It should not surprise us that the New Testament writers cite the Psalms more than any other book of the Old Testament. Neither should it surprise us that, in each citation, Jesus and the Apostles teach us that the Psalms are Messianic in nature. In so doing, they teach us the principles that we must follow as we seek to discover Christ in all the rest of the Psalms.
Athanasius once made the following statement about the book of Psalms: “While the entire Holy Scripture is a teacher of virtues and of the truths of faith, the book of Psalms possesses somehow the perfect image for the soul’s course of life.” The Psalter has a unique place in Old Testament revelation in that it really is a sort of miniature Bible. Every systematic and biblical-theological truth of Scripture is found, in seed form, in the Psalms. It should not, therefore, surprise us that the New Testament writers cite the Psalms more than any other book of the Old Testament. Neither should it surprise us that, in each citation, Jesus and the Apostles teach us that the Psalms are Messianic in nature. In so doing, they teach us the principles that we must follow as we seek to discover Christ in all the rest of the Psalms.
While theologians have taken a variety of approaches–in an attempt to teach principles of biblical interpretation regarding Christ in the Psalms–one of the most helpful approaches is that which we find in William Binnie’s Pathway to the Psalter. In his chapter, “A Classifications of the Messianic Psalms” (pp. 178-196), Binnie suggested that all of the Psalms fall under one of the following categories of Messianic interpretation:
1. Typical Messianic Psalms
Binnie noted that David’s “history from first to last, was a kind of acted parable of the sufferings and glory of Christ.” In this way David was a type of Christ. It is not hard for us to see this in the narrative of the life and ministry of David. He was a shepherd from Bethlehem, chosen by God to be King of Israel. He was first cast into an experience of humiliation (when Saul sought to destroy him) prior to entering into a period of exaltation as King. David, like the Son of David, had a betrayer who–when he discovered that his plot had been uncovered–went and hung himself. David faced off (and defeated by himself), as a federal representative of his people, the seemingly unbeatable enemy of the OT church; Jesus faced off (and defeated by Himself), in federal representation of His people, Satan–the great enemy of the church. The covenantal typology that exists between David and Jesus is so great that Ezekiel prophecies 4 times of the Messiah using David’s name synonymously with that of the coming Messiah: “David My servant shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd…” (Ez. 34:23, 24; 37:24, 25). Clearly Ezekiel does not have David in view–rather, he is referring to David’s greater Son. All of this is organically bound together in the Covenant promises that God gives to David (2 Sam. 7). Some of the Psalms speak of the typological nature of David and some of other Old Testament figures. For instance, Psalm 110 says that Jesus was “a Priest according to the order of Melchizedek.” One hardly need to investigate this, as Melchizedek is plainly set out as a type of Christ in the book of Hebrews. There are times that the Tabernacle, Temple, sacrifices, Priests et al are referred to in the Psalms. As was true of Melchizedek, the book of Hebrews explains that all of these things we typical of Christ and the heavenly realities that Christ bought into this world in His first coming. Since a type is any person, place, thing or event that points beyond itself to a greater and more full anti-type, we see that the Psalms are full of typology. When the Psalmist speaks of the altar (Ps. 26:6; 43:4; 51:19; 84:3; and 118:27) how can we not see this as a reference to that which was typical of the cross (i.e. the altar) where our Lord Jesus was sacrificed for us (Heb. 9-10)?