"For plaintive expressions uprising from unutterable depths of woe we may say of this Psalm, there is none like it. It is the photograph of our Lord's saddest hours, the record of his dying words, the lachrymatory of his last tears, the memorial of his expiring joys. David and his afflictions may be here in a very modified sense, but, as the star is concealed by the light of the sun, he who sees Jesus will probably neither see nor care to see David. . . . We should read reverently, putting off our shoes from off our feet, as Moses did at the burning bush, for if there be holy ground anywhere in Scripture, it is in this Psalm" (Charles Spurgeon).
There is no escaping the fact that this psalm, however much it may speak of David's personal experience, is primarily Messianic. The opening words of the psalm (22:1) are found on the lips of Jesus as he hung on the cross (cf. Matt. 27:46). The taunt of the scorners, "And those who were passing by were hurling abuse at Him, 'wagging their heads'" (Matt. 27:39), is from 22:7. They also challenged him (Matt. 27:43) with the very words of 22:8. And Jesus cried out in fulfillment of 22:15, "I thirst" (John 19:28). Finally, his garments were parted among those who pierced his hands and feet, even as 22:16-18 describes.
A. Introductory Lament - vv. 1-10
In this opening section we see an unusual wave-like movement, almost a vacillation between the utter dregs of wretchedness and the sparkle of hope and confidence.
1. Complaint - vv. 1-2
Here the wrath of God enshrouds him, and is thus absorbed, never to be borne by those for whom he died. This is a cry of utter distress, but not of distrust. It expresses the agony of grief, but not the misery of doubt. The "why" implies a conscience innocence as far as his moral life is concerned. See 2 Cor. 5:21.
2. Confidence - vv. 3-5
Confidence is restored when the suffering One reflects upon the holiness of God. Does it strike you as odd that he would find comfort in, of all things, the holiness of God?
3. Complaint - vv. 6-8
"I am a worm," literally, a grub, such as devours the dead (see Isa. 14:11). "This verse," writes Spurgeon, "is a miracle in language. How could the Lord of glory be brought to such abasement as to be not only lower than the angels, but even lower than men? What a contrast between 'I am' and 'I am a worm'" (326). This one before whom the angels hid their faces in praise and adoration and fear, men make facial mockery. They are not merely so arrogant as to look at him, but they do so with derision.
In v. 8 we see the sarcastic taunts of his tormentors. "This is he who was so fond of repeating the precept, Trust in Yahweh! Let him now try its virtue in his own case. He in whom he has trusted, and exhorted others to trust also, will no doubt deliver him!" See Matthew 27:41-43. Says Barnes,
"It is one of the most remarkable instances of blindness and infatuation that has ever occurred in the world, that the Jews (those who crucified Him) should have used this language in taunting the dying Redeemer without even suspecting that they were fulfilling the prophecies and demonstrating, at the very time when they were reviling Him, that He was the true Messiah."
In other words, the very words used to mock his claim to be the Messiah were the fulfillment of the prophecy which confirmed him to be precisely that! Oh, the irony of sinful man!
4. Confidence - vv. 9-10
"Faith and hope begin to reassert themselves. At the same time the poor sufferer does exactly what his opponents have just recommended to him to do, to commit all issues to God. He recounts what God has meant to him in the past, and what He has done for him from earliest infancy, . . . 'During every moment of my life till now Thou hast been my God and hast sustained me'" (Leupold, 199-200).
B. Extended Lament - vv. 11-18
1. He describes his enemies - vv. 11-13
2. He describes himself - vv. 14-15
He describes his utter lack of strength and his helplessness as like unto water poured out upon the ground. The torment of the sin he bears has reduced him to a most feeble and pitiful state. His physical frame is tortured as one distended upon a rack. His heart has been so greatly burdened as to feel like melting wax. His resistance is nil. He is as destitute of vigor as a broken piece of earthenware is of moisture.
N.B. Note well, however, that it is ultimately God's will that he suffer, for "Thou dost lay me in the dust of death" (v. 15b). See Isa. 53:4 ("smitten of God") and 53:10 ("the Lord was pleased to crush him"). See also Acts 2:23. Never let the emotion stirred by the reality of the cross cloud the fact that it was no accident.
3. He describes his enemies - v. 16
In the ancient near east, dogs roamed in large bands as scavengers. They were totally undomesticated, wild, filthy, objects of abhorrence. The description of his hands and feet being pierced is especially instructive when we remember that crucifixion was unknown at this time in Israel's history!
4. He describes himself - vv. 17-18
The culmination of his sufferings is not so much physical, but consists in the bearing of shame. All four gospels record this incident (Mt. 27:35; Mk. 15:24; Lk. 23:34; Jn. 19:23-24). Calvin writes,
"The Evangelists portray the Son of God as stripped of His clothes that we may know the wealth gained for us by this nakedness, for it shall dress us in God's sight. God willed His Son to be stripped that we should appear freely, with the angels, in the garments of his righteousness and fullness of all good things, whereas formerly, foul disgrace, in torn clothes, kept us away from the approach to the heavens" (194).
The first Adam, originally created in the righteousness of God, by his sin stripped us naked. The last Adam, suffering the shame of nakedness, by his obedience clothes us in the righteousness of God.
C. Petition - vv. 19-21
His prayers are answered, but in accordance with the will and timing of the Father. Was he delivered before death? No. Was he delivered out of death? Yes. Was he delivered on Good Friday? No. Was he delivered on Easter Sunday? Yes. It was a better time and a better way. Apply this to our own struggle with unanswered prayer.
D. Address - vv. 22-31
1. He addresses God's people - vv. 22-26
2. He addresses the world - vv. 27-31
What does v. 27 tell us about the prospects for an end-time revival?