I tend to study the Old Testament blithely, forming opinions and drawing conclusions. I read commentaries and lament my lack of Hebrew knowledge and undoubtedly learn much. But then I read the New Testament, and my understanding of the old doesn’t fit with what the writers of the new seem to say. I’ve caught myself thinking that Jesus is misquoting the Bible—clearly a logical impossibility. God can’t misquote God.
Lately, I’ve been studying Hebrews and its quoted passages from the Old Testament with my small group. Last night we read Psalm 45, titled a “Love Song” or a “Wedding Song.” Addressed to a bride and a groom, it joyously celebrates the wedding of a king. In midstream, the psalmist states:
Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom. You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you
above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy. All your robes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia. —Psalm 45:6-8, TNIV
We can debate this passage at length. Is it addressed to Solomon or to another king? Why do the statements change focus?
When we approach Hebrews 1, it suddenly makes sense:
But about the Son he says, "Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever, a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy." —Hebrews 1:8-9, TNIV
So the question begs to be asked—did the psalmist fully know whom he was writing about? Did he have a conscious knowledge of the coming king, or was he simply caught up in an outpouring of worship? Did he know whom they were shadowing in their praises?
Lately, I’ve come to a deeper realization of what Jesus meant when He said, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17, TNIV). It’s as if all that came before was representative of His glory, a dim picture of Christ. Obscure references in the Old Testament make sense when Jesus is considered. Practices that God commanded His people to observe, which may seem a bit strange, are simply echoes of the glory of Christ.
This is even more mind-blowing to me: The world we live in and the understanding we have of the Scripture is a shadow of what is to come. “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12, TNIV). Perhaps this explains why sincere, intelligent Christians disagree on fundamental matters such as predestination and free will, and why Scripture seems to be contradictory—God’s real plan is far beyond what our puny human brains can understand.
When Christ comes, those doubts that we harbor about Him and His purposes will suddenly disappear. As He fulfilled the old covenant when He came to earth, He will fulfill His purpose for our world when He comes in glory.
In The Last Battle, C.S. Lewis illustrates this concept in a story paralleling God’s plans for humanity. Aslan, the King, has brought his followers to the “new” Narnia after the destruction of the old world. Lucy wonders why the new Narnia looks much like the old Narnia, only bigger and brighter. She is told:
When Aslan said you could never go back to Narnia, he meant the Narnia you were thinking of. But that was not the real Narnia. That had a beginning and an end. It was only a shadow or a copy of the real Narnia, which has always been here and always will be here: just as our world, England and all, is only a shadow or copy of something in Aslan’s real world … All of the old Narnia that mattered, all the dear creatures, have been drawn into the real Narnia through the Door. And of course it is different; as different as a real thing is from a shadow or as waking life is from a dream …