Saturday, July 30, 2005

Christ in Psalm 40, Part 2

A second question worth considering regarding the Messianic reference of Psalm 40 in Hebrews 10 is how the author of Hebrews found Christ in Psalm 40 in the first place. How can the author of Hebrews legitimately use Psalm 40 to teach about Christ and the transition from the old covenant to the new? Walter Kaiser has a very helpful discussion of this issue in his The Uses of the Old Testament in the New. I will try to summarize Kaiser's ideas in this post.

It is helpful for our understanding to remember that OT books were not written in ignorant isolation from previous portions of redemptive revelation. It is legitimate to notice OT terminology that God often uses in conjunction with His redemptive promises (“seed” is a good example, although not used here). Specifically in Psalm 40, there are several terms and phrases that key us into the fact that David had more than just himself in mind when he wrote this Psalm.

The first of these terms is the word translated “thoughts” in verse 5. This term is sometimes used for God’s plans and purposes concerning Israel, such as “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (ESV) in Jeremiah 29:11. It is significant, as Kaiser notes, that here in Psalm 40, David switches from the personal, “I waited” in verse 1, to the corporate, “thoughts (plans) towards us” in verse 5. It is as if David knows that his deliverance had ramifications beyond just himself.

Further on in the Psalm we see David declaring in verse 9 the “glad news of deliverance” (ESV) or the “glad tidings of righteousness” (NAS). These terms, of course, correspond to the NT idea of heralding the good news of the gospel. Other terms in verse 10 that relate to God’s covenant promises to Israel include, faithfulness, salvation, steadfast love, and truth. Many of these terms correspond directly back to God’s manifestation of himself to the children of Israel during the Exodus (Ex. 34:6).

The covenant promises fulfilled in and for David have a direct application to Christ due to the Davidic covenant as delineated in 2 Samuel 7. Christ is the ultimate fulfillment of that covenant and there is some chance that David had 2 Samuel 7 in mind when he said in 40:7, “Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me.” Even though we cannot be dogmatic about that, certainly David was aware that God had written about him and thus David was willing to fulfill the plan that was laid out for him (40:8) and for which he was divinely prepared (40:6). The collective pronouns used in this passage (e.g., 40:5) and the promise/covenant language used throughout this Psalm all point to the fact that David was aware (at some level) of his role in God’s plan of redemption, a role that would involve the Messiah as the ultimate fulfilment of the Davidic promises. Here is how Kaiser puts it:

We conclude that in Psalm 40 the psalmist presents to God an obedient spirit, willing to go and do all that is written about himself. He carried in his person and in each favored descendant all that God is going to do for all the nations of the earth. What had been written thus far in Scripture about the coming Messiah and His work was written, in effect about David, so far as he and his generation were concerned [cf., Heb. 7:9-10 for a Biblical justification of this idea]. He, David, delighted to do every bit of what he found written therein, for God had also dug out his ears, as it were, and had given him a willing heart and mind.


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