Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Psalms of the Messiah

I've been spending a lot of time lately studying the shape of the book of Psalms. It is logical to observe that there is intentionality in the ordering of the Psalms; just like each individual Psalm had a context it was composed in, the compilers of the Psalter were intentional in the ordering of the material. The more I study this topic, the richer it gets. But few quotes have packed more punch for me in terms of revolutionizing my understanding of the Psalms, as the following by Bruce Waltke:
"The concept of Messiah was also developed in the editing of the Psalter. Israel draped the magnificent royal psalms as robes on each successive king, but generation after generation the shoulders of the reigning monarch proved too narrow and the robe slipped off to be draped on his successor. Finally, in the exile, Israel was left without a king and with a wardrobe of royal robes in their hymnody. On the basis of I AM's unconditional covenants to Abraham and David, the faithful know that Israel's history ends in triumph, not in tragedy. The prophets, as noted, evisioned a coming king who would fulfill the promise of these covenants. Haggai and Zechariah, who prophesied about 520 BC when the returnees had no king, fueled the prophetic expectation of the hoped-for king by applying it to Zerubabbel, son of David, and to Joshua, the high priest. When this hope fell through, Israel pinned their hope on a future Messiah. It was in that context, when Israel had no king, that the Psalter was edited with reference to the king. Accordingly, the editors of the Psalter must have resignified the Psalms from the historical king and draped them on the shoulders of the Messiah. Samuel Terrien, commenting on Psalm 21, agrees: 'The theology of kingship and divine power had to be re-examined in the light of the historical events. Psalm 21 needed to be reinterpreted eschatologically. The Anointed One began to be viewed as the Messiah at the end of time.' In short, in light of the exile and the loss of kingship, the editors colored the entire Psalter with a messianic hue" (890).
- See his chapter entitled, "The Gifts of Hymns and the Messiah: The Psalms," pages 870-896 in his larger "Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical, and Thematic Approach."

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