Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, June 23rd, 2024
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
StudyLight.org has pledged to help build churches in Uganda. Help us with that pledge and support pastors in the heart of Africa.
Click here to join the effort!

Bible Commentaries
Psalms 22

Smith's WritingsSmith's Writings

Verses 1-31


Christ, as the holy Victim, suffering the forsaking of God when making atonement on the Cross.

The psalm has a pre-eminent place in the Book of Psalms, inasmuch as it presents the righteous ground on which every blessing, described in all other psalms, can be made good to the redeemed.

(v. 1-2) The first two verses present the great theme of the psalm - the atoning sufferings of Christ. In the course of the psalm other sufferings pass before us, but only to lead up to this, the deepest of all sufferings, the forsaking of God.

Here then in the opening verses we lose sight of men, and the sufferings they inflicted upon Christ as the holy Martyr, and are permitted to learn His sufferings at the hand of God as the spotless Victim, when made an offering for sin. In the Gospels we have the outward history of this great work: here we are permitted to learn the feelings and thoughts of Christ when accomplishing the work.

Thus there comes before us One who is absolutely forsaken by God. In His distress there is no help for Him in God. The words of His groaning call forth no response from God. His cry receives no answer from God. The night season brings Him no rest from God (JND). Nevertheless, the One who is thus forsaken is the only absolutely righteous One on earth. Furthermore, this righteous One, though forsaken, maintains unshaken confidence in God. He can still say, “My God,” and in the consciousness of His own perfection can ask, “Why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?”

(v. 3) That God should forsake a perfectly righteous man in his distress is entirely contrary to the ways of God with men. Yet we are assured there can be no unrighteousness with God. Thus we learn from the lips of Christ Himself that on this solemn and unique occasion, God was perfectly righteous in forsaking the absolutely righteous One; for the Lord can say, “But thou art holy.” Thus the One who is forsaken by God is the One who entirely vindicates God. These words, however, do more than assure us of the holiness of God in forsaking Christ on the cross. They tell us of the deep necessity for Christ to be forsaken when bearing sins, if God's holiness is to be met, and man to be blessed.

Thus in this great psalm the cross is before us not as setting forth the wickedness of man that calls for judgment; but as setting forth the atoning work of Christ which maintains the glory of God, secures the blessing of the believer, and lays the basis for the fulfillment of all God's counsel.

In His perfect life of obedience Christ glorified God by setting forth perfect goodness. In His death He glorified God by being made sin and bearing the judgment due to sin, and thus for ever declaring that God is a holy God who abhors sin, and cannot pass over sin.

Moreover, by bearing sins and the judgment due to sin, and being made sin and enduring the penalty of sin, Christ secures the eternal blessing of the believer.

Further, by the atoning work the righteous basis is laid for the fulfillment of all God's counsel. God has counselled to dwell in the midst of a praising people. Here the praise of Israel is more in view, yet the same work that will enable God to dwell amidst a praising people throughout millennial days, will enable God to dwell with men, and to own them as His people, even as they will own Him as their God, in the new heaven and earth, throughout eternal ages ( Rev_21:1-3 ).

(vv. 4-5) The unparalleled case of a righteous man being forsaken is made more manifest by contrasting the ways of God with all others who have put their trust in God. All history proved that the fathers who trusted in God were delivered. Righteous men may have indeed suffered martyrdom, but never before had a righteous man been forsaken by God.

(vv. 6-7) In contrast to the fathers, here is One who is treated as being less than a man. He is left to endure the fullness of man's contempt expressed in a sevenfold form. (1) He is esteemed as less than a man - “a worm”; (2) as of no value - “no man”; (3) He is held in contempt - “a reproach of men”; (4) He is despised by the Jew - the “despised of the people”; (5) He is an object of man's sneering ridicule - they laugh Him “to scorn”; (6) He is an object of insult - “they shoot out the lip” at Him; (7) He is the object of mockery - “they shake the head saying, He trusted in the Lord that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.”

(vv. 9-11) Nevertheless, the One whom men despised, and God forsook, was the only absolutely righteous Man: One who from the moment of His coming into this world was marked by perfect confidence in God, for He could say, “Thou didst make me trust, upon my mother's breasts” (JND). Moreover He was perfectly dependent, for He could add, “I was cast upon thee from the womb,” and perfect in His subjection, for He says, “Thou art my God.” And yet the only One whose confidence in God, dependence upon God, and subjection to God, was absolutely perfect from the beginning to the end of His life on earth, is found in deepest trouble with “none to help.”

(vv. 12-15) The verses that follow present the trial as still from God, though viewed more especially as coming through the instrumentality of man. In verses 12 to 15 the deadly hatred of the Jewish nation is in view. In verses 16-20, the Gentile opposition to Christ is seen. Finally in the first part of verse 21, it is the power of the devil the Lord has to meet.

Like a bull using its great strength when blinded with passion, so the leaders of the Jewish nation, blind to reason and indifferent to right, with unrestrained violence and rage, used their position of power in deadly opposition to the Lord. As a roaring lion, bent upon the destruction of its prey, so they were determined upon the death of Christ.

Nor is the Lord spared any physical suffering, for in this terrible position the Lord has to taste every form of trial. The utter prostration, and straining of every member of the body, and the thirst, all pass before us.

Yet, in all this trial, the Lord looks beyond man, who is the immediate occasion of these sufferings, and sees the hand of God. He can say, “Thou hast laid me in the dust of death” (JND). It is not simply the wickedness of man that is before His holy soul, but rather the holiness of God, who is using man to carry out His will.

(vv. 16-18) In verses 16-20 the Gentile opposition to Christ passes before us. Like dogs, acting without heart or conscience, they deliver to death One whom they own to be innocent. Having pierced His hands and His feet, with brutal callousness that knows neither shame nor feeling, they stare upon Him, and gamble for His clothes.

(vv. 19-21 A) Twice in the course of the psalm the holy Sufferer has appealed to God not to be far off from Him in His sufferings (v. 1 and v. 11); now for the third time He turns from His persecutors and His sufferings, and looks beyond men to God, and can say, “But thou, Jehovah, be not far from me” (JND). Thus it becomes plain that if the opposition of men is brought before us, it is not so much to show the fearful evil of men that, in other psalms, calls for judgment, but rather to show that even in the suffering caused by men the Lord was without help from God. Thus the utter abandonment of the cross, in view of atonement, is brought before us. Nevertheless, in the forsaking the trust of Christ in God remains unshaken. While the sufferings inflicted by man are felt with all the perfect sensibilities of Christ, yet they are taken as coming from God (v. 15). Thus God alone is the One to whom the Sufferer looks for help and deliverance.

A threefold deliverance is sought; first from the sword of judgment, then from the power of man, and lastly from the power of Satan - the lion's mouth. Nevertheless, the judgment must be borne before deliverance can come. The word of the Lord by the prophet must first be fulfilled, “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts” ( Zec_13:7 ).

(v. 21 B) Thus every form of suffering has been endured - the enmity of the Jews, the shameless opposition of the Gentiles, the malice of Satan, and above all the forsaking of God when making atonement. Then when all is over, when the great work of atonement is accomplished, and the extreme point of suffering is reached, set forth by the horns of the buffaloes, the cry of the Sufferer is heard, and the answer comes. Christ can say, “Thou hast heard me.” The resurrection was the proof to man that Christ was heard, and the work accepted. Nevertheless, Christ Himself was conscious of being heard and accepted directly the atoning work was completed. Therefore at once, we learn from the Gospels, the language of perfect communion was used by the Lord. No longer does He say, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” but, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” ( Luk_23:46 ).

At once we pass on to resurrection ground, and in this, the second half of the psalm, we have the blessed results of Christ's work on the cross. The sufferings of Christ on the cross have a twofold character. He suffered as the patient Martyr at the hands of men; He suffered as the spotless Victim under the hand of God. The martyr sufferings call down the judgment of a holy God who cannot be indifferent to the insults heaped upon Christ; hence the psalms that present His martyr sufferings, such as Psalm 69 , speak also of judgment upon His enemies. His sufferings as the holy Victim open the way for blessing to man. Thus in this psalm we have a river of grace flowing from the cross and widening as it flows.

(vv. 22-24) This blessing is connected with the declaration of the name of God. We know that this is the Father's name, that reveals the Father's heart and all the blessings counselled in His heart. This name is declared by Christ in resurrection to the few disciples that He had gathered round Himself on earth, of whom He speaks for the first time as His “brethren,” in the message which said, “Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God and your God” ( Joh_20:17 ).

A little later, when the disciples were assembled behind closed doors, the Lord appears in the midst of the congregation, and fills the disciples' hearts with gladness - He leads the praise. Nor is the blessing confined to the few assembled with the Lord in their midst. It is for all the godly in Israel who fear the Lord. They are to know that God has accepted the great sacrifice. “He hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.” We may feebly appreciate the great atoning sacrifice, but our blessing depends not upon the measure of our appreciation but on God's perfect appreciation of, and infinite satisfaction with, the work of Christ.

(vv. 25-26) The river of grace widens still further, for now we pass on to “the great congregation.” This is all Israel regathered and restored for millennial blessing. Christ will lead their praise, and fulfill every promise that had been made. Then indeed the meek will eat and be satisfied, the Lord will be praised, and no more will there be broken and empty hearts, but hearts that shall “live for ever” in the fullness of joy.

(vv. 27-29) Furthermore, the blessing widens to embrace the ends of the earth, and all the kindred of the nations. They will remember what Christ has accomplished on the cross, and they will turn to the Lord and worship. The One who was rejected by men will rule among the nations. The blessing will reach every class, the prosperous - the fat upon the earth; those who are in extreme need - ready to go down to the dust; and the poor who lack means to keep alive the soul.

(vv. 30-31) Finally the blessing will flow on through millennial days to coming generations. His righteousness - manifested in the atoning sacrifice, the exaltation of Christ, and in providing a feast of blessing - will be told to a people that shall be born. And the whole great company of the redeemed will delight to own that.

“He hath done it.” This vast river of blessing that was seen as a small stream amongst a few disciples on the resurrection day, that has flowed on through the ages, and will yet flow through millennial days widening in its course to embrace all the ends of the earth, and extending to generations yet unborn, has its pure sources in the atoning sufferings of Christ - “He hath done it.”

The answer to the cry “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” uttered in darkness on the cross, will come from the midst of a vast host of praising people, brought into everlasting blessing, as they look back to the cross and say, “He hath done it.”

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on Psalms 22". "Smith's Writings". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hsw/psalms-22.html. 1832.
Ads FreeProfile