Christ, our Light

CQOD Special Archive


by John R. Cogdell

I. Introduction
II. Psalm 34
III. Psalm 6
IV. Psalm 22
V. Psalm 69
VI. Summary and Critique of Thesis

I. Introduction

     In this essay we will seek to know Jesus better through the study of several psalms. Of course, the entire Bible reveals, directly or indirectly, the person and work of our Lord. Of the Old Testament writings, the Psalms are richly prophetic of the coming Messiah, and Jesus often quoted them as referring to himself. To give one example, Jesus quoted Psalm 110:1, "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool," (see Matt 22:41-46) to show to some of his critics the inadequacy of their concept of the Messiah.
     On the day of his resurrection, Jesus showed a great desire to teach the Old Testament scriptures concerning his suffering and resurrection and the gospel, first to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus and then to the disciples in Jerusalem. In the latter case the Psalms are mentioned specifically, "... all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning me." (Luke 24:44) After Jesus returned to the Father, the apostles often quoted from the Psalms in their preaching (see Acts 1:20, 2:25, 2:34, and 4:25.) Thus we conclude that many of the Psalms speak about the Messiah, giving various prophesies concerning Him, His life, His work, etc.
     In a few Psalms, however, the Messiah himself speaks; for example,"My God, my God, why hast thou deserted me?" (Psalm 22:1) was voiced by our Lord from the cross. Throughout Psalm 22 the Messiah speaks in the first person, and reveals his innermost thoughts, sufferings, and hopes. This type of Messianic psalm (there are nine of them) are, we feel, highly significant, for they give us not only information about the Messiah but reveal to us his thoughts, his mind, his feelings. Precious indeed are these psalms which reveal Jesus to us so intimately!
     These psalms which give us a picture of the thought life of Jesus are, we repeat, heavy with significance. We can learn much abut Jesus' thoughts from what he taught and did, as recorded in the gospels; we can learn more from what Jesus continued to do and teach in the Acts (note the "began" in Acts 1:1); and we can learn yet more from the further revelation of our Lord as the Holy Spirit moved the writers of the remainder of the New Testament. But the humanity of Jesus is revealed in these Messianic psalms at the most intimate level of all.
     We are invited to be imitators of Jesus and to let his Mind be ours (Phil 2:5, I Cor 2:16). Surely it is in His humanity that we are to follow his example, but wherein does his humanity principally lie? In his getting tired thirsty, etc., as we are often told? No -- animals get tired and thirsty; these are not particularly human qualities. If we are to know and follow the man Jesus, we must know his personality, his thought patterns, his hopes and perhaps even his fears.
     In these psalms we see Jesus to be different from the overwhelming, unflappable character we sometimes have portrayed to us. We see Jesus as a singularly lonely person, troubled by many fears and concerns. We see Jesus as a man who viewed himself as a "poor man" (Psalm 34:6), as a "worm and no man" (Psalm 22:6). Certainly we see Jesus as a man who truly has been tempted in all things as we have (Heb 4:15). Yet through all this we see a completely God-centered man, a man whose hopes and affections were from first to last fixed on God. Surely this is the mind of Christ.
     In order to identify those psalms which reveal to us the mind of Christ, we have checked every quotation of the Psalms in the New Testament and noted those which:
  1. are indisputably Messianic on the testimony of Jesus, the apostles, or other authors of the New Testament; that is, we have not ventured to select the Psalms but have let the New Testament writers select them, and
  2. are in the first person; that is, the Messiah speaks through the psalm.
The Psalms satisfying these criteria are Psalm 6, 16, 22, 31, 35, 40, 41, 69, and possibly 34. Significantly, these are all psalms of David. It would appear that David alone was allowed to speak the Messiah's mind directly, for we recall no other Old Testament passages where the Messiah speaks as in these psalms.
     Let us make it clear that once the psalm (those listed above) is identified and selected according to the objective criteria explained above, we take the entire psalm as from the mind and voice of the Messiah. This is not a convenient principle to apply, for it forces us to deal with statements, particularly in Psalm 69, which seem strange as coming from Jesus Christ. But to take certain verses as spoken for the Messiah by the psalmist in a prophetic role and to reject another verse as unsuitable strikes us as arbitrary and subjective, a device of convenience. We choose to wrestle with the entire psalm and conform our thoughts to it and not vice versa.
     In the following studies of four psalms from the list (Psalm 34, 6, 22, and 69), we look at the psalm first as an expression of David, then as an expression of Jesus. Our ultimate goal is to know Jesus better through study of these psalms.

II. Psalm 34


Christ, our Light

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Last updated: 06/05/09