OLD TESTAMENT PROPHECY AND JESUS: PART FOUR
We have been looking at a number of OT prophecies that NT writers see as being fulfilled in the life of Christ. As previously discussed, many of these prophecies are clearly seen as having objective fulfillment in OT times. By objective fulfillment I mean these prophecies were fulfilled in events that took place in OT times, often in close proximity to when the prophecy was given. OT writers clearly record the fulfillment of such prophecies in their time with no indication they are or were understood to be predictive of events in the life of Christ.
When NT writers apply already fulfilled OT prophecies and events to events in the life of Jesus, it appears they see in Jesus a greater or more complete fulfillment of such prophecies and events. It appears that many OT events are seen as shadows or types of events in the life of Jesus.
It is apparent that when NT writers see Jesus in OT prophecies they are doing so because they came to understand that even though such prophecies had an initial fulfillment at the time or close to the time they were given, they also were meant to foreshadow events in the life of Jesus. They came to this understanding because this is what Jesus taught them.
Luke 24:44: He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms." then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.
Remember, the Greek word translated “fulfilled” here in Luke 24:44 is pleeroo. This word appears 90 times in the NT and has the basic meaning of “to make full, to fill, to fill up and to fill to the full.” It is apparent Jesus saw in Himself the bringing to the full or filling to the full of a number of prophetic events recorded in the OT Scriptures. While many of these prophesied events had initial fulfillment in the past, they were being brought to greater fulfillment in Christ.
This being said, there are other OT writings that NT authors apply to Christ that do not appear to have an objective literal fulfillment in OT times but are clearly seen as having such fulfillment in the life of Jesus. We will now consider some of these writings and begin with what David wrote in Psalm 22.
Psalm 22 and Jesus:
In Psalm 22, David is seen as experiencing a great deal of stress and emotional trauma over what he perceives as forces of evil enveloping his life and his perception that God was ignoring him and not coming to his rescue. While David did experience a number of troubles in his life, his response to such troubles is described in subjective language where he reflects on his troubles using figures of speech to describe what he is feeling.
In Psalm 22, David is seen as lamenting the fact that he is being buffered on all sides by his enemies and believes God has forsaken him. He makes a variety of statements that reflect in subjective terms what he is emotionally experiencing. I say subjective terms because there is no record of David having these things happen to him in an objective, literal way. On the other hand, as we will see, there is record of these things objectively and literally happening to Jesus.
Psalm 22:18: They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.
There is no record of David having his garments divided and lots being cast for his clothing. David seems to have died a natural death while still King of Israel and had an honorable burial. In 1 Chronicles 29 we read that David died at a good old age, having enjoyed long life, wealth and honor and that his son Solomon succeeded him as king. There is no Scriptural reason to believe David ever had his garments divided or lots cast for his clothing.
Yet all four NT Gospels describe the dividing of garments and the casting of lots as literally happening to Jesus at the time of His crucifixion.
Matthew 27:35: When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
Mark 15:24: And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.
Luke 23:34: Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
John 19:23-24: When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. "Let's not tear it," they said to one another. "Let's decide by lot who will get it." This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said, "They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing." So this is what the soldiers did.
In John 19 It is recorded that at the crucifixion of Jesus His clothes were divided into four shares to be distributed to what apparently were four soldiers who crucified Jesus. The undergarment of Jesus, because it was seamless, was apparently given to just one of the soldiers by casting lots for it. John reports that this casting of lots was being done so that Scripture could be fulfilled.
There is no Scriptural record of David literally having lots cast for his garments. It is apparent David spoke of his garments being divided and lots being cast for his clothing in figurative terms to express his anguish at being pursued by his enemies and his concerns that he might be killed.
The authors of Scripture use a great deal of analogy, metaphor and rhetorical exaggeration (hyperbole) in their writings. Analogy is showing something to be like something else. It involves the drawing of parallels. Metaphor is using the non-literal to represent the literal. Metaphor often uses symbols to represent the real thing. Hyperbole is the use of language in exaggerated ways to make a point. There is much use of all these forms of communication in the Scriptures, especially in the prophetic writing. All three of these forms of communication involve the use of figurative language.
Since there is no Scriptural reason to believe David actually had his garments divided up and lots cast for his clothing, it appears David is using figurative language to express his emotional state of mind. When the context of Psalm 22 is considered, David appears to be saying that the anguish and pain he is experiencing is like having his garments divided and lots cast for his cloths and not that this was literally happening to him. David appears to be using figurative language to express his anguish over what he was at the time experiencing in his life.
There is no Scriptural reason to believe David understood that what he was saying was prophetic of what would be fulfilled in a literal manner in the life of Jesus. However, David’s subjective imagery of his garments being divided and lots being cast for his clothing became a literal reality in the life of Jesus. Was David's imagery meant to be prophetic of what happened to Jesus? We can't scripturally prove it was. This is just one of many OT sayings that literally occurred in the life of Christ.
Where these OT sayings meant to be prophetic of events in the life of Jesus? It would appear that Jesus and the NT writers believed they were. Yet in their original context, these sayings are not seen as prophetic but as pertaining to events and experiences in the lives of of those these sayings are attributed too.
One oddity in regard to the matter of dividing the garments of Jesus among the soldiers is that Jesus is reported to have been beaten bloody before being crucified. The Scriptures indicate the soldiers removed Jesus’ clothing and put a purple robe on Him and a crown of thorns on His head and had Him scourged after which they put His closed back on Him before heading for the place of crucifixion. You would think His cloths would have been a bloody mess. Why would the soldiers want blood stained clothes, especially His undergarment which one would think would have been very bloody? (Food for thought).
Let’s look at another saying of David’s in Psalm 22.
Psalms 22:16: Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.
There is no record of David having his hands and feet pierced. David appears to be reflecting on the dire straights he found himself in by using hyperbolic language (rhetorical exaggeration) to express his feelings at the time. These appear to be subjective thoughts of anguish and distress and not objective realities wherein David actually experienced the piercing of his hands and feet. Yet in the case of Jesus, there was a literal fulfillment of what David expressed.
It is interesting that none of the four Gospel writers who report the crucifixion record that Jesus had his hands and feet pierced. We only know this to be the case from our historical knowledge of the Romans using nails to fasten the feet and hands of a crucified person to a cross. We also have the record of Jesus telling Thomas to feel the place were apparently nails had been pounded through His hands.
John 20:27: Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
As a side note, archeological evidence indicates nails were driven through the wrist and not the hand. However, the wrist was considered part of the hand in ancient times so there is no discontinuity here between archeological evidence and the Scriptures although it does raise questions about the modern depictions of Jesus having nails driven through His hands rather than His wrists.
So what we have here is a literal objective fulfillment of what appears to be a figurative expression of mental anguish on the part of David. While it is unlikely David knew that his expression of anguish would be literally fulfilled hundreds of years later in Jesus, it appears these sayings of David were intended to have a fulfillment in Christ. Let’s know move to Psalm 22:7-8:
Psalm 22:7-8: All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: "He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him."
Here David is seen as anguishing over being mocked and having insults thrown at him. He is taunted about his trust in God. We know from the Scriptures David did have enemies and it is very possible he was mocked and had insults hurled at him. As King over Israel, David would have had detractors like all leaders in positions of authority do. Because of David's affair with Bathsheba and the events that followed, Scripture shows David was ridiculed by his family and his subjects. Matthew and Mark report Jesus experiencing insults as well and being taunted for His trust in God.
Matthew 27:39-40: Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, "You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!"
Mark 15:29-30: Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, "So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!"
Neither Matthew nor Mark says that what Jesus was experiencing here was a fulfillment of Psalm 22. Yet it is clear that both these writers are using language that parallels what is written in Psalm 22. As is true with the matter of dividing garments and casting lots, there is no OT record that David was taunted about his faith in God to deliver him. David may only have been saying this rhetorically as he anguished over what he perceived to be a very difficult situation he found himself in. However in Christ, these events are seen as literally taking place and in that respect appear to be an objective fulfillment of what David may have only been musing about relative to his situation at the time.
In his anguish over his trials and tribulations, David came to question God’s presence in his life and feared God was abandoning him in his hour of greatest need. However, in reading through the life of David, there is no indication David was ever forsaken by God. There certainly were times David’s behavior was not pleasing to God but no evidence God ever abandoned David. However, David appears to have perceived this to be the case because of anguish he was experiencing at the time. This is evident from David questioning why God had forsaken him as recorded in Psalm 22. As Jesus was dying on the cross, He uttered this same exact statement. He said, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Psalm 22:1-2: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.
Matthew 27:43: About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"--which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Many see this in Jesus as a literal fulfillment of what David wrote as recorded in Psalm 22. In His taking our sin upon Himself and experiencing the anguish of dying on the cross, Jesus appears to feel He has been forsaken by God. Was Jesus literally forsaken by God?
The issue of Jesus being forsaken by God while dying for our sins has been much debated in theological circles. Some believe Jesus could not have been abandoned by God, not even for a moment, and that Jesus, like David was only feeling such abandonment because of the anguish He was in.
Others believe Jesus was momentarily forsaken by God while on the cross as he took the sins of humanity upon Himself. The Scriptures teach Jesus became sin for us. The prophet Isaiah recorded in Isaiah 1:1-2 that sin separates man from God. Some believe Jesus experienced a momentary separation from God at the crucifixion as he became sin for us which means He experienced the objective reality of what it means to be separated from God.
Whether or not Jesus experienced a literal separation from God is debatable, the fact remains, however, that Jesus did use the language of David in asking God why He had forsaken Him. Was David’s statement prophetic of what Jesus cried out at the cross or was Jesus simple using the language of David at His hour of trail? We can’t know for sure. Neither Matthew nor Mark, who record Jesus’ statement about being forsaken, say it was a fulfillment of prophecy. But we certainly see here how OT statements are brought to greater illumination in the life of Jesus.
Psalm 69 and Jesus:
There are virtually dozens of OT statements that NT writers explicitly or implicitly associate with Jesus. Statements made in Psalm 69 are a good example of this. Psalm 69 is another writing of David where he is lamenting his present situation and uses a lot of figurative language to describe his feelings. He begins in verse one by saying,
Psalm 69:1-5: Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God. Those who hate me without reason outnumber the hairs of my head; many are my enemies without cause, those who seek to destroy me. I am forced to restore what I did not steal. You know my folly, O God; my guilt is not hidden from you.
When David says, “You know my folly, O God; my guilt is not hidden from you,” this tells us David is writing about himself and not about Jesus as Jesus would not be admitting to folly or guilt. Yet we find statements in Psalm 69 that are used explicitly or implicitly to relate to Jesus. For example verse 9
Psalm 69:9: Zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.
Here David is telling us his zeal for God’s house consumes him. The temple had not yet been built so the house David was referring was probably the Tabernacle. Now how does this relate to Jesus?
John 2:13-17: When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, "Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!" His disciples remembered that it is written: "Zeal for your house will consume me."
Here we find that what was written hundreds of years earlier in a totally different context was now being applied to Christ. Was Psalm 69:9 a prophecy about Christ? John doesn’t say it was. But John does, by saying “it is written,” explicitly associates what was happening with Jesus with what David had apparently written about himself hundreds of years earlier.
Psalm 69:21 is another association that is made but in this case it is an implicit association where what is said is not explicitly associated with what is written in the OT as is the case with the matter of having zeal for God’s house.
Psalm 69:21: They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst.
Matthew 27:33-34: They came to a place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it.
Here there isn’t any explicit association made with what David wrote. Matthew does not say, as John does, that what Jesus was experiencing here was related to what had been written. But we do see an implied association between David’s statement and an event in the life of Jesus. There are dozens of such implied associations between OT sayings and events in Jesus’ life. Let us look at one more. In Psalm 118 we see David extolling God’s greatness while once again expressing anguish over persecutions he was suffering at the time. Within this context, David then makes this statement:
Psalm 118 and Jesus:
Psalm 118:22-23: The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.
Psalm 118 is a robust song of praise and thanksgiving directed to YHWH for facilitating deliverance from David’s and Israel’s enemies. Included in this Psalm is the statement seen in verses 22-23 that Jesus applies to Himself.
Matthew 21:42-45: Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: "`The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone ; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes' ? "Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed." When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus' parables, they knew he was talking about them.
Mark 12:10-11: Haven't you read this scripture: "`The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes' ?"
Luke 20:17-18: Jesus looked directly at them and asked, "Then what is the meaning of that which is written: "`The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone'? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed."
Within the context of Psalm 118, it would appear when David writes of a stone that has been rejected becoming the capstone, he is writing about himself or about Israel as some commentators believe. When looking at the history of David, we see he was rejected right from the beginning. When Samuel was told by God to find a king to replace Saul, he was directed to consider the sons of Jessie. Jessie paraded before Samuel seven of his sons. Jessie didn’t even bother to bring out his eight son David. Samuel rejected all seven of the sons paraded before him and asked for David to be brought out. It was David, who was initially rejected from even being considered, who became King over Israel.
David initially became one of Saul’s armor bearers and was well liked by Saul. However, David’s successes in battle and general popularity among the Israelites turned Saul against David and David spent many years hiding from Saul having been rejected by his king who was know trying to kill him. Yet in the end, David prevailed and became King of Israel. Figuratively speaking, the stone the builders rejected had become the capstone. What is interesting is that Jesus uses this writing from Psalm 118 in reference to Himself.
In Matthew 21, Jesus gives a series of parables to the religious leaders and concludes with a parable about a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. The land owner then rents the vineyard to some tenant farmers and goes away on a journey. When harvest time approaches, he sends his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit. The tenants are seen as seizing his servants, beating one, killing another and stoning a third servant. The land owner then sends more servants to collect the fruit and the tenants treat them the same way. Finally, the land owner sends his son who the tenants kill.
Jesus then asks the religious leaders what the land owner should do to these tenants. The religious leaders reply that the land owner should punish the tenants and give the vineyard over to new tenants. Then Jesus says "Have you never read in the Scriptures: "`The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone."
Jesus refers to the OT passage in Psalm 118 and appears to apply it to Himself. That it was being applied to Jesus is supported by other NT passages. When Peter and John were called before the religious leaders to account for how they were able to bring about the healing of a man cripple from birth, Peter refers to the Psalm 118 passage and again does so in one of his letters. Paul appears to appeal to this passage as well.
Acts 4:10b-11: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is "`the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.'
1 Peter 2:7: Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, "The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,"
Ephesians 2:19: Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
The question that arises here is whether Psalm 118:22 is or was meant to be prophetic of Jesus? There is no Scriptural reason to believe David’s statement about a capstone was made as predictive of Christ. Neither Jesus, Peter or Paul say that David's use of the "cap stone" metaphor was a prophecy about Christ. They simply apply this metaphor to Christ. On the other hand, as already covered, since David appears to be seen as a type of Christ in OT Scripture, Psalms that pertain to David in their original context could be seen as pertaining to Christ as well.
In Parts Five and Six of this series, we will consider a number of other associations made by NT writers as to OT sayings and the life of Christ.