PSALMS: The Messiah by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The Prayer Book of the Bible

The Messiah by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God’s holy history comes to fulfillment in the sending of the Messiah.  According to Jesus’s own interpretation, the Psalter has prophesied of this Messiah (Luke 24:44).  Psalms 22 and 69 are known to the church as the passion psalms.

Jesus himself prayed the beginning of Psalm 22 on the cross and so clearly made it his prayer.  Hebrews 2:12 places verse 22 in the mouth of Christ.  Verse 8 and verse 18 are direct predictions of the crucifixion of Jesus.  David himself may have once prayed this psalm in his own song.  If so, he did this as the king, anointed by God and therefore persecuted by men, from whom Jesus Christ would descend.  He did it as the one who bore Christ in himself.  But Christ himself used this prayer and for the first time gave it its full meaning.  We can thus pray this psalm only in the fellowship of Jesus Christ, as those who have participated in the suffering of Christ.  We pray this psalm, not on the basis of our fortuitous personal suffering, but on the basis of the suffering of Christ which has also come upon us.  But we always hear Jesus Christ pray with us, and through him that Old Testament king; and repeating this prayer without being able to experience it or consider it in its deepest sense, we nevertheless walk with the praying Christ before the throne of God.

In Psalm 69, verse 5 tends to cause difficulty because here Christ complains to God about his foolishness and guilt.  Certainly David spoke here of his personal guilt.  But Christ speaks of the guilt of all men, also about the guilt of David and my own guilt which he has taken upon himself, and borne, and for which he now suffers the wrath of the Father.  The true man Jesus Christ prays in this psalm and includes us in his prayer.

Psalms 2 and 110 witness to the victory of Christ over his enemies, the establishment of his kingdom, and worship by the people of God.  Even here the prophecy makes a contact with David and with his kingdom.  But we already recognize in David the coming Christ.  Luther calls Psalm 110 “the truly supreme chief psalm of our dear Lord Jesus Christ.”

Psalms 20, 21, and 72 no doubt refer originally to the Earthly kingdom of David and of Solomon.  Psalm 20 asks for the victory of the Messianic king over his enemies and for the acceptance of his sacrifices by God; Psalm 21 gives thanks for the victory and the crowning of the king; Psalm 72 asks for justice and help for the poor, for peace, stable government, eternal honor in the province of the king.  We pray in this psalm for the victory of Jesus Christ in the world, we give thanks for the victory already won, and ask for the establishment of the kingdom of righteousness and of peace under the king Jesus Christ.  To this theme belong also Psalm 61.7 f. and Psalm 63.11.

The much-disputed Psalm 45 speaks of love to the Messianic king, of his beauty, his richness, his power.  Upon marriage to this king the bride is said to forget her people and her father’s house (v. 10) and to pay homage to the king.  For him alone she is said to adorn herself and to be led to him with joy.  That is the song and prayer of the love between Jesus, the king, and his church which belongs to him.

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  1. from…The Value of Sparrows: | By the Mighty Mumford

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