Psalm 22 - Part 3 (series: Lessons on Psalms)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

17 I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me.


In verses 8-18, we have one of the clearest glimpses granted us of the psalmist’s pitiable mental and physical condition. He has no heart to stand up against such hatred and hostility. The details of Calvary are clearly seen here; mockery (v. 8), shame (vs 13, 17), the pain of crucifixion (vs. 14-16), piercing of hands and feet (v. 16), the parting of garments (v. 18). His physical body was disintegrating. His mouth was parched and dry from fever. He is so emancipated that his ribs stick out. And his enemies gloat over his weakening physique. What is said of the psalmist can also be applied to Jesus’ crucifixion.

This accurate description of the crucifixion of Christ is made remarkable since David had never seen or even heard of crucifixion. That horrible method of death would have to wait for the Roman Empire to come into being which was at this time many centuries in the future.


18 They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.

This verse is quoted in the New Testament: “And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots” (Matt. 27:35).

He was naked when He was crucified. It is difficult for us in this day of nudity and pornography to comprehend the great humiliation He suffered. Those pictures we see with Him scantily clothed is meant to protect our delicate feelings. He suffered by hanging nude on the cross. They had taken His garments and gambled for ownership. My friend, He went through it all, crucified naked, so that you may be clothed with the righteousness of Christ, and be able to stand before God throughout the endless ages of eternity.



“FATHER, INTO THY HANDS I COMMEND MY SPIRIT”


19 But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me.

David prayed that the Lord (His strength), would help him by saving his life from the power of his wicked enemies, who were like dogs (v. 20), lions (vs. 13, 21), and wild bulls (v. 12). Help must come quickly or David is lost.

20 Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog.

The word “darling” is better translated “My only One”—“This is My only Son. . .” (Matt. 3:17). “Deliver My soul from the sword; My only One from the power of the dog.” Jesus is saying, “. . . Father, into thy hands I commend My Spirit. . .” (Luke 23:46).

The “sword” may refer to the authority of the Roman government (Rom. 13:4{6]), for it was Pilate who authorized Christ’s death.


21 Save me from the lion's mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.

One of the most remarkable statements is this: “thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.” To express intensity in the Hebrew, the plural is used—horns of the unicorns, but the thought is one horn.

For many years it was thought that the unicorn was a mythical animal, but recent investigation has revealed that it was an animal a size smaller than an elephant, very much like the rhinoceros, sometimes called a wild bull. Vicious and brutal, every one of them was a killer. And the thing that identified them was the fact that they had one horn. “Thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns”—uni means “one”—one horn. To me, my beloved, that is remarkable indeed; because the cross on which the Lord Jesus Christ was crucified was probably not the shaped cross we see today. We think of a cross made of an upright and a crosspiece. Nowhere does Scripture describe it that way.

There are two Greek words translated by the English word cross. One of them is the word stauros. You find it used in several places. For instance: “. . . Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Matt. 27:40). The word cross is stauros meaning “one piece.” It is interesting how accurate Scripture is, and how tradition has been woven into it in our thinking. Paul used the word stauros when he wrote: “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1 Co. 1:18).

The second Greek word is xulon which is translated by the English “cross” or “tree.” It simply means a piece of wood. Paul also used this word when he wrote: “And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulcher” (Acts 13:29).

They took Him down from the tree! Does he mean an upright with a cross piece? Now I am perfectly willing to go along with the popularly accepted shape of the cross, but for the sake of accuracy and to appreciate the exactness of this psalm, we need to brush aside tradition for a moment. Jesus said, “Thou has heard me

from the horns of the unicorns the cross.” “. . . Into thy hands I commend my Spirit. . .” (Luke 23:46).

Another thing that amazes me is that this word xulon, translated “tree” or “cross” is mentioned in the twenty-second chapter of Revelation as the tree of life! I believe that the tree on which Jesus died will be there, alive, throughout the endless ages of eternity, to let you and I know what it cost to redeem us.

There is a devastating sentence in Mathew’s Gospel, 26:56: “Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled.” What Jesus had now to go through He would have to suffer alone. And so the heartbreaking distress of His cry as He quotes verse 1 of our psalm is all the more terrible.

The lion is often used as a figure representing violent enemies, and the lion’s mouth intimates their viciousness.

Now when we come to verse 22 of this psalm, we see a radical change, a reversal in circumstance and attitude. We have had the sufferings of Christ described for us; now we see the glory that should follow. We move from suffering to glory, from prayer to praise. This is the turning point of the psalm.


22 I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.

I think He said this entire psalm on the cross. He did not die defeated; for when He reached the very end He said, “This is the gospel that will be witnessed to. I will declare thy name unto My brethren.” And I see Peter in the midst of the Sanhedrin, composed of both Pharisees and Sadducees, saying to them, “. . . there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). “I will declare thy name unto My brethren.” We also find this verse quoted in Hebrews 2:12—“Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.”

In verse 2, he wrote that God had not answered, but now he almost shouts, “You have answered me!” (v. 24). He had prayed for delivery out of death (Heb. 5:7{7]), and that prayer was answered.


23 Ye that fear the LORD, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel.

Verses 23-26 are a praise song. David has come to pay his vows (v. 25) with a peace offering and in a song of thanksgiving. His brethren (fellow Israelites) are there. Thus in anticipation of a favorable response by God, he sings his thanksgiving song.


24 For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.

“He hath not despised:” He was despised by the people (v. 6), but not by God. He did not turn away His face from him, as men do from things they abhor but looked upon him with compassion. “Neither hath he hid his face from him,” that is to say, he did for a time, but not forever; for now He has shown me the light of His countenance.


25 My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him.

There is no Biblical evidence that Jesus appeared to any unbelievers in the days immediately following His resurrection (See 1 Co. 15:1-8). If “The great congregation” is an event it probably refers to one of the three great annual festivals when everyone who could attend, did so. There they offered praise to God. “But even praise itself is a gift from You; it is Your grace that has given me even the desire to praise You, and You are the source of the vows I am now prepared to pay up, before all those worshipers here.”

But who would be included in the great congregation? The great congregation (assembly) included those who believed in Jesus who became a part of His church when the Spirit came at Pentecost. But the church is made up of believing Jews and Gentiles whom form one body in Christ (Eph. 2:11{8]), so the song included the seed of Jacob (Israel). The first Christians were Jewish believers, and all Gentiles in the church are, by faith, the children of Abraham (Gal. 3:26-29{9]). God did not despise His Son in whom He is well pleased (v. 24), but accepted His work on the cross and proved it by raising Him from the dead (Rom. 4:24-25{10]).


26 The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever.

The image here is that of a feast and was a familiar picture to the Jews of the anticipated Messianic kingdom (Isa. 25:6-9{11]). When a Jewish worshipper brought a peace offering to the Lord, he retained part of it to be used for a feast for himself, his family, and any of his friends he wanted to invite (Lev. 7:15{12]), and this tradition became a picture of the future glorious kingdom. But believing Gentiles will also be included in this feast (v. 27), and Messiah will reign over all the earth.

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