Part Five: David and the Psalms
The Role of Music in the Temple Worship
Although much of Israel's worship centered on the sacrifices offered daily at the temple in Jerusalem, her worship was not restricted to just the element of sacrifice. Throughout the year the Jewish people would ascend to Jerusalem to worship at the three major feasts centered around the temple. During the Feast of Tabernacles, for instance, which celebrated Israel's wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, each night the gigantic candelabra in the temple would be lit. The light was so brilliant that nearly all Jerusalem was illuminated. One rabbi said that if you never saw this sight, then you had never ever really seen anything.
Music played a major role in many of the festivals and Sabbath worship services. The temple not only employed 18,000 priests, it also had a huge contingency of Levites who assisted in the worship services. (Not all 18,000 priests worked in the Temple at the same time. They served on a rotational basis.) The Levites and priests would form huge choirs which led the worship services. In addition to singing, the Levites/priests would play trumpets, flutes, lyres, psalters, etc. Worship indeed would have been dramatic in the Temple with these thousands of Levites/priests singing and playing instruments.
What manual or hymnal did the Levites and priests use for worship? The Book of Psalms. Because it contained the psalms/hymns of ancient Israel the Book of Psalms played a major role in these worship services .
Variety of Psalms
The psalms contained a variety of themes. For examle, some, such as Psalm 150, called Israel to worship God with every type of musical instrument. Others, such as the Songs of Ascent, were sung by the Jews as they ascended the mountains to go up to Jerusalem to celebrate one of the feasts (for example, Psalm 121). Other psalms praised God for His goodness (118), while others praised Him for His creation (Ps. 104 and 8), while yet others reflected on the sorrow sinners feel over the sins they have committed (51).
Psalms of Suffering and Woe
One type of psalm especially stands out: the psalm of woe sung by those undergoing tremendous sorrow. Although these psalms do offer some form of comfort, they are more like questions than answers to the question of sorrow and suffering. For example, although at the end of Ps. 73 the psalmist professes his faith in God, for the first 22 verses he complains bitterly about his sorrows and about the success of the wicked. He will affirm his trust in God, yet he basically offers no answer to this question. Psalms of David which fall under this category likewise question but don't ultimately answer. The questions raised by the psalms are going to be answered in Jesus, David's Greater Son.
Another OT Expression of Suffering
Note that the psalms are not the only writings in the OT which address this issue. Another classic expression of this issue is the Book of Job itself. When reading through the Book of Job, you hear Job complaining about the unjust mistreatment he has received from the hand of the Lord. Like the psalmists although Job articulates the question of suffering perfectly, he doesn't provide the answer. The answer is found in Jesus.
So much has been made of the patience of Job. The truth though is that Job was not as patient as we make him out to be. For over 30 chapters the man does little but to complain about how mistreated he has been. When his friends encourage him to confess his sins which they are sure have led to his sufferings, he declares his innocence. At the end of the book even though God appears and speaks to Job, He does not provide an answer to Job's sufferings. God simply informs Job that He is much wiser than Job, that somehow or other suffering is a part of God's wisdom. Whereas that is true, it is really not enough. Jesus sheds much more light on the topic of suffering.
A PSALM OF SORROW (Psalm 22)
Probably the greatest psalm of sorrow in the entire OT is found in Psalm 22. Like most of the psalms we do not know why David wrote this particular psalm. All we know is that early OT documents claim that David did write this psalm.
To help you process the psalm, first read through the psalm, and then fill in the blanks below.
Verse 1: "________ _____________, ____________ ______, why hast Thou forsaken Me?
Verses 7-8: "All who see me sneer at me; they separate with the lip; they _______ their head, saying: '__________ _________ to the Lord; let Him _________ him.'"
Verses 14: "I am poured out like _______, And all my ________ are out of joint; My _______ is like wax; It is melted within me.
Verse 16: "They pierced my _________ and my __________."
Verse 18: They _________ my __________ among them, and for my ______ they cast ____."
Verse 22: "I will tell of Your name to my _____________; in the midst of the ________________ I will praise You."
Although the vast majority of the psalm relates the unspeakable horror of David's sufferings, it ends on a note of triumph.
Verses 19-22: "But, Thou, O Lord, be not far off,
O Thou my help, hasten to my assistance.
___________ my soul from the sword,
My on life from the power of the dog.
__________ me from the lion's mouth."
I will tell of Thy name to My ____________.
In the midst of the assembly I will praise Thee."
Verses 28-29: "For the kingdom is the __________,
And He rules over the nations,
All the _________________ of the earth will eat and worship,
All those who go down to the dust will bow before Him."
Psalm 16:9-10 likewise describes David's confidence in God's deliverance:
"Therefore my ______ is glad, and my glory rejoices.
My ________ also will dwell securely.
For Thou wilt not ________________ My soul to ___________
Neither wilt Thou allow Thy ________ _______ to undergo decay."
This last passage is critical because it shows that David believed in the resurrection. He claims that God will not leave the soul of this person in Hades or Sheol, the place of the dead. In other words, if God is not going to leave that person in the place of the dead, then that person has first gone to the place of the dead. In other words, that person has died. Yet if God does not leave that person in the place of the dead, then God has raised that person from the dead. Just who is that person David is talking about?
THROUGH THE EYES OF THE APOSTLES
Jesus' Sufferings Prove He was the Messiah/Christ
Very few passages of the OT rank as high as this psalm in the eyes of the apostles. Right off the bat we know that Jesus quoted the first verse of Psalm 22 while He was hanging on the cross: "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" Also Psalm 22:18 refers to what incident that took place at the cross of Jesus (John 19:23-25)?
Why did Jesus utter this cry of despair? Some Christians claim that Jesus uttered Ps. 22:1 simply in order to inform us that He was fulfilling the prophecies of Psalm 22. Whereas that is true, more is involved. The cry of Ps. 22:1 gives us great insight into what was occurring while Jesus was on the cry. Throughout eternity Jesus and the Father have been in a dynamic vibrant relationship. On the cross that relationship is broken. At this one moment in time God actually forsakes His Son. Why? Because at that moment God has placed the sins of the world upon His Son so that He could place the righteousness of His Son upon us. The Great Exchange is taking place on the cross: our sins for His righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21).
Just a side note here. Many claim that the NT is a collection of fables and myths. You can bank on it that Jesus' cry from the cross actually happened. Why? Because it tends to show Jesus in His weakness. If the early Christians were making up stories about Jesus to prove He was God, they would have never posed Him as having weakness. The fact that they described the weakness in Him proves that this story is true.
Psalm 22:7-8 refers to which incidents at the foot of the cross (Matt. 27:39-43)?
Few though realize other parts of this psalm are significant to the NT. For example which verse in Psalm 22 is quoted in Heb. 2:12? Verse 2, verse 18, or verse 22?
The Jews were shocked that Jesus claimed to be the Messiah because He suffered so terribly on the cross. They believed that the Messiah (David's Son) was going to be like David, a great and mighty conquering hero. From their perspective Jesus could NOT be the Messiah/Christ because He suffered. Yet if the Messiah/Christ was supposed to be like His father David, was Jesus really like David since Jesus suffered? Does Psalm 22 shed any light on this question?
The fact is that the Jews ignored David's sufferings whenever they came up with a description of David's Son, the Messiah; they opted for only the victorious part of David's life. Yet the conquering hero is only one aspect of David's life; he was also one who suffered terribly. The Jews accepted only that part of David's life which suited them; they rejected the part which did not suit them, His sufferings.
Suffering in the NT
The Jews thought that the Messiah was going to be like David His father only in the sense that he would be victorious in battle. Well, the Messiah was going to be like His father David in that he was going to have to suffer like His father David had to suffer. According to Acts 17:3 what did Paul prove to the Jews about the Messiah/Christ before he could prove to them that Jesus was the Messiah/Christ?
Different Perspective on Suffering
The fact that the Christ/Messiah had to suffer sheds new light on the role of suffering in our lives. It would be bizarre if the Messiah of God's people suffered, and yet they never suffered. According to 2 Thess. 1:3, 5 Paul says that it is only _____________ that Christians should suffer.
Yet throughout the ages Christians have mysteriously had a problem with other Christians suffering. Because Jesus the Messiah suffered, what did Paul claim were his credentials to be Christ's representative (2 Cor. 11:23-27)?
As a result the NT people of God definitely respond differently than the OT people of God. Whereas the Jews would mourn and mope and weep, the NT people of God rejoice when they suffer. According to Acts 5:41 why did the apostles rejoice after they had been beaten by the Jewish religious leaders?
According to Peter what does it prove when you suffer for being a Christian (1 Pet. 4:13)?
What other reason does Peter list for rejoicing over suffering for the sake of Jesus (1 Pet. 4:14)?
In other words, you are a marked man. Charles Haddon Spurgeon (Morning and Evening Devotions, Morning May 3) says that we should not be surprised that Satan comes after us. He says that at one time we were servants of Satan and that no king gives us his servants willingly, without a fight. Moreover, C. S. Lewis states that once we have become Christians, Satan shifts his tactics; instead of preventing us from become Christians, Satan now seeks to minimalize our growth as Christians (The Screwtape Letters). Trials and troubles are means Satan uses to minimalize us.
Suffering shows you that you are identified with Christ: you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to you. We understand how this principle works in our own families. I am identified with Nancy, Nathan, and Molly, and they are identified with me; I belong to them, and they belong to me. I will go through hard times for their sakes because I am theirs and they are mine. How many of you dads have put in countless hours at work so that your family can have a better standard of living? How many of you have put in hours at the YMCA practice fields so that your child can have a positive soccer/football/baseball experience? Did you do it so that the kids of OTHER parents can have that positive experience? No, you naturally did it for YOUR kids. You in a sense SUFFERED because they are yours and you are theirs. Suffering for them shows you that you are theirs and they are yours. In the same way suffering for Jesus demonstrates I am truly His and He is truly mine.
Why else did Paul rejoice over his sufferings (Rom. 5:3-5)?
If responded to properly, suffering can produce marvelous benefits in your life. I'll never forget the first paper I had to prepare in my Ph.D. studies at Southwestern. It was going to be 80 pages long, and I decided I didn't want to do all that typing. Somebody referred a typist named "Blanche" to me. He told me though, "Carey, she tends to be sloppy with spelling." I rushed it to Blanche. When I got it back, I was so impressed. It was the most beautifully typed paper I had ever seen. Because of a time crunch I did not have time to look at it in detail. Didn't matter since it was such a beautifully typed paper. Big mistake. I made copies of it, and rushed and turned it over to the professor and other members of the seminar. Then I sat down to look at it more closely. Oh my gosh. In all my life I have never seen so many spelling errors in a paper. I honestly believe every word was misspelled. I apologized profusely to the professor who gave me grace with the warning not to let it happen again EVER.
Unfortunately that is not the end of the story. Another professor, in charge of teaching us to be better researchers and writers, told us to hand in a paper we had done so that he could improve our writing skills. I told him about my misfortune. He said not to worry since he didn't care about spelling, only about writing style. I felt like it would be OK.
Then one day he proceeded to show on an overhead excerpts from the papers we had turned in. As he showed paper after paper, he would take one or 2 sheets from each paper and show how he would improve the paper. With a red ink pen he would correct any grammar or misspelt words. In my case it was good news/bad news. The good news was that he loved my paper. It was a topic he was intensely interested in, and he loved the way I approached the topic. As a result he must have shown 10 pages from my paper on the overhead. The bad news was that he corrected every misspelt work on the pages with the red ink pen. Seeing all that red on the overhead in front of 25 students was so humiliating. I felt like someone needed to call 911 and have the medics apply a tourneqet to the bleeding paper. My good Baylor friends had a field day that day.
Now I could have gotten depressed and caved in. I didn't. Because of that suffering I swore that from that day on, my papers would be some of the best written papers my group would turn in. From that day on my papers were almost flawless. This showed me that whenever we respond positively to suffering, suffering can produce positive benefits in our lives.
Some like to differentiate between different kinds of suffering: suffering because of sin, because of natural disasters, because of growth, etc. When it is all said and done though, all suffering falls under one major umbrella; we all suffer that we might grow in our relationship with Christ. Our hearts always strays. We are closer to the Lord at some times in our lives than at other times; however, at all times our hearts are not as close as they should be. Christ is a jealous spouse who demands perfect loyalty and adherence to Him.
Most of us have lost sight of the commitment spouses should have to each other. Until the 50's and 60's if a man walked in on his wife and saw her making out with another man, the courts would let him walk free if he shot them both dead on the spot. If a woman walked in on her husband in bed with another woman, the courts would vindicate her if she shot them both on the spot. For thousands of years that kind of response was acceptable. It's only been in the last 50 years we've "improved." Well, the Bible views the relationship of Christ with His church the same way. He is a jealous lover who will brook no competition for her love.
Whereas we believe that possessive people stifle us and harm us, that is not true in the case of Jesus. Jesus made us for Himself. We only function properly and enjoy life when we are right with Jesus. When it is all said and done, we're the ones who benefit when we yield to Jesus and His possessiveness. Suffering is the tool Jesus uses to bring us back to Him.
On the basis of this perspective you can now understand why the early Christians actually rejoiced when they suffered for Jesus.
The Psalms Predict the Resurrection of Jesus
Psalm 16:9-10 likewise is significant to the apostles. According to Acts 2:31 what does Psalm 16:9-10 predict will happen?
Why doesn't this psalm predict the sufferings of David (Acts 2:29)?
Because Jesus suffered death and rose from the dead, what conclusion are we to draw (Acts 2:36)?
By making Jesus Lord and Christ, God has validated Jesus' claim to be David's Son, the One who brings in the kingdom of God--by means of His suffering and resurrection which were predicted by Jesus' earthly father, David.