Friday, August 12, 2005

Christ in Psalm 40, Part 3

One final thing to mention about Psalm 40 is the primary interpretation given to it by the author of Hebrews in 10:8-9:

When he said above, You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added “Behold I have come to do your will.” He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. (ESV)

Often the Scriptures will deprecate the sacrificial offerings of man due to the hypocritical nature of the ones offering the sacrifice (e.g., Isa 1:11-15; Amos 5:21-27). Such is not the case here, however. These sacrifices were “offered according to the law” and there is nothing in this passage, either here or in Psalm 40, that would suggest that they were offered inappropriately. This observation is important because it means that even at their best these sacrifices were not ultimately satisfying to God. There was a build in obsolescence to the entire system due to the fact that they were but shadows of an ultimate reality (cf., Ex. 25:9, 40). Old Testament believers received subjective forgiveness and a “passing by” of their sins (Rom. 3:25) but an objective forgiveness did not come until Christ provided the final reality or fulfillment of those sacrifices.

That fulfillment took place when Jesus came and did God’s will. The author of Hebrews says that in so doing, Christ abolished the first in order to establish the second. The exegetical point is the observation from Psalm 40 that when the Messiah comes and does God’s will (i.e., everything written about Him in the scroll of the book), then that action will render the old covenant unnecessary and thus obsolete. Those OT sacrifices along with the whole ceremonial law will be done away with and in its place God will establish a new covenant based on the realities of a perfect and final sacrifice.

Isaac Watts has written two hymns from this section of Psalm 40. I quoted the first of those in a previous post. I would like to conclude this post with his second rendition of this psalm:

The wonders, Lord, thy love has wrought;
Exceed our praise, surmount our thought;
Should I attempt the long detail,
My speech would faint, my numbers fail,

No blood of beasts on altars spilt
Can cleanse the souls of men from guilt;
But thou hast set before our eyes
An all-sufficient sacrifice.

Lo! Thine eternal Son appears,
To thy designs he bows his ears,
Assumes a body well prepared,
And well performs a work so hard.

“Behold, I come,” the Savior cries,
With love and duty in his eyes,
“I come to bear the heavy load
Of sins, and do thy will, my God.

“ ‘Tis written in thy great decree,
‘Tis in thy book foretold of me,
I must fulfill the Savior’s part;
And lo! Thy law is in my heart!

I’ll magnify thy holy law,
And rebels to obedience draw,
When on my cross I’m lifted high,
Or to my crown above the sky.

“The Spirit shall descend and show
What thou hast done, and what I do;
The wondering world shall learn thy grace,
Thy wisdom, and thy righteousness.”


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