This psalm of David, from Book 1 of the psalms, is a personal psalm of petition or lament; it is also a prophetic psalm which in many places is directly quoted or deliberately repeated in the gospel accounts of Jesus' crucifixion.
This psalm is broken into stanzas of 1, 2 or 3 verses. Each stanza takes up a slightly different response to the same situation, where David is in perilous danger.
- 22:1-2 David cries out, "My God, why have you forsaken me?"
- 22:3-5 David recognises God has ruled Israel, who trusted him, and he saved them.
- 22:6-8 David describes the scorn of others towards him, who say, "Let the LORD rescue him."
- 22:9-10 David remembers God has been his God, caring for him since his birth.
- 22:11 David asks God not to be far, for trouble is near.
- 22:12-18 David describes his situation and his fear.
- 22:19-21 David cries out to the LORD: "Come quickly! Deliver me, rescue me, save me!"
- 22:22-24 David instructs others to praise, honour and revere the LORD for he has listened to David's cry.
- 22:25-26 David commits to social justice and praise to the LORD.
- 22:27-28 David submits all people everywhere to the LORD's sovereign dominion.
- 22:29 David says the rich and the dead will both worship the LORD.
- 22:30-31 David prophesies that future generations will proclaim the LROD's righteousness and praise him for his deeds.
At his crucifixion, Jesus cried out the first words of this psalm because they applied to his situation and because they were prophetic for his situation. Compare:
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" [Psalm 22:1]with:
"And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, 'Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?' (which means, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?')" [Matthew 26:46; Mark 15:34]Some people misinterpreted Jesus' words [Mark 15:35], but when we consider the rest of Psalm 22 and its parallels with the events of Jesus' crucifixion, it is clear that David wrote a psalm that prophetically adumbrated Jesus' death, as well as poetically describing David's own situation at the time he wrote it.
" 'He trusts in the LORD,' they say,
'let the LORD rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
since he delights in him.' " [Psalm 22:8]
" 'He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him for he said, "I am the Son of God." ' " [Matthew 27:43]And another:
"My mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death." [Psalm 22:15]
"Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, 'I am thirsty.' " [John 19:28]And:
"Dogs surround me,
a pack of villains encircles me;
they pierce my hands and my feet." [Psalm 22:16b]
"When they had crucified him, ... sitting down, they kept watch over him there." Matthew 27:35-36]
"And they crucified him. ... It was nine in the morning when they crucified him." [Mark 15:24a, 25]
"When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals - one on his right, the other on his left." [Luke 23:33]
"There they crucified him, and with him two others - one on each side and Jesus in the middle." [John 19:18](The basic process of crucifixion is to nail the hands and feet to a
t-shaped cross, and then raise the cross upright until the victim expires of asphyxiation. Later, Jesus' disciple Thomas acknowledged Jesus as "my Lord and my God!" when he saw the pierced holes in his hands and feet [John 20:24-29].)
"All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment." [Psalm 22:17-18]
"When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots." [Matthew 27:35]
"Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get." [Mark 15:24b]
"And they divided up his clothes by casting lots." [Luke 23:34b]
" 'Let's not tear it,' they said to one another. 'Let's decide by lot who will get it.'Why did God forsake Jesus? He didn't. Jesus' death was always part of God's plan for salvation - and Jesus knew that when he repeated David's words from Psalm 22:1 while he hung on the cross. Don Carson, in his book Scandalous: The Cross and the Resurrection of Jesus (p. 33), writes that Psalm 22 "is rich in expressions of confidence and trust in God. If David can utter such an anguished cry while demonstrating his own steadfast trust in God, why should it be thought so unthinkable that David's greater Son should not utter the same cry while exercising the same trust?"
This happened so that the scripture might be fulfilled that said,
'They divided my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.'
So this is what the soldiers did." [John 19:24]
Making all these connections is great, and lots of fun for a person like me who obsesses over how texts intersect. But none of this makes any difference unless I focus on the main point: Jesus died for me so that I shall never need to be forsaken by God, as David felt he was when he wrote this psalm.
Don Carson (p. 35) quotes Elizabeth Barrett Browning:
"Yea, once Immanuel's orphaned cry this universe has shaken.Including me.
It went up single, echoless, 'My God! I am forsaken!'
It went up from the Holy's lips amidst his lost creation,
That of the lost, no son should use these words of desolation."
> Do you understand with your whole, deepest being that Jesus died for you? What are you going to do in response?
Why do I love and worship Jesus?
Jesus was crucified for me, according to the Father's plan, which David prefigured in Psalm 22.
Thank you Father for your plan of salvation.
Thank you Jesus for winning the Father's salvation for me.
Thank you Holy Spirit for opening my eyes to see the Father's salvation.
Tomorrow's reading: Psalm 69:1-36.