Psalm 22: The Psalm of the Cross: Part I
From Darkness to Light, Defeat to Victory, and king to King
Introduction: The three-part series: Psalm 22, the Psalm of the Cross, focuses on the humiliation and victory of Jesus as the Messiah through the eyes of King David. .It vividly pictures defeat and victory and humiliation and glory. It looks at the greater Messiah and David from the view of David, the lesser messiah. It gives valuable insight into the mindset of Jesus Christ.
Psalm 22 is part of the collection of the first kingship psalms in the Psalter (Psalms 20-24). Psalm 22 is the focal center of this collection. It serves a mediating function joining Psalms 20-21 and Psalms 23-24. Psalms 20-21 emphasize the messianic kingship and David as the messiah, God’s representative and instrument for building a kingdom of peace and righteousness. As such he was a type of Christ and His kingdom. These were rough times.
Psalms 23-24 emphasize God’s kingship. God is the Warrior-King and Shepherd. He is the King of glory and David’s God. Psalms 22-24 capture the humiliation and exaltation of Jesus Christ in His redemptive work. Psalm 22 depicts Jesus as the dying Shepherd – the good Shepherd (John 10); Psalm 23 depicts Jesus as the risen Shepherd – the great Shepherd (Hebrews 13:20); and Psalm 24 depicts Jesus as the ascended Shepherd – the victor Shepherd (Ephesians 4:7-10).
The two kingships are united and Psalm 22 seems to picture that union bringing together the reality of messiah’s (David) kingship and the Messiah’s (Christ’s) Kingship. The coupling of messiah’s kingship and God’s kingship is a critical redemptive-historical point. It links the Old and New Testaments and the theocracy of Israel in the Old Testament which pointed to the true theocracy and its true King displayed in the New Testament.
Psalm 22 also expresses the humiliation of Christ as the godly sufferer and His inner-man agony and turmoil via the providence of God. Christ was there through the purpose and plan of the Triune God. Psalm 22: The Psalm of the Cross cones down on the wisdom, beauty, and horror of the Triune God’s redemptive program. It speaks of the greater and lesser David as a godly sufferer. It is similar to Psalm 69 in many ways but it contains no calls for redress (69:22-28). No other psalm aptly applies to Jesus’ final circumstances as this one does.
Psalm 22 opens with the familiar but puzzled cry: My God, my God why has thou forsaken me? These words came from David’s lips as the messianic king. The psalmist (David) was harassed and hunted down at the hands of his and Gods enemies. In the Psalm these enemies are pictured by the imagery of bulls, lions, and oxen (v.12-13, 20-21). He seems powerless in the face of these apparently unprovoked attacks. Simply he stands in the way of Saul’s holding fast to the throne. The enemies are stronger than him but how about God?
The words recorded in verse 1 are attributed to Jesus, the greater David, on the cross. They preeminently highlight the depth of His Messianic mission which was near completion (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34; John 19:34). Jesus knew the answer. In both cases, the king – David and the King – Jesus – is being attacked and is seemingly the loser. Psalm 22: the Psalm of the cross portrays Jesus as a reprobate.who deserve common courtesies. Such it was for king David.
The first portion (v.1-21) of the psalm focuses on the messiah – his work and person -being attacked by enemies including his own household. There is movement in these verses as the psalmist acknowledges his situation and confidence in God’s control and help. He recalls what God has meant for Israel (v.3-5) and for him (9-10). David encouraged himself as he reviewed Israel’s history and his personal history. David was concerned for more than himself. He must have wondered how God would accomplish His plan.
Sandwiched between these thoughts are a description of his humiliation and Christ’s humiliation as He hung on the cross (v.6-8; Matthew 27:39-43 and parallels). David knew, as did Christ, that the Triune God was his God. In a sense that compounded the situation and his thinking. Both knew they had a valid, working relationship with God and He with them. Yet they were in the throes of deep humiliation. Such was the case with Job and almost any godly sufferer. What is God up to was Jesus’ thought preeminently and was David’s thoughts as well. . .
David’s statement regarding himself in verse 10 (From birth, I was cast upon you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God) is in striking contrast to his statement recorded in Psalm 51:5 (Surely I was sinful at birth; sinful from the time my mother conceived me.) The situations were entirely different: in Psalm 22 he was the godly sufferer and in Psalm 51, he was the ungodly sufferer. In both situations, David was aware of God and the fact that life is relational. God was David’s environment (Psalm 139)! In each case, he implores God not to be far away from him. He was not simply looking for the presence of God but the joy of that presence. He assumed that the circumstances if they continued would remove his joy. David was a much better theologian than to accept Satan’s lie. Heaven and earth may pass away but my words will never pass away Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33). God does not lose His people. The cross and the resurrection gloriously attest to that fact.
Rather, circumstances are the context in which a person’s loyalty, devotion, and allegiance to God is expressed. David and Christ could view the circumstances through the God of them or the circumstances alone. If they chose the latter, they would depend on self and their view of reality and truth. David calls out for help because he knows God is the only true Helper. Like Job, the character of God, His promises, and the relationship the psalmist has with God adds to his burden. God’s involvement in the psalmist’s life was never in question. The real issue for David, and Job, centered on the question of relationship: how could God treat his friends (David, Job, and ultimately Christ), the way David was being treated. In the end David knew that God would deliver him (v.21). Christ on the other hand knew why He was being forsaken as the God-man. That knowledge only heightened the burden. .Psalm 22: The psalm of the cross brings the realities to the forefront and helps answer them.
Verses 19-21 bring David’s thoughts and desires together and expresses them with a Holy-Spirit energized and motivated confidence: But you O Lord be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me; Deliver my life from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs; Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen. The words, “save me” in verse 21, literally means “you have heard me.” David knew his God – He hears and answers. This was a cry of victory. In a real sense, David came to his senses. He knew God is the God of circumstances and his God. That made all the difference! No matter the circumstances or a person’s feelings, biblical truth rightly applied lead to victory. Death may come but for the believer that is victory as well (1 Corinthians 15:54-57; Philippians 1:19-21).
1. David was in trouble: why? What is the major theme of book I of the Psalter?
2. David was the messianic king called to be and to do what?
a. What did he learned in the fields as a shepherd?
b. How did he apply those “facts of life” – see 1 Samuel 17?
3. There is a turning point described in verses 19-21.
a. What is it?
b. In what sense did David come to his senses?
Psalm 22: The Psalm of the Cross: Part II
From Darkness to Light, Defeat to Victory, and king to King
We continue the series: Psalm 22: The Psalm of the Cross. There is a transition beginning at verse 22 (v.22-32). The psalmist switches his focus to the fact and the glories of God’s kingship: I will declare your name to my brothers; in the congregation I will praise you. What accounts for this transition? David captured the whole picture of kingship, his and Christ’s. The transition is reminiscent of Paul’s message in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. Verses 1-21 of Psalm 22 pictured the king/messiah as the loser. That is Paul’s foolishness mentioned in verses 18-19 of 1 Corinthians 1. Verses 22-32 of Psalm pictured the messiah’s and the Messiah’s victory. That is God’s wisdom as pictured by Paul in 1 Corinthians 1 and Romans 1:16-17. In God’s economy, you can’t have one without the other. Psalm 22: the Psalm of the cross brings defeat and victory together as only God can and does!..
The Psalmist begins to praise God and calls on others to do the same (v.23-26). In fact, David turns away from himself and focuses on corporate victory. What amazing confidence. David’s relationship with God was redemptively special imitating that of Christ. That is not the case for all believers but it should be. The truth of God’s control, trustworthiness, and love applies to all believers in all ages, Therefore the privilege and blessing is always there. Believers are to grab hold of God (by saving faith) and not let go! That must have been David’s desire as expressed in Psalm 34:8 and Paul’s desire as expressed in Philippians 3:7-11. It is to be our desire as well.
In glorious terms, God’s Kingship is pictured as universal and eternal. There is a widening picture of praise in verses 27-29: All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him; for dominion belongs to the Lord and rules over the nations. 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. The intent of the psalmist was to draw attention to God’s Kingship which would set the stage for Psalms 23-24. These latter two Psalms from the pen of David emphasized God as the eternal, true King. They supply the Messiah, the messiah, and the people with much needed assurance.
Please notice David as he penned the psalm. He moved away from self. He was concerned with God’s kingdom and God’s honor. He was concerned for God’s people. In these ways he was also a type of Christ.
Psalm 22 is a psalm of the of cross, a prophecy of Christ’s death and the victory that follows. David had a similar experience but it was non-redemptive. Christ’s work was redemptive in nature. David experience was similar but he was not God and he was not forsaken by God. He did not go to hell on the cross. But the Holy Spirit has given us this picture as a comfort and joy. Truly Psalm 22 is the psalm of the cross! Just as David came to his senses in the midst of tough times, all believers are to do the same. David began in the fields as a shepherd to think God’s thoughts and desire what God desires. All believers are to develop patterned living of the fear of the Lord rather than trust in self.
The lesser messiah David and the greater Messiah Jesus both ran the race set before them. They both ran well, David imperfectly and Jesus perfectly, by focusing on the truth of who God is and His covenantal faithfulness (Hebrews 12:1-3). The same truth is applicable to believers in all ages. The fact that God reigns and the Lord is King is powerful motivation to worship, to praise, to glory in, to rejoice in, and to become more like Him.
Moreover, Paul reminds us by asking: if God is for us who can be against us? (Romans 8:31). Paul’s response to that question as recorded in Romans 8:32-34 indicates it is not God the Father or Christ. Who then? Paul answers that question in verse 35 when he asks: who shall separate us from the love of Christ by mentioning seven whats (actual God’s providence). The “who” is the believer who experiences God’s providence (the seven whats). The whats have no power to separate any believer from God. David and Christ gave testimony to that fact. Only the individual will separate himself from God. This will never happen to the true believer. As Psalm 22: the psalm of the cross indicates, Christ was forsaken by the Father such that no believer will ever be forsaken by the Triune God. All believers will and have faced God’s frowning or hard providence. They have all come to their senses. Armed with the truth of the David’s kingship as God’s agent and God’s Kingship as pictured in Psalm 22, you too, believer, will focus on and look forward to heavenly glory. Heavenly mindedness always leads to an earthly good. In this case, both David and Jesus stayed the course and completed God’s work.
1. Psalm 22 pictures Christ’s humiliation and exaltation. How do you bring those two truths together?
2. How do humility and humiliation differ?
3. What kind of King takes on human nature, lives among sinners, and dies as one scorned and ridiculed?
3. How can you trust Yahweh as king? (Please read Psalms 146-150 and Romans 4:25, 6:9-11, and 8:1 to help you answer).
From Darkness to Light; Defeat to Victory, and king to King: Part III
We continue the series: Psalm 22: the Psalm of the cross. It is perhaps the best singular description in the Bible of the crucifixion of Christ. No other Psalm so aptly fits the circumstances of Christ’s crucifixion. No Psalm is quoted more in the New Testament than Psalm 22. The gospel writers refer to it often: Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34 – verse 1; Matthew 27:35, 39, 43; Mark 15:31; Luke 23:6, 35; John 19:23-24, 28 – verses 6-8, 15-18. The author of Hebrews refers to verse 22 (Hebrews 2:17).
Verses 1-21 don’t paint a pretty picture. The picture is one of seeming defeat and darkness. David and by analogy Jesus are pictured as the innocent suffering at the hands of sinful, wicked men. It is a description of an execution. In Acts 2:29-39, Peter likens David functioning as a prophet when he foresaw and foretold the crucifixion. Moreover the words of David were the words that Jesus meditated upon as He hung on the cross. Since one of Jesus’ major focuses was the fulfillment of Scripture, we can assume that Jesus pictured the crucifixion as the fulfillment of the first 21 verses of Psalm 22.
Psalm 22, the psalm of the cross, begins with a picture of alienation and seeming abandonment – for the lesser and greater David (v.1-2). An alternating pattern of thought occurs in the five sections after verse 1-2: verses 3-5, 6-8, 9-11, 12-18, and 19-21. Sections one, three, and five describe suffering and inner-man turmoil in response. Sections two, four, and six are prayers to God. David and Christ had the habit of praying. In the midst of hard times it was “natural” for them to pray! As you move through the Psalm you will notice that the tone and cries of anguish decrease and a tone of trust and confidence increases. Verse 11 is quite instructive: Do not be far from me for trouble is near; there is no one to help me. This verse comes on the heels of the psalmist, and Christ, reflecting on what the Lord had been for him (v.10: From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God). A transition in the flow of the Psalm was already noticeable.
The Psalm gives a vivid expression of the whole person – physical and spiritual – being squeezed. Inner-man anguish and consternation are pictured in verses 1-11 and the effects of being sinned against on the outer man in verses 12-18. David, and Jesus, “felt” the full effects of being sinned against in their whole person. Both felt, cried, thought, and desired. Both stayed in their respective situations. Both remained faithful despite their feelings. Proper thoughts and desires always trump feelings!
Verses 19-21 document a turning point. The psalmist and the greater Psalmist, Jesus, repeated the thought expressed in verse 11 but added to it. They both acknowledged God as their Strength, Deliverer, and Rescuer. Union with God had never been severed. But it felt like it! The psalmist and the greater Psalmist never lost sight of their God. They were tempted to turn away but they did not, Jesus perfectly. They were not resource-less although it may have seemed as if they were. Victims they were not. Victors they were. God had David right where He wanted him. God had Jesus right where He wanted Him. Jesus, as the God-man throughout His whole earthly life, was tempted to distrust and consequently dishonor God and prove covenantal unfaithful. If that had happened He would be have been proved a fraud, a loser, and no Savior. He would have disqualified Himself and Satan would have won. Jesus kept the course as verse 21 indicates: David and Jesus knew that they had been heard.
Verses 22-31 picture the triumphal side of Jesus’ Messiahship – the exaltation. The psalmist praises God (v.22) as did the author of the book of Hebrews (2:12: .. I will declare your name to me brothers..). The theme of the book of Hebrews is Jesus is better than… The author quotes Psalm 22:22 to emphasize that point.
The psalmist calls for God’s people to fear the Lord because He has listened and not forsaken His people (v.23-24). The psalmist expands God’s people: brothers, the poor, seekers of the Lord, families, and those to the ends of the earth. Imagine David the psalmist picturing the universal dominion of God and the inclusion of Israel and Gentiles into God’s kingdom when he was being sought by Saul. David was looking forward to a greater Israel, greater Zion, and ultimately to a greater David. David was ahead of his time. This is an amazing amount of theology! David looked forward in redemptive history. Jesus on the cross looked backward to Israel but also He looked forward to all His sheep, the true Israelites. His apostles would carry the message first to Israel, then to Samaria, then to the Gentiles, and to the ends of earth. David ends on an evangelistic note reminiscent of Matthew 28:18-20.
The last verse (v.31) contains the words: They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn – for he has done it. Righteousness, in the Psalms, often refers to God’s covenantal faithfulness (4:1). The words: ..For he has done it most likely refers to John 19:30: it is finished. God had proven once again and finally at the cross that He is the Covenant-maker and Covenant-keeper. The other miracle which attests to God’s faithfulness is the resurrection (Romans 4:25; 6:9-10). Both David and preeminently Jesus were covenant-keepers. Since they are, every believer knows these truths: God never forsakes His people because He forsook Christ. He is trustworthy. Feelings never trump truth and God’s faithfulness.
1. Study the account of the crucifixion as given in each Gospel and then read Psalm 22. What do you learn?
2. What sustained David and Jesus in their respective situations?
3. Describe the pattern in their thoughts and desires and any transition that may occurred.
4. What do you learn about David, Jesus, and yourself?