Sermon:A Psalm of the Cross (Psalm 22)

The Psalm of the Cross

Psalm 22:1-21 (ESV)

To the choirmaster: according to The Doe of the Dawn. A Psalm of David.

[1] My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?

[2] O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,

and by night, but I find no rest.

[3] Yet you are holy,

enthroned on the praises of Israel.

[4] In you our fathers trusted;

they trusted, and you delivered them.

[5] To you they cried and were rescued;

in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

[6] But I am a worm and not a man,

scorned by mankind and despised by the people.

[7] All who see me mock me;

they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;

[8] “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him;

let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”

[9] Yet you are he who took me from the womb;

you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.

[10] On you was I cast from my birth,

and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

[11] Be not far from me,

for trouble is near,

and there is none to help.

[12] Many bulls encompass me;

strong bulls of Bashan surround me;

[13] they open wide their mouths at me,

like a ravening and roaring lion.

[14] I am poured out like water,

and all my bones are out of joint;

my heart is like wax;

it is melted within my breast;

[15] my strength is dried up like a potsherd,

and my tongue sticks to my jaws;

you lay me in the dust of death.

[16] For dogs encompass me;

a company of evildoers encircles me;

they have pierced my hands and feet—

[17] I can count all my bones—

they stare and gloat over me;

[18] they divide my garments among them,

and for my clothing they cast lots.

[19] But you, O Lord, do not be far off!

O you my help, come quickly to my aid!

[20] Deliver my soul from the sword,

my precious life from the power of the dog!

[21] Save me from the mouth of the lion!

You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!

Most all of OT Scripture experienced partial prophetic fulfillment during the time it was written and then final fulfillment in the life of Christ.  It seems that Psalm 22 is different.  Most scholars agree that there was no corresponding time in David’s life when these verses would apply.

No incident recorded of David can begin to account for this…The language of the Psalm defies a naturalistic explanation; the best account is in the terms used by Peter concerning another Psalm of David: Being therefore a prophet,…he foresaw and spoke of…the Christ (Acts 2:30)—Quoted from Boice’s Commentary, Boice quoting Derek Kidner

In this Psalm, David is speaking of Jesus and the crucifixion strictly as a prophet.  An amazing fact is that David lived 1000 years before Jesus was ever born.  Also, during David’s time know one had even heard of crucifixion.  The Jews put criminals to death by stoning.  This is yet another proof of the prophetic nature of Psalm 22.

On the day of Jesus’ crucifixion there were some miraculous Divine works of nature.  There was an earthquake and there was darkness.  At about noon the sun went dark and it stayed dark till about 3:00pm.  It was during this darkness that God turned His back on His Son because His Son had become sin for His people.

We would do well to remember what Paul wrote to the Corinthians…

2 Cor. 5:21 (ESV)

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

It was during this time when Jesus had become sin that the darkness of judgment came.  The wrath of God was poured out on His Son.  So hot and powerful was this wrath that the lights had to be turned out.  This judgment was between God the Father and God the Son.  It was during this time of darkness that this Psalm takes place.  The first half of Psalm 22 knows only struggle and pain.

1. A Forsaken Savior (1-2)

[1] My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?

[2] O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,

and by night, but I find no rest.

Here is probably the most disturbing verses perhaps in all of Scripture.  Jesus cries out for God to help Him, but no one answers.  There is silence.  The Father and the Son had always shared an extremely close relationship through out Jesus’ earthly life.  They communed 24/7.

Now, something was different.  During these three hours especially, Christ was a Sin-bearer.  He was the scapegoat and the sacrifice.  Jesus took our sins upon Himself and went outside the camp and paid the ultimate price for His people.

I can’t explain how one Person of the Trinity could turn His back on another.  I can’t explain how Jesus could become our sin-bearer.  I do believe it even though I can’t fully explain it.

While Jesus was bearing the sin of His people, He was forsaken by God.  As we think about this principle, I’d like to ask you if your sin has ever come between you and God?  Have you ever cried out for help only to find God silent?  When we experience these times we must immediately seek God in repentance.  Jesus had never experienced anything like this before and it was sin that caused it…not His but our’s.

2. God’s Character (3-5)

[3] Yet you are holy,

enthroned on the praises of Israel.

[4] In you our fathers trusted;

they trusted, and you delivered them.

[5] To you they cried and were rescued;

in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

In His agony and suffering, our Lord remembers God’s character.  He realizes that for the moment He is forsaken.  God’s will for Jesus in this time of darkness was for Him to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Jesus knew this was going to happen.  When God was nowhere to be found, Jesus relied on what He new to be true of God to get Him through the torture of the cross.

Even while Jesus was under the afflicting hand of God He was obedient and loved God.  Jesus knew it would last forever.  Jesus knew the Father too well to ever let outward circumstances determine His love for the Father.

Everything God does is good and praise worthy even by one who is suffering at the hand of God.  Jesus knew God had a plan that was being carried out and to this plan He was willing to submit perfectly.

What does Jesus remind Himself of?  He reminds Himself that God can be trusted.  If you could have asked Jesus at that time, Can God be trusted?  Through the groans of agony He would have answered, YES!

Jesus’ strategy to endure the pain of Calvary was to rely on what He knew to be true of His heavenly Father.  He endured this trial which was infinitely more than we will ever be put through.  If He could trust God then so should we.  No matter what Jesus trusted.  I pray our response could be the same.

3. A Mocked Savior (6-8)

[6] But I am a worm and not a man,

scorned by mankind and despised by the people.

[7] All who see me mock me;

they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;

[8] “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him;

let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”

Spurgeon remarks, This verse is a miracle in language.  How could the Lord of glory be brought to such abasement as to be not only lower than the angels, but even lower than men.  What a contrast between I AM and I am a worm!

Everyone joined in as Jesus was mocked.  Romans, Jews, Soldiers, Leaders, Religious, all were engaged in shaking their heads and shouting insults.

These verses are so close to the account recorded for us in the Gospels, one commentator asks if this is prophecy or history.

Matthew 27:39-44 (ESV)

And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads  [40] and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”  [41] So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying,  [42] “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.  [43] He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ”  [44] And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.

4. A Crucified Savior (12-18)

[12] Many bulls encompass me;

strong bulls of Bashan surround me;

[13] they open wide their mouths at me,

like a ravening and roaring lion.

[14] I am poured out like water,

and all my bones are out of joint;

my heart is like wax;

it is melted within my breast;

[15] my strength is dried up like a potsherd,

and my tongue sticks to my jaws;

you lay me in the dust of death.

[16] For dogs encompass me;

a company of evildoers encircles me;

they have pierced my hands and feet—

[17] I can count all my bones—

they stare and gloat over me;

[18] they divide my garments among them,

and for my clothing they cast lots.

In these verses we have many prophetic details of the crucifixion.  We have graphic details of the death of Jesus.

The bones of the hands, arms, shoulders, and pelvis out of joint (14); The intense perspiration caused by intense suffering (14); The beating of the heart affected (14); strength exhausted and extreme thirst (15); the hands and feet pierced (16); partial nudity (17); The desolate cry, periods of light and darkness, casting lots for His clothes, all these and more were literally fulfilled in the event of the crucifixion.—C I Scofield

5. Hope is Restored (19-21)

[19] But you, O Lord, do not be far off!

O you my help, come quickly to my aid!

[20] Deliver my soul from the sword,

my precious life from the power of the dog!

[21] Save me from the mouth of the lion!

You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!

Jesus is still on the cross, still suffering, still crying out in pain.  The darkness lifts.  The sun begins to shine.  He understands God’s prescience is again with Him.  God did hear His cry for help.  God is at His side.  Jesus’ cry now becomes a shout from the midst of a worn out tortured body a cry of victory…The sin debt is paid.

The Lord takes one last breath and cries It is finished!  He then dies a victorious death.

The tone of the Psalm now turns from tragedy to triumph.  What seemed to the world to be a great defeat will only after be seen as the greatest victory.

Jesus endured the greatest trial anyone has ever suffered at the loving hands of the Father.  When everything was stripped away from Him, Jesus trusted in the plan and purpose of God.  In the end God’s will was accomplished, and Christ is now exalted.  God was magnified by the trusting Savior who died for our sin.

May we stand in awe of Jesus.  May we worship Him for His loving sacrifice.  May we copy His example of trust even through the most difficult trials in our lives.

To God be the glory…

Next week, we’ll look together at the victory and the extent of Christ’ accomplishment for His people on the cross.

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