Example Much of the center of thought in the Messianic Psalms’
has to do with the sufferings of the Lord Jesus. Which of
us can really know the sufferings of crucifixion? Certainly I
do not. But we do know it was an agony beyond compare. We do have a Hollywood stereotype of crucifixion. We have seen a tall cross standing high above the horizon in many of the films. In reality, this was not the case. The Roman cross was short. In fact, the victim of crucifixion was rarely more than two feet above the ground. While the victim remained alive, the wild dogs would come in from the desert and chew on his legs. Very often, a victim of crucifixion would live for two or three days in agony.
During crucifixion, the victim was first placed on the cross which
was lying on the ground. Nails were driven through the hands at the
juncture of the wrist, and then through the feet to secure him in that
position. The cross was then raised and dropped into a previously dug hole. When it struck the bottom of the hole, the impact would usually pull loose the shoulder joints and ligaments, as the entire body weight pulled against the wrists with the force of the cross being dropped. In this distended position, diaphragmatic action was immediately reduced. Breathing became shallow and as the victim sank lower, he began to suffocate. In order to breathe, and to relieve the pain in his hands, he would push himself back up with his feet. But, this action caused the pain in his feet to be so excruciating, that he would again sag to relieve it. As this agonizing cycle continued, the victim began to take on grotesque zigzag, letter Z position, with the body skewed to one side and the knees pointed out in the opposite direction. As death began to creep slowly on him, a semi rigor mortis set in.
Because of the loss of diaphragmatic action, and the fact that the
bones were pulled out of joint, the victim began to not only suffocate,
but also to become extremely thirsty. Add to that the fact that he was
impaled naked and helpless for all to see. It was a pain, agony, and
humiliation beyond compare.
And, if that were not sufficient, the Lord Jesus suffered with a
crown of thorns and a mutilated back as He bore our sins there on
Calvary’s tree. Yet, we could wish Him no greater diadem, than that
crown of thorns because our minds go back to the curse in the Garden of Eden, when God said that nature would bring forth thorns as a result of Adam’s fall. When they made the crown of thorns and pressed it on the head of the Saviour, He hung there suspended between heaven and earth. And, with the blood streaming down His forehead, the thorny diadem had great significance. He was bearing the curse for all mankind and all of creation, as He performed the act of redemption.
The Scripture is very plain when it says, “It pleased the Lord to
bruise him” (Isa. 53:10). Because He was a lamb slain from before the
foundation of the world, in anticipation of His agony to be endured for
our sakes, Christ opened His heart to the psalmist as he penned in
Psalm 22:1, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me?” David was in desperate trouble when he penned this, and the Messiah would be in more desperate trouble when He used those words as He was on the cross.
Verse 7: All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot
out the lip, they shake the head.
14: I am poured out like water, and all my bones are
out of joint: and my heart is like wax.
As the Lord Jesus looked down at Himself, hanging suspended on the cross with all of His ribs visible, His breathing becoming shallow, He said, “my bones are out of joint.” Look at verse 16: “They pierced my hands and my feet. “ There is no historical record that David ever had his hands and feet pierced. As he penned this, he must have wondered what he was saying; but a thousand years later the Lord Jesus literally experienced this. The prophecy continues n verse 18: “They part my garments among them, and cast lots for my vesture. “ In no way can this be historical. It is prophecy as Christ Himself inspired David to write what He would experience when He paid the ultimate penalty for sin on Calvary’s cross.
Prophetic A third type of Messianic Psalm is one which is completely prophetic. Psalm 1:10 is an example of this type. The Lord Jesus quoted from it to prove that He was the Messiah. In Matthew 22:41ff, we read,
While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them,
Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say
unto him, The son of David. He saith unto them, How then doth
David in the spirit call him Lord, saying, The Lord said unto my
Lord, Sit thou on my light hand, till I make thine enemies thy
footstool? If David then call him Lord, how is he his son ?
His enemies were so confounded they did not say a word to challenge Him from that time forward.
Read Psalm 110:1: “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.“ As king over Israel, David was the world’s number one man, answerable only to God. This is the crux of the question. How could David have a Lord between himself and God? Literally what David was saying in Psalm llO:l was, “The Lord said unto my Liege.” So David had a greater Lord, the Messiah, yet He is His son. As we look back with the benefit of the New Testament, we know exactly how this could happen. But the Lord Jesus used it to confound the Pharisees because He was the greater Son.
Psalm 110 is a Completely Prophetic Messianic Psalm. It contains no
history, no historical counterpart, no typology or picture. In Psalm 110, only David’s greater Counterpart, Messiah, risen and ruling, is in view.
Imprecatory Psalms One major type of psalm remains to be considered-the Imprecatory Psalm. This type demonstrates righteous indignation. In these; the psalmist says such things as “Break out their teeth. Destroy them. Defeat them. Wreak vengeance on them.“ There are at least eighteen of these psalms, containing 368 verses, of which only about seventy-five include anything that can be called in imprecation. They have long been a subject of discussion, because in them the psalmist, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, calls down violence, vengeance, wrath, and revenge on the recipient of the imprecation. How does this equate with the love of God in the New Testament? There are two unacceptable answers to this question.
First, they are just what they seem, the language of a heart that
cries out for vengeance. In other words, they are the same kind of spirit that Moses displayed when he struck the rock twice.
Let me give three answers to this hypothesis. 1) They were
composed in leisure. They were not composed in the heat of extreme
provocation or anger. 2) Imprecations on one’s enemies should be
repented of, not written down for others to read. 3) These Psalms
contain in them an implicit claim that the feeling is in some sense true
and right, and is one the reader can sympathize and agree with. So, for these three reasons, I believe the Imprecatory Psalms are not just the language of an angry heart.
The second unacceptable answer says: The morality of the Old
Testament is on a lower standard than that of the New Testament. In
the first place, Moses forbids private vengeance and Leviticus 19:18, is an excellent example. Exodus 23:4-5, states that we are to help our
enemies. Second, Paid builds his doctrine of the sin of a vengeful spirit on the Old Testament Scriptures. You can check on this in Romans 12:19-21.
Third, David was a rare man of unusual strength and character. Twice he spared the life of his mortal enemy, and finally uttered the Song of the Bow, as it is called, to commemorate him (11 Sam. 1: 17-27). This hardly exemplifies a low standard of morality. (As far as I am concerned, this gives the coup de grace to both views.) Fourth, notice that our Lord and His apostles quoted from these Imprecatory Psalms.
I believe the proper view of the Imprecatory Psalms rests on a
variety of elements that we must take into consideration. First, these
expressions contain the longing of an Old Testament saint for the
vindication of God’s righteousness. For example, David was a man of
piety. He was God’s anointed. Yet his enemies lived in ease, honor, and luxury, in Saul’s court. Is it any wonder that David longed for a reversal of conditions that would answer all doubt concerning God’s righteousness, and assure him of the reality of his anointing and future position as king?
Second, they were utterances of zeal for the kingdom of God;
David was acutely conscious of the sanctity of his own anointed office. His whole life centered on serving God as king over His people. Yet at that time Saul was also anointed. David’s greatest respect for this holy office prevented him from ever touching Saul. Yet because David was God’s representative, his enemies were no longer his but God’s. So David might ask for these people a fate in keeping with their current state. Paul makes a similar statement in I Corinthians 16:22.
Third, the utterances in the Imprecatory Psalms are the Old Testament expression of God’s hatred of sin. David’s thoughts were not
chiefly against Saul or Absalom, but rather against the sycophants and political intriguers who urged them on: Doeg, Cush, Ahithophel, and others. It was impossible for David to differentiate between Satan and the sinner. Doctrines such as soteriology, demonology, angelology, were not developed in his time. I believe these Psalms represent prophetic teachings concerning God’s attitude toward sin and the impenitent and persistent sinner.
Fourth, I think that as a preface to our later consideration of the
book of Job, we must remember that these were more simplistic times and the eastern mind looked at a person as being either under God’s curse or God’s blessing. From this viewpoint, one who prospered was evidently a recipient of God’s blessing, while one who was suffering, was evidently under God’s curse because of some sin in his life. When David, or anyone else, observed evil men prospering, they would call for God’s judgment to fall on them as a vindication of God’s righteousness. It was part of David’s concept of, Lord, let thy name be hallowed in the earth. It is the concept of the prayer which the Lord gave to His disciples, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.”
As David looked around and saw mankind in a rebellious state
against God, and saw evil in the world, he knew it slandered the name of God. Even though such men were wicked, they were part of God’s creation. David saw God’s name being maligned, and God’s character maligned, because His creation was in a state of disobedience. So he prayed: “Call down judgment on them! Vindicate Your position! Destroy the evil doers so that others will see it and know that God is in heaven and He punishes evil.”
XLI THE BOOK OF PROVERBS
The book of Proverbs offers the keys to life. Quite simply, it is a book of practical advice on how to live wisely. It holds up samples of life and asks, “Is this wisdom or is this folly?” It offers an example, a little
cameo, scenario, or characteristic of personality, and asks, “What is this?” “What are the qualities of a good wife?” “What are the dangers of loose living?” Job and Ecclesiastes ask questions such as: “why?” and “how?” The authors in Proverbs ask what?
Structure Because of the complex nature of this book, we need to look carefully at its structure and authorship. The following list is an outline that includes both authors and compilers.
I. Title, Introduction and Motto (1:1-7)
11. A Father’s Praise of Wisdom (1:8-9:18)
III. Proverbs of Solomon (10:1-22:16)
IV. Words of Wise Men (22:17-24:22)
V. Further Wise Words (24:23-24:34)
VI. Hezekiah’s Collection (25:1-29:27)
VII. The Words of Agur (30:1-33)
VIII. The Words of King Lemuel (31:1-9)
IX. Example of Wifely Excellence (31:10-21)
Like the book of Psalms, Proverbs was collected over several
centuries. The Proverbs which Solomon wrote can be dated between
970 and 931 B.C. The collection authorized by Hezekiah must have
been put together in the late eighth century B.C. With the names of
these two kings, it is obvious that the material was put together over a
period of at least two centuries.
To Whom Addressed The book of Proverbs is a king’s handbook or leader’s manual. It was written by a king to his son on how he should learn to rule and reign. It is applicable to us, as born-again believers, not only for present wise living, but as those who will reign with Christ in His future kingdom.
So, for both our present and our future, we need to be versed in the
skills of leadership. The book of Proverbs will teach us how to become astute leaders, able to discern between complex issues. It is easy today to find ourselves in the quandary of situation ethics and subjective morality. A knowledge of the book of Proverbs will dissolve the gray areas. Black will become black, white will become white, sin will become sin. And right will become right.
How to Read Proverbs Proverbs is ideally suited to daily reading because it contains thirty-one chapters. As a result of this structure, you can begin to study it on any day of the month. If you start on the fourteenth, then begin reading Proverbs 14. You will have a chapter for every day of a thirty-one day month. For a month with thirty days, just read through chapter 30, and begin the next day with chapter 1. You should systematically read the book of Proverbs every month. Based on what God’s Word says, I guarantee that you will see a dramatic change in your life. I know of many Christian leaders who make it their practice to read through this book every month. As it becomes engrained in your thought processes, you will develop a keen spirit of discernment. You will recognize the scoffer, the friend, the fool, the wise man, the sluggard. You will know what is wisdom and what is folly. You will learn, as chapter 1 suggests,
“to know” (vs. 2), “to receive” (vs. 3), “to give” (vs. 4), “to understand” (vs.
6). As you wrestle with these maxims and pithy little sayings, you will
develop keen mental acumen. You will become an excellent reasoner. Your logic will be more factual and you will develop a spirit of discernment and deduction.
Purpose Proverbs 1:2 says, “To know wisdom. “ The word in Hebrew is hokmah, and although it means “wisdom, “ at the root of the word it means “to have a skill.” Most of us are victims of our environment. If you stripped away our electronic equipment, calculators, computers, automobiles, PDAs, Internet connection, cell phones, and left us bare-handed without any contemporary apparatus, then asked what we could do, few of us would have a skill upon which we could live. There are still some in today’s world who can make things with their hands. Cabinet-makers, artists, wood carvers, bricklayers, and stonemasons are still around, but they are becoming fewer and fewer; these old low-tech trades and crafts are rapidly dying out.
In Old Testament times it was necessary for everyone to have
some kind of skill so they could be productive. It is perhaps best demonstrated in Exodus 28. The man upon whom God put a spirit of wisdom, or hokmah, could go into the field and gather ripe flax and spin it into linen thread. He would set up his warp and woof for weaving and make cloth. With that he could make a properly fitting garment for Aaron, the high priest. He knew how to take roots and berries to make colored dyes for the cloth. One man could do the job from beginning to end and he must have found great satisfaction in it. The Bible says he had a spirit of wisdom-hokmah.
How does this relate to us in the twentieth century? We must
learn how to become skillful at living well. The eastern philosopher, the authors of Proverbs, the wise men of the Old Testament, saw life as a garment. Each day another thread is woven into it. Depending on the person’s relationship to God, and level of spirituality, it may be a beautiful garment when it is completed, or a garment with blank spots and defects.
If only we could see our lives as God sees them from the
viewpoint of eternity! He sees the results of the trials, temptations,
tribulations, chastisements of closed and open doors, and of temporary tragedies. He recognizes how they are woven together for the perfection of the individual as he becomes conformed to the image of Christ. The temptations, tribulations, and tragedies that come into our lives, enable God to knock off the rough edges on this piece of coal and turn out a diamond fit for the Master’s use. But, when the chisel is striking and the diamond cutter working, it can be hard to endure.
In one sense, we are like an insect walking across the canvas of a
famous masterpiece. It senses only the ups and downs, the ridges and rough edges of the oils, as the master artist laid them on the canvas. It can never get back far enough to see that the rough spots, taken together, created a masterpiece which is inspiring to behold-hokmah. This is the skill of living out your life day by day, weaving thread after thread into the fabric of life, so that when it is over we can look at the whole and see a completed and beautiful fabric woven day by day consistently in accordance with God’s perfect will. The wisdom literature, and especially Proverbs, gives us the skills we need to live our daily lives with hokmah. “And instruction. “ (1:2) This word is better translated “discipline.“ Discipline is the inner requirement for receiving instruction. In our day, discipline has become a negative word. No one wants to receive discipline. It is an unwanted commodity in the public schools and even in our homes. People do not see that they are free only as they are disciplined.
Recently, I witnessed a piano player whose skills were superior to
any I have seen in the last twenty-five years. It was beyond my
comprehension to understand how his hands could move so rapidly
over the keyboard. As I watched his face, while he worshiped God with his marvelous skill, my heart was thrilled and I wished I could play just a little bit like that. But then I thought of the many hours, weeks, months, and years he had spent in rigorous practice for discipline on the keyboard. While others were outside playing baseball or having a good time with their friends, that young man must have been at home practicing. But because of those years of discipline, he now had more freedom on the keyboard than anyone I have ever seen.
Occasionally, I watch gymnastic events on television and I marvel
at how those muscular men can do the iron cross on the flying rings
and work the parallel bars and pommel horse. I simply cannot do those things; my muscles are not disciplined for flying rings and pommel horses. Those men have spent years in practice and have disciplined themselves so that they have complete freedom on the parallel bars. These examples show us that we are free only as we are disciplined. As we discipline ourselves to purity and to God’s standard of life, old habit patterns are dissolved. As the maxims of Proverbs become part of our daily life, personality, and thought processes, we become truly free. The book of Proverbs gives the reader both hokmah (wisdom) and discipline.
Steps to Wisdom We live in a time of instant gratification. What we want, we want now. We no longer save for future gratification because plastic money makes everything and any thing available immediately. So many people today want spirituality and a knowledge of God’s Word in the same instantaneous fashion. But God has not designed His Word or His wisdom to be received in such a way. Proverbs 2 teaches us eight steps to the wisdom of God. As we begin to practice these steps, we discipline ourselves to become skilled in the art of living. 1) Proverbs 2:1 says, “If thou wilt receive my words.“ There has to be a desire on the part of the recipient to receive what God has to say. 2) “And hide my commandments with thee.“ You hide them as one would hide a precious treasure. You hide it so no one can take it. You hide it so you can take it out and use it. (Cf. Luke 10:42) 3) Verse 2 says, “incline thine ear unto wisdom.“ You have to hear what is going on. You must be ready and willing to hear, not stiff-necked, not haughty or proud, but ready to hear.
4) “Apply thine heart to understanding.“ You must be willing to say, “Lord, here I am. My hear t is open and pure because my sins are confessed and I am ready to learn what You want to teach me.”
5) Verse 3 says, “if thou criest after knowledge.“ This indicates that the
search for knowledge is not a casual one. The need must be there. A cry must be made: “Q God, give me the knowledge of Your Word.”
6) At the same time you cry for knowledge, you must cry also for discernment. Verse 3 adds, “and liftest up thy voice for understanding. “ The cry must be loud and audible. These desires come from the heart and are necessary to convince God that you are sincere. Just as we are instructed not to cast our pearls before swine, so God is not going to send His wisdom to those who are not sincere about receiving it.
7) “If thou seekest her as silver” (vs. 4). This is a physical seeking.
Because today the market price of silver is so high, a large market exists for the production of metal detectors. People go out into the fields with them and try to find lost dimes and quarters that were minted before 1964. New silver mines are opening because silver is in demand. If someone told you that the previous owner of your house had buried a thousand pounds of silver in the backyard, how would you search for it? You would be out there with a shovel within the hour. You search, you sweat, you labor, you work. That is how to search the Word of God as you would search for silver.
8) Finally, verse 4 adds by way of synonymous parallelism, “and searchest for her as for hid treasures. “ Men will sell everything they own to go on a treasure hunt. They will die for it. Every year, lives are lost in the Superstition Mountains in Arizona searching for the lost Dutchman mine. Will you search the Word of God that way? Will you give your riches and all you have and risk your life to find the wisdom of God? This is what God demands. He said, “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13).
XLII THE BOOK OF JOB
Just because the five books we are studying are called poetic, does
not mean they are the products of human imagination. They describe
real people who had real experiences; they grappled with profound
problems. They especially concerned themselves with the experiences of the godly in the vicissitudes of the painful life which was theirs “under the sun.”
In the book of Job, we see the death of the self-life through the fires of affliction and the new vision as God sees him. The self-life, with its self-goodness, self-reason, self-religion, self-esteem, and self-everything, is laid bare so all can see. The man who at first was said to be the most “righteous” man on earth Job 1:8) is found at last on his face before God, saying, “I abhor myself in dust and ashes” Job 42:6).