May 15th 2020 – Psalm 22

"To the choirmaster: according to The Doe of the Dawn. A Psalm of David.

1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
    and by night, but I find no rest.

Yet you are holy,
    enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted;
    they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
    in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm and not a man,
    scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
    they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
“He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him;
    let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”

Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
    you made me trust you at my mother's breasts.
10 On you was I cast from my birth,
    and from my mother's womb you have been my God.
11 Be not far from me,
    for trouble is near,
    and there is none to help.

12 Many bulls encompass me;
    strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
13 they open wide their mouths at me,
    like a ravening and 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 my breast;
15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
    and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
    you lay me in the dust of death.

16 For dogs encompass me;
    a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet[b]
17 I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my garments among them,
    and for my clothing they cast lots.

19 But you, O Lord, do not be far off!
    O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
20 Deliver my soul from the sword,
    my precious life from the power of the dog!
21     Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!

22 I will tell of your name to my brothers;
    in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
    All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
    and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or abhorred
    the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
    but has heard, when he cried to him.

25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
    my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
26 The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek him shall praise the Lord!
    May your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
    and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
    shall worship before you.
28 For kingship belongs to the Lord,
    and he rules over the nations.

29 All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;
    before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
    even the one who could not keep himself alive.
30 Posterity shall serve him;
    it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
31 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
    that he has done it."

Psalm 22

This Psalm is the first in a group of three Psalms which are Messianic in character. Someone has very beautifully described them as portraying Christ (i) as the Good Shep- herd Who gave His life for the sheep (Psalm 22); (ii) as the Great Shepherd Who leads his people (Psalm 23); and (iii) (Psalm 24) as the Chief Shepherd Who will come in glo- ry. It is impossible not to think of our Lord and His death in reading this Psalm, if for no other reason than that its opening words will forever be associated with the Cross, for our Lord used them to express His dread consciousness of being forsaken by God when He bore away the sin of the world (it is a message all by itself to realise that in such a moment of crisis Jesus turned instinctively to the Scriptures). But, apart from the well- known first verse, there are far too many familiar references throughout the Psalm for us to doubt that it is Messianic in its whole intention and purpose. Those familiar with Handel's Messiah will recognize how many of these verses are employed in the great oratorio in depicting our Lord's sufferings and death. Also, the writers of the gospels, Luke and John, clearly had the Psalm in mind: Luke uses the phrase in 7, 'laugh me to scorn' in Luke 23:35: '(they) derided Him'; and John speaks of Christ's thirst (cf 15) as being the fulfilment of Scripture (John 19:28); the physical effects of crucifixion are de- scribed in 14, 15, and the dividing of the raiment (18) was fulfilled at Calvary. All this is very mysterious and wonderful indeed. It is an example of what Peter says in his first epistle (1 Peter 1:11), when he speaks of the Spirit testifying beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow. It is of course true that the Psalmist here recounts a dark and terrible experience that he himself passed through; but in the providence of God that experience became the vehicle by which an infinitely greater and more costly experience - the atoning sufferings of the Son of God - are portrayed and described for us (in much the same way as, for example, the agonies of the prophet Hosea became the revelation of the broken heart of God to Israel). As one commentator puts it, the Psalmist's experiences and utterances 'were divinely shaped so as to prefigure the sacred sorrows of the Man of sorrows'.