I am beginning a short series on Romans 15 focusing on the prophecies that Paul quotes here, and in what way he sees them as being fulfilled from the New Testament perspective. I believe the apostles were not just picking prophecies out of thin air, but had given themselves to fervent study both of the Lord Jesus’ words and the Hebrew scriptures. They had a consistent hermeneutic which we don’t always understand, but we know their insight of these scriptures to be directly from the Holy Spirit. Hence, how they quote the Old Testament is of immeasurable value to us.
The first quote I almost did not include since the bulk of what I’d like to write about is contained in one thought flow in Romans 15:8-12. But in Romans 15:3, Paul quotes Psalm 69:9 in relation to Christ not pleasing Himself. Paul is closing out a passage which began at Romans 14:1 which concerns differing beliefs about personal choices within the body of Christ. Some believed they could eat anything; others were convinced they shouldn’t eat any meat. Some believed certain days were to be observed; to others, every day should be a holiday (holy day). Paul appeals to our unity in Christ in 14:8-9. He defines the essence of the kingdom in 14:17, which is a great verse to memorize. Then in 15:1, he is summarizing his final thoughts on the matter. Those who are strong in their faith should be able to bear the infirmities of those who are weak in the faith.
For instance, I understand that every creature on earth was created by God for us as food. Perhaps I’m a hunter, or an angler, or just someone who likes to buy a big, thick, juicy steak every once in a while. But I have a Christian brother who believes that we should not harm animals and therefore abstains from eating any meat due to that conviction. My brother should respect my conviction to be able to hunt, fish, and shop as I choose and not hold a grudge against me. On the other hand, I should not be looking down on my brother for not eating meat, or think he is silly for not seeing things my way. If we are going out to dinner together, the best thing I could do is order a salad knowing he has the convictions that he has.
Someone may think in dealing with other believers with differing convictions that we shouldn’t have to put up with their personal convictions. Romans 15:1-3 says otherwise. Each one of us should carry the weight of the others’ convictions instead of doing what pleases us. We should aim to please our neighbor (fellow Christians in this context) to build him up right where he is. Whether we eat, or refrain from eating a certain thing, whether we observe a certain day in a certain way, or we live everyday to the glory of God, we need to live to please our Christian brothers and sisters in this area always remembering that the kingdom of God doesn’t even consist of food and drink, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Then Paul points to Christ and Christ’s example in His death. "For even Christ pleased not Himself: but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me." Here the Apostle Paul is quoting Psalm 69:9. In this obviously Messianic psalm, we see the rejection of David, and the One whom David is prophesying about intertwined in one song. This is not the only place in the NT where this particular psalm is quoted in relation to Jesus Christ. I count 4 direct quotes and what I believe are 9 inferences (or allusions).
69:4 is quoted by Jesus in John 15:25 showing that the hatred the world had for Him was well anticipated, "They hated me without a cause." I believe 69:8 is alluded in Matthew 12:46-50, Mark 3:31-35, and Luke 8:19-21 when describing Jesus’ relationship with His mother and brothers. The psalm and the gospel passages are specific in exactly who is being referred to: brothers and family of the mother.
The previous portion of verse 9 is quoted by John in reference to Jesus driving out the money changers in the temple, John 2:17. This rejected figure would be consumed with zeal for the house of the LORD which is the temple. The disciples saw this zeal demonstrated in Jesus’ anger at His Father’s house being turned into just another place of business. It is not entirely clear if the disciples came to this conclusion at the time of the cleansing of the temple or after Jesus rose from the dead. My guess is that they made the connection with this scripture at the time that Jesus drove the money changers out since it specifies in John 2:22 that they understood about His body being the temple after He was risen from the dead, but at John 2:17 there is no direct temporal reference which would mean that the time that they remembered that particular scripture was at the time of Jesus’ actions.
The prophecy of 69:21 is not directly quoted as being fulfilled by any of the gospel writers, but Matthew, Luke, and John all mention vinegar as being offered as a drink, Matthew in particular records that it was vinegar mingled with gall. It would be difficult to argue that the disciples did not believe that 69:21 was fulfilled at the cross, in spite of the absence of the phrase "that it might be fulfilled which was spoken…" in relation to this prophecy. I believe all four gospel writers were alluding to this verse when they wrote their description of Jesus’ suffering on the cross.
69:22-23 is quoted by the Apostle Paul earlier in the book of Romans. The context of Psalm 69:22-23 would be that whoever was responsible for these awful acts against this Messianic suffering servant (69:17), there would be this curse pronounced against them by the One who is offering this song as a prayer to the LORD. Paul expounds on this in Romans 11:9-10 showing that the curse is pronounced on those in the nation of Israel who have not believed on Jesus as Messiah, but have rejected Him. Paul tells us that "their eyes being darkened so they cannot see" is a spiritual blindness also prophesied of in Isaiah 29:10.
Now jumping over verse 24 and focusing on verse 25, after the majority of Israel had not repented at the miracles of Jesus, did Jesus then pronounce the curse of Psalm 69:25 upon the nation of Israel in Matthew 23:28 and Luke 13:35? I think it’s worth considering. The predication would be that "since you have rejected me, hated me without a cause, and reproached me, your house is left desolate just as prophesied in Psalm 69." Peter certainly applies this to Judas in Acts 1:20 along with Psalm 109:8. In fact, all who turn their back on Jesus will be left desolate. So I believe that there is one direct quote, but two other allusions to this verse.
The entire scope of Psalm 69 is quite depressing. There is no place in all the psalm where the persecuted servant is rescued by God. The psalm consists almost entirely of this rejected figure crying out to God for deliverance. Not once does the psalmist record where God proves His faithfulness by lifting him out of the pit, defending his reputation, or even pouring out His indignation upon those whom the psalmist is cursing. The prayer is one of complete faith since God has done absolutely nothing. How did David feel as the rightful king of Israel yet rejected by his own countrymen? This psalm gives us a glimpse into the tortured thoughts of his mind crying out to God for vengeance on his behalf. How did Christ feel on the cross, forsaken by all His best friends and most of all, by His Father in heaven? This psalm gives us a glimpse into the emotional trauma that Jesus had to endure for you and I. I say "had to endure", but the truth is, He wanted to endure that suffering for the joy of being united with you and I.
But now back to the original thought flow of Romans 15:3. (About time, huh?) Since Christ in His ministry of rejection did not please Himself, but took upon Himself the curses, insults, and reproaches that sinful men hurled at God, we ought not to think it too great a burden to carry another brother or sister’s weaknesses. He’s basically saying, "Stop thinking of yourself so much since Christ wasn’t thinking of Himself when He went to the cross."
The verse which follows is one of the reasons why I included this OT quotation in with this study. "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." Far from instructing us to ignore the OT or apply it to another dispensation, the Apostle Paul tells us that all the scriptures that were written before the time of the apostles were written for the purpose of instructing us, comforting us, and giving us hope. That’s one of the principles that I operate under as I read the OT and read the quotes of the OT in the NT. I also believe as New Testament priests that we are free to see Christ in other portions of this Messianic psalm, even if a certain verse is not quoted in the New Testament by an apostle. I have already noted some allusions that I see, but I believe there is a future aspect to this psalm as well.
The section of Psalm 69:29-33 changes the tone so that the psalmist is praising God for setting him up on high. Can we see the ascension here? The psalmist also sings of God being pleased with something better than an animal sacrifice. Can we see the propitiation of the sins of the world here? Then the last section of 34-36 tells us that God will save Zion and build the cities of Judah for the purpose of the inhabitants living there to possess it as an inheritance. I see this as yet future. For those who see this as entirely heavenly (which I don’t) and not occurring on the earth, there is still the aspect of an inheritance which we have not received yet. The verse speaks of heaven, earth, the seas, and everything in them praising Him because He will accomplish certain things in the future. And should we attempt to think strictly in terms of Israel in these verses, God has chosen to word this prophetic portion in this way, "Those who love His name shall dwell in it." That’s us. I like that.
As I get into the next OT quotation, remember that whatever was written aforetime was written for our learning.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman