“It is zeal for your house that has consumed me; the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” Psalm 69:9
This is the verse that most stood out to me on this reading of these four chapters. Of course, this is one verse from the Psalms in which the New Testament sees a reference to an event from the life of Jesus. (See John 2:17.)
What are we to make of the supposedly prophetic element in the Psalms? On this subject, C. S. Lewis has an entire chapter in his book, Reflections on the Psalms. He begins by saying:
In a certain sense Our Lord’s interpretation of the Psalms was common ground between Himself and His opponents. The question we mentioned a moment ago, how David can call Christ “my Lord” (Mark 12, 35-37), would lose its point unless it were addressed to those who took it for granted that the “my Lord” referred to in Psalm 110 was the Messiah, the regal and anointed deliverer who would subject the world to Israel. This method was accepted by all. The “scriptures” all had a “spiritual” or second sense. Even a gentile “God-fearer” like the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8, 27-38) knew that the sacred books of Israel could not be understood without a guide, trained in the Judaic tradition, who could open the hidden meanings. Probably all instructed Jews in the first century saw references to the Messiah in most of those passages where Our Lord saw them; what was controversial was His identification of the Messianic King with another Old Testament figure and of both with Himself.
Two figures meet us in the Psalms, that of the sufferer and that of the conquering and liberating king. In 13, 28, 55 or 102, we have the Sufferer; in 2 or 72, the King. The Sufferer was, I think, by this time generally identified with (and may sometimes have originally been intended as) the whole nation, Israel itself—they would have said “himself”. The King was the successor of David, the coming Messiah. Our Lord identified Himself with both these characters.
In principle, then, the allegorical way of reading the Psalms can claim the highest possible authority. But of course this does not mean that all the countless applications of it are fruitful, legitimate, or even rational. What we see when we think we are looking into the depths of Scripture may sometimes be only the reflection of our own silly faces. Many allegorical interpretations which were once popular seem to me, as perhaps to most moderns, to be strained, arbitrary and ridiculous. I think we may be sure that some of them really are; we ought to be much less sure that we know which. What seems strained—a mere triumph of perverse ingenuity—to one age, seems plain and obvious to another, so that our ancestors would often wonder how we could possibly miss what we wonder how they could have been silly-clever enough to find. And between different ages there is no impartial judge on earth, for no one stands outside the historical process; and of course no one is so completely enslaved to it as those who take our own age to be, not one more period, but a final and permanent platform from which we can see all other ages objectively.
Interpretations which were already established in the New Testament of course have a special claim on our attention. (Reflections on the Psalms, pp. 120-122)
We will see more on this point as we continue working our way through the Psalms.