As I read through my family's Catholic Bible (a daunting task considering the length of Ecclesiasticus!) I once again read Psalm 22. This time, however, it hit me hard.
You'd think that over the years and with the number of times I have read Psalms, including Psalm 22, that the impact of the psalm would have already burned itself into my soul. The fire did not descend until the other day. I was supposed to write this last week; better late than never!
The 22nd Psalm doesn't get as much press as the hugely popular Psalm 23, and is often overlooked, yet it was this psalm that Jesus referenced as he hung on the cross, dying for our transgressions.
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Matt 27:46)When Jesus cries out, he references the first line of Psalm 22. The Psalms are more than poems, as most know. They are songs, and just as most of us know an entire song from the first line, so the Jewish people knew the entire Psalm from hearing the first line.
Some scholars say that Psalm 22 was written about 1044 BC (by David), and it was certainly penned before David died about 960 BC. There should be no question the psalm was written before the time of Christ.
The very first verse of the psalm is what Jesus echoed on the cross, calling out to His Father (and ours), crying because he was now abandoned, nailed to a cross and dying. During Jesus's life He was never far from the Father. Even as a boy He was in the temple, going about His Father's business. Yet on the day He died, God the Father stepped away. Jesus suffered more physical pain than I can imagine. The Romans stripped the flesh from his entire back by scourging him. They forced a crown of thorns on his head. Jesus used his broken body to carry the cross until He could not bear the pain any longer and the Romans recruited Simon of Cyrene to carry it to Golgotha. The soldiers pounded huge nails through his hands and feet. I doubt he suffered from hunger, because the other physical pains ripped through his body for hours, but He did say that He thirsted.
Yet for all the physical pain, He cried out when the Father's gaze left Him.
This man, my friends, died because of what I did wrong in my life, but he was innocent. Though I cannot entirely fathom the pain He felt, I can only think that when I finally see Him, face to face, I will only be able to fall at His feet and choke out an apology. I will only be able to wash his feet with the tears of my regret.
Jesus could have called legions of angels. He could have donned his mantle of glory and stepped down from the cross. He could have walked away from the pain and suffering. But He did not do that. Instead, He chose to die for my sins.
Back to the Psalm.
David cries to God in verses 1-6, declaring the holiness of God and a feeling of abandonment. Jesus does the same.
David, in verses 7-8, despairs of the scorn heaped upon him by others. Look at the parallel as Jesus hangs on the cross:
And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, Save thyself, and come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; himself he cannot save. Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with him reviled him. (Mark 15:29-32)In verse 15 the psalm notes David's thirst as he draws closer to death. Jesus cried out for water.
After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. (John 19:28-30)In verse 18 David says "They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture." Each of the gospels states that the soldiers did this during the crucifixion.
And when they had crucified him, they parted his garments, casting lots upon them, what every man should take. (Mark 15:24)Each of these verses from the psalm prophesied what happened during the crucifixion of Christ.
In verse 22 of the psalm, the tone changes. Now we see praise. David praised God for helping him, and Christians should see the parallel to our worship of the risen Savior. We should each "declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born" by word and deed.
For as Psalm 22:27 says "All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee" and this is echoed in Romans 14:11 "For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God." *
I hope that helps make Psalm 22 more special for you. Thanks for reading!
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?
2 O my God, I cry in the day time, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.
3 But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.
4 Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them.
5 They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.
6 But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.
7 All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,
8 He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.
9 But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother's breasts.
10 I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother's belly.
11 Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.
12 Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round.
13 They gaped upon me with their mouths, 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 in the midst of my bowels.
15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.
16 For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.
17 I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me.
18 They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.
19 But be not thou far from me, O Lord: O my strength, haste thee to help me.
20 Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog.
21 Save me from the lion's mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.
22 I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.
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.
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.
25 My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him.
26 The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the Lord that seek him: your heart shall live for ever.
27 All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee.
28 For the kingdom is the Lord's: and he is the governor among the nations.
29 All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul.
30 A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.
31 They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.
* Yes, I realize that the verse from Romans repeats the verse from Isaiah, which is probably what inspired David to include it in Psalm 22. The prophetic passages in Isaiah are an entirely different (and greater) study!
Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. (Isaiah 45:22-23)
All scriptures are taken from the King James Version (KJV) which is Public Domain.