Welcome to OCBC! We’re getting closer to Christmas this morning. We have a few services, including our Hootenanny tomorrow night. What’s your favorite Christmas song? Radio stations play them 24/7, its amazing.
We need these songs to be reminded of the season. The truth of the season. The meaning of the season. They get in our heads and remind us that Christmas in coming, that Jesus is come.
Have you ever considered the Psalms as Christmas song? A whole book of the Bible written as songs, and we noticed last week, Jesus said in Luke 24:44, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” So yes, the Psalms must be Christmas songs.
And so, having last week given an overview of Christmas in the Law of Moses, in which we saw that the Offspring of Eve, a Descendent of Abraham was going to come as Prophet, Priest and King, to restore paradise and bless the nations, today I’d like to do a quick overview of the book of Psalms, and see if we what we can learn about Christmas from them.
The Psalms that we are looking at today are all from the era of the greatest King of Israel, King David. As we walked through Christmas in the Law of Moses last week, one of the key promises we noted was that a king was to come from the line of Judah, an amazing prophesy considering that at the time it was made Israel was one family made up of around 70 people. Yet Hundreds of years later they did in fact become a great nation, they would settle into the land of Canaan and would in fact have a King from Judah set over them: the great King David.
Now you might know a bit of the story of David, how he was a shepherd boy, not even notable in his own family, but that God chose him and anointed him to be King over all Israel. For most of David’s life, he was a warrior, a fighter and God used him to unite Israel and through him gave Israel relative peace. And so here David is at a relatively peaceful time in his life, and he’s settled in his new palace in Jerusalem, and he thinks, here I am living in peace in my house, and the ark of God is still dwells in a tent (the tabernacle). Yet then God speaks to him through Nathan the prophet, “Hey, David, did I ever ask you to build me a house? This is not about what you can do for me, it’s about what I am doing for you.” Nathan goes on to say in 2 Samuel 7:11-16:
Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. 12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body (emphasis, we’re talking about a human) and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. (source of quote) When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, 15 but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’”
The promise being made here is that the Lord is going to establish David’s kingdom forever through his descendants. This is a promise we sometimes refer to as the Davidic Covenant. The contrast is with Saul, the first King of Israel- God never promised Saul that He would be a father to him or that Saul would rule Israel as a Son of God. To rule as a son meant that the Davidic king would be God’s representative ruler from his throne. And that God would never take this promise away from the line of David - even if any one of David’s descendants failed to act in a manner worthy of representing God, and they all did, except one, nevertheless, David’s line would be established forever. So while this promise speaks specifically of David’s son Solomon, who would indeed be the son to build a house for God’s name, but also later would sin and disgrace his house and be disciplined, the promise extends far beyond Solomon, to speak of sons, or perhaps even a son to come, who will reign forever before the Lord.
So with that introduction, lets quickly move through a number of Psalms.
Psalm 2: An Anointed One Who Reigns From Zion as "God's Son" Will One Day Rule the Nations
Psalm 2 is a coronation Psalm, meaning that it would be one of the songs sung whenever a son of David would be crowned king of Israel or Judah. So that in each generation, the promise of 2 Samuel 7 (“I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”) would be realized as the Lord says, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.” The man of Israel, is now recognized as King, the Son of God”.
Notice the the king is called, the Lord’s Anointed, the Messiah, the King of Israel reigning with the God of Israel.
This King is established by the Lord to reign from Mount Zion, Jerusalem. The Book of Samuel describes this as follows: “And David conquered the fortress of Zion, which is the city of David….And David resided in the fortress, and he called it the city of David…” Hence the city of David, the city of the monarchy, is Zion.
Verse 7 is where, in each generation, the promise of 2 Samuel 7 (“I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”) would be realized in the enthronment of the new Davidic King, as the Lord says, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.” Again, this is spoken of an earthly king, it is a title assumed given to each son of David as they were installed King over Zion. The important thing however, is that this Sonship is connected to a unique inheritance: “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.” Now, none of the son’s of David ever fully came into that inheritance, the nations of the earth continually raged against the Lord and against his anointed. Yet the promise was that one day a Son of David would come who would silence the nations and come full into his inheritance. That’s the genius of this psalm - while the psalm could be spoken of at any kings’s coronation in the line of David, it is only fulfilled in one king who would indeed ask and be given not only the nations but all things as an inheritance.
And so the promise in Psalm 2 is that one day, there will be a Son of David who reigns not only over Jerusalem, but over all the nations, and therefore the kings of the earth would be wise to give honour and esteem to the Sons of David, and particular to that Son when he comes.
Psalm 8: A Humble Son of Adam is Appointed Heir of All Things
Psalm 8 picks up on the theme of inheritance and the scope of the Davidic King’s rule.
The Psalm can be read as a reflection of all of humanity, as the psalmist spans the immensity of creation and asks, “What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him.” There is an aspect of being a son of Adam, a human being that falls in humble awe at the glory of God revealed in the vastness of creation.
Yet the rest of the Psalm lays claim to the promise of God that one day a humble human will be crowned with glory and honour and will rule over all of creation. This is quite an expansion in scope from Psalm 2 in which the Davidic King asks for the nations as his inheritance. Here, the inheritance given is all of creation!
All of creation will someday be place under the foot, that is under the rule of this exalted yet humble king.
Psalm 24: The Righteous King Who Ascends Mount Zion is Revealed to be the Lord Himself
This could be one of the most interesting Psalms, as the Psalm first speaks of the Lord’s dominion over all things, being the Creator of all things. So far so good.
Yet the focus of the Psalm, at least in the first half, is to raise the question, again brings us back to that Davidic king. Who could possibly ascend God’s holy hill, what sort person must be the Davidic King who will be enthroned on Zion? Obviously he must be one of exemplery moral perfection, with clean hands and a pue heart. Only a blameless king, ruling in perfect righteousness is worthy to be given the inheritance spoken about in Psalm 2 and Psalm 8. And so who could this King be? This King who will rule from Zion, over the nations, this man who will exercise dominion over the earth and all of creation?
I love how verse 7 proclaims - someones coming! Hey gates, hey doors, get ready to open, for someone is coming up the mountain! The King of Glory is coming? But who is it? What son of David is worthy to rule over the nations? What son of Adam is worthy to exercise dominion over the earth?
The Lord God Himself - He is the King of Glory! The Davidic King, the Son of Adam, is Yahweh, the Lord Himself! He is the King of Glory! This is crazy! The Davidic King is the Lord God Himself? How can this be? What does this mean? This brings us to Psalm 45.
Psalm 45: The Admired Righteous King is God, Anointed By God to Reign Forever in Joy
Psalm 45 is a song of admiration, penned by a one of the sons of Korah, psalmists in the court of David. The psalm is considered to be a wedding song, sung at one of the weddings of the Israelite kings. Yet verses 5 and 7indicates that something deeper is going on here.
The psalm addresses God himself in verse 5, noting the eternalrighteous rule of the Lord. Yet in verse 7, the Psalmist states that the God he is addressing is Himself annointed by God, annointed with the oil of gladness! How is God annointed by God! How is the King of Glory a man ascending the Holy Hill and the Lord God himself? And note, all of this is within the stict monotheism of the Jewish people! But it gets even more intriguin in Psalm 110 - the favorite psalm of Jesus and the early church
Psalm 110: The Exalted Lord is King and Priest Forever
Now Jesus himself makes a big deal of this Psalm. Here’s why, and I get this from DA Carson - if you read this psalm not understanding that it is a psalm of David, you’d likely be prone to think that this is a psalm written by a subject or royal courtesan about King David.
So you’d read it, “The Lord God says to my Lord, the King”. Yet, as Jesus points out in Matthew 22:43, this Psalm is written by King David himself, he must be speaking of someone greater than himself, a King greater than the Davidic King, a king of kings. And so David is meditating on the reality that, though he is enthroned as king in Jerusalem, there is a greater king to whom he is to give homage, that is the King appointed by God as his Messiah. And so this is a humbling reality for David, at a time at which David has great reason to be proud. Yet David knows a greater king is coming. His own throne is but a shadow of a greater reality to come. And perhaps the Lord uses this to remind David that he is not the first king of Jerusalem, and the Holy Spirit directs him to a prior king over the city, back when it was simply called Salem, also a king to whom other kings paid homage. A great king to whom even David’s own ancestor, the patriarch Abraham paid homage: a king by the name of Melchizedek, a king, who is not just a king, but a priest as well.
And the Holy Spirit shows David just why Moses includes this story of the man with a strange name in Genesis 14. For just as David’s throne is a shadow throne pointing to the Messianic king, so also the Levitical priesthood is a shadow priesthood pointing to the Messianic priest and that someday the office of King and Priest will once again be united in the Messiah just as they once were in the person of Melchizadek. Thus here in Psalm 110:4 “The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”
This is quite a promise. We saw last week that the Law of Moses had revealed to us the necessity of a preisthood, for God’s holiness demanded that a priest represent us and purify us by bringing an appropriate sacrifice into the presence of God. That is why the Levitical preisthood was set up. Yet here the Holy Spirit reveals through David that from him will come a King greater than himself, so much greater that it is no blasphemy to call him Lord. This king will execute judgement over the nations yet will himself be a priest, a priest forever.
Yet if this king is a preist, what sacrifice will he bring?
Psalm 40: The Priestly King Brings the Sacrifice of His Own Body, as Foretold By Prophesy
Again, Psalm 40 is a Psalm of David. In the Psalm, David is facing some grave trial, but anticipating that the Lord will deliver him.
About halfway through the Psalm, David speaks of the sacrifice that he as king would bring to the Lord. David, as a king, was not able to make sacrifices at the temple, he would have to brings his sacrifes to a preist who would make the sacrifice on his behalf, yet the phrase in verse 6 is very intersting, as, particularly in the Greek translation of the Old Testament that many of the apostles used, the phrase is translated, “you have prepared my body” - apparantly there is a translation issue at this point. Yet it seems that the best way to interpret this verse is that the offering required is total personal obedience - the offering of the entire person to the Lord, for every interpretation means the same thing: to peirce ones ear was to offer onself completely to another as a servant, to open one’s ear meant to listen to obey, and to prepare a body was also picture of a total, sacrifice of personal obedience. Thus, the sacrifice of the Son of David, the Melchizadekian preist, would be his entire self offered up to God. And David indicates to us that He is not speaking for himself, but of the one who will come, the one who is fortold, in the words, “Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me” - David is speaking of the to whom all the prophesies point - the one who will be the perfect King, making the perfect sacrifice.
Psalm 102: The Suffering King Will Rise to Reign in Mercy Forever, and Will Appear in Glory Before a Future Generation
At first glance Psalm 102 seems pretty strait forward. The subtitle is: A Prayer Of One Afflicted, When He Is Faint And Pours Out His Complaint Before The Lord, and its seems to be like countless other Psalms,
simply a song of one who calls out to the Lord, and comforts himself by meditating on some attribute of the Lord - here being the Lord’s eternality. I’m dying Lord, but you will remain forever. I’ve reached the end of my days, Lord, but you will never reach the end of yours. So yes, one the one hand this psalm had historically been lumped together with other such songs. Yet there are some things in this Psalm that suggest that we are not to simply take this Psalm as a simple song of affliction that anyone can identify with. Is that really all that comforting? It’s kind of a weird prayer if we take it like that. I’m dying here Lord, but at least I know that you’re going to be ok.
The Psalm says explicitly it was not written for the Psalmist, but (verse 18) for a generation to come, for a people yet to be born. From the Psalmist’s perspective, he is saying that this Psalm is not a general word of assurance that could be prayed by anyone at anytime. No, this is explicitly prophetic and is for a time the was future to the psalmist. So what age in particular was this psalm written for?
One important thing that is missed in our English translations is that there is a dialogue going on in the Psalm. You notice that some of this Psalm is addressed to the Lord, “Here my prayer, O Lord, let my cry come to you!” and some is third person reporting “The Lord builds up Zion, he appears in his glory.” So something’s going on here. In the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament, from which the author of Hebrews quotes, verse 23 reads: “He answered him in the way of his strength” - which means that in this Psalm there are at least three people. There is the “He” who is answering, the “him” who is receiving an answer, and the Psalmist who is recording this conversation for a generation to come, that they might praise the Lord. So the question is who is talking to whom? Well the author of Hebrews has told us, that at least verses 25-27 is spoken by God the Father to the Son, sort of what we have seen in these other Psalms. That’s is, Psalm 102 is a prophetic report of a conversation between God the Father and God the Son!
Let’s read the Psalm through with this understanding: That would mean that verses 1-11 are recording the Son’s prayer to the Father, crying out in anguish to God until his body ached, concluding in verse 11 “My days are like an evening shadow; I wither away like grass.”
Now, what word does the Father have for the Son? Remember, he is the Son of David. It has been promised to Him that he will rule forever, reigning over the nations. If the author of Hebrews is right, verses 12-15 are part of the Father’s answer to the Son, and here we do see see that The Father is reminding the Son of the promises that the author of Hebrew’s has directed us back to time and time again in regards to the Davidic covenant.
Can you imagine Jesus comforting himself with these words in the Garden. “Father, I am in anguish! Take this cup from me. I’m going to die!” “No, no my Son, you will be enthroned forever, this is not the end, you will rise again and nations will bow before your glory.”
“Jesus, my son” the Father says, “there can be no end to your days, for you were before all things, and you will remain even after all things perish. You are Lord over all creation and you hold everything in your hands like an old robe” So here we have the definitive statement in the Old Testament that Jesus is the Son Through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power for in Psalm 102 God Declares the Son to Be the Immortal Creator and Sustainer of All Things.
Conclusion: Putting everything together, what an amazing picture of Christmas the Psalms present to us:
A perfectly righteous descendent of David, the anointed "Son of God", will ascend to rule from Zion. He will be given dominion over all nations and the entire created order. He will be revealed by God to be the Lord God Himself, though he will continue to speak with God as His own Father and Lord. He will reign forever as King and Priest. He will offer his own body as a perfect sacrifice, only to rise again in glory to rule over all, extending mercy to all who hope in Him.
Never get over the depths of the pictures of Christ found in the Old Testament. This book is not some work of fiction made by man’s imagination. It is revelation from the mind of God Himself, revealing things beyond our intuition, and speaking truth in love into our situation.
Worship the Son this Christmas! Fill your heart up in the worship of the Son! Particualrly as the world around us grows darker and scarier, God has ordained that His Appointed will one day reign in glory, extending mercy to all who place their hope in Him.
Rest your heart in Him. He will reign forever. All things will be placed under his feet.