3 Ways We See Jesus in the Psalms
Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
PUBLISHED November 17, 2023
Some of the most wonderful psalms are about Jesus — the Messianic psalms. They provide considerable details about the Messiah, and that information is meant to bless and encourage us.
We are going to explore what Messianic psalms are, the different kinds of psalms they are, look at 15 psalms that represent those types, and special verses from those chapters.
What Is a Messianic Psalm?
A Messianic psalm is one deemed to refer to the Messiah, the Mashiach in Hebrew — which is the promised “anointed one.” In Greek, the equivalent is Christos, and in English, it is Christ.
This Messiah was first promised as the one who would crush the head of the “serpent,” Satan, mankind’s mortal enemy who was cursed in Eden (Genesis 3:14-15). The “offspring of the woman” refers to the Chosen One who would come, John says, to “destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8). Contemporaries of Jesus, as well as the Lord Himself, declared that He is the promised Messiah.
Messianic psalms offer details about the Messiah’s ancestry, birth, nature, ministry, purpose, death, resurrection, and exaltation. Some of the most well-known prophecies — such as those by Isaiah and Micah — concern His birth; but the prophesies in the Psalms are just as wondrous. In a broad sense, the Messianic psalms anticipate and describe the person and work of the Messiah.
Are There Different Kinds of Messianic Psalms?
The exact number of Messianic psalms is disputed. Some scholars hold to a strict theological belief that for a psalm to be Messianic, it must be quoted somewhere in the New Testament as specifically referencing Jesus. Some believe there are 14 or 17 Messianic psalms. Other sources say there are 25 different Psalms that include at least one messianic prophecy.
According to The Jeremiah Study Bible, the Messianic psalms are divided into three groups that speak of Christ from different points of view. In grammar, this is called the “person” approach. In one group of Messianic psalms, the psalms contain words by the Messiah, speaking for Himself (first person). In another group, the Messiah is spoken to (second person). In the last group, the Messiah is spoken about (third person).
Only a few of these psalms will be explored here. Each of these perspectives helps us gain a clearer picture of the promised Savior.
In Which Psalms Does the Messiah Speak? (First Person)
Seven of the first-person Messianic psalms are Psalms 2, 16, 22, 40, 41, 69, and 78. While the psalmist speaks, their words carry a greater meaning, pointing to David’s lineage in the Messiah. Often, the words are attributed directly to David’s “greater Son” — spoken by the Messiah.
Psalm 2 announces that in the face of threats and actual danger, God creates and preserves His order, ultimately through the rule of His righteous Messiah, who Christians believe speaks in verses 7-8. The New Testament says the nations are Jesus’ inheritance. Psalm 16 speaks of refuge and security in the Creator — and that is true for God’s “faithful one” as well (v. 10). In this psalm, the Messiah said He would not see decay in death, and Jesus did not.
Psalm 22 contains words Jesus repeated from the cross (v. 1), and also foretells of His ordeal on the cross (vv. 7-8, 15-18). In Psalm 40, the Messiah says He will come to do God’s will, to be the end of all sacrifices for sin (vv. 6-8). Jesus said He came to do the Father’s will. Psalm 41 reveals that the Messiah will have a close friend who will betray him. Believers today recognize this as Judas, one of the Lord’s disciples.
In Psalm 69, David, sensing God’s chastening, confessed his sin and failings. But the Messiah would be sinless. In Psalm 69, we hear the Messiah’s humiliation on the cross, coming to bear the sins of mankind, but also the blessings of the Messianic age. This chapter is filled with references attributed to the Messiah, Jesus. In Psalm 78, the Messiah says He will speak in parables, and Jesus did teach the multitude in parables.
Special Verses from First-Person Messianic Psalms
Psalm 22:1 is a poignant verse from the first-person psalms. Christians will recognize these words as being our Lord’s words from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This verse reminds us of the terrible price Jesus paid to redeem us from sin and death. The worst agony He experienced was when the Father turned His back because Jesus bore our sins. But read further.
All of Psalm 22 presents the suffering Savior in graphic terms, which should stir our hearts over God’s love for us in Christ. We hear the mocking crowd (vv. 7-8; Matthew 27:39, 43); recognize the Messiah’s thirst (v. 15; John 19:28); and watch the soldiers gamble for His robe (v. 18; Matthew 27:35). All of the Messiah’s bones would be out of joint (v. 14). Interestingly, John 19:32-33 says none of Jesus’ bones were broken, and that was an important requirement for the Passover lamb; but in crucifixion — which originated in Persia and was refined by the Romans — bones do get pulled out of joint. How terrible to read that all of the Messiah’s bones were out of joint! But there is a positive note in this chapter too. We rejoice in God’s promise that future generations would hear about the salvation the Messiah accomplished (v. 31; Matthew 28:19-20).
Psalm 40:7-8 are two powerful verses: “Then I said, ‘Here I am, I have come — it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do our will, my God; your law is within my heart.” The writer of Hebrews quotes the Greek version of these verses, applying them to Jesus the Messiah. The Messiah’s desire was to complete the Father’s will for the salvation of His chosen ones, and reading further in the psalm we see that the Messiah would not conceal His mission from His followers. We can be grateful for our Lord’s obedience that secured our salvation.
Which Psalms Address the Messiah Directly? (Second Person)
Three of the second-person Messianic psalms are Psalms 45, 68, and 110.
Psalm 45 praises the one, the “most excellent of men,” who is clothed in splendor and majesty. The Messiah’s message includes righteousness (vv. 6-7c), but also the extension of mercy. This psalm is about more than a human ruler’s wedding; it reflects the Son of righteousness.
Special Verses from Second-Person Messianic Psalms
In Psalm 45:4, the writer of the psalm praises the Messiah’s character, calling upon Him to “ride forth victoriously in the cause of truth, humility, and justice,” and the verse also reminds us that the Messiah will “achieve awesome deeds.”
Jesus was known for His good character. The One who said, “I am … the truth,” spoke the truth even when it got Him into trouble with the Pharisees. As a servant, He washed the disciples’ feet, showing humility. In his dealing with the woman caught in adultery, He showed both grace to the penitent and justice in rebuking her accusers (John 8:1-11). Motivated by his great compassion, Jesus also performed many good works. The character and deeds of Jesus show His excellence as the Messiah.
Psalm 110:1 tells us the Messiah will conquer all His enemies. The Father speaks to the victorious Messiah, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” This psalm says the Messiah will rule in the midst of His enemies.
Although in His first advent, the Messiah came as the humble, suffering Savior, in His second advent, we will see Him as the conquering Judge. Verse five says He will “crush kings” in the final judgment, and verse six says He will judge the nations. This is a prophecy that has not yet been fulfilled, but Revelation 6:17 and 11:18 give further insight.
Which Psalms Give Information about the Messiah? (Third Person)
Five of the third-person Messianic psalms are Psalms 72, 89, 109, 118, and 132.
Psalm 72, a psalm by Solomon, is called a royal or kingship psalm — one of the psalms that outlines the Messiah’s righteous millennial reign. Scripture says Jesus will rule for 1,000 years, but His kingdom will never end. Psalm 89 is another kingship psalm, expanding on the Old Testament theme of the Davidic covenant, which God will not break. The covenant is fulfilled by David’s greater Son, the servant-king — a concept the Jews did not understand.
Although Psalm 109 is about the false accusations David endured, it is considered Messianic in nature because Peter quotes verse 8 as he refers to Judas, who betrayed Christ. Psalm 118 references the “rejected stone” (v. 22). The Jews could not figure out the puzzle of the two advents, so they rejected Jesus. But Jesus became “the cornerstone.”
Psalm 132 is about David’s joy that the ark of God had returned to Mt. Zion so people could worship God there, and this is alluded to in the New Testament. In verse 10, David prays that God’s anointed or Mashiyach (Messiah) would not be turned away. Verse 11 promises that the Lord would send a physical descendant of David to sit on David’s throne; that descendant was Jesus.
Special Verses from Third-Person Messianic Psalms
Psalm 118 is a powerful reminder of who Jesus is in relation to the church. The psalm says, in verses 22-23, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” This amazing Scripture was fulfilled in Jesus. Isaiah also mentioned this “precious cornerstone.”
But it is Peter and Paul who fill in some details. Peter says Jesus is the “living stone,” rejected by humans but “chosen by God and precious to him” and that those who trust in Him will never be put to shame. Paul says Jesus is the chief cornerstone of the “building” of God’s household, rising to “become a holy temple in the Lord.” Everything the believer will ever have is built on this solid foundation in Christ.
In Psalm 132, two verses surprise us with their parallel to the birth of Jesus. Verses 6 and 7 say, “We heard it in Ephrathah … ‘Let us go to his dwelling place, let us worship at his footstool.’” The town of Ephrathah — called Bethlehem Ephrathah in Micah 5:2 — was to be the birthplace of the One to be Ruler in Israel, the One who is “from everlasting.” The Messiah was born in Bethlehem, and in His coming, He fulfilled the Davidic covenant; He will sit on David’s throne.
Psalm 132:6-7 also speaks of coming to worship, referring to worshipping God where the Ark of the Covenant came to rest. But it’s not hard to imagine the joy of the shepherds in the fields around Bethlehem, coming to worship the Christ child who was lying in a humble manger.
Why Are the Messianic Psalms Important to Christians?
Right before Jesus ascended to heaven, He reminded His followers that “Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets and the psalms” (Luke 24:44).
The Messianic Psalms not only remind us that the prophecies concerning the Messiah will all be fulfilled, and that He is recognizable by many of the descriptions in the Psalms, but also that we have a faithful God who provided His Mashiach, His Savior so that we no longer need to live in darkness but can live in His light.
Got Questions, “Which Psalms Predict the Coming of Jesus Christ?”
Jeremiah Study Bible, “Seeing Jesus in the Psalms”
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Ava_Marie
Dawn Wilson has served in revival ministry and missions for more than 50 years. She and her husband Bob live in Southern California. They have two married sons and three granddaughters. Dawn assists author and radio host Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth with research and works with various departments at Revive Our Hearts. She is the founder and director of Heart Choices Today, publishes Upgrade with Dawn, and writes for Crosswalk.com
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