Psalm 110-118 contains an apocalyptic concerto which proclaims the Messiah and unveils what it means to be a part of the covenant people of God. Each movement or sonata is separated by the phrase "Praise the LORD" which is set apart by itself as one line. Combined together, these sonatas provide a powerful story in music concerning God’s plan for the future.
Here is a brief synopsis with one sentence for each psalm. A Messiah who is Priest and King will one day judge the Gentile nations while His people follow Him willingly. His people are those who partake of the redemption available according to His covenant. These blessed people fear the LORD and delight in His commandments. God brings them into a community in which all are His servants, yet His royal children. Israel was the beginning of the dominion of this covenant people. One day they will cry out to God to bring glory to His name through the house of Israel. This Messiah will descend into the realm of death, return into the land of the living, then begin His priestly ministry. Gentile nations will praise the LORD for what He has done for His covenant people. The Anointed King-Priest who was rejected will be made the chief cornerstone.
Psalm 110 ~ The opening sonata declares summarily what will happen in the future in a mere seven verses or twenty lines. It’s almost as if the psalmist is whetting your appetite for the entire concerto by giving you a taste of the end at the very beginning. This Messianic figure who is both Priest and King will establish His rule, execute His wrath, judge among the nations, all while having a people who willingly follow Him. He will rule His people from Zion in spite of any enemies who come against Him. We could use our imagination and almost hear an arrangement of strings with some light brass excitedly proclaiming the opening ideas in this story.
Psalm 111 ~ This sonata severely shifts the focus. Imagine the opening excitement in the music dying down as some quieter instruments such as flutes, clarinets, and perhaps cellos come in to set the tone for a movement in music concerning how God deals with His people according to His covenant. The common thread between the two sonatas connects from 110:3 (thy people) 110:6 (among the heathen) to 111:6 (the covenant people being given the heritage of the heathen). Although I do not ascribe to what is popularly termed "Covenant Theology", the language of God dealing with a covenant people is clearly present in Psalm 111.
The opening two lines in verse 1 tell of the assembly of the upright in the congregation. This is a reference to the believing remnant which became known as the church at Pentecost. Hebrew words for assembly and congregation in the Old Testament have Greek correlations which are translated as synagogue and church in the New Testament. In the Old Testament it was a believing remnant within the nation of Israel with some Gentiles glorifying God alongside of them. At Pentecost, this remnant was baptized by the Holy Spirit. Later, the way was opened for any Gentile to participate in Israel’s New Covenant without becoming an official member of the nation of Israel. But the modus operandi of God working through the assembly of the church has not changed. The assembly of the congregation spoken of here in this psalm is really the church present in the Old Testament.
What is prevalent throughout this psalm is that God is the One doing all the work. God is making His work to be remembered. God is keeping His covenant at the forefront of His mind. What God does stands fast forever. In verse 9 we have what is an inference to Israel. He sent redemption to His people in conjunction with commanding His covenant forever. So the work that God is accomplishing which is being sung about which will last forever has to do with His covenant which includes purchasing a people for Himself. Redemption and Covenant are synonymous in this psalm. The last verse in this sonata serves as a precursor to the following sonata. Verse 10 begins to speak of the individual who fears the LORD.
Psalm 112 ~ The transition into the next sonata is quite smooth. The instruments which now join in add emphasis by creating depth. The clear, deep tones of French horns allow the importance of functioning as part of the covenant people of God to shine through in the music. The psalmist begins singing of characteristics of individuals who would be included in this covenant people. He is first denoted as the man that fears the LORD, is not afraid of bad news, and gives to the poor. The blessings which are upon this man are not given a time frame. It is only stated that this man will receive them. We could conclude that they will receive these blessings at the time when Messiah becomes judge over all nations. The final verse in this sonata sounds forth an upward swell in the music as this theme of judgement upon the wicked is briefly mentioned. The entire string section joins in with a trumpet sounding forth God’s judgement upon the ungodly.
Psalm 113 ~ This sonata continues the theme of being the covenant people of God. While this movement is short in length being eighteen lines, it opens up the truth that this people of God is a society in which social distinctions have been eliminated. While maintaining their individuality, each person participating in the covenant is both demoted to the place of mere servant, and promoted to the place of a prince —or dare I write?—child of the King. A woman who has no children, when promoted within God’s people, will be a mother of a houseful. The praise being given is in the plural, from a community of people who has come under God’s authority, realizing that the LORD dwells on high and must humble Himself to participate in the affairs of men. In light of God’s sovereign place, each citizen under His rule is both royalty and slave at the same time. We can envision the tension in the music slightly building as the added dimension of being noble servants is accompanied by chimes, handbells, and perhaps a xylophone.
Psalm 114-115 introduces the theme of Israel. Up until this point there have been no direct references except perhaps for Zion in 110:2. As the musical tones shift, imagine the beat of a slow march rolling off the leather of the drums. Israel is marching up out of the land of bondage. At that point in time, God established His dominion within the newborn nation of Israel. This explains why the Red Sea parted at the presence of Israel, why mountains smoked, the earth trembled, and the rocks gushed out water; Israel embodied the presence of the holy place of the God of Israel. 115:1-2 sing out the appeal of Israel to God to act on their behalf. The reason they expect God to answer this request is simple. Why should these heathen (Gentile nations) ask "Where is their God?" The plea to God that the dead cannot praise God leads into the next movement
Psalm 116 ~ Here the entire chorus of voices diminishes into a single voice singing in a minor key. No longer do we have the people of God being sung about, but here the grim pronouncement of the Saviour/Messiah of the people of God is singing of His descent into the grave, making for a dark turn in the sound of the music. But this single voice is related to the chorus of God’s covenant people which has been the theme from 111-115. We know that this voice is the Priest and King who was the subject of Psalm 110. In the midst of experiencing the sorrows of death, the pains of hell, and the trouble of the grave, this Messiah calls on the name of the LORD who rescues Him. After experiencing the realm of the dead, the Messiah enters into the land of the living, a place of rest, and a place of priestly ministry for God’s people. Toward the end of this sonata, the theme of the entire body of God’s covenant people resurfaces, as we see Messiah has entered the realm of death for these very people. While this sonata began with a single voice singing in darkness, the turn toward salvation in the midst paves the way for a chorus of voices praising God that eclipses the anguish of hell and death with hope beyond the grave.
Psalm 117 ~ The full chorus is restored to the symphony once again, and this time, to an even wider range of voices. As the King-Priest has descended into hell for His covenant people, as He is currently interceding for them as a priest, as He will rule over them as King when He establishes His kingdom, this means that the Gentiles can now rejoice. This sonata tells us that the Gentile nations over whom Messiah will reign can rejoice because of God’s merciful kindness toward Israel. These are the nations whose leadership have been (or shortly will be) smashed like clay pots by the Messiah and Messiah’s people. This tells us that when Messiah institutes His reign, He is really saving the nations, not destroying them. But we see that judgement is the way to salvation. National judgement leads to national salvation. The issue is not Israel against the nations, but Israel for the nations. The music here is pulsing with anticipation pulling the listener along in this theme of all nations coming under the rule and reign of the Messiah of Israel. Psalm 117:1 may very well be the apex of this entire concerto. No wonder the Apostle Paul gives it such importance!
Psalm 118 ~ Every individual piece of music which stood alone in previous sonatas now comes together for the climactic finale. Israel, as God’s covenant people, is appealing to all who fear the LORD. The Messiah is back from the dead proclaiming victory over Gentile nations, just as He proclaimed victory over death, hell, and the grave. This Messiah is at a New Zion entering a gate into the very kingdom of the LORD. There is an antiphonal piece in verses 19-24 which captures the heart of this entire concerto. The Messiah sings victoriously in 19-21 for the gates to be opened unto Him. The people respond back that the stone which the builders rejected has been made the chief cornerstone. This is the LORD’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes. Here is Messiah back from the grave, back from the dead, back from rejection, and we are willingly following Him. Not only is He our ruler, but He rules over all nations. Each individual within God’s covenant people adds his or her voice just as instruments are added in to an orchestra. The combined cacaphony continues into verses 25-27. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD. As Messiah’s kingdom is established, we bless you from the house of the LORD. As Messiah ascends the throne, God has made His light to shine upon us. As Messiah assumes His priestly ministries here, bind the festal sacrifice onto the altar. Messiah’s voice closes the concerto in verses 28-29, giving praise to the LORD.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman