance.”[10] A person’s individual customs, values, and traditions play a significant role when reading Scripture and without a clear understanding of cultural conditions which existed at the time of the writing, one may inadvertently misinterpret the text. For this reason, this writer believes the cultural distance and by default, the distance of language are the most difficult distances to traverse. Historical criticism is a great tool to use when analyzing written works because it takes into account: its time, its place, the place of composition, when it was written; in order to comprehend who wrote it, when it was written, to whom it was written, and why it was written. By employing this method, the interpreter is then able to decipher what the author said, why he said it, and hopefully the reaction or response of the intended audience or first-time readers.

The geographical distance is the third challenge, which must be addressed. Having had the opportunity to visit Israel, this author has a much deeper appreciation for many of the stories found in the Bible. In many cases, the text now jumps off the page as images, tastes, smells, and feelings come to mind. Despite having visited Israel, as Klein et al. illustrate, “Even if we could visit all the accessible sites (and many Christians have), few of them retain the look (and none, the culture) they had in biblical times.”[11] Klein et al. use a great example of traveling up to Jerusalem. This journey was called the Ascent of Adummim and was considered a day’s journey from Jericho, but the elevation change was 3,500 feet. Traveling up this road the temperature dropped by fifteen degrees; so only by traveling to the places recorded in the Bible can one truly grasp the underlying themes behind the text. However, as previously mentioned, despite walking where Jesus, the disciples, and patriarchs did, the culture is no longer the same. For this reason, this writer believes the geographical distance is the easiest distance to overcome. Even if one is unable to travel to the Holy Land, with the Internet and technology that is available, there is much that can be vicariously learned, regardless of where someone lives. That being said, traveling to Israel is a life-changing experience every believer should embark on, given the opportunity.

The distance of language is the final challenge presented to those engaged in biblical interpretation and E. Randolph Richards and Brandon O’Brien believe, “Language is perhaps the most obvious difference between cultures.”[12] Because the Bible was written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, this final challenge has many obstacles to overcome and despite having scholars who have dedicated their life and work to this task, there are still areas that are debated over. Fortunately, as Leo Percer explains, “Where differences exist, none of them are theological issues and ninety-five to ninety-seven percent of the Greek New Testament is valid.”[13] One of the major hurdles of the language difference is the fact no known manuscripts have survived. However, there are over 5,500 copies of the New Testament, and within these copies, textual criticism allows scholars to come as close to the original text as possible. In the end, the distance of culture and language seem to be intertwined and prove the most difficult, especially for those in the Western world. As Richards and O’Brien further explain, “The most powerful cultural values are those that go without being said. Ironically, this is as true of language as of any other aspect of culture – and perhaps more so. Behind the words that make up language is a complex system of values, assumptions, and habits of mind that reveal themselves in the words we use and leave unsaid.”[14] This can lead to profound misunderstanding, and for this reason, Richards and O’Brien both believe language is the most obvious cultural difference that separates us from the Bible and this author ascribes to this view as well. On this premise, there are significant misinterpretations and ultimately misunderstandings that occur when there is a failure to recognize cultural context and all that goes without being said. Only by reading multiple translations and by understanding the culture and intended audience can a reader fully comprehend how a specific passage can speak in a modern-day application.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Duvall, J. Scott and J. Daniel Hays. Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible, Third Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012.

Klein, William W., Craig L. Blomberg, and Robert L Hubbard, Jr. Introduction to Biblical Interpretation: Revised and Updated. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc., 2004.

Percer, Leo. “Introduction to Hermeneutics.” Filmed [2012], Liberty University Website, NBST 610 Course Content, Week One Video Presentation, 02:22. https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_327796_1&content_id=_14931609_1 (accessed October 26, 2016).

______. “Modern Approaches to Hermeneutics.” Filmed [2012], Liberty University Website, NBST 610 Course Content, Week One Video Presentation, 09:45. https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_327796_1&content_id=_14931609_1 (accessed October 27, 2016).

Richards, E. Randolph and Brandon J. O’Brien. Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012.


[1] Leo Percer, “Introduction to Hermeneutics,” Filmed [2012], Liberty University Website, NBST 610 Course Content, Week One Video Presentation, 02:22. https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_327796_1&content_id=_14931609_1 (accessed October 26, 2016).

[2] William W. Klein, Craig L. Blomberg, and Robert L Hubbard, Jr., Introduction to Biblical Interpretation: Revised and Updated (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc., 2004), 4.

[3] Klein et al., Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, 7.

[4] Klein et al., Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, 10-11.

[5] Klein et al., Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, 13.

[6] J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible, Third Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 229.

[7] Klein et al., Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, 19-20.

[8] William W. Klein, Craig L. Blomberg, and Robert L Hubbard, Jr., Introduction to Biblical Interpretation: Revised and Updated (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc., 2004), 13.

[9] Klein et al., Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, 14.

[10] Klein et al., Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, 15.

[11] Klein et al., Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, 16.

[12] E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien, Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012), 25-26.

[13] Leo Percer, “Modern Approaches to Hermeneutics,” Filmed [2012], Liberty University Website, NBST 610 Course Content, Week One Video Presentation, 09:45. https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_327796_1&content_id=_14931609_1 (accessed October 27, 2016).

[14] Richards and O’Brien, Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes, 70-71.