In this article we shall explore the close relationship and understanding between the Father and His Son during his ministry. The previous article in this series dealt with similar matters, but in a more general sense for in Psalm 34 Yahweh assures all righteous men that He will hear their cries and deliver them out of all their troubles (v15,17). The three Psalms under consideration in this article are all Messianic and record prophetically the cries of the Lord for deliverance in the time of his distress and in the closing days and hours of his ministry. They all give the Son of God the guarantee that He will be heard and His prayer answered. The three Psalms are 6, 22 and 91. We shall not look at them in detail, but focus on the particular feature they have in common, and the New Testament allusions to them. Again the remarkable linkage between the Old and New Testaments will be seen.
What better way to expound the Old Testament than to study the New Testament cross references and vice versa? Remember that the Lord said, “Every scribe which is instructed unto the Kingdom of heaven is like unto an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old”. The coming of the Lord, the subject of so much of the Old Testament forecasts in type, ritual and prophecy, has enlivened these Scriptures and deepened appreciation of them. Reflection on fulfilled Bible types, rituals and prophecies should cause us to stand in awe of the inspired Word, “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation [that is, of the prophet’s own prompting]. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet 1:20–21).
Psalm 6 “The Lord Hath Heard The Voice of My Weeping”
Though written by David against the background of his experiences, this psalm is Messianic. This is evident from the fact that the words “Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity”, are cited by the Lord and applied to the day of judgment when he shall determine the fate of men (Psalm 6:8 cited in Matt 7:23; 13:41; Luke 13:27). These words apply to the second coming of the Lord but the earlier words refer to the sufferings of the final hours of His ministry. The words of verse 3, “My soul is also sore vexed”, are alluded to (amongst others) by the Lord in Gethsemane, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death” (Mark 14:34. Also refer to Psalms 42:5,11; 43:5; 55:4; 116:3).
Before making reference to the words of the psalm under particular consideration, it will be best to quote Hebrews 5:7 where so many of the allusions are found:
“Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him who was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared”. As has been mentioned, the sufferings in Gethsemane are the main focus of these words. Luke tells us that “being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (22:44).
In the following quotation from Psalm 6 the verbal allusions in Hebrews 5:7 are made plain by the use of italics.
Return, O Yahweh, deliver my soul: Oh save me for thy mercies’ [chesed] sake. For in death there is no remembrance of thee: In the grave who shall give thee thanks? I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears… Depart from me , all ye workers of iniquity; For Yahweh hath heard the voice of my weeping. Yahweh hath heard my supplication; Yahweh will receive my prayer” (Psalm 6:4–9).
Psalm 22 “When He Cried Unto Him He Heard”
These words are taken from Psalm 22 verse 24. They are beautiful words because they celebrate the Father’s deliverance of His Son from the grave. Psalm 22 divides into two parts. The first twenty one verses graphically foretell the sufferings of Messiah at the hands of his enemies. We have recorded his desperate pleas for deliverance while hanging crucified:
“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?… Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help… Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling [yakim—”only one”] from the power of the dog. Save me from the horns of the unicorns” (Psalm 22:1,11,20,21).
The second part of this psalm (verses 22–31) relates to a different era entirely; we have recorded the words of praise to Yahweh that His Son will speak in the day of his glory before the “great congregation” (v25 LXX, “ecclesia”), the host of the redeemed. He calls upon them also to praise and glorify Him, and the reason is given: “For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted (the Messiah when crucified as recorded in verses 1–21), neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard”.
These words are also picked up in Hebrews 5:7, as you will be able to determine: “he offered up … prayers… with strong crying unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared”.
The reason given for Yahweh’s response is “in that he feared”. The AV margin has, “for his piety”, and the RV “for his godly fear”. This thought is also implicit in Psalm 22 where we find the Son of God choosing to do His Father’s will, while knowing precisely what awful sufferings would befall him in doing this. His “godly fear” and devotion can be seen and felt in the wonderful words, thoughts and prayers uttered (verses 1–21).
Interestingly then the words of Hebrews 5:7 are drawn from more than one Old Testament context. Notice also that the citation is not a “word for word” quotation from Psalm 6 and 22, but consists of phrases, words, and ideas.
Psalm 91 “He Shall Call Upon Me, and I Will Answer Him”
The third psalm dealing with the subject of Messiah’s deliverance is Psalm 91. It is dedicated to this theme and it will be helpful to break it up into sections in order to appreciate the force and power lying behind it. That it is Messianic can be shown clearly because the words of verses 11 and 12 were quoted by the tempter during the Lord’s temptation in the wilderness, “For He shall give His angels charge over thee…” (Matt 4:6; Luke 4:10).
We are not told who the author of this psalm is. Some have suggested that, along with Psalm 90, its companion, Moses was its author. If that is so, in verse 1 we have a statement made by Moses to the greater prophet “like unto him”, the Lord Jesus (Deut 18:18): “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty”. These glorious words assure Messiah of Yahweh’s unfailing care.
In verse 2 there is a different speaker. Messiah responds, “I will say of Yahweh, he is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust”. These must not be idle words for they would be put to the utmost test in the course of his ministry.
Verses 3 to 13 are a rejoinder by the author, and detail of all the forms of peril likely to be encountered. From all of these dangers and troubles the author assures Messiah he will be immune because of Yahweh’s love and protection:
“Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust [hasah, flee for refuge]: His truth shall be thy shield and buckler Thou shall not be afraid for the terror by night…”
The reason for this care and protection is emphasised in verse 9:
“Because thou hast made Yahweh, which is my refuge [machseh, shelter] even the most high [Elyon], Thy habitation [maon, dwelling place, 90:1]; there shall no evil befall thee…”.
Angelic protection is assured him in the next verse: “For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways”.
It is notable that following the trials in both the wilderness and Gethsemane angels were despatched by the Father to “minister to” and “strengthen” the Lord (Matt 4:11; Luke 22:43).
The last section of the psalm (verses 14–16) introduces another speaker, the Father himself. The words He speaks are glorious, and amount to an unqualified endorsement of all that has been said earlier. What greater assurance could there be. And while these words have a plain and indisputable special application to the Son, they also apply to those who walk in the footsteps of the Lord. What great comfort we too can take from them.
“I Will Deliver Him and Honour Him”
In verse 14 the reasons for the care and deliverance of the Son are given:
“Because He hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high [RSV “protect”] because he hath known my name.”
The pronouns “me” and “I” here should arrest our attention. Who is referred to? It is Yahweh Himself who is speaking for He alone can make such statements as follow. It was the great love that the Son had for his Father that was the key to his obedience, and it was this close relationship, this ‘father and son relationship’, that enabled the Son to know the Father’s name and to manifest it (cp v14, John 17:6,26; Psa 72:17 mrg; 118:26).
In the concluding verse the Father assures Jesus that He will respond to his calls and be “with him in trouble…”. Moreover He promises deliverance and honour, long life and salvation (v15,16).
John 12:28 “Then Came There a Voice From Heaven”
There is a remarkable application of the words of Psalm 91 in John 12. Jesus had just been informed that certain Greeks wished “to see” him (v22). This led Jesus to reverie upon the only way in which they would ever be able to truly “see him”. He must die and by this means he knew that the door of faith, bringing salvation to Gentiles, would be opened up (v32). So news of Gentiles wishing to come to him caused Jesus to speak of the effects of his death, “The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified”.
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat [himself] fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die [the crucifixion] it bringeth forth much fruit” [the salvation of Gentiles as well as Jews]. He then speaks of the imperative need for others to “die”—also, if they loved their lives they would eventually lose them. They must become servants of their Lord and this would in the fullness of the purpose of God, bring their salvation: “If any man serve me, him will my Father honour”.
For a moment these thoughts brought Jesus face to face with the enormous responsibilities he bore and the unparalleled sufferings he would have to endure.
It is at this point that we find the remarkable application of the words of Psalm 91 to the ministry of the Lord. In quoting the words of John 12:26, those which allude to the psalm have been highlighted. Jesus says:
“If any man serve me, him will my father honour” [Psa 91:5].
“Now is my soul troubled [Psa 91:15] and what shall I say? Father save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name [Psa 91:14,15]. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again”.
These words were heard by the people standing by; some said that it thundered, and others said, “An angel spoke to him”.
So in this incident we see the Son of God troubled by thoughts of his impending death. We have his prayer to the Father to glorify His Name which would be seen in his obedience unto death, and thereby his resurrection from the grave. But the amazing thing here is the instantaneous response of the Father to this prayer: “Then came there a voice from heaven…”. In an astounding way the promises in Psalm 91:14–16 were affirmed, “He shall call upon me, and I will answer him, I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honour [LXX doxaso, glorify] him”.
It is to be noted that Yahweh does not promise to preserve him from “trouble”. This thought was immediately dismissed by the Lord (v27) because he knew that the climax of his life involved “trouble”, the destruction of the diabolos, the conquest of sin in his death on the cross. In this way the Father’s will would be done and a way of salvation opened up for “Greeks” as well as Jews.
In reviewing what has been written it is to be observed that the three psalms considered (6, 22 and 91) each have a feature in common. They all speak of the trials of Messiah and the prayers that his troubles would elicit. Each of them shows the response of the Father, His answer to the cries of His Son. But more than that is revealed. We have the guarantee of deliverance from death and the reward of “salvation” and “long life”. In the case of the Lord these words are now true. He faithfully complied with the heavy demands laid upon him, and because of him the hope of salvation has been offered to “Greeks”, indeed to “all men”. Herein lies our hope and assurance. Let us not neglect this offer in this our “day of salvation”.