Theme: A Messianic Psalm?
In this week’s lessons from the second part of Psalm 68, we learn that this psalm looks beyond David’s time to a day of future blessing concerning the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Scripture: Psalm 68:19-35
Is Psalm 68 messianic? That is not an easy question to answer. If we consult the old writers, like Saint Augustine and even someone like Martin Luther, we will find them calling all the psalms messianic. Augustine did it to such an excessive degree that I find his work almost useless for my own studies. But even more modern writers do the same thing. The great Bible scholar and teacher Arno C. Gaebelein considered most of the psalms to refer to Christ or to a future day of messianic blessing for the people of Israel. Bible teacher William L. Pettingill was more particular. He spoke of only fourteen psalms as messianic. But he included Psalm 68 as one of them in a little book titled Christ in the Psalms,1 judging it to be about Jesus on the basis of Paul’s use of verse 18 as referring to Jesus in Ephesians 4:8.
If the criterion for a messianic psalm is that a verse or portion of it should be explicitly used of Jesus Christ in the New Testament, then there are indeed fourteen messianic psalms.2 But, of course, other psalms also contain less obvious messianic or prophetic themes.
So what about Psalm 68? We have already seen that the theme of the psalm is God’s victorious march from Egypt to Jerusalem, with its culmination in the entrance of the ark of the covenant into the holy city (vv. 7-18), and then the power and majesty of the divine regime seen in the ascendancy of his people and the flow of worshippers and vassals to his footstool (vv. 19-31). This means that at least the first half is not explicitly messianic. But to our surprise, it was in the first half that the most explicit reference to Jesus Christ occurred, in verse 18, which Paul cites in Ephesians.
Perhaps that is the answer. Perhaps there is a turning point here. It is true that much of what follows can be explained well by the reign of God in Zion in David’s time. But the psalm also looks beyond David’s time to a day of future blessing, and that certainly has to do with the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ.
1William L. Pettingill, Christ in the Psalms (Findlay, OH: Fundamental Truth Publishers, 1937).
2Psalms 2, 8, 16, 22, 31, 34, 40, 41, 45, 68, 69, 102,110 and 118.
Why might Psalm 68 be called messianic?
What is the theme of our psalm?
What is the turning point?
How does the psalm look beyond David’s time?