As Foretold by David
in 1000 B.C.
Probably all of us know quite well the history of our Lord's crucifixion as it is recorded for us in the four gospels. Jesus is put on trial before the Sanhedrin, the high council of the Jews, is found guilty of blasphemy, and is sentenced to death on the cross. (Matt 26:57-66) But what many people do not realize is that a very graphic description of the Crucifixion is recorded for us also in the Old Testament. David, inspired by the Holy Spirit one thousand years before the time of Christ, describes in Psalm 22 the passion of our Savior with amazing clarity. In many of David's other psalms, he sings of events in his own life, but in the words of this psalm, he describes nothing less than the sufferings and death of the Messiah Himself. Let us study this magnificent psalm and see how God's prophecy has come true in Jesus!
1. My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from the words of my groaning?
2. O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
By night, and am not silent.
The beginning of this psalm is the familiar fourth word of Jesus on the cross, recorded for us in Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34. Many people are puzzled by these words of Jesus. They wonder, "How could the Son of God, the Hope of mankind (1 Tim 1:1), cry out as if he himself were suffering without hope?" And how could Jesus, who is God (Jn ), say that God had forsaken him? Did Jesus really mean what he was saying, or are these just words which are easily misunderstood?
The fact is, Jesus meant exactly what he said. When he cried out these words, Jesus was totally forsaken by God his Father. He was alone on the cross, dying like a common criminal. Jesus, a true man, was calling out to his Father, the true God. How vastly different from the rest of his life these final hours were! His Father had always been with him before, every moment of his life, as he healed the blind and raised the dead and taught the crowds. His Father had always answered his every request. But things were different now, the time for teaching and healing was past. The crowds no longer pressed around. The hour of darkness had come.
As Jesus cried out the words, "Why have you forsaken me?" he was undergoing all the torments of hell. These were the torments which you and I as sinful humans deserve to undergo, the torments of separation from God's love. Each of us has sinned--we have disobeyed the perfect Law of God. And each of us deserves the consequences of that disobedience, the torments of hell. But imagine the love our Heavenly Father has for mankind! In spite of our sin and unworthiness, he has devised a plan to rescue us. His Son has gone through hell for us, so we can have joy and peace, both in this life and in the life to come!
us not become confused, however. This
torture of hell occurred while on the cross, not afterward. After his
death, Christ also descended into hell. (1 Pet 3:19) This descent we confess in the Apostles'
Creed. There was no torture or suffering
for Christ during the descent into hell.
There he went in triumph (
When Jesus hung on the cross, he carried the sins of all mankind (1 Pet ; Is 53:6). He freed us from the curse of the God's Holy Law by becoming a curse for us (Gal ). As Jesus cried for help while on the cross,
God did not answer. God was "far from the words of my groaning." This time, God did not intervene to help.
you are the praise of
4. In you our fathers put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.
5. They cried to you and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not disappointed.
Though Jesus hears no answer to his cries, he does not lose faith. He still praises God; still declares that he is the Holy One, that there is no fault in him. God is forever holy and just. What an example to us all! Though Jesus was totally forsaken by his Father, his faith remained strong. How much more should we, children who will never be forsaken by our Heavenly Father (Ps ), have a faith that remains strong and immovable no matter what small trial comes to us in this life! Lord grant us a strong faith like Jesus had! (cf Rv 2:10) However, Jesus does state that he is being treated differently than his ancestors were. He reminds his Father how the Father had delivered the Children of Israel in times past, when they called to him. Why not now, when Christ calls to him? Why is it now the Lord's will to crush Jesus and cause him to suffer? (see Is 53:10) The answer: this is all part of God's divine plan; this is all part of the strange work God must do in order to save a world deserving hellfire, yet remain a God of justice.
scorned by men and despised by the people.
7. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads;
8. "He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him,
Let him deliver him, since he delights in him."
Jesus calls himself a worm, a despicable creature, and there is no doubt that at this time Jesus is the most despised creature on all the earth. He who just days previous had said, "He who has seen me has seen the Father," (Jn 14:9) was now fastened to the cross to die. He was scorned and rejected (Is 53:3), mocked and insulted (Mk ). Exactly as prophesied here, those who stood below the cross only sneered. They even dared God to rescue him (Mt 27:43; Lk ).
you made me trust in you, even at my mother's breast.
10. From birth I was cast upon you;
from my mother's womb you have been my God.
Despite the scorn and ridicule, Jesus still does not lose faith. He continues strong in his trusting in the Father's protecting arms. He remembers how his Father has kept him safe through his entire life, from the day he came from the womb, right up to this day on the cross. Despite all the mockery of those around him, despite the realization that he has become the curse of the world, Jesus knows that he will always be safe. All his life he has known this and has trusted his God.
for trouble is near and there is no one to help.
12. Many bulls surround me;
strong bulls of
13. Roaring lions tearing their prey
open their mouths wide against me.
prays that God would stay close to him, for trouble is near, and all his
followers have deserted him (Mt 26:56).
In their place, "bulls of
My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me.
15. My strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
You lay me in the dust of death.
Here Jesus expresses the extreme agony of hanging on the cross. All of his strength is gone, it is as if it has been poured out of him, like water poured onto the ground. His whole frame is pulled and stretched by the weight of his body. Suspended as he is, he has a hard time breathing. He suffers from a lack of oxygen. His heart is weakened and cannot circulate the blood properly. It is as if it melts away within him. Jesus' strength "dries up" like a potsherd, a piece of pottery. His tongue becomes sticky in his mouth, causing him to cry out, "I am thirsty!" (Jn 19:28)
Jesus says, "You lay me in the dust of death." He realizes that although men have ordered him executed, it is God who has permitted it as part of his divine plan. "It was the LORD's will to crush him." (Is 53:10) We, in this century, cannot place the blame for Jesus' death on the shoulders of any particular people alive today, as sinful sentiments lead some to believe. The death of Christ was caused by all people, because all have done evil in the sight of God. (Ro 3:10-20)
they have pierced my hands and my feet.
17. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me.
18. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.
The crowds of supporters which once followed Jesus are gone, replaced by a gang of enemies. One of his closest men became a traitor and handed him over to the authorities. Roman soldiers now mock him and ridicule his claim to be a king (Mt 27:27-35). Religious leaders rejoice as they anticipate his death. Jesus compares these evil men to dogs, animals which were considered in mideastern lands to be very dirty. The soldiers pierced his hands and feet as they nailed him to the cross (Jn ). The pain is such that Jesus can feel every bone in his body ache. The people stare at him in his pain (Lk ). They divide his clothes among themselves (Mt 27:35; Lk ), but for his seamless tunic they throw lots (Jn ).
Can anyone read this and fail to see the perfect knowledge of God? Can anyone doubt that this psalm is the very prayer of our Savior during his final hours on earth? As we read these words, we begin to realize the agony of suffering that Jesus willingly took upon himself for our sake. We see the details of a prophecy that can fit no one else but our crucified Lord. Can any unbeliever claim that it is all mere coincidence?
Our God and Father, who declares the end from the beginning of time (Is 46:10), revealed this monumental event to David as proof to the world of his divine wisdom and love. For through the painful cries of Christ we hear God speaking wonderful words of love for sinners everywhere. May the words of this psalm strengthen our faith, as we see how clearly and accurately prophecy has been fulfilled in Jesus!
O my Strength, come quickly to help me.
20. Deliver my life from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dogs.
21. Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
save me from the horns of the wild oxen.
Again, despite all the agonies and mockery Jesus goes through, we see that he never loses faith. He prays with certainty that his Lord is not far away, and that he is ready to help him. Jesus prays that his "precious life," his soul, will be spared from the "dogs," the executioners, as he says: "Into your hands I commit my spirit" (Lk ). It is a prayer of deep confidence that our Lord is near and is always ready to help us. And we need not wait until our physical lives are in danger, as Jesus' was. Our "precious lives" -- our souls -- are in danger every day. Our enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Pt 5:8). But, like Jesus, we can be assured that we are saved from the mouth of this lion (2 Tim ). Jesus was sure that his prayers to God had been answered and that the redemption of the world was accomplished as he cried, "It is finished!" and gave up his life (Jn ).
What did this death mean? What did it accomplish? Was it merely the death of some would-be revolutionary whose plans failed? No! This was nothing less than the self-planned death of the Son of God! This death paid for all the sins of all people of all time (Heb ), all who have ever lived or will live. Not only for the sins of Christians, but for the sins of the entire world! (Jn 2:2; 1 Tim 2:6)
death was in every aspect an act of love.
Through this death, Jesus destroyed the dividing wall of hostility which
separated us from our Creator, making peace through his blood (
Yes, all the sins of every person have been forgiven! This is the mystery of God's love. Although all mankind is in rebellion against its Maker, although God would have been totally justified to sentence all of us to hell, he has chosen instead to forgive us all our sins! Furthermore, he has given us faith to believe that he has worked this gracious deed for us. By this faith his love lives in us and overflows through our lives to others. Let us never hesitate to share the message of his crucifixion with those he now arranges for us to meet.
in the congregation I will praise you.
23. You who fear the LORD, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
Revere him, all you descendants of
24. For he has not despised or disdained
the suffering of the afflicted one;
He has not hidden his face from him,
but has listened to his cry for help.
Beginning with this verse we see an abrupt change in the psalm. No longer is the Messiah crying out to his Father for help. Instead, he appears in the congregation with his brothers, declaring God's name to them. Although God let the body of Jesus be laid in the dust of death, he did not let it decay in the grave (Ac ; Ps ). Rather, he accepted this sacrifice which Jesus offered for the sins of mankind, and raised his body from the dead. Jesus himself told people he would raise his body from the grave (Jn -22). Because his body is alive, Jesus is still a human being. Because his body is alive, Jesus can truly say, "I will declare your name to my brothers." Though his body is now in a sinless state, he is not ashamed to call us -- who are still in a sinful state -- his brothers! (Heb 2:11)
The remaining words of the psalm are the words of the risen Christ. He says to the Father, "I will declare your name ...", because it is the resurrected Christ who is active in the world today. It is Christ who is causing God's name, the reputation of his love, to be spread to every corner of the globe. For it is not really we Christians who proclaim the Gospel, but the grace of God which is with us (1 Co 15:10b). We may plant and water, but God makes his Church grow (1 Co 3:6). All the good works we do, God has already prepared for us to do (Eph ). Without Jesus Christ we can do nothing (Jn 15:5). Through us, we can say, Christ himself proclaims and confirms his message (Ac 14:3; 26:22).
Let us give all praise and glory to our Heavenly Father, who has saved us through his Son Jesus! For he heard the prayers of Jesus when he suffered, accepted his death as a sacrificial payment for our sins, and raised him to eternal glory. And since he heard the prayers of Jesus and accepted his sacrifice, he will also hear the prayers of us, his adopted children, and answer them for Christ's sake in a way which is best for us.
before those who fear you will I fulfill my vows.
26. The poor will eat and be satisfied;
they who seek the LORD will praise him --
may your hearts live forever!
Christ is now living among a "great assembly." That great assembly is the Christian Church, made up of all his followers, both those living on earth today and those who have already finished their earthly lives. Praise is continually ascending from this assembly to the Father (Rv ). But notice that Jesus says that this praise comes "from you", that is from the Father. This should not be surprising. God tells us often in Scripture that he himself causes praise to come to him (e.g. Is 61:11). In our worship service we pray "O Lord, open Thou my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Thy praise," (Ps 51:15), because it is only with God's help that we can praise him, only through Christ that our praise becomes acceptable to him.
In Old Testament times, it was common for a person to make a vow to the Lord as a way of showing thanks for an answer to prayer. Jesus has made a vow to his Father, a vow to declare his Father's name to the ends of the earth (Ps ; Ac 1:8). As this vow is carried out, it will result in what is described in verse 26, "The poor will eat and be satisfied." Those who are Christ's are poor, not necessarily in material possessions, but poor in spirit. They admit to themselves and to God that their sins make them bankrupt in his sight. They find their wealth, their spiritual satisfaction, in the Word of God. Here are found jewels of wisdom more valuable than any treasures from the earth. To God's Word we go for help and find it, on his Word we dine and are filled (Jn ). Those who eat of the Living Bread will live forever (Jn ), those who drink of the Living Water will never thirst (Jn ). Lord Jesus, grant us the wisdom and will to always hunger and thirst after You! (Cf Ps 63:1; Mt 5:6; Lk 6:25a)
will remember and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before him,
28. For dominion belongs to the LORD
and he rules over the nations.
29. All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
all who go down to the dust will kneel before him --
those who cannot keep themselves alive.
In these verses we see in a general way what the remaining years of the earth's history will be. As the news of the life and death of Jesus Christ is spread around the world, some from every nation will turn to the Lord and worship before him. This happens despite the innumerable ways which Satan uses in his attempt to stop the Gospel's advance. Christ is King over all the world. Everything in the universe is subject to him (Ep -22). His promise that the Gospel will be preached as a witness to all the nations of the earth (Mt 24:44) will be carried out just as he has planned.
In verse 29 we read that the rich will feast and worship. This can mean that the rich of the world, too, will feast on this Gospel and submit to Christ. Those who are materially rich can be spiritually poor. Christ is the Savior of all men, rich and poor alike.
On the other hand, that the rich will "worship" does not necessarily mean that they will hold saving faith in Christ, but only that they will bow before him in acknowledgement of his Kingship. Interpreted this way, verse 29 stands in contrast to verses 26 to 28. Whereas the preceding three verses are words of comfort for the God-fearing, verse 29 is a word of warning to those who reject God's love. Whereas verses 26 to 28 picture for us what in a general way is happening during the New Testament era, verse 29 points ahead to another day. The words "all who go down to the dust will kneel before him," assure us that the "rich" of the earth, those who are too proud to accept Christ's work, will nevertheless some day be forced to acknowledge his Lordship over the world. This will occur on Judgment Day, that Final Day, when every tongue will confess Jesus as Lord (Phil 2:8-11).
On that Day, however, those who did not believe in the Savior's work during their earthly lives will not be granted Life, but will be cast into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels (Mt 25:41; Rv 20:11-15). Only those who cling to Christ's work as payment for all their wickedness (Titus 2:14), only those who believe that God remembers their sin no more (Heb 10:17), only those who do not rely on their own works (Rom 3:27, Gal 3:10) will hear those comforting words, "Come, take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world." (Mt 25:34) God does not want any man to perish (Ez 33:11), but because he is just, those who reject the forgiveness Christ has earned for them will suffer the punishment their sins have earned.
future generations will be told about the Lord.
31. They will proclaim his righteousness
to a people yet unborn -- for he has done it.
This psalm, first sung by David, has been preserved through countless generations to our present day, and will be preserved to the end of time. So it is also with those who believe these words to be true. Those who have faith in Christ will proclaim his Gospel and serve him from generation to generation. God's people, the Church, the true Israel (Gal 3:7; Ro 2:28, 9:6,7), will be on this earth until the end of time, proclaiming to the world his wonderful work -- his perfect life, his sacrificial death, and his glorious resurrection -- which delivered mankind from its slavery to sin (Ro 6:4-11).
Jesus did not come to earth, as some suppose, to teach us how to live a good life. This we cannot do, for even our good works are always discolored by sin, and not acceptable to God (Is 64:6). Jesus came to earth to satisfy God's Law by living the perfect life that we cannot live, and dying that atoning death to make us holy in God's sight (He 10:10). Believing this, we have the promise of living forever in perfect fellowship with our Creator-Redeemer.
In response to the love Christ has for us, we will tell others the good news that he has died for mankind. We spread the news, not of his great wisdom, nor of his miraculous signs, but of his self-denying crucifixion, and the blessings and forgiveness he thereby earned for us. Let us pray always to the Father in Jesus' name that he will somehow open up an opportunity for us to share with others the love which Jesus has for us and for them. Pray that God will open the hearts of all people to receive the forgiveness he has prepared for them!
(This message has been prepared for your spiritual growth as part of the
personal ministry of Robert Fink of
Scripture quotations throughout this website are from the Holy Bible,
New International Version, c 1978 by the International Bible Society,