Psalm 22 – The anguish & victory of the cross
Towering across the ages as a permanent monument to the grace of God stands the cross of Christ. The events of Good Friday, the horrific suffering, crucifixion and death of the Son of God, are beyond description and should constantly cause us to be amazed at what our Saviour has done. Jesus’ ensuing resurrection from the dead on Easter Sunday sealed the defeat of sin and death, secured our freedom, and completed the most important series of events in history.
The cross foreshadowed
Psalm 22, written hundreds of years before those Good Friday events, foreshadows some of them in graphic detail. Jesus, while hanging in agony on the cross, quotes the opening phrase of the Psalm, ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Matthew 27:46). His anguished cry reflected the depth of suffering He was enduring but also drew the attention of the hearer to this most precious of Psalms.
The psalmist, David, opens the psalm with this cry of dereliction. But it seems that in the first half of the psalm he is swinging between the dark realities of what he saw around him and his knowledge of the faithfulness and power of his God. The fact that God appears to be far away and not listening to his cries (vv1,2) is countered with statements of his forefathers trusting in God, crying out and being delivered by Him (vv3-5). He is trying to make sense of these two seemingly incompatible realities. The implication is clear: what I am currently experiencing surely cannot be the end of the story.
The suffering which David had experienced was real and was a small foreshadowing of what we see so clearly in the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus. Being mocked, scorned and despised by onlookers (vv6-8), being surrounded by evildoers (vv12,13), having His body beaten and disfigured (v14), finding his tongue sticking to the roof of his mouth through dehydration (v15) and having His hands and feet pierced (v16) are all attested to in the gospel accounts (see Matthew 27:27-44, Luke 24:38-40, John 19:28-30). The striking image of Jesus being stripped of His clothing and the soldiers casting lots for it is prophesied in verse 18 and we read of the grisly fulfilment in John 19:23,24.
This is not simply poetic language.
This is not hyperbole for the sake of making a point.
This was the reality for our Saviour.
And yet, despite the cry of forsakenness with which the psalm opens, there is not an abandonment of faith. In fact, the psalm rises to a crescendo as it moves towards its conclusion. The psalmist holds a deep-seated conviction that deliverance will come. He appears certain that he will tell of God’s name to His brothers (v22). He believes he will praise God in the congregation (v25). For him, even in the midst of suffering, there is a sure hope because He is resting on the faithfulness of God.
The Kingdom of God
Ultimately the psalmist points towards a time when the whole earth will praise God and the nations will be gathered to worship God (v27). We are reminded that God’s kingdom will be established because He rules and reigns (v28). And not only that, but the generations to come will hear this good news.
The desolation of verse 1 leads inexorably to the praise of verse 27 and the proclamation of the gospel. The horrors of Good Friday are a prelude to the joy of Easter Sunday. The word will be passed down and down and down to people yet unborn (vv30,31). And what is the message? ‘They shall come and proclaim His righteousness to a people yet unborn, that He has done it’
The anguish and victory of the cross.
‘HE HAS DONE IT!’