Questions (w/ some answers) for Psalm 22
(This Psalm should be read through in its entirety, preferably at the outset of each meeting
1. Who is the Psalmist?
· “To the chief Musician upon Aijeleth Shahar, A Psalm of David.” There are several candidates for what Aijeleth Shahar means, or what it is. Some believe it’s probably the name of a song or tune to the measure of which this psalm was to be chanted. Others understand it to be another musical instrument yet to be determined, or an allegorical allusion to the subject of the psalm. Personally, I tend to the notion that it has to do with the Christ, whom the psalm is about, and can be translated as “Hind of the dawn,” or “the morning hart.” https://housetohouse.com/aijeleth-shahar-gods-deer-2/, “The bright and morning star,” if you will, who leaped from the grave to eternal glory at the right hand of God.
2. Who is/are the speaker(s)?
· Here David is the author writing for Christ the speaker through the holy spirit.
“What?” you say, incredulous. But it is what it is. I don’t think David is writing about himself, and this is why.
The Cross. The Cross is a centerpiece prop in this Psalm, used for the tortuous death by crucifixion. Crucifixion was an unknown during David’s time, however this Psalm clearly describes death by crucifixion . . . in detail. To be certain, Moses, some 450 years before David, wrote about taking down the body of one that had been hanged on a tree Deuteronomy 21:22-23. Hanging was not a Hebrew form of execution. Here we see a sort of gibbeting, the curse through public display of one’s death body as a consequence of some heinous crime committed . . . similarly practice among all nations at the time. According to Mosaic Law the body was not to be left to rot or be prey to ravenous birds, but was to be buried “that day,” in order that the land be not defiled, compounding the curse.
What we learn from Mosaic Law in terms of the death of Jesus is that to be hung on a tree (figurative of nailed on a cross) subjected to the lowliest form of humiliation those guilty of the greatest of atrocities. To be made the accursed of God. In Christ’s sake, He who knew no sin, became sin . . . 2 Corinthians 5:21
The first we hear of crucifixion was its use as a weapon of terror by the neo-Assyrians, which some believed grew out of impalement (another very gruesome, horrible practice), and, in either case, the victim was left to die, which might take as long as half a dozen days as the case may be. You can get the notion from the antipathy the Assyrians generated from such cruelty by Jonah’s reaction toward Nineveh. Some have speculated that Jonah’s immediate famil may have met their end by the hands of such machinations of torture.
At any rate, the practice was transferred to the Persians from which we get the first record of its use from Herodotus who reports that “Darius I, king of Persia, crucified 3,000 political opponents in Babylon.” Of course, it was the Romans who took it up and perfected it via mass application, as they did so many other things, and by the time of Christ it apparently had become an acceptable use of punishment for a rabbi accused of blasphemy by the power elite of the time. https://www.bible.ca/d-history-archeology-crucifixion-cross.htm
3. Who is the audience?
· The Psalm ends with these words written by David: They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto the people that shall be born, that he hath done this [22:31]. “To the people that shall be born” includes you and me. David was not aware of the full implications of what he was writing, if at all. There are those who would disagree and count it all as autobiographical, relevant only to himself and those during his times (c. 1000 BC). But where is the spiritual discernment in that? Indeed, that is the absolute denial of the Holy Spirit.
4. List those described in the Psalm? How are they described (adjectives used, actions given, consequences prescribed)? Examples from the Bible? Do you know people like this?
“MY GOD, MY GOD. WHY HAST THOU FORSAKEN ME?”
(section one: His first words from the cross)
1 My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?
· Make no mistake Who the speaker is. Here’s another clue: Psalm 22 corresponds with Genesis 22. When Isaac asked, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God will provide himself a lamb.” It is where we are first introduced to “Jehovah-jireh (Yahweh Yireh=the LORD will provide): as it is said this day, In the mount of the LORD (Moriah, Golgotha/Calvary) it shall be seen” (Gen. 22:14 written by Moses, before David). Also see Isaiah 53 written after David.
· Here, in Psalm 22, we are given the thoughts of Christ. He does not only fulfill scripture as foreseen by David, but He quotes the entire 22nd Psalm, as you shall see. And here we see that Christ was forsaken of God.
2 O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.
· Have you ever cried out like that? Have you ever wondered, “Where are You, God?” but received the blessed assurance by the words of Christ, “. . . I am with you always, even to the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20).
· But in that moment, when we came up on the cross with Him, when He became our sin, He was abandoned by God. No place to turn, nowhere else to go. No one has ever had to experience that. No one. He alone.
· As Vernon McGee puts it, we have “. . . the plaintive and desperate cry of this poor, lone Man, forsaken of God.” This is the cry of Jesus, “who was made a little lower that the angels [made a man] for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man” (Heb. 2:9). The lamb for the burnt offering: “. . . the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29}.
· His three-year ministry was not why He came to live among us in the flesh, but his purpose was to give the promise of salvation through His own resurrection so that our faith in His faith (that He is who He says He is (John 11:26) may be built upon. Again, in McGee’s words: He could save no one by His life; it was his sacrificial death that saves Hebrews 2:15-18. Yet, through it all, He says: “. . . I do always those things that please him” (Jn. 8:29). So why did God forsake Him?
3 But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.
· A paradox is a seemingly contradiction. The classic example is, “It’s always darkest just before the dawn.” When we encounter a paradox, we are having an encounter with truth. A rare and wonderful thing, we should pause and pay attention. Selah.
In this case, in the very moment that Christ was left alone on that cross, God was reconciling the world unto Himself, through Christ John 16:32. McGee reminds us: “The Father was with Him when He was in prison, the Father was with Him when He was being beaten, the Father was with Him when they nailed Him to the cross. But in those last three hours He made His soul an offering for sin, and it pleased the Father to bruise Him” (see Isa. 53:10).
· It was not just a matter of “. . . why hast thou forsaken me?” but “why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?” Man of very Man, God of very God. In the flesh He had taken on the sin, in His deity perfection. A paradox, asking “why” not out of impatience or doubt, “ . . . but from a human cry of suffering, aggravated by the anguish of His innocent and holy life. That awful and agonizing cry of the loneliness of His passion! He was alone. He was alone with the sins of the world upon him” (MaGee).
6 But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of people
· He is a Man at his lowest point Isaiah 53:3.
· McGee also notes that the specific word for worm used here in the 22nd Psalm is “coccus worm,” which was used by the Hebrews in dyeing all the curtains of the tabernacle scarlet red. He said, “I am a worm”; but He also said, “. . . though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow . . .” What is it that cleanses sin. The blood of the Lord Jesus, God’s Son, cleanses all from sin. Christ Alone.