In my last post, I made the implication that Psalms 1 and 2 provide the appropriate hermeneutical and homiletical gateway to the Psalter in that Psalm 1 shows true wisdom as the result of meditating upon Torah in light of Psalm 2 which focuses the reader upon the messianic implications inherent to the Psalms. Ultimately, the point I am trying to make is that the psalms have a messianic, wisdom context. If we pay appropriate attention to the rest of the book and particularly to the breaks within the book that have been provided, this point is enhanced. Again, all of this is not necessarily original to me.
Books 1 (Pss 1-41) and 2 (Pss 42-72) are broken off as “The prayers of David the son of Jesse” (Ps 72:20). Now, it is important to note that not all the psalms in this section are attributed to David (e.g. Pss 42-50) and that later psalms in the Psalter are also attributed to David. However, this verse can be considered as more important than simply a remnant of an earlier collection that was swallowed up by the rest of the book. Rather, this verse focuses the reader upon the importance of Books 1 and 2 in presenting David as a model of the future Davidic king that was to come, which is clearly in line with Psalm 2. Now, there is much that I could present to you to show this, but suffice it to say that there are many passages within these first two books that have messianic implications. My point here is to show the connection between books 2 and 3.
Book 2 ends with Psalm 72, which is a prayer for the king. If Solomon is indeed taken as the author (and I am fully aware that the title could equally be understood as being “for Solomon” and not “by Solomon” yet I could still make the same argument based upon the picture of Solomon in the rest of the OT), then the fact that Solomon is praying for the future king is important. In particular, it shows that Solomon understood that he himself was not the son whom the Lord promised that David would have (2 Samuel 7). In other words, Solomon prays that some future king’s name would endure forever and that nations might call that future king blessed (72:17). Thus, we have Psalm 72 expressing a significant messianic hope in the sense that the Messiah would be a son of David. Even more significant for our topic here, when you turn your attention to Psalm 73, you find a typical wisdom-oriented psalm, as Asaph struggles to answer the question of the goodness of the Lord (see my discussion of this psalm here).
Turning out attention to the end of Book 3, Psalm 89 brings the first three books to what amounts to a low point. The psalm, which clearly expresses the confidence of God’s faithfulness to the covenant He made with David (see particularly vv. 26-29), ends with the psalmist wondering how the Lord could have reproached the footsteps of His anointed. For our discussion here, however, the important point is that Psalm 89 ends with a focus upon the promises made to David, which when read within the context of the Psalter again has messianic implications. Interestingly, Psalm 90 begins Book 4 with a psalm of Moses and another psalm of wisdom (see particularly v. 12).
At the end of Book 4, there lies in Psalm 106 a cry on behalf of the nation for forgiveness and deliverance. Thinking about the great rebellion of the nation in the past, the psalmist recognizes the Lord’s compassion because of His loyal love and His covenant (vv. 44-46). In light of this, the psalmist prays for the same salvation, in particular for the hope that the Lord would “gather us from among the nations, To give thanks to Your holy name And glory in Your praise” (v. 47). This clearly reflects the hope that those in exile had and a hope that the parts of the OT connects to the Messiah. Psalm 107, the first psalm in Book 5, also traces the Lord’s lovingkindness to His people. Interestingly, at the end, the psalm takes a turn as the psalmist asks, “Who is wise? Let him give heed to these things, And consider the lovingkindnesses of the LORD” (v. 43). As in the other two occasions, a psalm with messianic implications is followed by a psalm concerned with wisdom.
So, in conclusion, my primary point is to show that the rest of the book mirrors the intent of the introduction to the book. Just as the Psalter opens with wisdom and Messiah, so the rest of the book continues the theme at its transitions. The implication: The book of Psalms presents messianic hope, and the wise person will meditate upon these things until the Messiah comes. It is no surprise, then, that when the NT authors began writing about the person of Jesus as the Christ, they found much in the Psalms that presented a picture of the Christ.