Kaiser quotes J. Barton Payne as writing that the Psalms are “The greatest single block of predictive matter concerning the Savior to be found anywhere in the OT.”[i] In The Messiah in the Old Testament, Kaiser devotes two chapters to review the so called messianic Psalms. I prefer anticipatory to Payne’s predictive. I think the writers, singers, and preservers of the Psalms were people with dynamic relationships with God. They expected God to act and reacted when they believed God was not acting quickly enough or in the way they thought God should act. But I don’t think they were predicting in the sense that I predict the Lions will beat the Packers this weekend (a guy can dream).
Jesus directly quotes Psalm 110:1 in Matthew 22:44. The legal experts had been trying to trap him with rhetorical games and he turns the tables on them. If Psalm 110 is of David and is about the Messiah, and if David calls the Messiah ‘My Lord,’ then how can they say the Messiah came from David? A father does not call his son “My Lord.” The Pharisees knew this and knew Jesus had exposed a hole in their messianism – a hole that had been there all along. Matthew writes, “No one was able to answer” (22:46).
So Matthew took Psalm 110 to be Messianic, but what about the original Psalmist, presumably David? Kaiser points out 4 characteristics of Messiah that come from the Psalm.[ii]
(1) The messiah is a priest.
(2) The messiah is anointed by God.
(3) The messiah is an eternal officer holder (“priest forever” – 110:4).
(4) The messiah is pre-Aaron, and is in the order of Melchizedek.
Psalm 2 serves to warn the kings of the earth that nothing can thwart the success of God’s anointed. God laughs at the schemes of the kings (v.4) and tells them their best course of action is to fear the Lord (v. 11) and reverse his anointed one (Messiah) (v.12). Verse 12 literally says they are to “kiss his feet.” Could we imagine today’s world leaders, a Vladimir Putin or a Kim Jong Un willingly kissing Messiah’s feet? This Psalm clearly establishes God’s might and God’s favor given to the Messiah.
Psalm 118 does not initially strike a messianic tone, but it is probably a Psalm of David[iii] and it clearly sets out the singer’s confidence in the face of his foes. He believes that in spite of his struggles and sufferings, the Lord is his salvation (118:14).
The key verse of this Psalm is 22 in terms of a messianic link. The three synoptic Gospel writers have Jesus quote this specific verse in making the case that he is God’s anointed.[iv] David is the “rejected stone” that became the capstone, as his own father Jesse did not find him suitable.[v] In quoting the verse and relating himself to both the Psalm and to David’s experience, Jesus saw himself as stepping into that role. Jesus, in the crucifixion, would be the rejected one that became the cornerstone. At the heart of the Christian faith is the idea that Jesus is the foundation of our lives and the cornerstone for each of us. All that we do is dependent upon who we are in Christ.
Thus in these three Psalms, we grow in our understanding of Jesus. As I said, I am not convinced the Psalmists knew they were singing about Jesus. They were singing about God and what God was doing and would do in the future. Jesus came and supremely filled the roles the Psalmists described. They knew God would act. Jesus showed in specific terms what God did. In the way Jesus became the Melchizedekian priest (Psalm 110), the king before whom all kings must bow (Psalm 2), and the cornerstone (Psalm 118), those roles would never again be filled by anyone else. Indeed, they never could be as Jesus’ fulfillment is the ultimate fulfillment.
While I will not review every Psalm Kaiser analyzes, what I have shared here and what I will I share in the next post will suffice to show that there is a messianic thread that runs throughout the Psalms. The Psalm are for worship, the Psalms reveal a dynamic relationship with God, and the Psalms have an eschatological thread that ties together the Messiah with an end-times judgment.