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the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 22

Simeon's Horae HomileticaeHorae Homileticae

Verse 1


Psalms 22:1. My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?

THE prophecies relating to our Lord have not only declared what works he should do, and what sufferings he should endure, but even the very words that should be uttered both by his enemies and himself. Whatever reference the words of the text might have to David, there can be no doubt but that they principally relate to the Lord Jesus; and in him they received their accomplishment: when he had hung about six hours upon the cross, we are told, “he cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli! Eli! lama sabacthani? that is to say, My God! my God! why hast thou forsaken me [Note: Matthew 27:46.]?” Perhaps he cried with a loud voice in order to shew, that his natural strength was by no means exhausted; and that his dissolution, which immediately followed, was voluntary: but he discovered also by that the intenseness of his sufferings, and fulfilled in the minutest manner the prediction before us. Waving all illustration of the text as applicable to David, we shall endeavour to elucidate it as accomplished in his great antitype, and shall consider,


The occasion of our Lord’s complaint—

Jesus, in the hour of his extremity, was forsaken of his heavenly Father—
[We are not to suppose that the godhead actually separated itself from his manhood; but that the sensible manifestation of the divine presence was withheld from him. This was necessary in various points of view. A banishment from the divine presence was part of the punishment due to sin; and therefore it must be inflicted on him who had become the surety and substitute of sinners. Occasional suspensions, also, of the tokens of God’s love are the means whereby God perfects the work of faith in his people’s hearts: and “it behoved Jesus to be made like unto us in all things:” “though he was a son, yet he must learn” the nature and the difficulty of “obedience (yea, and be made perfect too) through sufferings [Note: Hebrews 2:10; Hebrews 2:17-18; Hebrews 5:7-9.].” Nor could he properly sympathize with us, which, as our great High-Priest, he ought to do, unless he himself should endure the very temptations, which we, in our measure, are called to sustain [Note: Hebrews 4:15.].]

But though there was good reason for it, it was a just ground of complaint—
[Never had he endured any thing like this before: when he said, “Now is my soul troubled, it is exceeding sorrowful even unto death,” a voice was uttered from heaven, “Thou art my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased:” when he agonized in the garden, an angel was sent from heaven to strengthen him: but now that he was more fiercely than ever assaulted by all the powers of darkness, his heavenly Father also seemed to conspire with them, and withdrew the only consolation that remained for his support. What a dreadful aggravation of his sufferings must this have been! To cry, and even “roar” for help, and find God “far from helping him!” to have him, in whose bosom he had lain from all eternity, hide his face from him! How could he but complain? Surely in proportion as he loved his heavenly Father, he could not but bewail the hidings of his face.]
Lest however we should form a wrong conception of our Lord’s conduct, let us consider,


The complaint itself—

Let us not suppose that there was the smallest mixture of impatience in it—
[When our Lord first undertook to stand in the place of sinners, he said, “I delight to do thy will, O God.” When the cup of God’s wrath was put into his hand, he still acquiesced; and, though his human nature shrunk back for a while from the conflict, he committed himself to God, saying, “Not my will, but thine be done.” Nor was the complaint uttered on the cross any other than what every good man, under the hidings of God’s face, both may and ought to utter [Note: Psalms 77:1-3; Psalms 88:9-10; Psalms 88:14.].]

It expressed the fullest confidence in God, and exhibited the brightest pattern to all his tempted people—
[Not for one moment does Jesus doubt his relation to his heavenly Father, as we alas! are too apt to do in seasons of deep affliction. His repetition of that endearing name, “My God! my God!” shews how steadfastly he maintained his faith and confidence; and teaches us, that, “when we are walking in darkness and have no light, we should trust in the Lord, and stay ourselves upon our God.”]

We may improve the subject by considering,


The lessons we may learn from it—

There is not any part of doctrine or experience which will not receive light from this subject. But we shall content ourselves with observing from it,


The greatness of Christ’s love—

[Truly the love of Christ has heights and depths that can never be explored. He knew from eternity all that he should endure, yet freely offered himself for us, nor ever drew back from his engagements: “Having loved his own, he loved them to the end.” But never shall we form any just conceptions of his love, till we behold that glory which he left for our sakes, and see, in the agonies of the damned, the miseries he endured. But when the veil shall be taken from our eyes, how marvellous will his love appear! and with what acclamations will heaven resound!]


The duty of those who are under the hidings of his face—

[Our enjoyment of Christ’s presence is variable, and often intermitted: but let us not on that account be discouraged. Let us pray, and that too with strong crying and tears; yea, let us expostulate with him, and ask, like Job, “Wherefore dost thou contend with me [Note: Job 10:2.]?” But though we say, “The Lord hath forsaken me,” let us never add, like the Church of old, “my Lord hath forgotten me.” If he hide himself, “it is but for a little moment, that he may gather us with everlasting mercies [Note: Isaiah 54:7-8.].” Therefore let us say with Job, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.”]


The misery of those who are not interested in his atonement—

[We see what bitter lamentation sin occasioned in him, who bore the iniquities of others, even though he knew that his sufferings would quickly end. What wailing then and gnashing of teeth will they experience, who shall perish under their own personal guilt, when they shall be shut up as monuments of God’s wrath to all eternity [Note: Luke 23:31.]! Would to God that careless sinners would lay this to heart, while yet a remedy remains, and before they be finally separated from their God by an impassable gulf!]

Verses 11-21


Psalms 22:11-21. Be not far from me, for trouble is near; for there is none to help. Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round. They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all mg bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd: and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws: and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. For dogs have compassed me; the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture. But be not thou far from me, O Lord! O my Strength, haste thee to help me! Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog. Save me from the lion’s mouth; for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.

IN many parts of the Psalms there is a strong resemblance between David’s experience, and the experience of David’s Lord; so that the language used, may properly be applied to both. But in some parts David speaks in terms which are wholly inapplicable to himself, and can be understood only as referring to Christ. This is particularly the case with respect to some expressions in the psalm before us. That a greater than David is here, there can be no doubt. The writers of the New Testament quote many parts of it as literally fulfilled in Christ; in whom alone indeed the words which I have read had any appearance of accomplishment. We scruple not therefore to consider from them,


The sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ—

These are strongly marked,


In his complaints—

[Great was the number of his enemies, and most inveterate their rage against him. He compares them to fierce “bulls,” and savage “lions,” and ravenous “dogs.” Under the emblem of “the fat bulls of Bashan,” he represents the Jewish Governors both in church and state, whilst the populace, both of Jews and Gentiles, were like dogs, set on indeed by others, but actuated by their own native ferocity, and by an insatiable thirst for blood. All ranks of people combined against him; and not so much as one was found to administer comfort to him, or to assuage his anguish. Of this he complains as a great additional source of grief and sorrow; “Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am roll of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none [Note: ver. 11. with Psalms 69:20.].”

Exceeding deep also and various were his sufferings. In his body he endured all that the most cruel adversaries could inflict. He complains that his frame was so emaciated that they might “count all his bones;” that “his joints also were dislocated,” and “his hands and feet pierced with nails:” and, to complete the scene, whilst he was suspended thus, a naked bloody spectacle upon the cross, some gazed upon him with a stupid unfeeling curiosity (“they look and stare upon me”); and others, with cruel indifference, amused themselves with “casting lots upon his vesture.”

Now in no sense whatever were these things at any time fulfilled in David. In relating them, he evidently personates the Messiah, in whom they were fulfilled with the minutest possible precision.
In his soul his sufferings were far deeper still. Before ever his body was touched, “his soul was exceeding sorrowful even unto death [Note: Matthew 26:38.].” And from whence did that anguish proceed but from the hand of the Father, who visited on turn the sins of the whole world [Note: Isaiah 53:10.]? Yes, this it was which then so oppressed and overwhelmed him: and at the same time all the hosts of hell assaulted him; for “that was their hour, and the power of darkness.” Under the pressure of these mental agonies, “he was poured out like water,” or rather, was consumed, as it were, by fire, as the burnt-offerings were, even with the fire of God’s wrath; insomuch that “his heart was like melted wax in the midst of his bowels.”]

Of his sufferings we may form a yet further judgment from,


His supplications—

[These were offered up in every diversified form, of renovated entreaty, and of urgent pleas: “Be not thou far from me; haste thee to help me: deliver my soul from the sword; save me from the lion’s mouth; for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.” Now these petitions, I apprehend, related chiefly, if not exclusively, to the sufferings of his soul. It was “the Father’s sword that had now awaked against him, to smite him,” and it was “the roaring lion,” even Satan, with all his hosts, that now sought to devour him. In the midst of these accumulated troubles, he felt above all, and deprecated most urgently, the hidings of his Father’s face: “My God! my God! why hast thou forsaken me?” “O be not far from me, be not far from me, O Lord [Note: ver. 1, 11, 19.]!” The plea, which in this extremity he offered, must not be overlooked; “Thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.” At the time of his birth had the Father interposed to deliver him from the murderous rage of Herod; and on many occasions from the Jews who sought his life: and he requested that, if possible, and consistent with the Father’s purpose of saving a ruined world, the same protecting hand might be stretched out to save him now; and that the bitter cup, which he was drinking, might be removed from him. If however this could not be vouchsafed to him consistently with the end for which he had come into the world, he was content to drink the cup even to the dregs.

If now the Son of God himself was so pressed with his sufferings, that he besought his Father “with strong crying and tears” either to mitigate the anguish, or to uphold him under it, we can have no doubt but the distress exceeded all that language can express, or that any finite intelligence can adequately conceive.]
Now then ask yourselves, my Brethren, in reference to these sufferings, what should be,


The feelings which they should excite in our bosom—

If we beheld but a common man enduring excessive anguish both of body and mind, we could not but feel some measure of sympathy with him: and, if we ourselves had been the occasion of his sufferings, and he were bearing them willingly in our place and stead, we could not but take the liveliest interest in them, both in a way of grief, that we had brought them upon him, and in a way of gratitude to him for sustaining them in our behalf. But this Sufferer was none other than our incarnate God, who came down from heaven on purpose to bear our sins in his own sacred person, that he might deliver us from the condemnation due to them, and procure for us reconciliation with our offended God. Well then may we behold our Saviour,


With the deepest humiliation for having occasioned him such anguish—

[Had we never sinned, our adorable Lord would never have assumed our nature, nor borne any of these agonies which we have been contemplating. In them, therefore, we should read our guilt and misery. Was he under the hidings of his Father’s face? We deserve to be banished from the presence of our God to all eternity. Did he suffer inconceivable agonies both of body and soul, under the wrath of Almighty God? We merited the utmost extremity of that wrath for ever and ever. Did he suffer even unto death? We were obnoxious to everlasting death, even that “second death in the lake that burneth with file and brimstone,” “where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” Draw near then with me, Brethren, to Gethsemane and to Golgotha, and contemplate with me the scenes which were there exhibited. Do you see in the garden that sufferer, whose agonies of soul are so intense, that the blood issues from every pore of his body? And do you behold him on the mount, stretched upon the cross, and hear his heart-rending cry, “My God! my God! why hast thou forsaken me?” Say then with yourselves, ‘Now I behold what my sins have merited; or, rather, what they merit at this hour. There is not a moment of my life, wherein I might not justly be called upon to drink that bitter cup, without the smallest hope for any, the slightest, mitigation of my woe through eternal ages.’ Dear Brethren, this is the glass in which I wish you to behold your own deserts. I would not have your eyes turned away from it for one instant to the latest hour of your lives. In viewing particular sins, you may perhaps be led to self-complacency, from the thought that they have not been so enormous as what are habitually committed by others: but in viewing your iniquities as expiated by our blessed Lord, you will see that nothing can exceed your vileness: and you will be ready to take the lowest place as the very “chief of sinners.” The best of you, no less than the most abandoned, have merited, and do yet daily merit, at God’s hand, all that the Saviour of the world endured for you: and I again say, ‘Never look at yourselves in any other glass than this.’]


With the liveliest gratitude for sustaining them in your behalf—

[Truly he interposed not thus for the angels when they fell: but for you he undertook and executed this stupendous work of “redeeming you to God by his own precious blood.” This, methinks, should fill you with such wonder and love, that you should never be able to think of any thing else. In this mystery are contained “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge;” and all other things, how beautiful soever in their place, should be swallowed up by it, even as the most brilliant stars are eclipsed by the sun. Hence, this formed the one great topic of St. Paul’s preaching; (which he calls “the preaching of the cross;”) for “he determined to know nothing amongst his people but Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And in heaven this forms, amongst all the choir of saints and angels, the one subject of their praise. Even angels, I say, unite with the saints in singing “Salvation to God who sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever.” Oh! Brethren, if our minds were more occupied in exploring the height and depth and length and breadth of redeeming love, we should not be so easily turned away after vain unprofitable controversies as too many are at this day [Note: This is an important hint, and may be followed up, according as there be occasion for it at different times or places in the Christian Church.] — — — This subject will elevate and enlarge the soul, and have a transforming efficacy in proportion as we delight to dwell upon it. Let it only be duly and abidingly impressed upon your minds; and it will prove the power of God to the salvation of your souls.]

Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Psalms 22". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/shh/psalms-22.html. 1832.
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