The Father’s Comforting of the Son
By Fred O. Blakely
Those who read Scripture aright are familiar with our Savior’s recurrent need of comfort and enstrengthenment during the days of His flesh. The prayer life to which He was addicted was not prompted by the mere desire to set an example for us His brethren, though it does that. It stemmed primarily from His own crucial necessity for the consolation and fortification of spirit which its fellowship with His Father brought. So great was the stress to which He was subjected that the Lord Jesus seems to have stood constantly in need of help from the heavenly sanctuary.
Like the people of Israel, He had to gather His daily supply of the divine manna in order to maintain the life which He manifested among men. A notable instance of the holy Father’s comforting and strengthening the Son seems to us to be recounted in the 102nd Psalm. It is true that our principal authority for that view is Paul in his epistle to the Hebrews. That, however, is sufficient for us, since we deem the Apostles preeminently qualified to expound the Prophets, which they continually do.
The Scripture of Reference. The Scripture of reference is Psalm 102:23-28. It reads thus: “He weakened my strength in the way; He shortened my days. I said, O my God, take me not away in the midst of my days: Thy years are throughout all generations. Of old hast Thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of Thy hands. They shall perish, but Thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt Thou change them, and they shall be changed: But Thou art the same, and Thy years shall have no end. The children of Thy servants shall continue, and their seed shall be established before thee.”
(The commentaries are not agreed as to the identity of the Psalmist in this case. Some think it was David at the time of Absalom’s insurrection. Others feel that it was Daniel, Nehemiah, or some of the other Prophets, lamenting the low estate of Israel during the Babylonian captivity.) In view of Hebrews 1:10-12, however, it is clear that, whatever the original occasion of the Psalmist’s expression, verses 23-28 especially have their application far beyond his own time. They are, in fact, the record of a dialogue between the Father and the Son in relation to the Latter’s humiliation and death for the race. This is categorically asserted by Paul in the text of reference. The Apostle is in the process of establishing the proposition which he laid down in verse 4 of Hebrews 1, namely, that the Son has been made “much better than the angels.” In proof of this, he adduces seven quotations from the Psalms and alludes to a prophecy by Isaiah, all of which Scriptures attest to the supremacy of the Son over the angelic order, indeed, above all created beings. Verse 10-12 comprise one of these citations, and is the apostolic version of Psalm 102:25-27.
The Address to the Son. Taking up Paul’s train of reasoning at verse 8 of Hebrews 1, we have him declaring, “But unto the Son He [the Father] saith,” etc. There follows the quotation of Psalm 45:6-7 and the allusion to Isaiah 61:1. Then comes verse 10, the beginning of the quotation from Psalm 102. This quotation, clearly, is to be taken with the preface, “But unto the Son He saith,” with which the Apostle began this section of his argument. Thus, it is expressly declared that the assertions of Psalm 102:25-27 were made by the Father to the Son. It was another of the quite numerous instances in which Messiah’s enfleshment and sufferings were portrayed by the Prophets, as the divine Spirit which was in them “testified beforehand” of these things (I Pet. 1:10-12). Paul’s purpose in bringing forward the text of reference in the Hebrew Epistle is to make use of its weight in attestation of the Godhood of Christ.
Establishment of the identity of the Speaker in Psalm 102:25-27 serves more than the immediate intent of the Apostle, however. It opens up verses 23-28 of that Scripture to a grand new view which provides fresh insight into God’s way in comforting and strengthening His “holy Child” (cf. Acts 4:27, 30) during the days of His flesh. “He weakened My strength in the way; He shortened My days. I said, O My God, take Me not away in the midst of My days” (vv. 23-24a). Under the Apostle’s guidance, this word may be taken as the cry of the Son to the Father under the stress of His sufferings and impending death.
It readily correlates to other representations in Scripture of the Savior’s anguish and unburdenment to His Father. Isaiah 49:3-12 makes such a representation. “I have labored in vain, I have spent My strength for naught, and in vain,” sighs the Christ in view of His rejection by the Jews (v. 4). The twenty-second Psalm, of course, is replete with like expressions by the Spirit of Christ. “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? Why art Thou so far from helping Me, and from the words of My roaring?” (vv.1-2). “All they that see Me laugh Me to scorn” (vv. 6-8). “Many bulls have compassed Me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset Me round” (vv. 12-13). “I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of My bowels” (vv. 14-18). The Hebrew letter itself contains a distinct reference to these miseries of our Savior and to His recourse to the Father in them. “Who in the days of His flesh,” chronicles its writer of Christ, “when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared” (Heb. 5:7-10).
With Psalm 102:23-24a understood in this way, as the cry of the Son to His God and Father, the remaining portion of the chapter (vv. 24b-28) obviously is the Latter’s response to that cry, as the Apostle declares it to be. So comprehended, it becomes a classic demonstration of the divine method of enstrengthenment, as we have said. “Thy years are throughout all generations,” the Father reminds the embattled Son, going on to elaborate this reminder in verses 25-26. In verse 27, He points out that after the present earth and heavens have been “changed” for the new and eternal order, the Son shall remain “the same,” His years having “no end.” It is then added that this same eternity is assured the Son’s seed, which shall be established before Him (v. 28; cf. Isa. 53:8, 10). All this is by way of response to the stricken Sufferer’s lament that God had shortened His days (v. 23), and is designed as comfort and encouragement to Him in the prospect of death which confronted Him.
The Nature of the Comfort. The nature of this comfort for the Son needs to be particularly noted. It was not a direct spiritual benefit conferred from Heaven independent of means and of the Beneficiary’s faculties. Rather, it was by way of an appeal to the actual facts in the case, which in themselves, when duly considered, would provide the needed ministry. In other words, the Father simply stirred up the Son’s “pure mind by way of remembrance” (cf. II Pet. 3:1-2) of who He is as to Person and what was destined for Him in experience. He was “in the beginning with God,” and “was God,” and “all things were made by Him” (Jn. 1:1-3). In His capacity as the Savior of the world, the Father, who cannot lie, had solemnly covenanted with Him to hold His “right hand” during the days of His humiliation and suffering (cf. Isa. 41:10-14), to “prolong” His days (Isa. 53:10), satisfying Him with “long life” (Ps. 91:14-16). In the answer by the Father to the Son’s cry recorded in Psalm 102:23-28, the Latter is reminded of these facts for consolation in time of need.
In the Isaiah 49:3-12 text already cited, the procedure is the same. Answering the Savior’s lament that His labor seemed at the time to be in vain, the Father reassured Him, “And now, saith the Lord that formed Thee from the womb,” it is recorded, “to be His Servant, to bring Jacob again to Him, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and My God shall be My strength. And He said, It is a light thing that Thou shouldest be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give Thee for a light to the Gentiles, that Thou mayest be My salvation unto the end of the earth.” See also Ps. 2:1-9; 72:8-11; Isa. 9:6-7; Jer. 23:5-8; Dan. 7:13-14; Zech. 9:9-10; Mt. 28:18; Eph. 1:19-23; I Pet. 3:22; Rev. 1:5. So did God set before our Lord the joy that was in sure prospect for Him as the antidote for the burden and grief of the way to it (Heb. 12:1-3). And in the renewed grasp of that prospect thus provided, He was comforted and encouraged to continue in the task to which He had set His heart and His hand.
The Application to Us. In this classic instance of the Master’s eating of the Father, as it were (Jn. 6:57), or being comforted and being fortified by Him, is to be found the pattern for Heaven’s like ministry to us His brethren and servants. Weariness and discouragement often beset us in the course of our trial of faith, and with our great Captain and Exemplar we are made to cry unto God for mercy and grace to sustain us. And, blessed be His Name!, as He has promised, He ear is always open to those who so call upon Him in truth (Ps. 34:15; 50:15). In the supply of our needs, however, He does not ignore or bypass the gracious provisions and assurances made and set forth in Scripture. There may be exceptional occasions for what the theologians have called “the direct operation of the Spirit” on our spirit apart from the written Word of God. But, if so, they are just that—exceptions, not the usual rule of procedure. Ordinarily, God proceeds after the manner in which He dealt with the Only Begotten, by bringing to our remembrance the circumstances and promises related to us, which are contained in the Scriptures.
Is it the fear of death that troubles us? The Spirit would remind us of the precious words of our Savior, “Whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die” (Jn. 11:25-26). Again, “He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life” (Jn. 5:24; cf. ch. 3:36; I Jn. 5:8-12). Are we uncertain about our filial relationship to the Father? It is written, “As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His Name” (Jn. 1:12-13). And again, “Ye are all the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ” (Gal. 3:26-29). And yet again, to believers it is asserted, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God” (I Jn. 3:1-2). The Father will dispel the uncertainty by calling this fact to our attention the fact of our veritable sonship through Christ.
Do apprehensions about our ability to endure to the end in the good fight of faith, thus overcoming the world, plague us? The Spirit would minister to us in this need by stirring up our minds to what is contained in the Scriptures of truth: “Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world,” and “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? (I Jn. 5:4-5).
The way of our Lord Jesus in ministering to His harbinger, John the Baptist, demonstrates this way of God. “Art Thou He that should come, or do we look for another?” queried the incarcerated John in apparent disheartenment from his sufferings (Mt. 11:2-6). “In that same hour,” we are told, the Savior “cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind He gave sight.” Whereupon, He addressed John’s two disciples whom he had sent with the question. “Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached, and blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in Me” (Lk. 7:19-23). The enwearied Baptist was expected to extract from this fresh evidence of Jesus’ identity the reassurance concerning it, which he needed, and to be comforted in his tribulation thereby.
When the cross seems to weigh heavily upon us, therefore, let us be duly admonished by these considerations. Our comfort and encouragement must come by proper attention to the actual facts in the case. We are to “think soberly” upon the situation (Rom. 12:3), judging “righteous judgment,” and not after the outward appearance (Jn. 7:24).
And it is heartening, indeed, to know that through Christ we have the blessed “Spirit of truth” to bring to our remembrance, illuminate, and invigorate that truth, making it effectual to the sustaining and edifying of our hearts (Jn. 14:17). So are we strengthened by God “the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort,” in the same way in which His only begotten Son was strengthened by Him (II Cor. 1:3-4). Precious, of a truth, is this experience of fellowship with Him in both the affliction of the cross and the consolation of the Father! The End