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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « Response to the "Free Grace" Movement | Main | Romans 8:28 - 9:24 (Overview) by Pastor John Samson »

    Augustine on Psalm One

    If it is true that the first and last psalms in our psalter serve as bookends to the whole, the first standing as an introduction to the entire collection and the last as a concluding doxology; then what we may learn about these psalms in particular will color our understanding of all that comes between. The 150th psalm certainly teaches us that our ultimate purpose, and the end for which we ought to employ the psalms, is, as the catechism instructs us, “to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” But what may we learn of the first psalm that will assist us more accurately to understand and apply all which follow it?

    When I first began to read Augustine’s monumental Expositions of the Psalms, my attention was immediately arrested at the very first sentence, in which I encountered an observation which, if true, must have a profound impact on my interpretation of the entire collection of the psalms. This observation was rendered all the more captivating by the fact that, in all the explanations I had ever heard of Psalm One, this proposition had never been suggested; and yet, as I paused to consider the manner in which the New Testament authors unexceptionally seem to use the psalms, I became convinced that it must be the truth. The profoundly simple assertion to which I refer is this: “‘Blessed is the man that hath not gone away in the counsel of the ungodly’ (ver. 1). This is to be understood of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord Man.”

    The basic reason that I find Augustine’s assessment so compelling is that the psalm lays out, in essence, a blessed result contingent upon a meritorious condition – if it should be determined of the man in question that he is in no way susceptible to the counsel of the ungodly, that his nature perfectly and unceasingly delights to do according to the perfect law of God, and so on, then his ultimate state will include security, fruitfulness, and the ability to stand before God as righteous. Now, although the conditions given may, and indeed will, be present to some degree in the lives of the saints, they will in no case characterize one sufficiently to give him confidence in standing before the judgment seat of the holy God. Only an unswerving perfection in these qualities will qualify one to be accepted by God; because, “all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.’ Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith’” (Galatians 3:10-11). And, “whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it” (James 2:10). Furthermore, the psalmists themselves recognize that men without exception are unmeritorious before God; for instance, Psalm 14:2 affirms that “[The children of men] have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.” The psalmists may lay claim to being righteous in a relative sense, when contrasting themselves with the wicked; and they may exhort themselves and others to pursue a more perfect state of practical righteousness; but as soon as a life of righteousness is seen as constituting the grounds for God’s blessing, the psalmists dare not set their lives before God as a plea for favor. For so great a request, only a perfect righteousness will do. And the only perfect righteousness is a righteous alien to any of them. The only perfect righteousness is the righteousness of Christ.

    The gospel to which we all cling, as Evangelical Christians, demands that this must indeed be the case. But in interpreting the psalms, we often seem to forget the great gospel truths, as though they are merely New Testament truths, and not truths which undergird and give meaning to all of scripture. That this unsatisfactory understanding of the psalms should characterize the expositions of Arminians or Dispensationalists, whose theological systems are already inherently flawed, while sad, is to be expected. But it is a more disturbing truth that, even among good Reformed scholars, this superficial treatment of the psalms may be found; this due, as I suspect, to the influence of the naturalistic hermeneutic popularized by the so-called Enlightenment. I would propose that, any time a psalmist lays claim to God’s favor, calls for deliverance on the basis of God’s justice, expresses his confidence in the blessings of God’s presence, and so on, he is intentionally referring to the person and work of Christ, and using that express or implicit reference as the basis for his plea. Against this proposition, even so capable a Reformed scholar as Geerhardus Vos has proposed analyses such as the following:

    The Psalmists sometimes claim that they are righteous, and appeal to Jehovah to acknowledge this and treat them accordingly. This has caused difficulty with interpreters on account of its seeming to run athwart the principle of unmeritoriousness in God’s dealing with His people. The difficulty is relieved by giving such statements their proper setting. It is not over against God in the abstract, that the pleaders claim to be righteous, but over against their adversaries, who persecute them, not, however, for private reasons, but on account of their identification with the true religion.

    The problem with this analysis is not that the psalmists are not more righteous than their adversaries – indeed they are. Nor is it that they never recognize this condition of relative righteousness – indeed they do. The problem is that they never use this relative righteousness to lay claim to God’s justice. They never request of God any reward because of their conviction that they are righteous unless they intend to bring before him the righteousness of Christ imputed to their account. To lay hold of God’s vindication on the basis of one’s own righteousness would not merely seem “to run athwart the principle of unmeritoriousness;” it would run athwart such a principle in very fact. The only overtly clear example of Vos’s proposal that I am aware of is the case of the prophet Habakkuk asserting that it would be unrighteous of God to use a relatively more wicked nation (Babylon) to punish a relatively more righteous (Israel). But God’s response to Habakkuk demonstrates that his reasoning was unacceptable. All nations are guilty before God. He is just to punish Israel as he sees fit, and he will certainly be just enough to punish Babylon as well. No relative comparison among sinners would move God to reward a person or a nation: on the contrary, “The just shall live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4). Believing in Christ’s absolute righteousness alone, to the exclusion of any plea conditioned on one’s own relative righteousness, was given as the one basis by which one could confidently presume upon God’s favor.

    I have become convinced, not only that this assessment of the psalms is correct, but also that it is an interpretation which holds forth a vastly more extensive array of joy, hope, and comforts of every sort to the Christian who employs it – that is, to the Christian who intentionally looks to the psalms with the underlying reality of the pervasive presence of Christ and his righteousness always in his heart. In the remainder of this post, I hope briefly to point out, first, how it is to the reader’s great benefit to recognize Augustine’s principle of applying directly to Christ that which could never be said of man still in his sin; and second, some ways in which the psalms may legitimately be applied directly to sinful men, together with the blessed results that must flow from this legitimate application.

    I. Benefits resultant from the pervasive presence of Christ in the psalms

    • A more certain hope and confidence in God’s favor

    If it were indeed the case that the psalmists pled for God’s vindication on the basis of their own relative righteousness, their confidence could only be relatively certain. David may be able to plead his case in relation to Doeg, but how could he plead his case against Uriah the Hittite? How could he expect to find mercy and forgiveness upon his confession? Certainly, such mercy would not strictly be just, unless a deeper principle were operative. And in so egregious an instance, the only principle which could suffice is that of the meritorious righteousness of Christ imputed to him through faith. That this gospel-principle of imputation was indeed his plea is made unarguably clear by Psalm 32.

    • A much greater array of blessings in which to be confident

    A more difficult problem yet is that the psalmists could only lay claim to relative benefits, if their own relative righteousness were their plea. They could presume that they would triumph over their enemies in the temporal conflicts of this life; but they would have no confidence in any absolute or eternal blessings. But a hope of this limited extent is foreign to the psalmists. On the contrary, they are confident that, because of their righteousness, they will abide in the shadow of the Almighty (Psalm 91:1), enjoy rest under his feathers (Psalm 91:4), experience the protection of God as a shield and strong tower (Psalm 18:2), even dwell in the very presence of God, on his holy hill (Psalm 15:1). It is evident that the righteousness which could lay claim to such rewards cannot be a relative righteousness. Moreover, this is the clear testimony of the psalmists themselves, who plead for these things on the basis of a non-comparative, absolute righteousness (cf. Psalm 17:1-5). This sort of righteousness could not be anything but the imputed righteousness of Christ.

    • A deeper comfort in trials of every sort

    One of the outstanding reasons that Christians of all times have found so much comfort in the psalms is no doubt due to the fact that in them they find a deep and lasting empathy in every trying situation of life. It is eminently comforting to know that the heartache, oppression, despair of soul, and so on, that confront Christians in innumerable ways have been felt and understood by saints that have gone before them; and that, ultimately, these saints have triumphed and gone on to an eternal and immutable joy and peace. But consider how much more comforting it would be to realize that, when we are in any difficulty, Christ himself, and not just other sinful men, knows what it is to be in just such a situation. When we suffer as Christians, we are suffering in fellowship with Christ. He is a sympathetic high priest, for he has experienced all our sorrows and been triumphant over them. The psalms in which the psalmist pours out his soul in anguish and sorrow, if they have ultimate reference to Christ, must be comforting indeed. Christ is the only one who could bring true victory out of despair. That is precisely what he did on the cross. Many of these sorrowful psalms (e.g. Psalm 22, Psalm 88) can ultimately only be referring to Christ. They are the response of the psalmist to difficulties in his own life, because of which he looks ahead to Christ, suffering yet triumphant, and derives comfort and hope for his own soul. If it is comforting to find empathy in the experiences of other saints, how comforting it must be to find empathy in Christ’s own experiences! Christ’s suffering gives meaning and perspective to our suffering. To read the sorrowful psalms as poignantly personal accounts of Christ suffering in our place could not help but to succor our souls, no matter what our trials may be.

    • A vastly clearer understanding of the meaning and goal of life

    David, in all of the difficulties and trials to which his psalms give testimony, surely would have been given over to despair if he had not kept a perspective on life which can only come by intentionally looking to Christ. He could not have been so hopeful, for example, that the grave would not prevail over him, were he merely looking to himself. But “being...a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption” (Acts 2:30-31, speaking of Psalm 16:9-10). Knowing of the person and work of Christ allowed David to understand and embrace the meaning and purpose of his own life. So must it be with all of us.

    II. Ways in which the psalms may legitimately be applied to sinful men

    • The typical roles of the psalmists

    The book of the psalms, far from being a detached theological treatise on Christ, is thoroughly grounded in human experience and thoroughly applicational to sinful men. This is not in spite of the pervasive presence of Christ, but because of it. The most obvious way in which this is true is the role that the psalmists in general, and especially the outstanding psalmist, David, had of portraying Christ in typical fashion. In other words, many of the things of which David speaks are inspired by events in his life. It is no doubt true that his own familiar friend, in whom he trusted and who ate of his bread, lifted up his heel against him (Psalm 41:9). But that happened in order to foreshadow an event in the life of Christ, an event which would vest David’s own experience with true meaning. Hence, by their lives and their words the psalmists spoke of Christ. The psalmists portrayed Christ to their contemporaries by foreshadowing him, and Christians today portray Christ to the world by exemplifying him in their lives – but in each case Christ is portrayed not only by words, but also by the actions and lives of the saints.

    • The union of all the saints with Christ

    Another way in which the psalms become exceedingly applicational to all believers is the consideration of the union that exists between Christ and all those who are in him. It would be of minimal comfort to reason, “Because David received God’s temporal blessings on the basis of his relative righteousness, maybe I could receive some blessings as well.” Even if that were the case, who am I to suppose that I am as godly as David? But if we say, “Christ is here pleading to God on the basis of his own righteousness. I am in Christ. Therefore, if Christ’s plea is accepted, I am accepted together with him” – that is comforting indeed. Our union with Christ gives meaning and comfort in the midst of trials, and a sure hope of future blessedness. As Richard Sibbes once noted in his classic work, The Bruised Reed, “What a comfort is this, that, seeing God’s love rests on Christ, as well pleased in him, we may gather that he is as well pleased with us, if we be in Christ! For his love rests in a whole Christ, in Christ mystical as well as Christ natural, because he loves him and us with one love.”

    • The practical pursuit of essential reality

    As long as we are pursuing sanctification with a respect to meriting favor, becoming righteous, and so on, we are doomed to fail (see Galatians 3:1-6). When we recognize that, by virtue of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, we are essentially righteous; only then will we be able, with some success, to pursue practical sanctification in our lives. Sanctification, as justification, comes only by grace working through faith. We must recognize that we are essentially righteous before we can become practically righteous. Therefore, only the eyes of faith, which look to the psalms as portraits of Christ winning for us a perfect righteousness, which can stand as a sufficient plea for God’s favor, will see the psalms in a light that will surely aid us in our growth in grace. As in the rest of the Bible, learning facts about Christ and the gospel in the psalms has great applicational value for us. This because to know him is to reflect him (II Corinthians 3:18).

    Conclusion:

    I certainly do not intend to imply, by this critique of such exegetical giants as Vos, that he or any other evangelical scholar would disagree with the substance of what I have to say. I do think, however, that he would be somewhat loathe to derive these truths directly from the psalms. To me this is unfortunate. I fear that, without the willingness to look for Christ intentionally, we will be forced to stumble through the psalms in the dark, hoping by great exertions of labor to feel out the truths which are there on the surface, if we would but shine the light of the gospel on the pages. Nor do I intend to imply that my own exegetical abilities are on a par with the likes of Vos. I doubt that, in a lifetime of study, I could bring to light as many deep truths from the pages of scripture as he is able in a single day to uncover. And I am certain that I will never accomplish as much toward the end of protecting the gospel from corruption, in a world full of false teachers and antichristian theologies of every sort, as God has used him to do. But if I may for a moment plead a little experience, beyond those exegetical reasons that I falteringly attempted to bring to bear on the question, I would add this last consideration. Before I came across that blessed phrase of Augustine’s, I derived some comfort, help, and spiritual knowledge from the psalms. But afterward, when I intentionally looked for Christ in my reading of the psalms, and refused to acknowledge any plea conditioned on righteousness as the personal righteousness of the psalmists, I have been amazed, overwhelmed, staggered, lost in wonder and awe at the surpassing greatness of Christ – who he is, what he has done, and how my hope, peace, joy, and everything depends upon him – and all this from the psalms alone. The benefit of the scripture is entirely exhausted in its ability to uncover Christ before our eyes and in our hearts. May the Holy Spirit continue to open the eyes of all of us to see Christ more clearly, no matter what portion of the blessed scriptures we may be meditating upon.

    Posted by Nathan on March 29, 2006 09:47 PM

    Comments

    A hearty amen to the message of this article. Christ's own righteousness is imputed to all those who put their faith in Him, and is the only basis for their right standing with God - past, present and future.

    Romans 4:1-8 - 1 What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness." 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: 7 "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin."

    Nathan,

    Thank you. Thank you! Excellent exhortation to look for Christ in all the Psalms. Your articles as well as other God-ordained circumstances in my life have pushed me into a much more Christ-centered hermeneutic than I had. My hermeneutic, before I studied hermeneutics, defaulted somewhat to a Christ-centered hermeneutic. However, in reading Fee & Stuart on the subject, and as well in reading and studying other accepted Evangelical scholars, I began to despise such a simplistic and to me eisegetical hermeneutic. But as I began to come to a Covenantal Theology position rather than a dispensational one, I began to be amazed at how consistently the NT authors handled OT Scripture in a Christological manner. I cannot but admit that such is an intentional pattern for us--for me--to follow. Recently, I have been reminded how virtually all of church history unites around this Christ-centered hermeneutic for the first 1800+ years of the church. Now granted there were some extreme examples of rampant allegorization, but by and large a Christ-centered hermeneutic was employed. I cannot bring myself to conclude that the "enlightened" modern (and post-modern) world has finally been able to recover sound hermeneutics, and that the Holy Spirit was somehow unable to bring Christ's church to unity in a true and sound hermeneutic until He was helped by the Enlightenment.

    One question, however: often when reading the Psalms I have applied the Psalmists' troubles with enemies and battles and the like as finding a counterpart in my struggles against my flesh and besetting sins, etc. Is this a valid application? Can we transfer the psalmists' struggles with human enemies to our struggles with demonic oppostion and personal weaknesses? Your thoughts?

    Thank you, and God bless your work.

    Bob,

    I think we can find commonality between our struggles and those of the psalmists; but we need to keep in mind why they were victorious in their struggles. They were righteous in a sinful world because they trusted in Christ's righteousness imputed to them. They were overcomers in an oppressive world because Christ conquered through them. It is of great comfort to observe the struggles and victories of the saints before us, because by them we can learn that Christ will cause our faith to triumph through all opposition. Be encouraged by their lives because the same conquering Lord who worked so mightily through them is at work in us as well. I have no doubt that the psalmists would say, along with Paul, that it is due to the grace of God that they are what they are. When we see common weaknesses in our own lives, be encouraged that God's grace is mighty in the weakest and most distraught saints. David was oppressed, he staked his hope in Christ, and he prevailed. When we are oppressed as David was, let us stake our hope in Christ as well, and see what happens.

    I hope it will not sound too Origen-like to suppose that there are two levels of reality in many of the struggles portrayed in the psalms. There is certainly the reality of the psalmists struggling with actual events in their lives; but underneath this, giving meaning to those struggles and ensuring a blessed outcome to them, is the more fundamental reality of Christ being made like his brothers, suffering the same things they had suffered, but winning a victory they never could have won. And in fact winning that victory in their behalf (and ours). That is why, for instance, I have no hesitancy in supposing that David was able to recall his own personal experience of his familiar friend betraying him; and yet at the same time, he was looking ahead to Judas' betrayal of Christ as the ultimate event giving meaning and victory to his own sorrow.

    Pastor John,

    Thanks for Romans 4. I think it validates the contention that the psalmists (and all the Old Testament saints) were conscious Christians -- hoping in the same Christ, clinging to the same gospel that we do today.

    Nathan,

    I agree with you that the Bible from cover to cover points us to the cross and we must have a Christ centered focus if we are to understand the whole of the scriptures. However, in your zeal for the doctrine of sola fide, I think your view God's dealings with us temporally has went to far the other way.

    Let's look at two quotes from your article,

    "The psalmists may lay claim to being righteous in a relative sense, when contrasting themselves with the wicked; and they may exhort themselves and others to pursue a more perfect state of practical righteousness; but as soon as a life of righteousness is seen as constituting the grounds for God’s blessing, the psalmists dare not set their lives before God as a plea for favor."

    "The problem with this analysis is not that the psalmists are not more righteous than their adversaries – indeed they are. Nor is it that they never recognize this condition of relative righteousness – indeed they do. The problem is that they never use this relative righteousness to lay claim to God’s justice. "

    David in Psalm 18 appeals to God's justice as the very reason he was delivered from Saul's hands. And he does see his conduct as constituting grounds for God's blessing. Let's take a look.

    "20 The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness; According to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me. 21 For I have kept the ways of the Lord, And have not wickedly departed from my God. 22 For all His judgments were before me, And I did not put away His statutes from me. 23 I was also blameless before Him, And I kept myself from my iniquity. 24 Therefore the Lord has recompensed me according to my righteousness, According to the cleanness of my hands in His sight. "
    Psalm 18:20-24

    Now I will agree with you that the foundation from which his *practical righteousness* flows is God's mercy and imputed righteousness. Nevertheless, he says God has rewared him according to the cleaness of his hands. In other words, David walked uprightly before God and his ways were blameless. Although, he sinned daily as we do, he was walking as close to God as he could, and not walking in open blatant unconfessed sin.

    God's word is full of conditional promises. To be sure, the basis for all of these only find their surety in Jesus, for all the promises of God in Him are yes and amen. But, that doesn't mean you have to throw the baby out with the bath water and say God doesn't promise reward for those walk in His ways and commands.

    Three scriptures come to mind which refer to God's blessing toward those who are not only positionally righteous but also endeavoring to live a life pleasing to Him.

    " Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 "Honor your father and mother," F17 which is the first commandment with promise: 3 "that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth." Eph 6:1-3

    "Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; F17 9 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For "He who would love life And see good days, Let him refrain his tongue from evil, And his lips from speaking deceit. 11 Let him turn away from evil and do good; Let him seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil." 1 Peter 3:8-12

    "16 Confess your trespasses F23 to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit. " James 5:16-18

    All these verse, along with numerous others point to conditional promises of God which He gives to those who seek to please Him. That desire to please Him is a gift from Him so there is no boasting that we can do. As I told someone the other day, a non-believer cannot even do a good work in God's sight because they do not have a right motive for doing it. But, for those who are eternally grateful to Jesus for what He has done for us and act accordingly, God does reward life lived like that.

    One last thing to think about, I know some that take what you have said so far as to say all the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the mount show us is how sinful we are and how Jesus did them for us. They say that there is no practical value to following them. What nonsense.

    "Blessed are they which hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." I do hunger and thirst after righteousness according to the new nature which He has given me. I delight in the law of God after the inward man and I trust His promise that He will fill me.

    Alan,

    Thanks for the comments. You have brought up some excellent points with regard to sanctification, a topic at least related to my post. Let me add a few observations, and then take up the discussion of Psalm 18.

    I would certainly agree with your assessment of someone who views the beatitudes in the manner you have laid out as engaging in nonsense. Even beyond nonsense, actually -- he is probably indicating that he has no regenerate nature -- that he is one of those whose reasoning indicates that his condemnation is just (Romans 3:8). There are many passages which even make eternal life, not just temporal blessings, contingent upon one's works. For example, I Corinthians 6:9 tells us that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom, and goes on to list specific sins which would exclude one from eternal blessing. But as the reformed doctrine of perseverance is quick to recognize, this is because the faith which justifies is a faith which certainly sanctifies. Christ's righteousness, when imputed to us, also transforms us practically. The fruits give evidence of the genuineness of the root. I think we would both agree on this point.

    As far as temporal blessings go, I would have to agree with you as well. God alone sanctifies, and he does this through the operative principle of faith -- but of the many secondary means he uses, chastisement for sin and reward for practical righteousness are among the most outstanding (Hebrews 12:6 would be an example of the former, some of the verses you employed examples of the latter). But under all of these secondary means, a sure confidence in absolute righteousness imputed to us because of Christ is non-negotiable if we would grow in grace, or indeed be certain of our eternal inheritance. If I may quote Augustine again, "Lord, command what thou wilt, and grant what thou commandest." In other words, what God rewards in us, even in these temporal conditional promises, is a reward conditioned upon Christ's merits. Our practical righteousness flows from Christ even as our positional righteousness is imputed from him. When God is pleased to reward us, he forgives that which is yet tainted by our sinfulness and accepts that which is the fruit of Christ in us. We get rewards, but the merit is ultimately Christ's alone. Hence God's grace is all and in all. And I do not think the case is any different with faith, being itself God's gift. We cannot play sola fide against the necessity for an ardent pursuit of good works: both are gifts of God, both are indispensable to a Christian, both have their respective "rewards" or outcomes. But the proximate cause and the effects are both due to God's grace because of Christ's righteousness.

    I think we would both see things similarly with regard to our lives as Christians today. My contention is that the psalmists were also very conscious of that same reality. They may lay claim to God's blessings on the basis of their righteousness; but to admit this much does not invalidate my contention that they were ultimately resting in Christ's righteousness when they made those claims. As true Christians, they were pleading with God to accept what he saw of Christ's righteousness in their practices. Because it flowed from Christ through their lives, they were confident that God would reward it. Because it was a righteousness resultant of faith in the work of Christ, and not a righteousness arising from their own natures, they were confident that God would accept it.

    Concerning Psalm 18, I could perhaps concede that David is referring to himself. But I have a problem if that is where we end our analysis. He may be referring to himself, but he is ultimately referring to Christ in him. He is saying, God saw what I have done (or rather what Christ did through me) and being pleased with me (or rather being pleased with that which is in me of Christ) he rewarded me (or rather gave me the blessings that Christ earned, because Christ was seen in my life).

    While it may be legitimate to read those words as pertaining to David, if we do not also, and ultimately, read them as pertaining to Christ, we are not doing justice to his centrality in all of scriptures. Did not Jesus say that all the scriptures were written of him (John 5:39, Luke 24:44)? And did not the disciples give testimony to the truth of that analysis in their subsequent dealings with the Old Testament scriptures? For example, in Psalm 41:9, one could easily make the same sort of contention you made of Psalm 18: the psalmist said of himself thus and such. And the contention would no doubt be true, at one level. But when Christ tells us that his betrayal by Judas was according to this prophecy (John 13:18), we are confronted with the necessity of seeing a referent beyond that of the mere psalmist. It is not an either/or situation: the psalmist may well have been speaking of himself, but he was ultimately speaking of Christ. So is it ever with Christians: God may well reward our good works, but he is ultimately rewarding Christ, as his victory is displayed in us. David may well have had confidence in his uprightness, but he was ultimately expressing confidence in Christ's righteousness at work in him.

    Perhaps you are right that my post emphasized the ultimate christological references of the psalms almost (but not completely)to the exclusion of the proximate human references. This is not because I deny the proximate meaning (or that I deny proximate conditional blessings for the saints, etc.), but because I see the ultimate christocentric meaning as dangerously minimized today. It is no hard task to find scholars who will speak much of David when exegeting the psalms. It is rare indeed to find one who will then proceed to the antitypical David. This was not the case with the New Testament authors, who, if anything, strongly de-emphasized the historical reference in order to dwell upon the ultimate, that is, the christocentric reference. Nor was it the case in much of church history. If I gave the majority of my space to contending for an ultimate reference to Christ, it is not because I deny the existence of any proximate reference: it is because I am attempting to argue for that which is not commonly recognized over against that which is.

    Pitchford,

    Praise God for guiding you to and opening your eyes to this truth. At times as I've read through the Psalms, I've considered something similar to what you've propounded here; but I never developed it, probably for several reasons. First, I simply lack confidence in my own ideas and tend to need someone else that I respect to speak them first. Also, the remnants of my dispensational training would immediately accuse my thoughts of doing disservice to the text ("reading the New Testament into the Old"). I was confused as well about whom precisely certain Psalms were speaking of. In one phrase, the Psalmist would be maintaining his righteousness, and I'd think, "He's speaking of Christ." Yet a few verses later, he'd be pleading for God to pardon his great iniquity. Blind fool that I am, I couldn't allow the doctrine of our union with Christ to appear in the Old Testament.

    Yet it must be as you've written. Otherwise, the Psalms proclaim another salvation than the gospel, another Savior than the Christ. Otherwise, the Psalms are no comfort at all. The first Psalm speaks only my condemnation, Psalm 15 excludes me from any hope of the presence of God, and so on.

    I remember how puzzled I used to be (as a dispensationalist) over the "apostolic hermeneutic." Their hermeneutic was the gospel: it was Christ. Thank you for pointing Him out in the Psalms for me. I rejoice to think what glory this will bring Him.

    Jason

    Nathan,
    I did not read all of your thoughts on Psalms, (mainly your initial observation of Augustine's exposition),hence this, hopefully helpful and encouraging comment. The notion that Psalm 1 and 2 is Messianic is not new. In fact, there are number of studies that suggest that the entire Psalter exhibits an editorial touch of carefully organized theological and eschatological message. You might be interested in the work of Robert Cole (a prof at Southeastern) who has shown, quite convincingly, that Psalm 1 is Messianic. He appropriately links it with Joshua 1 (a canonical correspondence, intertextuality - Joshua begins the Nevi'im and Psalter begins Kethuvim) showing the difference in the moods, Joshua 1 being precative while Psalm 1 indicative, hence pointing to Christ. If you want to look into this check out the works of Barbiero Gianni, Robert Cole, Mitchell David, Gerald Wilson, A Berlin (helpful study of Hebrew parallelism) You can compare these with H. Gunkel (most of the evangelical Psalms scholarship seems take his approach). Enjoy the riches of the Psalter. Blessings. Anthony

    Anthony,

    Thanks for the info -- helpful and encouraging indeed.

    In Christ,
    Nathan

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