Today we will look at a Messianic Psalm. This type of psalm works on two levels. It was true of David in his day and also highlights David’s similarities with the promised Messiah (Jesus.) Take a moment and read through Psalm 22.
1 My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning.
2 O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer; And by night, but I have no rest.
3 Yet You are holy, O You who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel.
4 In You our fathers trusted; They trusted and You delivered them.
5 To You they cried out and were delivered; In You they trusted and were not disappointed.
6 But I am a worm and not a man, A reproach of men and despised by the people.
7 All who see me sneer at me; They separate with the lip, they wag the head, saying,
8 “Commit yourself to the Lord; let Him deliver him; Let Him rescue him, because He delights in him.”
9 Yet You are He who brought me forth from the womb; You made me trust when upon my mother’s breasts.
10 Upon You I was cast from birth; You have been my God from my mother’s womb.
11 Be not far from me, for trouble is near; For there is none to help.
12 Many bulls have surrounded me; Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled me.
13 They open wide their mouth at me, As a ravening and a roaring lion.
14 I am poured out like water, And all my bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; It is melted within me.
15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd, And my tongue cleaves to my jaws; And You lay me in the dust of death.
16 For dogs have surrounded me; A band of evildoers has encompassed me; They pierced my hands and my feet.
17 I can count all my bones. They look, they stare at me;
18 They divide my garments among them, And for my clothing they cast lots.
19 But You, O Lord, be not far off; O You my help, hasten to my assistance. 20 Deliver my soul from the sword, My only life from the power of the dog.
21 Save me from the lion’s mouth; From the horns of the wild oxen You answer me.
22 I will tell of Your name to my brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will praise You.
23 You who fear the Lord, praise Him; All you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him, And stand in awe of Him, all you descendants of Israel.
24 For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Nor has He hidden His face from him; But when he cried to Him for help, He heard.
25 From You comes my praise in the great assembly; I shall pay my vows before those who fear Him.
26 The afflicted will eat and be satisfied; Those who seek Him will praise the Lord. Let your heart live forever!
27 All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, And all the families of the nations will worship before You.
28 For the kingdom is the Lord’s And He rules over the nations.
29 All the prosperous of the earth will eat and worship, All those who go down to the dust will bow before Him,
Even he who cannot keep his soul alive.
30 Posterity will serve Him; It will be told of the Lord to the coming generation.
31 They will come and will declare His righteousness To a people who will be born, that He has performed it.
Though the psalm is Messianic, we will talk about it first as David’s experience, then about the Messianic prophecy. TRY NOT TO THINK OF JESUS. If we focus only on how this psalm relates to Jesus, we miss a lot about how it relates to each of us.
This psalm is an individual, personal prayer. “My ‘El, my ‘El, why have you forsaken me…” It alternates back and forth between I … and YOU … statements. Rather than going verse by verse, we’re going to cover this more thematically.
The psalmist’s experience:
- Feels forsaken, like deliverance/answer is far from the words of his groaning (v.1)
- Feels unheard: “I cry by day, but you do not answer; by night I have no rest” (v.2)
- Feels like a worm, not a man/less than human; a reproach, despised by the people (v.6)
- Feels sneered at, mocked–“Separate with the lip” means to hurl words, it has the idea of mocking, spurting insults (v.7)
- The insult: “Commit yourself to Yahweh; let Him deliver him; Let Him rescue him, because He delights in him.” (Sarcasm from his enemies) (v.8)
- Feels trouble is near, there is no one to help (v.11)
- Feels surrounded/encircled by “many bulls…strongs bulls of Bashan” (v.12)
- Feels about to be devoured (v.13)
- Feels poured out like water, bones out of joint, heart melting like wax (v.14)
- Feels as if he is near death–without strength, dry mouthed, laid in grave (v. 15)
- Feels surrounded/encompassed by dogs/evildoers. The image is of being pinned down by a lion, about to be devoured. (v.16)
- Feels emaciated (you can see his bones); a spectacle (“they stare at me”) (v. 17)
- Feels naked (they divide my garments…) (v.18)
Truth the psalmist reminds himself:
- YET (contrast w/ psalmist’s experience) God is holy. God is enthroned on the praises of Israel. (v. 3)
- God was trustworthy with his forefathers . . . they trusted and He delivered them, they cried out and were delivered, they were not disappointed (4x repetition, EMPHASIS.) (v.4 – 5)
[I included 3-5 as TRUTH the Psalmist calls to mind when I first studied this psalm. But upon further study, I think this is almost accusatory, picturing God as far from him, remote; faithful to his forefathers but where is he now?? I left it in the study like this, because I think some of us can relate. We look at our circumstances. We remind ourselves of truth (God’s faithfulness in the past, His faithfulness to others), but it just feels discouraging. Many of us say, “I don’t doubt that is true, but it doesn’t change my PRESENT.”]
- God brought him forth from his mother’s womb. He made the psalmist trust from his mother’s breasts (infancy). God has been his God from birth. (v.9-10) Once again the contrast between God’s past active deliverance and the present experience of his complete silence and absence heightens the psalmist’s confusion and pain.
The Psalmist’s Request:
- BE NOT FAR from me…(v.11)
- But You, O Yahweh…BE NOT FAR off; HASTEN (hurry) to my assistance; “hurry to my help” (v.19)
- DELIVER my soul from the sword, my only life from the power of the dog; SAVE me from the lion’s mouth, from the horns of the wild oxen; ANSWER me. (v. 20)
Response of praise:
NOTICE THE VERB TENSES; the psalmist moves into prophetic praise
- I WILL tell (of your name to my brethren) (FUTURE); I WILL praise (in the midst of the assembly) (v.22)
- I SHALL pay my vows… (future); I WILL fulfill my promises before the Lord’s loyal followers.” (v. 25) [When asking the Lord for help, the psalmists would typically promise to praise the Lord publicly if he intervened and delivered them.]
- The afflicted WILL eat and be satisfied (FUTURE); those who SEEK Yahweh will praise Him. (FUTURE) (v.26)
The psalmist envisions a future in which the current state of affairs is turned on end and the true purposes of Yahweh are realized in the world of human events. God comes near, and humans—rich or poor, Israelite or non-Israelite—will acknowledge his lordship and bow before him.
Messianic Elements (In addition to being true for David, these were lived out in the life of Jesus.)
“Psalm 22 is referred to some twenty-four times in the New Testament. Three of the four direct quotations listed and fourteen of twenty allusions/parallels are found within the narratives of Jesus’ passion and crucifixion, indicating that this psalm had already been received as an important resource for understanding and explaining the suffering and death of Jesus at an early date.” [NIVAC]
- Verse 1 is quoted by Jesus from the cross: Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
- Verses 7-8 are also referenced in the gospels: Matthew 27:43 He trusts in God; let God rescue Him now, if He delights in Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” Matt 27:39; Mark 15:29 And those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads…
- Verses 11 – 16 were lived out by Jesus: Nothing saved or delivered Him. He was surrounded by bulls/dogs/lions. He was poured out like water. His bones were out of joint, dried up and laid in the dust of death.
- Verse 18 prophecies Jesus’ experience on the cross: He was a spectacle, and his garments were divided (Matt 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:34; John 19:24)
- Verses 22-24 were also fulfilled in Christ. He rose to praise His Father in the assembly, calling the descendants of Jacob to praise and glorify Yahweh (this is what is LIVED out through the Spirit in the book of Acts!)
- Verse 22 is quoted in Hebrews 2:
9 But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. 10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings. 11 For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, 12 saying, “I will proclaim Your name to My brethren, In the midst of the congregation I will sing Your praise.”
- In the Kingdom, the afflicted will eat and be satisfied because of Jesus. Those who seek Yahweh will praise Him and live forever. (v.25-26)
- AND (v.27) ALL the ends of the earth, all the families of the nations will worship. All sovereignty belongs to Jesus. We are the nations/gentiles, and a people who will be born.
APPLICATION… IF this is true, THEN WHAT?
This is an example of how to respond to difficult circumstances. We will continue this discussion when we do Psalm 88, the dark corner of the Psalter.
What does this psalm say to you when you FEEL forsaken, like God is silent? And how can this psalm encourage us and form our responses when we are talking to those who feel God’s silence, who feel forsaken?
There is a biblical precedent for feeling abandoned. Not just Jesus on the cross – David experienced this too, and this Psalm was precious and highly esteemed in Jewish tradition in the years between David and Jesus.
“Far from being just a prediction of events surrounding Jesus’ death, the psalm reflects a (long held) model of response to abandonment and divine delay with which Jesus could identify and by which he could open windows for others into his own spiritual conflict. By quoting just verse 1 of this psalm, Jesus could draw on a long history of awareness on the part of his listeners who knew how the first nineteen verses illustrate the struggle of the faithful sufferer who waits for deliverance by God. It is important to realize that even the New Testament writers were able to read Psalm 22 as encouragement to the faithful in their contexts of suffering. If we read this psalm only as prediction of Christ, we obscure our own obligation to see and hear ourselves in these words.” [NIVAC]
David experienced deliverance from his sufferings, Jesus did not. NIVAC: This kind of resolution acknowledges that our present world does not coincide with the will and purposes of God for his creation. It admits the possibility that faithful living may not result in deliverance—that suffering and death are realities for the faithful. But, at the same time, it also understands that present suffering and evil will not ultimately prevent the fulfillment of God’s plans.
I think we are sometimes too quick to push ourselves, and certainly others, to get through verses 1-18 and MOVE ON to victory. I think it’s amazing and maybe even significant that there’s no REASON given for the change in v.21. All the sudden, “YOU ANSWER ME.” What I learn from this is that it is SPIRIT-given, it is from Yahweh Himself. With ourselves and with others, I think we need sensitivity to the Spirit to respond to suffering . . . to know when to sit in silence, when to pour our heart and frustrations out, when to pray “BE NOT FAR OFF!” and when to remind ourselves and others that Yahweh is a great king, and this is NOT the end of the story. Allow ourselves to be honest with God and each other. Life is hard and being the people of God is no guarantee of a positive outcome. BUT. . .
As real as the Psalmist’s experience was – and it sounds horrible – it was not the end of the story. Even as Jesus lived out these verses, and ended up sealed in a dark grave… Death is not the end for Him or for US.
- We are the people of the resurrection.
- We are a people who know this is a broken and hurting world. Let’s not pretend like there’s any way it’s all going to get tied up with a bow, BUT let’s also not forget that “Those who seek Yahweh WILL praise Yahweh… the ends of the earth will remember and turn to Him, and all the families of the nations will worship Him. The Kingdom is YAHWEH’s, He rules over the nations.” I wonder if we are the ones who come and declare His rightness, the people who will be born. Will we be the ones to see HE HAS DONE IT?
GOING DEEPER (for personal study)
Read Psalms 2, 45, and 110 (other examples of Psalms that are considered to be speaking prophetically about Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Psalm 110 is referenced in the New Testament more than any other chapter in the Old Testament.)
For each Psalm: Describe the situation of the Psalmist. To the best of your understanding, what is happening to the Psalmist, what are they expressing about and to God?
Describe why you think this Psalm is considered Messianic (speaking prophetically about Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah.) What in this Psalm speaks of the life, death and/or resurrection of Jesus Christ?
We want to use the Psalms as a jumping off point for our own communication with the Lord… BU it’s not really appropriate for us to attempt to write prophecy about the Messiah, and we’re several thousand years too late. However, it is entirely appropriate for us to intentionally consider how the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is meaningful to us, and to respond to God out of that. This week, in response to the Lord of the Universe, who has come near to us through Jesus the Messiah, either:
Look back over the Psalms we covered this week, to your list of references to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Write a letter to Jesus thanking Him for each of those things. Think about it like a letter of appreciation you would write for a friend, make it personal and think of how what Jesus did affects your daily life.
Write whatever is on your heart (poetry or prose) in response to Jesus. The Psalms we looked at more closely this week (2, 22, 45, and 110), while all looking ahead to Jesus, varied from praise songs to laments. So we will take total freedom this week in our response—whatever you write can be full of happiness and thanksgiving, or it can be complaint and honest expression of questions you have for Jesus.