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The Messianic Psalms

O God, thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from thee (Ps. 69:5).

A reader writes, "The whole of Psalm 69 is clearly the prophetic words of Christ (e.g., Ps. 69:21; cf. Matt. 27:34). But who is confessing sin and foolishness in verse 5? Could it be the imputed sin of His people being confessed?"

This question brings us to the heart of the messianic character of the Psalms. Usually conservative commentators on the Psalms distinguish between the Psalms in general and the messianic Psalms, the latter being those Psalms which speak directly of Christ. The messianic Psalms include Psalms 2, 22, 69, 72, 100, etc.

There is a sense in which all the Psalms are Messianic, for they were all inspired by the Holy Spirit of Christ. Christ Himself speaks in the Psalms, even though He may be speaking through David or Asaph or Ethan. That Christ Himself is speaking in the Psalms by His Spirit is clear from I Peter 1:10-12: "Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into."

Scripture teaches that the OT prophets, including the Psalmists, wrote what they did by the Spirit of Christ, and that they, the prophets, searched their own writings to learn about Christ’s sufferings and glory.

However, the Psalms are unique in one respect: they all testify and speak of Christ, as the whole of Christ’s work is performed for, in and through those for whom He died. It is hard to emphasize too strongly the importance of this. David wrote many of the Psalms. He was infallibly inspired by the Spirit of Christ. Christ by His Spirit was speaking in David and through David. But Christ by His Spirit was speaking in and through David in such a way that Christ’s work for David was reflected in David’s consciousness. And it was reflected in David’s consciousness in connection with David’s own pathway in life with all its experiences, trials, victories and sufferings, and as that pathway in life was determined by God in His eternal counsel.

In other words, the Psalms are David’s (and Asaph’s, and Ethan’s) spiritual biography, as Christ, the redeemer of His people, works His salvation through His people in their lives. Christ speaks in the Psalms of what He has done. David speaks in the Psalms as the mouthpiece of Christ. Every believer speaks in the Psalms as Christ works salvation within him.

Christ said, "The Lord is my shepherd" (Ps. 23:1). The Triune God was Christ’s shepherd in all Christ’s suffering. Christ is the good shepherd who calls His sheep by name ( John 10). Christ leads His people into green pastures. The believer says, "The Lord is my shepherd." The believer in whom Christ dwells and through whom Christ speaks His own word, also speaks that Word as it applies to his own life. He speaks it in all of his life—even when he walks through the valley of the shadow of death.

The psalmist said, "My God, my God, why hast though forsaken me?" (Ps. 22:1). Christ said those words on the cross, for they were His words in the OT as He spoke them prophetically through David. But David said those words in a moment of chastisement when God had seemingly abandoned him. Nevertheless, it was Christ speaking through David and in David’s own experiences in life. And every believer, at one time or another in his life, cries out the same Psalm’s plaintive cry. This spiritual character of the Psalms is what makes them so rich.

Some Psalms speak directly of the suffering of Christ and do so prophetically and specifically—as does Psalm 69. Yet, it is Christ speaking through David so that David himself is speaking, but he is speaking the Word of Christ as Christ speaks in and through him. Enemies parted Christ’s garments among them (Ps. 22:18John 19:34), but they did the same with David’s clothes—perhaps at the time of Absalom’srebellion. And so with all the Psalms.

Psalm 69:5, quoted above, is also Christ speaking in and through David, for only by the Spirit of Christ is any believer able to confess his sins as David does here. But it is also Christ who speaks, for the sins of all His people were imputed to Christ and He who knew no sin was made sin for us (II Cor. 5:21). The questioner is correct. Christ cries out in Psalm 69 that the sins of His people, imputed to Him, were not hid from God. Christ cried this when He suffered the wrath of God against sin on the cross. But because Christ said this first, and now says it in us, we too are able to say it—and saying it, find forgiveness in Christ’sblood.

Thus the Psalms were written out of the personal experiences of the psalmists. They were, however, infallibly inspired by the Holy Spirit. Christ is, therefore speaking in the Psalms concerning Himself and His work which He does for and in His people. As He performs His work in His people, He does so through His Word in the sacred Scriptures. He, by the same Spirit who inspired the authors of Scripture, speaks His Word in the heart and consciousness of the believer in connection with the believer’s own experiences in the pathway of life through which God leads him. Thus Christ’s experiences become the believer’sexperiences in his union with Christ by faith. And so he sings the Psalms with gusto.

Read the Psalms this way. Do so meditating on each one, meditating on the truth that Christ speaks in and through you in all the experiences of life through which God leads you. One thing is sure from such an exercise: you will never want to go to uninspired hymns in your worship of God.

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Additional Info

  • Volume: 10
  • Issue: 11
Hanko, Herman

Prof. Herman Hanko (Wife: Wilma)

Ordained: October 1955

Pastorates: Hope, Walker, MI - 1955; Doon, IA - 1963; Professor to the Protestant Reformed Seminary - 1965

Emeritus: 2001

Website: www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Prof._Herman_Hanko

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  • State or Province
    MI
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    49428
  • Country
    United States
  • Telephone
    616-667-6033

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