For the choir director; upon Aijeleth Hashshahar. A Psalm of David.
My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning. O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer; And by night, but I have no rest. Yet You are holy, O You who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel. In You our fathers trusted; They trusted and You delivered them. To You they cried out and were delivered; In You they trusted and were not disappointed.
But I am a worm and not a man, A reproach of men and despised by the people. All who see me sneer at me; They separate with the lip, they wag the head, saying, “Commit yourself to the LORD; let Him deliver him; Let Him rescue him, because He delights in him.”
Yet You are He who brought me forth from the womb; You made me trust when upon my mother’s breasts. Upon You I was cast from birth; You have been my God from my mother’s womb. Be not far from me, for trouble is near; For there is none to help.
Many bulls have surrounded me; Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled me. They open wide their mouth at me, As a ravening and a roaring lion. I am poured out like water, And all my bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; It is melted within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, And my tongue cleaves to my jaws; And You lay me in the dust of death. For dogs have surrounded me; A band of evildoers has encompassed me; They pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones. They look, they stare at me; They divide my garments among them, And for my clothing they cast lots.
But You, O LORD, be not far off; O You my help, hasten to my assistance. 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 You answer me.
I will tell of Your name to my brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will praise You. 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. 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.
From You comes my praise in the great assembly; I shall pay my vows before those who fear Him. The afflicted will eat and be satisfied; Those who seek Him will praise the LORD. Let your heart live forever! All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, And all the families of the nations will worship before You. For the kingdom is the LORD’S And He rules over the nations.
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. Posterity will serve Him; It will be told of the Lord to the coming generation. They will come and will declare His righteousness To a people who will be born, that He has performed it.Psalm 22:1-31
As I told you in the last Gemz, It was not a coincidence that the Chief Priest and Teachers of the Law were mocking Jesus and asking Jesus why He couldn’t save Himself. (Psalm 22:8)
“Commit yourself to the LORD; let Him deliver him; Let Him rescue him, because He delights in him.” I changed the “him” to “Him” because that was Jesus’ point in quoting Psalm 22. The leading priests and teachers of the Law were taunting Him to come down from the Cross. “Save yourself if you are the Christ, the Messiah.” Imagine their shock if He had done just that while He was on the Cross. Why didn’t He, that would have been spectacular? If Jesus had been into “grandstanding” that was the way and the time to do it. When people are taunting us, to respond to their taunts with definitive action is the way to silence them. But Jesus does nothing. Why not? He is keeping the big picture in mind throughout. This is the One, the Messiah, God’s Coming Deliverer who had come to seek and to save the lost as Luke puts it. Indeed He has come for just that reason. But He has not come to save them from the Roman yoke of oppression. Jesus had a much bigger goal in mind. He came to save them from satan’s yoke. (I still refuse to spell satan with a capital letter).
It is no coincidence that this is the Psalm which points to the Cross. To suggest that Jesus is full of doubt and discouragement is to miss the point totally. As I said a few days ago, it is akin to Jesus being emotional at Lazarus’ death. There is no way that He was upset Lazarus had died as we would have been. He knew what He was going to do. Similarly there is no way that Jesus was doubting and discouraged because He was on the cross and going to die. That is the very reason why He had come. Why would Jesus now be doubting why He was up on that cross? It makes no sense. He had to do that for us. The leaders had been taunting Jesus over His claim to be God’s Son (Lk 23:43), and His appeal for divine help would have been expected. That is what the Psalm in its original setting is all about. It is a lament Psalm. Where is God when everything turns to custard?
There is just so much to comment on in this passage. Some aspects I will just have to ignore. Note that the leading priests are there at the cross all the time. They stay during the three hours of darkness. I.e they are still there when God turned the sun back on. I saw the Son of God movie last week at the premiere here in Jakarta. No no no, it was NOT just a few clouds passing over the sun for a short while. It was a three hour total blackout. An unprecedented event in human history as THE SON OF GOD hung there on the cross bearing your sins and mine and the weight of the world. The leading priests stayed throughout. They wanted to make sure this upstart got what He deserved. So they made the taunt about Jesus saving Himself. Then it was like God made a three hour statement over His Son. Oh it wasn’t “This is My Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” this time around. This time darkness comes over the earth for three hours in the middle of the day. Oh my goodness what a statement without words! Yes God withdrew Himself from Jesus, who at that moment (the time when the sacrifice was being made at the temple) bore the sin of mankind. GOD AND SIN DON”T MIX. Never have; never will. The entourage from the High Priest stay. Then the light comes back on and Jesus makes the statement “My God My God why have your forsaken me?” Forgotten me if you like. I don’t want to debate the meaning of the word. There is a bigger picture to keep in mind.
By quoting the first line of Psalm 22 Jesus is referring to the whole Psalm not just the one line. The priests mocked Jesus with their “quote” from Psalm 22. I am not altogether sure why they deliberately quoted verse 8. Why would they when the whole Psalm is about this very event, and especially so with how the Psalm ends. I think (this Ian says not the Lord) they were just making the comment on the spur of the moment in their zeal to put an end to this backwoods preacher from Galilee and finish Him off, to see that their goal had been accomplished. But they didn’t remember or realise that the Psalm has a wider focus. If they were quoting from Psalm 22 it is like they have focused on a minor line of the Psalm and missed the total setting. So Jesus reminds them by quoting the first line. The pointer to the whole Psalm. They hadn’t realised that what was happening at this moment was cosmic by nature. They should have if they had meditated on the whole message of the Psalm. There are so many references to what was happening at the time that it is amazing. This is a Psalm they all knew well. Now Jesus takes it and effectively applies it to Himself.
There are many remarkable elements worthy of study within this Psalm. Note the repetition of body parts in focus. Bones, heart, breast, mouth, tongue, jaw, hands and feet. it is like the parts of the body are selected to depict the corporeal nature of the event. But more so that the parts of this body offered for us are dissected or at least examined in detail piece by piece. There is something more going on in the Psalm related to that which I have yet to get my head around. Note too the metaphorical use of wild beasts through the Psalm. The gathering opposition are depicted poetically as wild beasts: bulls, lions, oxen and dogs. Remember that the Gentiles are referred to as dogs symbolically by the Jews. The strong bulls of Bashan needs more explanation but I am going to resist the urge. Suffice to say it is a reference to the powerful leaders and rulers. In this case namely Caiaphas, Annas and the chief priests. The gathered opposition are thus depicted as wild animals encircling the victim, ready to tear Him limb from limb. How fitting! That is exactly what was happening here.
But have you clicked to the big picture yet? I have tried to give you little clues along the way. In today’s offering of Psalm 22 I have coloured some segments for you. Many lament Psalms begin by bemoaning the situation in which we find ourselves but at some point in a lament Psalm, there is a change that takes place and the focus is put where it ought to be. That is what is happening here. Read Psalm 73, another favourite of mine. How do we explain why evil people seem to prosper? Ah look at the end point. Take note of the eternal focus. Get God’s bigger picture firmly in your mind and all will be explained. All lament psalms have that pattern to them. It is not wrong to lament. it is not a sign of weakness! The moment we face despairing, discouraging circumstances is not the time to give up on God and accuse Him of not being there. It is not the time to let go of God. In the words of “Footprints” – the evidence of only one set of footprints is not an indication that He has left you, that is the time when He carried you. So it is with this Psalm. It is this aspect that Jesus is focusing on by using the Psalm I am sure.
The leading priests and teachers of the Law quote verse 8, or let the concept of verse 8 slip out. There is an accusatory nature of where is God in all of this. His absence proves that you are not a son of God, if you were He would deliver you. Note that it’s the chief priests and teachers of the Law saying it, not the crowd. it is the very people who should know the significance of this passage. They of all people should make the connections and connect the dots up. But they are totally oblivious to the truth of what is going on here. Why? Because their ulterior motives are carrying them along. They have forgotten their own book. They have neglected to take into account the pattern of the very Psalm which should be in focus here. We by hindsight can see the connections between Psalm 22 and the events of the Cross. They ought to have been able to see it with foresight but they missed it. So Jesus reminds them by quoting the opening lines of the Psalm in case they missed it.
Take time now to examine the bold portions I have given you before and now the added final elements of how the Psalm concludes. Take all that into account and let it soak into your spirit. I will return in the next Gem to wrap it up and then move on to Luke 24. It is not coincidence that the Psalm matches the events on the cross. e.g.
Psalm 22:1 // Matt 27:46; Mark 15:34
Psalm 22:7 // Matt 27:39; Mark 15:29
Psalm 22:8 // Matt 27:42-43; Mark 15:30-31
Psalm 22:18 // Matt 27:35; Mark 15:24
We need to take in the way in which these elements match. That is Jesus point in responding to the taunts of the priests and teachers of the Law as He did. There is a bigger picture to be aware of. They wanted immediate gratification and proof. So too do you, but God often has a time frame that is not in sync with yours. Remember that to accomplish grander things sometimes takes a little longer.
We will examine the ending of the Psalm in the next Gem. That doesn’t mean I don’t have questions. I still have lots of questions but find I am gaining perspective with each question I think to ask.
Few of us are granted the grace to know ourselves and until we do maybe the best we can do is be consistent.Andre Agassi
Some people develop a wishbone where their back bone should be.Ian Vail
The steeper the mountain the harder the climb the better the view from the finishing line!Anon
You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.Margaret Thatcher
Never forget: Your assignment is always greater than your struggle and your calling is greater than your challenges!Rick Godwin
There are two great days in a person’s life – the day we are born and the day we discover why!William Barclay