Hermeneutics

I had a great question from someone today who was looking over the most recent Reading Ramblings for this coming Sunday’s Scripture lessons.  The particular question had to do with the Psalm – Psalm 72:1-7.  The question simply put was, Isn’t this psalm describing Jesus?  

The answer is yes.  And no.  And the issue has to do with the science of interpretation, known  as hermeneutics.  
Is the only king to perfectly fit the description in Psalm 72 ultimately going to be Jesus?  Yes.  And in that sense, the psalm is “about” Jesus.  Jesus is the perfection of all kingly traits, and where human kings will always falter in one respect or another, He never will.  His dominion truly will extend everywhere and truly will involve the defeat of every enemy.  
In another sense, though, this psalm is not about Jesus.  In other words, this psalm is a psalm of blessing on a new king, and is also a reminder to the king about who he is supposed to be – not just the powerful ruler and crusher of enemies, but also the gentle ruler who never loses sight of the least of his subjects and operates with their best in mind.  The psalm is a sort of wish, then, for what type of king is being crowned.  
While we would say that through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, all of Scripture in various ways points to fulfillment in Jesus, we want also to be careful not to rob Scripture of it’s context.  This psalm was undoubtedly used when a new king of Judea was crowned.  It had a purpose and context that was not only and explicitly messianic.  What did the composer understand of what he was writing?  Did he know it was pointing to the Messiah?  Did he intend that as part of his composition?  We don’t know.  But we know that the Holy Spirit who guided his words knew, and so it isn’t unfair to claim it as a messianic psalm – a psalm that points to Jesus.  So long as we don’t forget the historical context of the psalm and how it was used.
What we want to avoid is simply seeing Jesus in the Old Testament and nothing else.  The Old Testament is magnificent in that Jesus is indeed foreshadowed everywhere!  Yet at the same time God is working in very real ways in the lives of very real people to bring about his messiah in his perfect timing.  We don’t want to lose this second understanding of the Old Testament simply because Jesus predominates in our minds.  To me, Jesus is even more glorious as the Word of God made flesh, the Word of God that spoke creation into existence, and the Word of God breathed by the Holy Spirit to inspire the writers of the Old Testament books.  

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