Psalm 22 - Part 1 (series: Lessons on Psalms)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

This psalm is called the Psalm of the Cross. It has been given this name because it describes more accurately and minutely the crucifixion of Christ than does any other portion of the Word of God.

This psalm is called the Psalm of the Cross. It has been given this name because it describes more accurately and minutely the crucifixion of Christ than does any other portion of the Word of God.

May 10, 2014

Tom Lowe


Psalm 22 (KJV)


Title: The Psalm of the Cross
To the chief Musician upon Aijeleth Shahar (or the hind of the morning)
A Psalm of David.


Introduction

This psalm is called the Psalm of the Cross. It has been given this name because it describes more accurately and minutely the crucifixion of Christ than does any other portion of the Word of God. It corresponds, needless to say, to the twenty-second chapter of Genesis and the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah.

In Psalm 22 we have an x-ray which penetrates into His inner life. In this psalm we see the anguish of His passion; His soul is laid bare. In the gospels is recorded the historical facts of His death, and some of the events that attended His crucifixion; but only in Psalm 22 are His thoughts revealed. It has been the belief of many scholars that actually the Lord Jesus, while on the cross, quoted the entire twenty-second psalm; but since it is not recorded in the Bible that belief is placed in the category of conjecture.

Instead of standing beneath the cross and listening to Him, we are going to hang on the cross with Him. We shall view the crucifixion from a new vantage point—from the cross itself. And we can look with Him on those beneath His cross, as He was hanging there, and see what went on in His heart and in His mind. We shall see what occurred in His soul as He became the sacrifice for the sins of the world. As He was suspended there between heaven and earth, He became the ladder let down from heaven to this earth so that men might have a way to God.

We were there, if you please, on that cross as He was made sin for us—“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Co. 5:21). We were as truly on that cross as He died as we today are in Christ by faith. Peter put it like this: “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed” (1 Pe. 2:21).

This is an unusual psalm in that there is no reference to sin as the cause of the trouble, no plea of innocence, no claim of righteousness, and no vengeance. Therefore the words are peculiarly appropriate when applied to the suffering Messiah, although in their primary meaning they are based on some experience of the psalmist.



Commentary

“MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAST THOU FORSAKEN ME?”

Psalm 22 opens up with the plaintive and desperate cry of the poor, lone Man forsaken by God.


1 My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?

What we have here is something I want to emphasize from the very beginning—a record of His human suffering. We see Him as a man nailed to the cross, “. . . the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). We get more light on this matter by turning to the Epistle to the Hebrews: “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man” (Heb. 2:9). This is what we are looking at—the One who left heavens glory and became a Man. He became a Man in order to reveal God to us, yes, that is true; but most of all, it was to redeem man. “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14).

He could save no one by His life; it was His sacrificial death that saves. “And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” (Heb. 2:15-16, 18). We see the Man Christ Jesus on the cross as perfect Man. He had learned to rest upon God. He had learned to trust Him in all that He did. He said, “. . . I do always those things that please Him” (John 8:29). But all the way back in that desperate and despairing hour He was abandoned by God. There was no place He could turn, either on the human plane or on the divine. He had no place to go. The Man Christ Jesus was forsaken. No entirely human man has ever had to experience that. No one. Only Jesus alone.

When Jesus spoke these words from the

cross—“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”—He was quoting this verse, and that gives it unique sacredness (Mark 15:34{14]).

Why did God forsake Him?


2 O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.

Why was He forsaken by God? Because on the cross in those last three hours, in the impenetrable darkness, He was made sin.

But none of the ransomed ever knew
How deep were the waters crossed;
Nor how dark was the night that the Lord passed through
Ere he found His sheep that was lost.

He was forsaken for a brief moment. The paradox is that at that precise moment God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself. And the Lord Jesus Himself said, “Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me” (John 16:32). The Father was with Him when He was in prison, the Father was with Him when He was being beaten, and the Father was with Him when they nailed Him to the cross. But in those last three hours, He made His soul an offering for sin, and it pleased the Father to bruise Him (Isa. 53:10{1]).

Forsaken. My friend, you do not know what that is; and I don’t know what it is to be forsaken by God. The vilest man on this earth today is not forsaken by God. Anyone can turn to Him. But when Christ takes my sin upon Himself, He is forsaken by God.

“Why hast thou forsaken Me?” It is not the “why” of impatience. It is not the “why” of despair; it is not the “why” of doubt. It is the human cry of intense suffering, aggravated by the anguish of His innocent and holy life. That awful and agonizing cry of the loneliness of His passion! He was alone with the sins of the world upon Him.

“Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?” (v. 1). Roaring? Yes. At His trial He was silent, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth” (Isa. 53:7). When they beat Him, He said nothing; when they nailed Him to the cross, He did not whimper. But when God forsook Him, He roared like a lion. It was a roar of pain. Have you ever been in the woods when dogs attacked an animal? Have you heard the shriek of that animal? There is nothing quite like it. And that is what the writer is trying to convey to us here. I think that shriek from the cross cracked the rocks, for it had been His voice that created them. Now the Creator is suffering! On that cross He cried like a wounded animal; His was not even a human cry but like a wild, roaring lion. It was the plaintive shriek and the wail of unalterable woe as our sins were pressed down upon Him.

It is true that God did forsake His Son for those last three hours that He hung on the cross; but does He ever forsake His adopted children who come to Him by faith in His Son? Didn’t He say, “. . . I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb. 13:5); and then He said this in Psalm 23:4: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” It is true that in His wisdom and compassion God may not answer my prayer as I expect Him to; but I know Him too well as my God, the God who has covenanted with me, to ever doubt His faithfulness and loyalty to me.

3 But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.

“Thou art holy,” that is, just and true in all thy ways, and therefore hearing prayers, and keeping thy covenant; a true lover of holiness, and of all holy men.


4 Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them.

The psalmist may have added this verse because his misery was aggravated by the thought that he was neglected and forsaken by God who had so often come to the aid of his ancestors.


5 They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.

In the absence of any response from God, the sufferer is cast back upon his former beliefs, foremost among them being the concept of God as just and righteous. This belief is strengthened by the long precedent of Israel’s praises for deliverance in earlier years. God had not failed to help those who trusted him in previous generations. The past experience of God’s people is the ground for present trust.

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