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The Greater Messiah

February 17, 2014Filed under theology#devotionsMarkdown source

I have made it my goal to write short posts reflecting on my devotional reading every day. These posts are composed off the cuff, in 30 minutes or less. The following is one such post. Before writing this post, I read: Revelation 8–13, Psalm 45.

It is nearly impossible to read Psalm 45 as a New Covenant believer in Yahweh without seeing its contents in terms of Christ and his bride, the church. That the Psalm was written with an ordinary bride for a normal king of Israel in mind is a trifle mind-boggling, in fact, given how perfectly the Psalm ends up picturing the Messianic realities in which we now live and whose final fulfillment we now await. It is, in short, a perfect picture of how the Holy Spirit superintended the composition of Scripture so that over time (and especially with the Advent of Jesus the Messiah) all the words have been filled up with more meaning.1

There are many Messianic poems in the Psalter, and few (if any) of them were originally written with a clear expectation of a future God-man Messiah. They speak of normal human kings—the “anointed ones” of Israel—in hopeful and prayerful terms, terms that God then filled up in himself when he came and dwelt among us.2 They speak of the aspirations of Israel that were always dashed on the rocks of human fallibility, and which were finally fulfilled by inversion in a king who died at the hands of oppressors rather than toppling them. They speak of the King who, though his reign has been inaugurated since he rose from that death, has still not put his enemies under his feet. Israel waited, and we wait.

Reading the Psalm next to the Revelation given to John only makes these thematic ties more apparent. The Psalmist writes:

Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one,
    in your splendor and majesty!
In your majesty ride out victoriously
    for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness;
    let your right hand teach you awesome deeds!
Your arrows are sharp
    in the heart of the king’s enemies;
    the peoples fall under you. (Psalm 45:3-5, ESV)

And John writes:

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying,

"We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty,
    who is and who was,
for you have taken your great power
    and begun to reign.
The nations raged,
    but your wrath came,
    and the time for the dead to be judged,
and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints,
    and those who fear your name,
    both small and great,
and for destroying the destroyers of the earth." (Revelation 11:15-18, ESV)

The Anointed King that Israel was looking for will reign. He will put all his enemies under his feet. His bride will come to him in splendor, and be radiant and beautiful beyond measure. It is not exactly what the Psalmist had in mind, because it is better. So it often is in our lives, I think. We look for lesser things. We look for only what we can imagine and conceive, and our imaginations and conceptions are extraordinarily small and limited by comparison with the things of God. To be sure, in my own life I have often been limited to a very small view of God’s plans and purposes. More and more I recognize that his wisdom is greater than I can begin to grasp, and from that see the necessity of trusting and worshipping him all the more fully.

Part of that is looking with expectancy to Jesus’ return—recognizing that even the truest and best longings of my heart are but the shallowest hint of what he willbring about when he returns. That the dwelling place of God will be with man, that every evil will be crushed under his justice, and that the garden will have become a glorious city where God will dwell with us and we with him? This is more than I can grasp. But I can hope, and dream, and pray: “Lord come soon.”

  1. It is no coincidence that the author of Hebrews quotes Psalm 45 at length, explicitly applying vv. 6–7 to Jesus as the one who is above all others.

  2. “Anointed one” is, for example, the term David uses to describe Saul when explaining why he would not kill him. This was the standard term for Israel’s kings. And just like so many other things, the Spirit filled it up with far more meaning when Jesus came as the Anointed One.