Vol. 3, No. 8
Based upon certain evidence in the text, which we do not have the space to discuss here, we have long believed that Psalms numbers 22, 23, and 24 are a trilogy of Psalms concerning the death of Christ, his resurrection by the Shepherd who led him beside the still waters, and his ascension back into heaven where the multitudes recognize him as the King of glory. It may be that at one time all three of the Psalms were one, due to the fact that uninspired men divided our English Bibles into chapters and verses sometime about 1550 A.D. (Perhaps this can be more thoroughly discussed at a future time.)
But that the Old Testament prophets saw beforehand the suffering of Jesus Christ, and the glory that would follow that suffering, as is affirmed in 1 Peter 1:11, simply cannot be denied.
Two clear examples of this dual theme are found in Psalm 22, which focuses upon the death of Christ, and in Psalm 2 which speaks of the glorious honor that was bestowed upon Christ at the time of his resurrection. It is the first of these two psalms which we wish to study in this lesson.
This Psalm is referred to as a "passional psalm," meaning that it deals with the passionate suffering of Jesus Christ for the redemption of the world.
It is said to have been written by David, and there is no strong evidence to prove that it was not.
The New Testament quotes from this Psalm, and makes abundantly clear that it is to be numbered among the Messianic psalms.
It is appropriate that we point out that the tune to which the Psalm was to be sung is "the deer of the dawn."
This is appropriate because the early rays of light that come in the morning just preceding the dawn resemble the horns of the deer, and as the light of morning pierces the darkened sky, "the horns of the deer," or rays of light, give hope of a coming illumination.
So, in this Psalm the black of the night of affliction gives way to the day of hope which moves us on toward the noon of glory and gratitude.
Some of the statements in the second half of the psalm do not appear to fit the personal Messiah in his resurrection and ascension, but in these very verses, where one might be tempted to give up idea that the Psalm is Messianic there is New Testament authority to confirm that it does fit the personal Messiah.
In verse twenty-two, for example, the Psalm says, "I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the congregation I will praise You."
In the Book of Hebrews the author cites this very verse word for word, and gives them a Messianic import.
The Apostle regarded these words to have been spoken by the Messiah to show the tender and intimate relationship between Christ and his people. (Hebrews 2:21)
In this Psalm we have the voice of the forsaken One loudly lamenting his lot and describing in detail his pain and shame.
But not once does the sufferer reproach God, or accuse him of failing him or sending this suffering upon him.
The voice of the Sufferer is silenced in death, but then is heard again while celebrating with others praises to God.
We come now to the place that we must ask, Who is the innocent Sufferer in this Psalm?
Is it David, the author of the Psalm, and is he speaking of the trials and tribulations of his own life?
Though David suffered greatly in his life, and was a few times at the point of death, still he died at home when he was an old man, so David's personal sufferings cannot be the focus of the Psalm because the language is too strong to fit the life of David.
In this Psalm David is not speaking in a personified way of the nation of Israel as a whole, or even the devout followers of God within the nation. Why? Because:
The Sufferer is clearly separated from the congregation throughout the whole Psalm.
The Sufferer is detested by the people. (v. 7)
He was born of a woman. (v.10-11)
He had bones, a heart, palate, and tongue. (v.15-16)
He had clothing, and a soul. (v.14 & 21)
He would be opposed and mocked for his trust in God, and Israel is told to rejoice in his deliverance from death.
This can describe no saintly person of the Old Testament because the sufferings go beyond any of those physical sufferings described in the Old Testament.
Furthermore, no Old Testament person could have imagined that his personal deliverance from death could possibly be the subject for the world's conversion.
Such hope was reserved for the Messiah to bring into the world.
In this Psalm David sees his descendant, who resembles him but far surpasses him, suffering as David never suffered.
And the deliverance of this descendant would have meaning for all mankind, Jew and Gentile alike.
This Psalm reads as if it had been composed at the foot of the cross of Jesus.
Matthew, and the other writers of the Gospel, have this Psalm in mind when they wrote the latter parts of their records detailing the suffering of Christ on the cross.
The similarities between the Psalm and their descriptions of Jesus' death are rather uncanny.
Jewish commentators on the Old Testament did not regard this Psalm as being Messianic in its import, but the early "Church Fathers" did.
While many present day modernists and post-modernists do not regard the Psalm as having a Messianic character, all serious students who believe the Bible to be a product of inspiration do!
THE SUFFERING AND GLOOM OF CHRIST UPON THE CROSS.
Of the opening words of this Psalm, brother Homer Hailey made the following comment: "The psalm opened with the cry of one who considered himself forsaken by God in a moment of urgent need: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" As the six hours of being on the cross and the three hours of darkness drew to a close, Jesus uttered this same lamentable cry (Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34). The Jewish nation rejected Him, Judas betrayed Him, Peter denied knowing Him, and the eleven "left him and fled" when He was arrested (Matt. 26:56; Mark 14:50). In such a plight, suspended on a cross between earth and heaven, Jesus felt utterly alone, forsaken by man and God."1
The darkness which enshrouds the first half of this Psalm can be explained by three factors.
Christ was forsaken by the Father. (vv. 1-5) Four points are made regarding this divine "forsaking" by the speaker in the Psalm.
The forsaking was real! In his dying hour upon the cross, Jesus had cried, "Eli, Eli lama sabachthani," according to Matthew 27:45-50.
Jesus did not expect an answer from God to this question because the words of our Lord were intended to express the agony that he felt because of his separation from the Father. It is also interesting to look at the word "cried" regarding the voice of Jesus in this question. It means to shriek, or the shriek of a person in intense pain.
According to verse two of the Psalm, the forsaking seemed to be permanent.
Day and night the cry of Jesus went up to God to release him from this agony, but there is no intention on the part of God to save Jesus from the cross.
The night in verse two may refer to the darkness that covered the earth at high noon, or to the gloomy night he had spent in the Garden of Gethsemane.
The forsaking was necessary. (v. 3) In this verse we have the Sufferer saying to the God of the universe, "But You are holy, who inhabit the praises of Israel."
"You are holy" explains a number of things.
It explains what the Sufferer in this verse knew about God.
It also explains the reason for the suffering. He had to suffer to redeem man because Yahweh is holy, and since he was holy sin had to be either punished or forgiven. Thus, the Sufferer shrieks out this question as he is about to die for the world because God is holy.
Furthermore, God sits (continuously sits) upon a throne constructed of the praises of his people.
The people to whom he makes reference is spiritual Israel redeemed from sin's bondage after the suffering of Christ at Golgotha.
The forsaking of Christ does not imply a lack of ability on the part of Yahweh to deliver his Son. The Old Testament is replete with stories of how God's people trusted him and how he delivered them from certain harm.
The key word here is trust!
Three times the suffering One refers to how the fathers trusted God, so the suffering One knew that God could deliver him because what God could do is not under question.
In patient trust the suffering One accepted his fate as being the will of Yahweh.
The second paragraph of this great Psalm gives us some further insight into the reason for the overwhelming gloom of the speaker. (vv. 6-10)
He had become a reproach among men, that is, he was despised by the people, as it is stated in verses 6-7.
He was looked upon, in his suffering, as a worm! The word for "worm" is "tola" and refers to a worm from which beautiful dye was made from the blood of the worm.
He was a weak and helpless creature of the dust.
He was jeered at by the people. All who saw him in his agony sneered at him, that is, they made faces at him and mocked his agony on the cross by wagging their heads. (v. 8)
The contemptuous taunts spoken of here are put nearly verbatim in the mouths of the mocking chief priests and scribes who stood by the cross of Jesus. (Matthew 27:39-44).
The crowds remembered his claims to be the Son of God, and they remembered the reports of the heavenly voice which had said, "This is my beloved son in whom I am well-pleased. Hear Him."
So the crowds mockingly urged him to "cast himself on Yahweh for he delights in him." (v.9) Note: Mockery is without a doubt one of the most deadly tools in the arsenal of Satan, but notice that in this Psalm the suffering One remained faithful to God. From the time of his birth until the day of his death he learned to trust God. And in spite of the cruel mockery thrown at him by his enemies, he remained committed to his Father!
The third paragraph (vv.12-18) converges upon the physical agony of Jesus.
His enemies are vicious and strong like strong bulls (v.12), like lions (v.13), like half-starved dogs (v.16), and like wild oxen. (The KJV uses the word "unicorns" in verse twenty-one, but "wild oxen" is a much better translation, since we do not know from scientific research that unicorns have ever lived upon the earth. There must have been some animal that lived on earth that in some way resembled what we call a unicorn or else we never could have had a name and a mental picture of that animal, as to what that animal was, we have no clues.)
He is utterly exhausted, which explains what he means when he said, "I am poured out like water "
His bones are disjointed (14b), what an expression of pain for there are few things more painful, physically, than having a bone to disjoint.
His heart was failing. (14c) It was like wax that had melted within him.
His thirst was raging. (15a) His tongue clove to the sides of his mouth, and his strength was dried up like an old piece of broken pottery. And in his agony he lamented, "I thirst" He said that so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled according to John 19:28. Jesus fulfilled this Scripture on the cross!
He is near to death, for God has brought him to the dust of death. (15b)
His hands and feet have been pierced. (v.16b) The Hebrew text suggests that his hands and feet are like one who has been mauled by a lion.
His skin has become rigid, and he is so emaciated that he can count his bones as he realized that he was the object of the mocking glares of his enemies. (v.17)
He watches helplessly as his persecutors gamble for his garments, which were his only earthly possessions. (v. 18) The Gospel Writer quoted this verse and claimed that it was fulfilled when the Roman soldiers divided his clothing into four parts, and cast lots for his seamless robe. (John 19:23-24)
Despite all his agony, the suffering One continued to trust God and pray to him for deliverance from this agony. Notice the pleas in verses 19-21:
"Do not be far from me..."
"...make haste for my help..."
"...deliver my darling (monogenes in the LXX), my only begotten soul..."
"...deliver me!" Note: The similarities between Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 are more than evident. However, in Isaiah 53, the Suffering Servant dies and is buried, and the world is converted because of his conquest of death. Psalm 22 speaks of the suffering One as only at the very door of death, but what is stated explicitly in Isaiah 53 is implied in Psalm 22. If Psalms 22, 23, 24 form a trilogy regarding the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, then we can see that the resurrection is simply left to another time.
THE GLORY OF THE SUFFERING ONE. VERSES 22-31
After verse twenty-one the disposition of the Psalm changes. Why? Because:
The prayers of the suffering One have been answered, and a great victory has been won over Satan. The writer of Hebrews in 5:7 said of Jesus, "...who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear..."
The loneliness of the First half of the Psalm gives way to group festivity in the second half of the Psalm.
In the first half of the Psalm, Jesus was very much isolated. He suffered alone because of the people that hated him, and because of the fact that no mere human could bear any of the weight of his suffering.
But there was a triumph to follow. Out of the loneliness of his struggle he came forth, not only as our Savior, but as our Forerunner into the very presence of God where he fellowships with Yahweh, the Holy Spirit, the angel hosts, and with those for whose sake he had suffered the agony described in this Psalm.
The sudden change from the prayer of the suffering One to the answer to the prayer of the suffering is worthy of notice.
The deliverance of the Messiah, when it came, was so mighty, so grand, and in such a great contrast to his suffering that it made his suffering slip away from the mind.
After his resurrection He is no longer despised and abhorred, no longer in affliction, God no longer hides his face from him, but gives him loving attention when he calls upon him.
Like the ever-widening ripples which are created when one throws a stone into a pond, the resurrection became a blessing:
First to his brethren. (v. 22)
Secondly, to the seed of Israel. (v. 23)
And finally, to the people of the whole earth. (v. 27)
There are four majestic thoughts that dominate verses 22-31 of this Psalm, and the key word in all of verses 22-23 is praise. And the four things about praise are set forth.
After suffering the agony of the cross, Jesus rejoined his brethren to proclaim God's name.
"Name" in this passage of Scripture means that he proclaimed the attributes of God.
Who are the brethren of whom the Psalmist speaks? There are two possibilities which are not necessarily exclusive.
The apostles, disciples, and friends who had faithfully followed him during the three and a half years of his ministry upon earth. (See: Matthew 28:10; John 20:17.)
The author of Hebrews makes the point that both the Savior and the saved make up one family, and for this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them (the saved) his brothers. (Hebrews 2:11)
Following this statement the Hebrews writer then cites Psalm 22:22, and so there can be no doubt that the suffering One in Psalm 22 is Jesus the Messiah, and the brethren to whom reference is here made are the ones who are redeemed by his suffering.
The last half of verse 22 speaks of the praise that the suffering One would give to Yahweh.
In the midst of the congregation I will praise you.
The Redeemer set forth a great example to his followers that they should also praise the Father for the victory Christ has won.
In Hebrews 2:12, the inspired author applies Psalm 22:22 to the Savior and even puts these very words into his mouth. Note: "I will declare Your name to My brethren; in the midst of the congregation I will sing praise to You." ("Congregation" is the church.)
In verse twenty-three there is a call for praise. This goes out to all the true descendants of Jacob who reverence God, that is, obey him by faith.
In verse twenty-four the reason for this praise (adoration of God) is stated.
Christ had not been forsaken forever. The resurrection of Christ was the answer to the suffering One's prayers upon the cross for deliverance.
He was not delivered from death, but according to the plan of God, he was triumphant over death. For this reason God's people should forever praise him.
According to verses 25-27 Christ's victory over death is to be celebrated in worship.
In verse 25, the triumphant Messiah shares in the worship of his people, and Yahweh is the source as well as the object of this praise. "My praise shall be of you in the great assembly."
"The great assembly" refers to all those who reverence Christ.
So, Christ joins with his church in praising God for deliverance from sin and death.
In verse 26, we learn that the people of God are sustained (fed) in worship. "Meek ones shall eat and be satisfied." Who are the meek ones spoken of here?
Those who are poor in spirit, humble, and kind, those who have surrendered their hearts to Jesus. Jesus said, "Blessed the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven " (Matthew 5:3)
The Meek ones are those who can rightly claim membership in the kingdom of Christ.
They shall eat and be satisfied. What shall they eat? The body and blood of Jesus! (John 6:33) Eating the flesh of Jesus is becoming a part of him, it is appropriating the benefits of his atonement to ourselves.
Since their spiritual needs are satisfied, the poor, (meek) praise God, and in so doing they pray for one another in these words, "May your heart live forever!"
The ends of the earth join in this worship, that is, saints from all over the earth join in this worship.
In verses 28-29, the Psalmist sets forth the concept that Christ's victory over death ushers in his universal kingdom. This kingdom belongs to Yahweh.
The triumphant ascension of Christ to the right hand of God was his coronation procession.
Daniel describes this prophetically in the scene in which he saw "one like unto the son of man come before the Ancient of Days to receive a kingdom." (Daniel 7:13-14)
Obadiah ended his brief prophecy on the same great note, and John foresaw a time when the kingdoms of this world became the kingdom of God. (Revelation 11:15)
Verse 29 goes further in describing the Messiah's kingdom. All the wealthy people shall bow before him, along with all mortal men, who will also one day bow to the sovereignty of Christ. (See: Philippians 2:5-11.)
In verses 30-31 we learn that all posterity will serve him, and our faith will be handed down from generation to generation.
The church in one location may disappear, such as in the ancient city of Ephesus, for example, but in another place she will spring forth with vigor and health.
God's plan for the redemption of the world involves the proclamation of his righteousness as it is revealed in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
God has done this! This is an august declaration! If the Lord should not return for many generations, those yet unborn will learn of this great truth and respond to it.
SPECIAL NOTE OF THE VICTORY AND BLESSINGS THROUGH HIM, AND THE ENDURING MESSAGE (VERSES 22-31).
God saw the cruel suffering of the Messiah on the cross, he heard his prayer, and he answered him.
The victory of Jesus over his enemies and his deliverance from death through the resurrection was accomplished through the power of Yahweh.
The blessed Holy Spirit saw this beforehand and began to show the results of the resurrection of Christ which is the redemption and the rejoicing of all mankind because of the victory of Jesus.
In the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, Satan, his servants, (those who crucified Jesus) and his angels were overthrown.
The power that Satan had from the beginning of sin in the Garden of Eden was destroyed by the resurrection of Christ from the dead.
What the Spirit foretold in this Psalm (22) through David, John saw in a magnificent vision in Revelation 12:10, which reads as follows:
"Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, 'Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power (authority, par. mine DGW) of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.'"
See also: Revelation 12:7-9; Matthew 28:18)
This section of the Psalm also points out that the victorious Messiah would do the following things:
He would declare God's name to his brethren; he would join them in the assemblies where praises would be offered to Yahweh. (v. 22)
He would call upon all those who fear Yahweh, that is, all the seed of Jacob, Israel to praise him (the Messiah). (v. 23)
The Messiah would be praised in "the great assembly," meaning assembly of God drawn from all over the earth, both Jews and Gentiles. (v. 25)
"The meek," that is, those who are humbled by affliction, would eat spiritual food, be satisfied, and give praises to Jehovah, and those who are spiritually dead would live forever. (v. 26)
People from "all the ends of the earth...all the kindred of the nations" would worship before God. (v. 27)
The Messiah is Jehovah's King over people who come from all nations of the earth. (v. 28)
In verse 29a, the Psalmist said, "All the prosperous of the earth shall eat and worship; all those who go down to the dust shall bow before him," and in the last line of the verse (29b) he explains who he is describing by saying, "Even he who cannot keep himself alive."
This is a prophecy of the universal judgment of mankind. (Romans 14:10-12)
One can bow to Christ in time and receive great blessings in the spiritual realm, or he can refuse to bow in time, and ultimately bow in eternity.
The enduring message regarding the Messiah would not come to an end with his departure from the earth.
Posterity (seed), which would be a great spiritual nation, would tell the story of the Messiah over and over in the succeeding generations.
This story of the Messiah, along with the story of his righteousness, would come to generations which at that time had not yet been born.
These unborn generations would be told that God through Christ had done these great things.
Psalm twenty-two tells of the death of the Messiah who would come after David and in the family of David, and it tells how God through Christ would be praised by the nations after the resurrection of Christ.
Psalm twenty-three tells of the hours during the death of Christ, and that he would ascend to dwell in the "house of the Lord forever."
Psalm twenty-four tells of the ascension and coronation of Christ as King of kings, and Lord of lords.
Surely, these "...things which were written aforetime..." do teach and admonish us, "...that we through the patience and comfort (encouragement, par. mine DGW) of the Scriptures might have HOPE"
Hope, in this passage comes from a Greek word (elpida) which means, "expectation"
The English word "hope" actually combines three things which are:1) Desire, 2) Expectation, and 3) Anticipation. Anticipation is really a part of expectation, but it suggests the idea of one's eagerly awaiting some event.
Notice that it is from the Scriptures that one gets patience, encouragement, and the hope which is anchored within the veil where Christ reigns at the right-hand of the Father.
1 Hailey, Homer, The Messiah Of Prophecy To The Messiah On The Throne, Religious Supply, Inc., Louisville, KY,1996, p. 49.
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