Christ in the Psalms - Psalm 22



Psalm 22: the victory on the cross


We now want to view a psalm that is not about the dominion of Christ, but about his suffering. The most striking example of this, with remarkable details, is Psalm 22. The salutation mentions this as a psalm of David. Most of such psalms describe a situation from his own life. However, this describes a public execution that is remarkably similar to a crucifixion. In David's time, stoning was the manner of execution prescribed by law, but that does not match the characteristics described here. Death by crucifixion, however, was only introduced a thousand years later by the Romans. We also find details that are fulfilled in Jesus' suffering and dying, but that, even with poetic freedom, do not correspond with situations in David's life. The first verse corresponds to one of Jesus' statements on the cross. This Psalm must, therefore, speak of the future under the inspiration of the Spirit, as a striking illustration of how God leads everything in detail. The psalm can be divided into four subtopics:

  • a call to God for help in distress.
  • the description of that need.
  • a praise because God rescues him from that need, though not from death.
  • the coming of God's kingdom.

These four parts are treated successively below.


A call for help (verses 2-11)


Here the Convicted confesses his trust in God, despite everything that happens to him (' trust'occurs in vs 5-6 three times). This trust is based on his knowledge of Scripture, and the many examples that he finds in it. The Convicted One also indicates that God cares for him from his birth. The introductory question, why God has left him, cannot really be blamed for God abandoning him. It expresses its inner feelings rather. The Convicted person calls himself a worm, void and scorned by people. The psalmist then describes how the bystanders mock and belittle him, especially for that trust in God. "All those who see me mock me, shaking their heads with compassion:" Turn to the Lord! Let He redeem you, let Him deliver you, He loves you? " "(Psalm 22: 8-9). The word for "mocking" in the Greek translation of the OT is the same as what we read in Luke as "honing": "The people were watching. The leaders, they scoffed and said, "He saved others; now let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one! " "(Luke 23:35). The shaking of the head we see in Matthew's report: "The passersby watched , shaking his head , and mocked him:" You're the man who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days? If you are the Son of God, save yourself and get rid of that cross! " "(Matthew 27: 39-40).


The description of the distress (verses 12-22)


This part describes the actual suffering. In order to understand the state of mind of the Convicted One verse is important above all: "You lay me down in the dust of death" (v. 16). He is going to die, but at the same time he realizes that this is God's will. That is also characteristic of the suffering servant at Isaiah. But then that call for help is not a request to save him from that death. The details of the psalm are clearly recognizable in the description in the gospels: naked being executed, his clothing divided by his torturers, where the undergarment is raffled, an unbearable thirst and a dislocated skeleton. By inspiration of God's Spirit, the Psalmist gives a very detailed description of what would happen a thousand years later. Also the large crowd of hostile bystanders from the psalm, who give their approval to this execution, we find back in the gospel reports. The lock, however, suddenly takes an unexpected turn. After the cry for help, to be saved from the mouth of the lion, the words "You answer me" (RSV'51: "You have answered me!"). The letter to the Hebrews tells us how Jesus "begged and prayed to him who could save him from the dead during his life on earth, and he was interrogated (NBG'51: interrogated out of his fear ) "(Hebrews 5: 7). That is not to say that he would not have died , but that he received the strength to overcome . That is how God intervened when Jesus hung on the cross. Through the three hours of darkness the worst heat of the midday sun was saved.


Praise for God's salvation (verses 23-27)


The hymn describes a next phase: the Convicted has now become a Savior. He is no longer surrounded by scorners, but by 'his brothers': "I will declare your name to my brethren, in the midst of the congregation I will sing praises unto you" (Psalm 22:23, NIV). Unfortunately, the NBV does not translate the word 'brethren', but if this verse is quoted in the letter to the Hebrews, that word is essential because otherwise the meaning is lost: "He is not ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters when he says, "I will make your name known to my brothers and sisters, praise you in the circle of my people." (Hebrews 2: 11-12) The church is mentioned twice, with the Savior as its center. "The humbled will eat and be satisfied" (viz. 27) is reminiscent of the blessings that God had promised his people in Deuteronomy, where these words are used, and perhaps also to the thank-offering, which may be eaten by the law. "The humiliated ones" in this connection does not refer to people who do humiliate by others but humiliating themselves. Of the Messiah, Isaiah spoke: "The spirit of God, the Lord, rests upon me, for the Lord has anointed me. To bring the good news [ gospel ] to the poor [the same word as " humiliated" in the psalm], he has sent me to offer hope to defeated hearts "(Isaiah 61: 1). From the fact that Jesus quotes the beginning words of this psalm on the cross we can conclude that he was thinking of this psalm, and of the salvation that would bring his death. He did not see his torturers - but the large group of believers who could praise God through his obedience. He kept trusting God until his last breath.


The coming of God's kingdom (verses 28-32)


The results are not limited to its environment. "Everywhere, to the ends of the earth, the Lord will be remembered and turned to Him. Before you shall bow down all the tribes and the nations "(Psalm 22:28). This could, to a certain extent, still refer to the present, but we then read how this suffering apparently leads to a resurrection for the dead believers. "Those who live in abundance on earth will sit down and bow to him. They will also kneel before him who came down to the grave, who could not save their lives "(Psalm 22:30). In the literal Hebrew words, we see a clear reference to the penalty for sin: that man who sinned would die and return to dust (Genesis 2:17). But by the Convicted, they are apparently able to kneel before Him, with which it is said that they will rise from the dead. The psalm then tells us that later generations will also serve him. The Convicted by the bystanders is now apparently a source of salvation. "The offspring will serve Him, the Lord will be told of the coming generation; they shall proclaim his righteousness to the people that shall be born because he hath done it "(Psalm 22: 30-31, NIV).


Abandoned by God?


That these words can have no other fulfillment than the crucifixion and victory of the Lord Jesus will be clear. Inspired by God's Spirit, David could speak in detail about a time far ahead of him. However, there is one final question, namely how these words should be interpreted: "My God, my God, why did you leave me?" And especially why Jesus uttered these words just before his death. There are three different opinions about this:

  • Jesus quotes this verse to point out to his surroundings that they see this psalm come to pass before their eyes.
  • He feels removed from God because He carries the sins of people, and brings them on the cross.
  • Jesus was truly forsaken by God during those three hours.

What we see in the Psalm is a detailed prophecy. It would therefore be a stark contrast if the first verse did not reflect Jesus' real feelings. The proposition that Jesus did not really feel abandoned, but only referred to the psalm, is therefore weak. The second view is better to follow. Then that removal would not come from God, but from the sin that Jesus bore. And the psalm then gives insight into the glory that would result from it. The third view is in fact a sort of extension of the second. However, it would not only be a feeling of Jesus, but an actual state. The penalty for sin was death, and because Jesus carried our sins, it was necessary that He die. But because He was in reality without sin, He has risen again from that death. There would, therefore, be no reason for Him to fear death. But the real meaning of death is absolute separation between the sinner and God. In that light it would therefore be perfectly obvious that during those three hours he would indeed have to undergo that separation. There have been numerous people who have given their lives for others over the course of time, and so many people have died of a cross in Roman times. But only Jesus has fully realized ( andpolite!) which means separation from God. Only in this way could we fully understand Jesus' extreme fear in Gethsemane: ultimately, when it came to it, He had to win the victory himself, without the help of his Father. And He knew only too well that if He failed, there would be no solution for sin, neither for Himself (that failure) nor for anyone else. That would be a good sign of his struggle.

Thanks for reading.


You can read:

Christ in the Psalms. The introduction.

Christ in the Psalms - Psalm 2

Christ in the Psalms - Psalm 18


Remain blessed.

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