Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. (Matt. 5:17)
Most Christians, and even casual readers, are familiar with the 23rd Psalm. It is a profound source of support when one is going through trials and tribulations. Children are often taught to memorize this Psalm and carry it in their hearts for the entirety of their lives. Today, however, let us explore the 22nd Psalm. Its treasures are immense, and its encouragement insurmountable. Realizing the significance of Psalm 22 should help anyone believe in the infallible truth that the Bible is from God, that its accuracy is indisputable, and that it is our roadmap to Heaven. In addition, we gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of the pain and suffering that our Lord and Savior endured to bring us salvation.
The 22nd Psalm, the fifth Messianic Psalm, is often called the “Psalm of the Cross.” One of the most quoted in the New Testament, this Psalm clearly and precisely describes Christ’s suffering on the cross when He hung, bled, and died for your sins and mine. Often, we see pictures of Christ hanging on the cross with a few trickles of blood running down his forehead. While this picture somewhat depicts an aspect of His suffering, His experience was so much more than that.
Let us first remember that Psalm 22 is prophetic. Because it prophesies about Christ’s suffering on the cross, it is easy to forget that it was written about David and his own life. This psalm should help anyone understand the nature of prophecy and the accuracy of the Bible. The Psalm was written in the Old Testament by King David, but it was fulfilled in the New Testament by Christ. In Matthew 5:17, Jesus stated that He came to fulfill all Scripture:
17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. (Emphasis added).
Psalm 22 is a clear and perfect example of how Christ fulfilled the scriptures with Himself.
The opening words of Psalms 22 are “My God, my God, why hath thou forsaken me?” (Ps. 22:1). Christ quoted these very words in Mark, 15:34 as He was dying on the cross.
34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “E’lo-i, E’lo-i, la’ma sabach-tha’ni?” which means, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
To understand the agony that these words represent, we must realize that before this experience, there had never been a time when Christ was spiritually separated from His Heavenly Father. As Christ bore our sins and endured God’s judgment, His father withdrew His Holy Presence from Him. Jesus’s relationship with His Father had always been that of acceptance and approval, so this was unbearable. At Jesus’s baptism, according to Matthew 3:16-17 this occurred:
16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
In Luke 9:35, God spoke to the disciples and said: This is my beloved Son: hear him. Jesus, the Word of God, was with God from the beginning:
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2The same was in the beginning with God (John 1:1-2).
Therefore, the spiritual separation of Jesus from His Father was the most excruciating aspect of the entire experience. It was far more painful than the scourging or other abuse that He endured. Jesus had not cried out in pain before this time, but it was unbearable for Christ when His Father withdrew His Holy Presence.
Psalm 22:6-21 was fulfilled in Christ’s first advent or coming. Psalm 22: 22-31 will be fulfilled in His second coming. David described his physical, mental, and emotional suffering and torment in verses 12 to 21. We are given a similar picture of the suffering and death of our Lord and Savior in the gospels. David (vs.12, 13) said his enemies surrounded, taunted, and abused his body. In John 19:1-3, the gospel presents this account of Jesus’s experience:
1 Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him.
2 And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe,
3 And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands.
David (v.15) describes his throat as being parched as he cries out in thirst. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.
In John 19:28-29, Jesus continued to fulfill Scripture when he said that he was thirsty.
28 After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.
29 Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth.
David said that his enemies cast lots for his garments in Psalm 22:18.
18 They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.
This Messianic prophecy was fulfilled in John 19: 23-24.
23 Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout.
24 They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did.
In Psalm 22:19-21, David committed himself to the only One in existence who holds power to deliver him.
19 But be not thou far from me, O Lord: O my strength, haste thee to help me.
20 Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog.
21 Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.
In Luke 23:46 we see the surrender of Jesus to the Will of His Heavenly Father.
46 And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.
The remainder of Psalms 22 presents the rescue, vindication, and glorification of King David. We can rest assured that our King Jesus took assurance from this Psalm as he bowed to the Will of His Heavenly Father. He knew that He would be rescued, vindicated, and glorified.
Let us pray: Father, we give glory to our King of King and Lord of Lord! We give glory to You our Heavenly Father who makes all things right! And we give glory to the accuracy and clarity of our Holy Bible, the Lamp unto our feet and light unto our path (Psalm 19:105)!
Sources: Journey Through Psalms by Mike Raiter; Life in the Spirit Study Bible; Thompson Chain Reference Bible and Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible.