Saturday, March 31, 2018

Seeing Jesus in the Psalms

As we read the psalms and ask how it is that we, like the psalmists, may properly engage with God in prayer - we try and climb into the mind of the psalmist. Many times, we are at a loss. I often look for repeated words or ideas. I try and discern an outline or a pattern. And sometimes it clicks. It makes sense. But other times…

Another way of reading the psalms is to see Jesus there. He is the fulfillment of what is written in the Old Testament. He is greater and better than any previous figure. And so, in the psalms, we find that the psalmist often struggles with his own self. And we can relate. But Jesus does not. So not every phrase pertains precisely to Jesus’ experience. But at least portions do. For instance, here is Psalm 30:2-3 - “O LORD my God, I cried to You for help, and You healed me. O Lord, You have brought up my soul from Sheol; You have kept me alive, that I would not go down to the pit.” Here we can see Jesus in his passion, in the garden, in his trial and death. But God did not keep him alive. Jesus gave his life for us. And then God raised Jesus to new life. Jesus outstrips the original context, but we are able to see hints of him.

In Psalm 31:5, we are pressed to see Jesus, in that Jesus himself quotes the words of this psalm from his own mouth on the cross at the end of his earthly life: “Into Your hand I commit my spirit;” and then completing the verse, “You have ransomed me, O LORD, God of truth.” The first phrase certainly pertains, though in the second phrase, we understand that it was Jesus himself who, in dying on the cross, was himself the ransom for us. We are the ones ransomed by his sacrifice.

In this Easter Sunday edition of the newsletter, let me give you one more verse from Psalm 30, in which we try to work with a psalm by seeing Jesus in it. Psalm 30:5 says, “For his anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.” Our understanding of this verse can only be enriched by thinking about the experience of Jesus on the cross and in his death, and then his resurrection on that third day. We can enter into the experience of the disciples and other followers of Jesus as they are beset by disappointment and disillusionment at the loss of their Lord. But then comes the angelic announcement from the tomb - He is not here; He is risen, just as He said. And we get it. It has become a psalm, a prayer, that we ourselves can pray.

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