Messianic Psalms - Psalm 22: Psalm of the Cross
Psalm 22 is an extreme psalm. It begins with almost unimaginable depths of suffering and concludes with an astonishing hymn of worldwide praise. One writer says that it…
“…traverses unimaginable dimensions. From the depths of abandonment by God, the song of the rescued person rises to a worldwide hymn that draws also the dead into a great homage of God in heaven.” (Kraus, Psalms, Vol. 1, pg. 300)
This is the first of a number of so-called “passion psalms” in the Psalter, which describe the suffering and persecution of an innocent victim in terms reminiscent of the Suffering Servant of the Lord in the second part of Isaiah. Although some commentators have suggested that the godly sufferer is more ideal than real, representing perhaps the Israelite nation when exiled among the heathen, the narrative of his afflictions is so vivid in its details that it undoubtedly depicts a true and literal experience.
Yet Christian eyes cannot read this psalm, nor Christian lips sing it, without applying it to the sufferings of Christ and his subsequent glory. Not only did Jesus quote its opening words as one of his seven sayings from the cross (Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34), but the mockery of vv7 & 8 was echoed by the priests (Matt. 27:39-44; Mark 15:31-32; Luke 23:35), the division of clothing in v18 was said to be fulfilled by the soldiers (John 19:23, 24), and v22 is applied to Christ in Hebrews 2:11, 12. Further, the sufferer’s agony in vv14-17 – his disjointed bones, his thirst and his pierced hands and feet – is a remarkable description of the horrors of crucifixion, although it is not quoted of Christ in the New Testament.
Allan Harman concludes, “The fact that [Psalm 22] is quoted thirteen times in the New Testament, and nine times alone in the account of Jesus’ suffering and death, points to a fuller meaning realized only in our Lord’s messianic affliction” (Psalms, Vol. 1, p215).
James Boice sums up Psalm 22 well as he writes:
“Psalm 22 begins with a description of Christ’s alienation from the Father, as he was made sin for us. It continues with a vivid description of the crucifixion itself. It ends with triumph, as the suffering One tells how his prayer was heard and affirms that he will declare the name of God and praise God before his brethren and in the great assembly. Since Jesus ended his earthly life by quoting the last verse of this psalm, it means that he did not die in despair…. Rather, he died in triumph, knowing that the atonement was perfect and fully accepted by God and therefore that countless future generations of sinful people would be saved because of it.” (Psalms, Vol. 1, p193)
As we continue our ‘Journey to Christ in the Psalms’ summer series, we come to “The Psalm of the Cross,” Psalm 22. I hope you can join us this coming Lord’s Day as we look at the suffering and the triumph of Messiah for his people. And as we consider this psalm, surely our hearts will be taken up with wonder at the love of God for his people. “Amazing love, how can it be…?”
By His Grace,