The Messianic Psalms --Part 4

The Messianic Psalms
Part 4

Dr. John Boyd

Dr. John Boyd is a Specialist in Medicine. He practises in Belfast, Ireland. In spite of his many duties, he makes time for precise biblical studies. We always appreciate articles from him. His present contribution on the Messianic Psalms is excellent. This is the fourth in the series.

(4) Psalm 22
Messiah — Suffering and Glorified

It is very doubtful if David in Psalm 22 is recording an actual personal experience. Rather is this a prophetic presentation of the Messiah. The Psalm is one of those portions envisaged in 1 Peter 1:10-12, for the Holy Spirit is here testifying beforehand “the sufferings of Christ, and the glories that should follow.”

David instructs the Chief Musician to set the Psalm to Aijeleth hash-Shahar, lit., to the hind of the morning. The title expresses the feelings of the writer as he contemplates it. In the “hind of the morning” is portrayed the first streaks of dawn, arising like the antlers of a deer on the horizon, and giving promise of another day. It possibly expresses the thought of Proverbs 4:18, “The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” In the Psalm we are looking at Jesus, who for the joy that was set before Him, the joy of bringing many sons unto glory, endured the Cross, despising the shame. We see the light shining unto the perfect day described in the latter part of the Psalm, the day of praise in the great congregation; the clay when all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before God; the day when the kingdom will be the Lord’s.

The Psalm consists of two sections: (I) Verses 1-21, Messiah’s Suffering on Calvary, (II) Verses 22-31, Mesiah’s glories in the day of His manifestation. The time of the fulfilment of Section I is fixed for us by the writers of the Gospels as the Lord’s experience on Calvary. Matthew and Mark both cite verse one as quoted by Jesus on the Cross at the ninth hour. Matthew also quotes verse eight as applying to the Lord’s reproach on Calvary (Matt. 27-43). John cites verse 18 in chapter 19:24 of his gospel, and states that this Scripture was then fulfilled. The piercing of His hands is implied in John 20:25, Thus the scope of Psalm 22 is undoubtedly the crucifixion. We are upon holy ground, and we do well to tread it with unshod feet.

The key to Section I lies in verse two (R.V.), “Thou answerest not,” and to Section II in verse 21 (R.V.), “Thou has answered Me.” Even though Jesus cried there was no answer on the cross. He was not saved from death. But his prayer was answered in His deliverance from the grave. He was saved out of death, by resurrection, as set forth in Psalm 16. See Hebrews 5:7 (R.V. marg.). Let us examine the Psalm in more detail.

Part 1: Messiah’s Sufferings

It is difficult to find an orderly sequence in the first part of the Psalm, but such is to be expected from one passing through so great affliction. The mind is constantly flitting from one sorrow to another. In the Gospels Calvary is described by eyewitnesses, but here the Lord Himself draws aside the veil of His inmost soul. He shows us what He experienced; His thoughts as He suffered; the conflicting emotions that stirred His heart; the alternations of fear and hope that betoken His real humanity. His mind traversed the vast range of His relations with God, His treatment by men, and His endurance of physical sufferings.

This section of the Psalm is divided into eight stanzas.

Stanza 1: Messiah’s Astonishment (vv. 1-2):

Messiah was bewildered at His abandonment, despite His repeated crying to God. But even though He suffered, He still clung to God, the Mighty One. Jesus knew the purpose of His sufferings, but still He asks why? This is not the why of ignorance, but of astonishment, of anguish. He had been forsaken, something He had never before experienced (Heb. 5:8). His why had a two-fold application, (1) Why the abandonment? (b) Why the lack of help in His crying?

Verse two describes His continual crying — day and night. Do these two seasons refer to the two periods on the Cross — light and darkness? He asked, why? in view of His constant appealing. There was no companion in His solitude (v. la), no salvation from His foes (v. lb), no answer to His crying (v. 2a), no rest from His sufferings (V. 2b R.V. marg.).

Then follow, in the rest of Part 1, seven stanzas dealing with seven subjects about which He cried to God, seven reasons why He should have been helped by God. These seem to alternate between His relationships with God and with men.

Stanza 2: Messiah’s Claim on God (vv. 3-5):

As an Israelite Messiah acknowledged God’s holiness — His faithfulness, far removed from the sinful imperfections of man. He was faultless in regard to His covenant relations with Israel, who continually had cause to praise God. Israel might well praise God, for when they trusted Him He delivered them. Their crying was always heard. The implication here is that Christ as an Israelite who praised God should also have been heard when He cried.

Stanza 3: Messiah’s Reproach to Passers-by (vv. 6-8):

The Lord spake here of His reproach. Men treated Him with the same contempt they would a worm, much inferior to a human being. This was in contrast to the Israelite whose trust in God prevented them from shame (v. 5). Reproach was so abhorrent to the sinless One. The Hebrew word for reproach means lit., a stripping. Messiah was not only stripped of His clothes, to His shame, but also of His character. The people whom He had helped despised Him in His extremity, lit., they thought little of Him.

The passers-by despised Him by laughing Him to scorn. This expression, “laughing to scorn,” suggests stammeringly imitating another, possibly as they used His own words of verse eight wherewith to pour scorn upon Him. They mocked His trust in God; they used His words sarcastically, yet they form the burden of the Psalm (v. 20); they opened wide their mouths in contempt; they wagged their heads in derision (Matt. 27:39); they made grimaces at Him before whom angels bow in reverence with covered faces.

Stanza 4: Messiah’s Trust in God (vv. 9-11):

Messiah affirmed His trust in God despite the mockery of men concerning it. He had realized God’s protection as a babe right from birth, referring possibly to Herod’s persecution. This was in reply to the taunt of verse eight. God surely delighted in Him.

From Messiah’s earliest days as a man, Jehovah had been His God (Luke 2:49). He expresses His dependence upon God for help, and makes this His plea for present help. The trouble was near, but help was far away. So the Lord asks God to draw near, to help Him in His plight.

Stanza 5: Messiah’s Oppression by Men (vv. 12-13):

Here the Psalm develops the thought of trouble being near. It compares the ferocious rage of Messiah’s enemies to that of well-fed Bashan bulls. Christ was like a helpless man in the middle of a herd of infuriated bulls waiting to gore him. The insults that men hurled at Christ seemed like a hungry lion opening its mouth and roaring when he comes within sight of his prey (Amos 3:4).

Stanza 6: Messiah’s Weakness —God’s Dealings (vv. 14-15):

In these verses we get a five-fold metaphorical picture of extreme weakness (2 Cor. 13-4). Being poured out like water denotes inability to resist (2 Sam. 14:14). All the bones out of joint is not an anatomical description of the Sufferer, but a metaphorical presentation of extreme powerlessness. When a bone is out of joint, the limb lacks power. So Messiah felt utterly incapable of functioning. His heart melted as wax suggests a sinking feeling within, a lack of resistance (Josh. 7:5).

His strength resembled a piece of broken earthenware, useless for any work. His thirst was so extreme that His tongue, becoming parched, stuck to His jaws, hindering His crying. Yet such is the paradox of Calvary that in His weakness He was mighty to overcome Satan; to accomplish the great work of salvation; to fight the forces of evil; to cry with a loud voice. To Messiah it was the dust of death, the most humiliating experience of all, and it was God’s plan for Him (Phil. 2:8).

Stanza 7: Messiah’s Ill-Usage by Soldiers (vv. 16-18):

The soldiers putting Messiah to death He likened to the savage wild dogs of the East. He called them an assembly of evildoers, gathered around for the express purpose of maltreating Him, even piercing His hands and feet. This refers to the crucifixion, the Roman method of capital punishment only introduced many years later. Thus Psalm 22 could not have applied to David. Their treatment of Messiah. His scourging, His crucifixion, His exposure, was such that He could count His bones, sticking out due to His dehydration.

To further His humiliation they stripped Him, and divided His upper garments amongst them. They cast lots however for His inner garment, which could not be divided without loss of value. The Gospels show how this was literally fulfilled. The soldiers thought He would have no further need of them. They did not envisage resurrection. The shame of His nakedness was manifest.

“Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood:
Hallelujah! what a Saviour!”