Word of Christ

Adapted from a sermon preached in PCC Evening Service on 23 May 2004

Part 2 of 2

[Ed. note: We saw last Sabbath, the first three arguments that all of the Psalms should be interpreted Messianically, viz: (1) there are some Psalms that are clearly Messianic beyond all other parts of the Old Testament; (2) there are Psalms which do not appear to be Messianic in their content but are taken to be so in the New Testament; and (3) there are Psalms, which were clearly written upon particular occasions in David’s life, which are also clearly Messianic. We continue in this final instalment of our study with the next two arguments]

4. There Are Imprecatory Psalms
Which Are Messianic

Some think that words of imprecation or curses cannot possibly flow from the holy lips of our gentle Saviour. But what saith the Scripture?

Consider the famous imprecatory Psalm,—Psalm 69. Look at the words of imprecation against the adversaries of the psalmist (v. 23-25)—

"23 Let their eyes be darkened, that they see not; and make their loins continually to shake. 24 Pour out thine indignation upon them, and let thy wrathful anger take hold of them. 25 Let their habitation be desolate; and let none dwell in their tents" (Ps 69:19, 23-25).

Could these fearful words have been spoken by our gentle Saviour? Could it reflect the wish of our Saviour? Surely this Psalm cannot be Messianic! But look at verse 20-21—

"20 Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none. 21 They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink" (Ps 69:20-21).

It is obvious, is it not? The first person pronoun, "I," in this Psalm does not primarily point to David, but to the Lord Jesus Christ in His suffering on the Cross. No where are we informed that David was given vinegar and gall to quench his thirst, whereas it happened to the Lord at the Cross (Mt 27:34).

What we have then, is the fact that the imprecations recorded in this Psalm are, in fact, the words of Christ. So the apostle Peter was correct to apply the curse in Ps 69:25 to Judas Iscariot as one who epitomised the Lord’s enemies. We see this in Acts 1:20 in his inaugural sermon.

Now then, if the imprecations in Psalm 69 can and should be taken as the words of Christ our Saviour, what is there to prevent us from understanding the words of imprecation in the Psalms as describing the prayers of our Lord?

The view that says that Christ could not have uttered any words of imprecation is simply not a biblical view.

But what about words of penitence? Christ was tempted at all points like as we are and yet without sin. How could words that ask God for forgiveness of sin be ascribed to the Lord whether directly or typically?

5. Penitential Psalms May Also
be Interpreted Messianically.

Well, this is indeed a difficulty. And it is such a difficulty that many sound commentators recoil from saying they could possibly have poured forth out of the lips of our holy Saviour.

How can words of confession and pleas for forgiveness be attributed to the Lord who never sinned? I believe they can be for 2 reasons.

First, the Psalms contain words of penitence which are indisputably Messianic. We know that they are Messianic because the New Testament quotes the words of the psalmist as being the words of the Lord, for example: Psalms 40 and Psalm 69. Both of these Psalms contain words of penitence.

Look at Psalm 40:12—

"For innumerable evils have compassed me about: mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of mine head: therefore my heart faileth me" (Ps 40:12).

And look at Psalm 69:5—

"O God, thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from thee" (Ps 69:5).

Now, it does not make reasonable sense to say that these verses do not belong to the Lord while the ‘Messianic’ verses (in the same Psalms) belong to Him. Doing so would involve reading our own whims and fancies into the Scripture.

As such, we have to conclude that these penitential verses could be attributed to the Lord and in fact should be interpreted as words belonging to Him.

But what does that do to our theology that Christ was sinless? Well, let me assert secondly, there is a very good theological ground to attribute words of penitence in the Psalms to our sinless Lord.

This is because all our sin was imputed to the Lord as He suffered as a substitutionary sacrifice on our behalf. This is taught in many places in the Scriptures. For example:

The apostle Paul says: "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree" (Gal 3:13).

Now, you must realise that the Lord Jesus was not simply paying for our sin theoretically. No, He took the guilt of our sin upon Himself and suffered for it on the Cross. Just as Adam’s guilt was imputed to all mankind, so the guilt of the elect was imputed to Christ (Rom 5:15-17).

Christ was accounted as a sinner in God’s sight as He suffered on the Cross. He was suffering for sins, "the just for the unjust" (1 Pet 3:18). He was not suffering as a righteous man should suffer. Though He had no sin, He was suffering the pains of hell as the ‘most guilty man’ who ever lived. This is why He was, as it were, forsaken of the Father, and He cried out: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Ps 22:1).

If I can enumerate my sins, there on the Cross, Christ my Lord was suffering the punishment due to every one of them. And not only my sin, but the sin of all the elect throughout the ages, including David’s.

Now, the words of penitence in the Psalms can all be taken as expressions of the Lord’s grief and sorrow as He hung on the cross bearing our sin. Thus, the words "my sin is ever before me… against thee, thee only, have I sinned," may be taken as expressing the enormous grief, sorrow and pain that we all ought to feel for our sin.

George Horne in his excellent Christological commentary on the Psalms agrees with this view. Alluding to the writings of the ancient Fathers, he says:

Christ in the day of his passion standing charged with the sin and guilt of his people, speaks of such their sin and guilt, as if they were his own, appropriating to himself those debts, for which, in the capacity of a surety, he had made himself responsible.

Christ our Lord, in other words, suffered on our behalf. He suffered also the feeling of guilt though He was Himself without sin.

Psalm 51 is a Penitential Psalm. It was written by David after he committed adultery with Bathsheba. It is most easily interpreted as being the words of David. But dare we say they are not the words of Christ when David, according to the apostle Peter, wrote under the direction of the Spirit of Christ who was in him signifying and testifying "beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow" (1 Pet 1:11)?

Could not the Lord of Providence have so ordered the life of David that his experience foreshadowed the experience of Christ? Is it not likely that the feelings that David expressed in Psalm 51 were written as a reflection of how our Lord must have felt on our behalf when He bore our guilt on the cross of Calvary?


We have, I believe, proven our case:

We have shown that there are some Psalms that are clearly Messianic beyond all other parts of the Old Testament

We have shown that there are Psalms which do not appear to be Messianic but is taken to be so in the New Testament.

We have shown that there are Psalms which were clearly written upon particular occasions in David’s life, which are clearly Messianic.

We have shown that the so-called imprecatory Psalms are also Messianic.

Finally, we showed that even penitential statements can be interpreted Messianically.

What do we say to all these things? I believe we can conclude quite safely through them, that all the Psalms are uniquely Messianic and can be interpreted Messianically. There are some who say that only those verses which are quoted in the New Testament are Messianic. But that would be a restrictive, mechanical view.

When the Holy Spirit teaches us that one verse in the Psalm is spoken by the Messiah, and there is no change in person, what can we conclude but that He is the speaker throughout the Psalm? It goes against reason and context to think that Christ is speaker of one statement and then deny that the next statement in the same speech is spoken by Him.

So we can conclude that the whole Psalm can be ascribed to Him. But if Christ is the speaker in a Psalm, then what is there to prevent us from applying another Psalm to Christ when it is written with the same background or contain same or similar substance with the Psalm already accepted as Messianic?

What I am saying is that it is unreasonable to suppose that the only parts of the Psalms that should be interpreted Messianically are those which are explicitly quoted as Messianic in the New Testament. In fact, it is perfectly reasonable to assume that every Psalm has a Messianic import.

Some of the Psalms speak of the church of Christ; some extol the words of Christ; some refer to Christ Himself in the third person; some address Christ in the second person; but there are many in which the speaker may be taken to be Christ Himself.

In saying this, we are not saying that the historical context in which the Psalms were written are not important. Psalm 2 was written perhaps on the occasion of David’s coronation. Psalm 18 was written when God had delivered David out of the hand of Saul. Psalm 51 was written after David fell into sin with Bathsheba. But could not the Lord of Providence, so direct the life of David so that his experience foreshadowed the experience of Christ and his feelings expressed in the Psalms reflect the feelings of Christ in His humiliation and exaltation?

Christ is the greater David. When we read and sing the Psalms, then, we must have an eye particularly on Christ. Let us sing His words cheerfully. Let us memorise them. Let us sing them gratefully. The Lord has promised that when we sing the Psalms, He would join us to sing with us in His spirit (see Heb 2:12; Ps 22:22). Amen.

—JJ Lim