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Today we are going to examine some of the details and complexities of Psalm 22. It is a Psalm of David which is written about an unnamed “Sufferer” (Great Psalms, by Stanley M. Horton, pg 16) who is being executed and is enduring inexplicable pain. No one in David’s day had experienced such agony nor such a death. I cannot imagine what David must have thought or felt when he penned the words to this incredible psalm. What must he have asked God, and what did God tell him? Did he see it in a vision or a dream first? Or was David simply inspired with the words? However it happened, David was undeniably, mightily used by God to prophesy of the death and eventual triumph of the coming Messiah hundreds of years later.

Jesus and Bible Prophecy

According to many students of the Bible, including those at Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network,“The Old Testament, written hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth, contains over 300 prophecies that Jesus fulfilled through His life, death and resurrection. Mathematically speaking, the odds of anyone fulfilling this amount of prophecy are staggering. Mathematicians put it this way: 1 person fulfilling 8 prophecies: 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000 1 person fulfilling 48 prophecies: 1 chance in 10 to the 157th power 1 person fulfilling 300+ prophecies: Only Jesus!It is the magnificent detail of these prophecies that mark the Bible as the inspired Word of God. Only God could foreknow and accomplish all that was written about the Christ. This historical accuracy and reliability sets the Bible apart from any other book or record” (Article at CBN entitled, “Biblical Prophecies Fulfilled by Jesus,” (http://www1.cbn.com/biblestudy/biblical-prophecies-fulfilled-by-jesus).

So, what are some of the things that this powerful psalm reveals? There is detail upon detail here, but let’s briefly take a closer look!

Psalm 22:1

“(To the chief Musician upon Aijeleth Shahar, A Psalm of David.)“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?”

Many pastors, theologians, commentators, books, and even songs (including Michael Card’s “Love Crucified Arose”) state that the “Father turned His face away” from Jesus as Jesus cried out to Him in agony on the cross. They base their assumptions on the words found in Psalm 22, “why hast thou forsaken me?” Some even go so far as to say that God in His holiness cannot look upon sin (Habakkuk 1:13), and since Jesus became sin who knew no sin (2 Corinthians 5:21) God could not look at Him in that moment on the cross.

The Father Turned His Face Away?

To begin with, in spite of some misunderstandings regarding Habakkuk 1:13 where we read that God is “of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity,” God is not blind to sin. Even in Habakkuk as one reads on, one sees that the passage means God does not condone evil. So, when it says that Jesus became sin, this does not mean that God could not look upon Him nor can it mean that God would turn His face from Him. And really, when it says that Jesus became sin, it meant that He bore our sins in His body on the cross (1 Peter 2:24) not that He became a sinner. After all, He knew no sin.

Secondly, the word “forsaken” cannot lead one to the conclusion that the Father turned His face away. In the Hebrew language, forsaken could mean more literally, “Why have you left me unaided?” or “why have you let me remain in my sufferings so long?” For indeed, it is “an expression of yearning rather than of despair” (Great Psalms by Stanley M. Horton, pg 17). Furthermore, verse 24 states that the Father does not despise nor abhor the afflicted, “neither hath he hid His face from him; but when he cried unto Him, He heard.” In other words, verse 24 disproves the theory that God turned His face away from Jesus. For, the reader of Psalm 22 is thus informed that the Suffering One who was left to suffer so long was not unseen nor unheard, but God had heard and seen and did answer.

Messianic Trilogy

Furthermore, Psalm 22 is apart of a sort of “Messianic Trilogy,” and Psalm 22, 23 and 24 compose that trilogy. In Jesus’ day, the Jews would have memorized all three of these Psalms. When Jesus quoted the first part of Psalm 22 the rest of the Psalm would have played through their minds. It’s like when we hear the first line of a song. When I say, “On a hill far away, stood an old rugged cross,” what words come next? When I say, “Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream,” we can complete the next line, can’t we.

Well it was the same in Jesus’ day with the quoting of Scriptures. So, when Jesus said, “My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me,” His audience knew exactly what He was quoting–Psalm 22—and that Psalm 22 was Messianic. Thus, on the cross Jesus was still informing them that what He was doing had been predicted and was now being fulfilled, even unfolding right in front of their very eyes. Just think about that for a second.

The Scene of the Crucifixion and the Scene of Psalm 22

Imagine you are there at the cross with Jesus hanging upon it, and Jesus quotes the first line of a very familiar Messianic psalm that you know word for word by heart. And as you stand there stunned by what is happening to Jesus, the words of that psalm play over and over through your mind. You hear people laughing at Jesus (vs 7); you see others shaking their heads (vs 7), see them staring at Him with evil delight (vs 17) and hear them say, “He trusted in the LORD that He would deliver Him; let Him deliver Him, seeing that He delighted in Him” (Psalm 22:8, Matthew 27:43). You look over at the gentile Roman soldiers referred to as “dogs” by the Jews who are casting lots for Jesus’ clothing (vs 16,18). Then, tentatively and with great effort you look up at Jesus the one who had stirred your soul with such hope only days before but who is now fading; His strength is gone, He’s terribly thirsty (vs 14,15), and whose His hands and feet are pierced by rough, rugged nails (vs 16). It is then that your breath catches in your throat, for what the Jewish mockers are doing and saying, what the Roman dogs are doing and saying were written in the words of a Psalm of David hundreds of years prior, and it all is playing out in front of your vary eyes at that exact second as the words go round and round in your mind.

Reminder

Therefore, Jesus’ purpose for quoting this scripture was not just one of yearning, but was one of reminding. Even on the cross He was teaching the people. Even on the cross He was pointing the people to Himself as their Messiah. For as the people would think on Psalm 22 they would realize that it described the vary intricate details of the scene playing out right in front of them. In fact, Jesus was saying loud and clear, “I AM.” I am the fulfillment Psalm 22. I am the Messiah. I may die, but I am the victor! After all, the Psalm ends with “He hath done this,” or in Jesus’ words on the cross, “it is finished.”

Conclusion

As we enter this season of Passover and Resurrection, let us think on this incredible Psalm that describes Christ’s death with intricate precision but was written 1,000 years before the crucifixion. When David wrote it, there was no such thing as the horrific death of crucifixion. But God knew. And as Jesus hung suffocating on the cross, those who heard His words with spiritual ears would come to understand that Jesus was reminding them that this was in fulfillment of a prophecy of King David. This was not by accident. This was not out of control. He was not a victim. God had not been taken by surprise. Rather, this was planned in advance for the salvation of the world through Christ’s death and resurrection.

Let’s take comfort then today, in this COVID age, that no matter what evil is facing us, the God who prophesied through David regarding His own barbaric death on the shameful cross, is still in control and has never been out of control even once.

Let us also remember the GREAT suffering and shame that He went through for us. If He was willing to do that for miserable sinners like us, shouldn’t we also be willing to suffer for Him? Even as He took up His cross for us, let us take up our crosses and follow Him. Let us be found worthy (Luke 21:36).

Passover and Resurrection Blessings,

Holy Light Ministries

Sources for God Cannot Look Upon Sin:

Question and Answer by Steve Shirley at http://jesusalive.cc/ques326.htm

Sources for God Turning His Face:

“Did the Father Turn His Face Away?” https://bentrigg.wordpress.com/2011/05/08/did-the-father-turn-his-face-away/

“Did God Really Forsake Jesus On the Cross?” http://www.truthortradition.com/articles/did-god-really-forsake-jesus-christ-on-the-cross

Sources for Fulfillment of Bible Prophecies:

“Biblical Prophecies Fulfilled by Jesus,” http://www1.cbn.com/biblestudy/biblical-prophecies-fulfilled-by-jesus

Other Sources:

Stanley M. Horton, Great Psalms, “The Complete Christ,” pgs 16-19.

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