It's a challenge for many in the church to read the Old Testament without the light of Christ. That is, to read the verses on their own merit without thinking they must be hearkening forward to their fulfillment in Jesus. Yesterday, we saw this idea of "Christological" reading in Psalm 22, where David begins his lament with those words that became famous on the Cross:
My God, my God...why have you abandoned me?
It's so easy, and in a sense, so natural for us to read this psalm and think of Christ. But as we saw yesterday, this type of reading has its problems. The argument might be, however, that reading it not in this way also has its problems. Right?
I don't think so.
But isn't it less amazing, less awesome if Jesus just "stole" some of David's words on the Cross, rather than David writing those words with Jesus in mind? Isn't the story of Jesus diminished if words like this aren't prophecy?
Again, I don't think so.
I think...this may actually be more beautiful.
If David wrote these words thinking of Jesus, then David is a prophet. Jesus is the fulfillment of prophecy. Everything becomes very systematic; each man has his role to play. The story of God follows its natural, prophesied trajectory, and to a certain degree, we are all but cogs in the wheels of the angelic beings of Ezekiel. Are we not? But something about this whole idea impresses us. The idea that God so ordains the world that such things can work out this way...it's amazing. It's incredible.
But you know what's more incredible?
What's more incredible is if David is not a prophet. What's more incredible is if Jesus is no mere Messiah. What's more incredible is if David is just a guy like any other guy, a human being just like you or me, and he wrote these powerful words out of his own breaking heart. And then, generations later, Jesus takes these words to the Cross. Himself a man, a guy like any other guy (but perfect, of course), a human being just like you or me. And He comes for the sake of human beings just like you and me...and takes the story of human beings to the Cross with Him.
What's amazing is not if David knew what Jesus would take to the Cross, but if Jesus takes David to the Cross with Him. That's what's amazing.
Because isn't that what Jesus came to do?
Didn't He come to take our place? Didn't He come to take our burden? Didn't He come to die our death? Didn't He come to take our stories to the Cross with Him? If that's true, then whatever it is we call "prophecy" in the Old Testament becomes less impressive. It is less like Jesus to say the words that David says He might say than it is to take David's story, David's journey, David's spiritual distress to the Cross with Him and crucify it.
The same could be said of any number of verses in the Old Testament that we like to read Christologically. Taken in their own context, they just don't make sense as prophecy. They seem anomalous or anachronistic, and they leave us with the same problems that we saw yesterday with the words of this psalm. But if we leave them in their own context, if we don't try so hard to bring these Scriptures to the Cross, we see something truly incredible:
Christ brings these Scriptures to the Cross. Christ brings these stories to Golgotha. Christ bears the weight of the spiritual stories of the kings, the prophets, the judges, the people, the guys just like any other guys, the human beings just like you and me. Christ brings all these to the Cross if we'll just let Him. If we'll stop reading Jesus first and instead read David, read Isaiah, read Jeremiah, read Amos, read you, read me. When we let these be our words, our hearts and we lay them down, Christ picks them up.
And that may be the most amazing story of all.
Don't get me wrong - there are certainly prophecies about Jesus in the Old Testament. If there weren't, we could never understand who this Son of God is. But we have to be very careful about which Scriptures we're willing to read this way, about which words we're willing to say look forward. Because many of these verses look inward, to the broken hearts of the prophets themselves. And only when we give these hearts their proper reading can we discover the true heart of God.