Vol. 3, No. 6
According to the New Testament, the betrayal of Jesus Christ by Judas Iscariot is the subject of two prophetic psalms, namely, 69 and 109. Both of these passages focus on the terrible judgment which God would bring upon Judas, the betrayer of the Christ.
Psalm 69, a portion of which we will study in this lesson, is quoted or alluded to twenty-two times in the New Testament.
These references are found in John 15:25; Mark 3:21; Luke 8:19; John 7:3-5; 2:17; Romans 15:3; Hebrews 12:2; Matthew 27:34-48; Mark 15:23-36; Luke 23:36; John 19:28-30; Romans 11:9-10; Matthew 23:38; Luke 13:35; Acts 1:20; 1 Peter 2:24; Romans 1:28; Philippians 4:3; Revelation 3:5; 13:8; Luke 10:20; and Hebrews 12:23.
No other of the Psalms, with the exception of Psalm twenty-two, is more distinctly applied in the New Testament.
Of course, we must point out that the mere quoting of a passage does not necessarily mean that it is a direct prediction of a person or an event.
But the subject of this Psalm is an ideal person who represents the whole class of righteous sufferers, including David who authored the Psalm.
However, the only person to live on the earth in whom is found all of the various characteristics which are set forth in the Psalm was our Lord Jesus Christ.
On the other hand, Jesus is not the exclusive subject of the Psalm, unless the sins he confessed in verses five through twelve, represent the sins that Jesus bore on the cross, because Jesus, himself, had no sin.
Further evidence that Jesus is not the exclusive subject of the Psalm is found in verses twenty-two through twenty-eight, in which the poet calls upon God to punish those who sinned against him and blot them out of the book of the living.
When Jesus was hanging upon the cross, Jesus did not call upon God to condemn his enemies, but prayed, "Father forgive them, they know not what they do."
However, in seeking a place for this Psalm, it is better to put it among the predictive Messianic psalms.
Clearly verse twenty-one of the Psalm is a reference to the events that transpired while Jesus was hanging on the cross.
Another part of the Psalm that is Messianic is clearly verse twenty-nine in which the Psalmist prays for Jehovah to set him on high.
We shall look at others more particularly as we go through this lesson.
THE ORGANIZATION OF THE PSALM.
The Psalm can be divided into three major divisions which are:1) The prayer of the Messiah for help in verses one through twenty-seven; 2) His prophecy concerning the eventual fate of his enemies in verses twenty-two through twenty-eight; and 3) His expression of gratitude to God for his blessings in verses twenty-nine through thirty-six. We will study the Psalm according to these divisions.
The Prayer of the Messiah. (vv.1-22) Six times in the first section of this Psalm, the Sufferer presents his petition to Jehovah, and each time he strengthens his case by adding new reasons for divine intervention.
The first petition is very simple and can be summed up in the words, save me. Then he offers four reasons why Jehovah should save him.
He was in serious danger, according to verses one and two, and he used the figure of near drowning to describe his plight in verse one. In verse two he used the figure of deep mire in which there was no solid bottom, so that he was in grave danger of perishing as one might perish in quick-sand. (This reminds of us Jeremiah's imprisonment in the cistern of miry clay.)
The second reason why Jehovah should intervene on his part is that he had waited a long time, and very patiently on God to do so. (v.3) As a matter-of fact, he had become weary with calling upon Jehovah for help. His throat had become parched by the excessive strain upon his voice, and he represents his eyes as being fatigued by looking for the deliverance of Jehovah.
The third reason is that he was facing many enemies who were hateful toward him, and who were mighty against him. (v 4) He said that he was hated without a cause, that his enemies were wrong in their hatred for him, that they were out to destroy him; and though he had been absolutely honest in his dealing with all men, he was treated as a thief, and forced to restore (an illusion to the law of Moses regarding stealing) that which he had not stolen. (This could also be a reference to his bearing the sins of the guilty upon the cross, while he himself was the innocent One.)
His fourth reason for soliciting God's divine intervention into his life was that he was confident that God knew the facts about his conduct. (v. 5) Jehovah knew that he had been as foolish and sinful as his persecutors (the Jews) claimed.
As we said before, this must be a figurative reference to the Messiah bearing the sins of the world on the tree, or else it is not to be applied to the Messiah at all. Adam Clarke asked, "How can such words as are in this verse be attributed to our blessed Lord, however they may be twisted or turned?"1
From one point of view Christ was free from the charges brought against him by his enemies, but since the iniquities of the human race were laid upon him, he could have been confessing those sins, which, we must emphasize, were not his own.
The second petition of the Sufferer is that godly souls may not be hurt by the suffering that he was undergoing. (vv. 7-12) This petition is strengthened by four reasons, which are:
His suffering would be for the cause of God. (v. 7)
His friends would abandon him during the suffering. (v. 8; See: Matthew 26:56)
The fact that he had zeal for the honor of God's house (household / family) had brought this reproach upon him. (v. 9) Jesus had a protective attitude toward the honor of the Temple (sanctuary) as the visible center of true religion. His inexplicable desire to advance the glory of God's house, which refers not only to the Temple but to the people who were represented there by the priests, took precedence over all his other desires. This verse is applied to Jesus in John 2:17, in the first incident of the cleansing of the Temple. And, in Romans 15:3, Paul applied the second part of the verse to Christ.
He was mocked and scorned for his commitment to God. (vv. 10-12) It is the spiritual agony of the Messiah that is mentioned here, not in reference to his own suffering alone, but also to the sins of the people. One cannot help but think of the tears shed by the Master when he looked down on the city of Jerusalem in Luke 19:41. People in positions of power and leadership (those who sat at the gate) and the drunkards who would compose drunken songs to make fun of the Messiah's concern for the salvation of his people. (v.12)
In the third request the Messiah prays that God will hear him. (v.13) Furthermore, he gives three reasons to support this request.
He presented the petition in an acceptable time, that is, before it was too late.
He is aware of the great multitude of God's mercies.
He speaks of the truth of God's promises of salvation.
The fourth petition is for deliverance in verses 14-15. (This could well apply to his petition for deliverance in the Garden of Gethsemane, which petition was turned down by God.) Again he supports this request by describing his predicament in terms of drowning and being trapped in a pit.)
In his fifth petition for deliverance, in verses 16-17, the Messiah adds three supporting thoughts. They are:
He knows the great multitude of God's tender mercies.
Another reference to the trouble that he is experiencing.
And an urging for God to make a swift response to his needs.
In his sixth petition for deliverance the Messiah, in verses 18-21, stated four facts. They are:
God knows the disgrace which has been heaped on him. (v.19)
He is heavy hearted (depressed) because of this disgrace. (v. 20)
He can find no comfort on earth. (v. 20)
His abusers added tribulation to tribulation by giving him gall and vinegar. (v. 21. See: Matthew 27:32-34)
NOTE: The Romans usually gave those who were sentenced to death by crucifixion sour wine (vinegar) mixed with myrrh which was supposed to decrease the pain which the victim would feel. This practice was followed in the case of Jesus according to Mark 15:23. The Romans considered this an act of kindness, but here it is considered as an act of spite by the unbelieving Jews, so, Matthew suggests that the sour wine and myrrh which was offered to Christ are the same as the vinegar and gall mentioned in this prophecy. (Gall refers to anything that is extremely bitter, and to some extent poisonous.) (Again, see: Matthew 27:32-34.)
THE PROPHECY DEALING WITH THE ENEMIES OF THE MESSIAH. VERSES 22-28
Let us now look at the prophecy regarding the enemies of the Lord in verses 22-28. These imprecations (prayers for God to invoke vengeance upon Messiah's enemies) are not the result of a vengeful and selfish spirit on the part of Christ, but are used in the same way that Jesus applied these verses to the unbelieving Jews in Matthew 23:38. Paul did the same thing in Romans 11:9-10. These imprecations should be regarded as predictions of what would come upon the Jews, and scholars have identified ten plagues that are here pronounced against the enemies of Christ. They are:
God will curse all comforts of this life for the stubborn adversaries of Christ. (v. 22a) By this it is meant, in the place where they expect to find comfort, enjoyment, they would find unexpected danger.
All things would work for the woe and torment of the enemies of the Messiah. Those are the same things that should have been for their welfare, and they had become a trap (snare) for them. (v. 22b)
The enemies of Messiah will never see the true intent of God's work on earth. (v. 23a)
They shall have no peace: their loins be made to shake. (v. 23b)
As they poured out their wrath upon the Messiah, so the wrath of God is poured out upon them. (v. 24)
The curse of God shall be on their houses and prosperity, and the place where they have dwelt will be abhorred. (v. 25)
Before the Apostle Peter quoted Psalm 69:25 he made this statement in Acts 1:16, in the case of the election of Matthias to take the place of Judas "...who by transgression fell..," Acts 1:16. "Men brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus..."
Thus Peter, and the other apostles, who spoke as the Spirit gave them utterance regarded this passage as a God-breathed prophecy regarding the Messiah and Judas Iscariot.
Certainly, the prophecy was not applied to Judas alone, but to him as a representative of the Jewish people who harbored a malignant enmity for Christ.
The persecutors will go deeper and deeper into sin; they will "add iniquity to their iniquity." (v. 27a)
They became so hardened with sin that they would not come into the righteousness (the righteous way of living; they refused to become Christians) that comes from God. (v. 27b)
They would meet an untimely death as is set forth by the words, "May they be blotted out of the book of life." (v. 28a)
The wicked enemies of Christ would not be numbered among the righteous. (v. 28b)
What possible circumstances could justify these terrible predictions?
The answer is found in verse twenty-six.
They, the enemies of the Messiah, had heaped their verbal abuse on the One God had smitten.
One thinks immediately of the verbal abuse to which Jesus was subjected when he was hanging on the cross.
He was, according to Isaiah 53:4, "...smitten of God, and afflicted..."
THE EXPRESSION OF GRATITUDE FOR THE SUFFERER'S VICTORY. VERSES 29-36
In these closing verses of Psalm 69, there are found four majestic evidences that the Sufferer attains victory. They are:
The Sufferer (Messiah) uttered a confident prayer in verse twenty-nine.
He will not only be delivered, but he will subsequently be exalted.
The life of Jesus during his agony on the cross can be described as poor and afflicted.
A later prophet, Isaiah, in 53:3, describes him as a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.
His salvation, or deliverance from his enemies came at the time of his resurrection.
The words set me on high used here by the psalmist means that Jesus had gone beyond the scope of danger to a place of safety, and this is, no doubt a prophetic reference to the ascension of the Lord back to heaven.
The Sufferer expresses his praise to God in verses 30-31.
The Messiah's praise for the Father following his deliverance from suffering and death is one of the great themes of the Old Testament, especially in prophecy.
The certainty of the future deliverance is set forth in the Sufferer's determination to thank God for that deliverance.
If he were not delivered, how could he thank God for it?
Now he speaks a prophecy which concerns the results of his suffering, in verses 32-33. They are:
The humble, that is, the true believer in the Messiah, would rejoice over the victory of the Messiah.
They would find a life of great abundance because the Sufferer had won victory.
In light of John 10:10, we know that Jesus brought that abundant life.
Because the victory over death was won by the Messiah, all the poor in spirit can be confident that Yahweh hears their prayers. (Matthew 5:3, "Blessed arethe poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven")
The deliverance of the Messiah shows once and for all that God does not "despise his prisoners," that is, those who are imprisoned and afflicted by those who stand in opposition to God.
This, no doubt, refers to the early martyr-saints such as James, Stephen, and the others.
The Psalm is completed with a prophecy of gratitude for the blessings that Yahweh has bestowed upon the people of God, in verses 34-36.
In the mercy that Jesus himself experienced by his resurrection from the dead, he sees a pledge of spiritual gifts such as "...sitting in heavenly places in Christ..." for God's people.
God will be faithful both to the individual follower of Christ as well as to the whole church.
When David wrote this Psalm, the cities of Judah were not in ruins, so the implication of this passage is that sometime, future to David, these cities would be destroyed, and then rebuilt.
This is a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C. and to the exiles returning to Palestine after the decree of Cyrus, king of the Medes and Persians.
Once again they possessed the Promised Land, the land of Canaan. (v. 35)
The seed (descendants) of God's servants inherited the land promised to Abraham. (v. 36)
In this final statement of the Psalm we find the spirit of the promise that God made to Abraham in Genesis 12:3, because "The foregoing promises are not restricted to a single generation, but extend to the remotest posterity....As temporal and spiritual blessings were inseparably blended in the old dispensation, the promise of perpetual possession and abode in Palestine is merely the costume in which that of everlasting favor to the church is clothed in the Old Testament."2
It is surely reinforcing to the faith and the soul of the true believer to study such passages of prophecy as the one we have looked at in this lesson.
There is not a single aspect of this entire Old Testament chapter that was not fulfilled in Jesus, the Jews, and Judas while our Master lived upon this earth.
To God be the glory!
NOTE: Since we could find no better outline for this magnificent chapter than the one provided by Dr. James E. Smith, this writer has followed that outline at least ninety per cent of the time, and we give him honor for the great work that he has done.
1 Clarke, Adam, Clarke's Commentary On The Old Testament, Volume III, Job to Solomon's Song, New York & Nashville, Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, (undated) p.438.
2 Smith, Dr. James E., What the Bible Teaches About the Promised Messiah, Nashville, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1993, p.138. He is here quoting Joseph A. Alexander in his work, The Psalms Translated and Explained, Grand Rapids, Baker Book House, 1975, p. 297.
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