Psalms as Christian Scripture

Tue, 30/08/2011 - 10:59 -- James Oakley

As I look at Psalm 6, in preparation for this coming Sunday evening, I went back to visit a blog post by Adrian Reynolds over at The Proclaimer.

He says this, which is very helpful indeed:

The psalms are, without doubt, a treasure trove for the believer. But how do we preach them as Christian literature? My colleague, Christopher Ash, has some helpful pointers when he teaches this genre at Cornhill. Each of the psalms relates to the anointed King, the Messiah, he says, in one of the following ways:

  • Songs about the anointed King: these are the messianic and kingship psalms which ultimately find their meaning in Christ. He is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
  • Songs sung by the anointed King: these are the psalms which are ultimately about the anointed King: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
  • Songs sung by us in the anointed King: these are the psalms which we can only sing because we are in Christ, and therefore part of his holy kingdom of priests. Apart from Christ we cannot sing the righteous man's songs.

To which I might cheekily add a fourth category:

  • Songs sung about the anointed King's city: some of the psalms have as their focus the city of Jerusalem. If the psalms ultimately point us to Christ, we are greatly helped in understanding these psalms for their ultimate fulfilment must be in the joy and delight of the heavenly Jerusalem, Christ's own bride.

Now, let's apply that to Psalm 6.

1. This is a prayer that Christ could have prayed – in part.

Certainly he experienced oppression from his foes, and he was in fear of his life. The point of discontinuity is that those problems could not be traced back to his sin – at least not to his own sin. Psalm 22 would point us to the reality that it was our sin that put him on the cross. So even those earlier verses were ones he could pray.

In which case, the reversal of fortune came at his resurrection: Sooner than onlookers would have imagined. That leaves the advice to his enemies to depart and to stop troubling him, because they are now the ones who will experience trouble.

2. This is a prayer that we can pray in Christ.

When a Christian’s circumstances take a turn for the worst, we need to be hesitant before we conclude it’s the direct consequence of our sin (John 9). But Hebrews 12 is clear that God disciplines those he loves, so it may be. It may be we have sin to confess. In which case, this Psalm is a good one to give us some words to pray.

However the New Testament is careful to distinguish that this is the discipline of a greatly loved member of the family; it’s not punitive. Once we’ve reached the point where we are turning to God in genuine repentance, we can fall back on God’s steadfast love (verse 4), and have confidence that our prayer is heard (verses 8-9).

David experienced God’s discipline through his foes; it may come to us through other agents. We may need to wait until Jesus returns, in which case we will be asking “How Long, O Lord?” (verse 3). However we can be absolutely, as the people of God, that all the agencies through which we experience God’s discipline will all be turned back in the fulness of time.

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