This year at Sojourn Community Church we are working through the entire Old Testament, the two-thirds of the Bible that is largely neglected and misinterpreted in evangelical churches.
In addition to the sermon series, which is working through the major narratives and redemptive movements, most of the congregation is following the same OT reading plan, so by the time 2010 rolls around we all will have read the entire Old Testament.
This has already proved challenging, not only in keeping up with the reading but also knowing what to do with many passages that seem to be contrary to many presuppositions I hold about God, humankind, and the Bible.
For instance, Psalm 18:20-24 reads,
"The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness;
according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me.
For I have kept the ways of the Lord,
and have not wickedly departed from my God.
For all his rules were before me,
and his statutes I did not put away from me.
I was blameless before him,
and I kept myself from my guilt.
So the Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight."
The writer of Psalm 18, David, seems to be suggesting that he has earned God's favor by being righteous, which is in direct opposition to a plethora of passages emphasizing that salvation comes through divine grace alone, such as Ephesians 2:8-9 or Galatians 3:11. Ostensibly, Psalm 18 seems to be an divinely inspired musician singing "I was good enough."
However, a careful examination of this passages prevents this interpretation. The Book of Psalms is a collection of collections- songs spanning throughout Israel's history. Psalm 18 is slightly modified from 2 Samuel 22, in which David composes this song of worship after God delivers him from being killed by Saul.
The significance? 2 Samuel is painfully blunt about David's numerous moral failures. Examined in its original literary context, it would be pretty difficult to believe that the people of God believed their King was morally blameless.
More so, later on in Psalm 18:31-32, the Psalmist reflects:
"For who is God, but the Lord?
And who is a rock, except our God?—
the God who equipped me with strength
and made my way blameless."
Clearly, in this verse David sees his own righteousness as a result of divine intervention. It is God who does the work of sanctification.
Ultimately this royal hymn can as be seen as Christological. It concludes in Psalms 18:49-50:
"For this I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations,
and sing to your name.
Great salvation he brings to his king,
and shows steadfast love to his anointed,
to David and his offspring forever."
Just as David was God's anointed ruler over his people, so Jesus, descended in the line of David, was God's anointed one - which in Greek is christos, or Christ. Amazingly, David's own salvation would ultimately be found in his descendant.
This idea is beautifully captured in a song by The Welcome Wagon, "Hail to the Lord's Anointed".
Hail to the Lord's anointed, great David's greater Son!
Hail to the time appointed, His reign on earth begun!
He comes to break opression, to set the captive free;
To take away trangression and rule in equity.