Psalm 69 - Suffering for Principle
Read Psalm 69
Without a doubt, Psalm 69 is a Messianic Psalm. No other Psalm except, perhaps Psalm 22, is quoted as often in the New Testament. But, when we say that this is a Messianic Psalm it does not mean that the entire Psalm has reference to the Messiah. No, there are parts of the 69th Psalm which speak of the sins committed by the author. This does not in any way refer to Him who knew no sin. But, throughout this Psalm there are phrases and sentences which refer to the Suffering One, the Messiah.
Zeal for God's House
In order to understand the various comments which the Psalmist makes concerning the sufferings of the Christ, one must see the framework in which he places these sufferings. It is the zeal for the house of the Lord which has eaten Him up. These words came to the minds of the Apostles when they saw the way in which Jesus cleansed the temple of all those who sold sacrificial animals within the temple of God. He would not allow that and made a rope of cords and chased them out of the temple. Besides, He overturned the tables of the moneychangers. This kind of action was certain to bring the wrath of the leaders of the people on His head. However, He did not hesitate! This temple was to be the house of prayer and not a place for merchandise. Our Lord honored the principle — and because He did so, those in authority never forgave Him but opposed Him with all their might. The disciples knew the Scriptures and the words of Psalm 69:9 came to their minds at once. They, however, also knew the Scriptures well enough to realize that their Lord had now opened the way to all the persecutions the author of Psalm 69 endured. Anyone who honors the basic principles which God has laid down in His word can expect persecution.
Not only did our Lord honor these principles, He says that the zeal for the house of God has consumed Him. This is far more than holding to certain principles. It is His meat and drink to do the will of Him who has sent Him. Let them keep their hands off the house of God. Let them return to the word which He has spoken. Let them recognize this place as the house of prayer. The Reformers gained strength from this word of Scripture. That zeal for the things of God is all too often wanting. The "antithesis" as our Lord lived it and as our fathers proclaimed it, is seldom found today. Then there is no suffering for the cause of Christ, but there are also no triumphs in His name!
There is some doubt whether David wrote this Psalm. Some scholars believe that the contents of this Psalm fit the time and person of Jeremiah better than David. This may well be true. There are, however, various statements in this Psalm which remind one very much of the contents of Psalm 22. When the Psalmist begins by saying that the waters are come to his soul, that he is come into deep waters where he is not able to stand and that his throat is dry by virtue of crying out, we have the teaching of Psalm 22. However, he goes on. He complains that there are so many who hate him without cause that he is not able to number them. He has become a stranger to his brethren and an alien to his mother's children. But those are the things which come upon the head of Him who upholds the principles which God has laid down at all costs. Then even those who are the most closely related to him, even by ties of blood, turn against him. This was the experience of our Lord. We read that even His brethren did not believe on Him. They also heaped their scorn upon Him during the time of His earthly ministry. It was only later, after the resurrection and after Pentecost, that at least some of His brothers according to the flesh believed on Him and even received high positions among the believers.
When one's zeal is as great as this Psalm says concerning the Christ, there will naturally be conflicts. A Nicodemus was ready to accept Him as a Rabbi sent by God. But, He doesn't accept this. His zeal does not permit it. His zeal is so great that there are those who wonder about His sanity later. His zeal does not turn away even from the cross. Here we see obedience at its highest. Here we see true zeal at its best. It consumes Him! And ... He will be consumed by it!
The Suffering Messiah
The Messianic passages are interlaced with the various comments made about a sinner as everyone else is. The Psalmist speaks of himself and then of Christ. This Psalm must therefore be read very carefully. The writer of this Psalm has, no doubt, been very zealous for the things of God. Elijah claims that he too had been very zealous for His God and that was the reason others now wanted to kill him. But, these words are not applicable to anyone in the way they are applicable to the suffering servant of Jehovah! No one has exhibited such zeal. No one has been so faithful. He maintains the honor of God even though it will cost Him His life. The disciples realize this so early in His ministry (John 2:17).
In his "Messiah", Handel refers to the words found in Psalm 69:20: "Reproach has broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none." Although the New Testament does not quote these exact words, they nevertheless give us a clear picture of that which the suffering Savior endured. The reproaches of His people were as a dagger in His soul. He was fully human ... it broke his heart! Where shall He find comfort or a comforter in the midst of His own sufferings? There was none. He had to bear it all alone. No one made His suffering easier. His own disciples augmented His suffering. The suffering of Jesus Christ has such a central part in the teaching of Scripture so that it may be said that no one can understand the Scriptures until he has first come to grips with the teaching of the sufferings of the Man of Sorrows. There, in the sufferings of Jesus Christ, there at the cross, we see how great our sins and miseries are. There we see what it took to pay the ransom! No, comforters are not to be found on the via Dolorosa! Even His God does not comfort Him there. The reproaches of His people strike deep into His heart; but when God forsakes Him! Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 together with Psalm 69 give us an unmistakably clear picture of the coming sufferings of the Messiah. No suffering Messiah, says the Jew. Then you will sing Psalms 22 and 69 until you are hoarse, but will never understand them!
In verse 21 the writer speaks even more specifically concerning the sufferings of Christ. It is said sometimes that Isaiah 53 could have been written at the foot of the cross. The same could be said of this verse. "They gave me also gall for my food; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink." These words were literally fulfilled on the cross. Jesus had cried out: "I thirst." Immediately they gave him this mixture of gall and vinegar to drink. They are the ones who are fulfilling the Scriptures which they know so well. It must have been difficult for them when they returned to their homes that night after the crucifixion and realized that they had done these things to Him who they despised. The Scriptures will be fulfilled! Whether deliberately or unwittingly, they are the instruments in the hand of God to cause to come to pass that which He had spoken so many centuries ago.
Although there are many similarities between the content of Psalm 22 and Psalm 69, they are by no means the same. Psalm 69 proceeds on the assumption that everything is seen from the point of view of His zeal for the house of the Lord. This element is lacking in Psalm 22. Thus, even though two passages of the Scriptures may sound similar, their similarity is often not as great as might appear on the surface. Those in the Old dispensation who stood up for their beliefs suffered, so did the Christ, so will all those who have the mind of Christ and walk in His way. Despite the promise of this world that it will tolerate the various views of Christianity, it will never tolerate the kind of zeal which characterized our Lord and those who were His most devoted followers.
Plea for Judgment
Mention is still made in this Psalm concerning the desolation of the habitation of those who have done great wickedness. The Apostles realize immediately that these words refer to Judas. He had lost his place in the Apostolic college and his house was left desolate. These are also the words which introduce a section wherein the writer speaks of the great wickedness of those who have persecuted him. He is then ready with his judgment on them. He asks that such may be blotted out of the book of life. He hopes that there will be no forgiveness for those who have done these awful deeds. He then contrasts his own life with that of these workers of iniquity.
Although this is indeed a Messianic Psalm, this latter part does not breathe the spirit of Jesus Christ but rather the spirit of one who seeks vengeance. When He was reviled, He reviled not again. He prayed for those who despitefully used Him. He prayed for the transgressors! If the injury and sorrow which came upon Jesus Christ had come upon a mere mortal, what vindictiveness we would have seen. This again reveals our Lord in His wonderful forgiving love. Nowhere do we see our sin and misery as clearly as in His suffering, and nowhere do we see His love more clearly than in His suffering and death.
The Messianic Psalms are important to reveal Jesus Christ to us in prophecy. We see Him then in contrast to the various experiences of men of God of the past. He always shines as the all-together lovely One. He patterned His own life after the Scriptures which spoke of Him. We may not neglect these Scriptures!
Questions for Discussion:
- What is included in "the zeal for thine house"?
- Why should the "zeal" of the Man of Sorrows be the reason for the hatred of those who prayed for that same zeal?
- Can anyone read the account of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ and logically not believe in total depravity?
- Did men hate Him without cause?
- Catholicism makes much of the broken heart of Christ. May we also speak of this broken heart? Explain.
- Didn't Jesus ask for the vinegar which they gave Him?