asked to name the prophetic books of the Bible, most Christians would not list
the Psalms. But there are prophetic Psalms, as we shall see.
the prophetic Psalm:
how do you recognize a prophetic Psalm? Prophecy, after all, tends to be a
controversial subject; one man’s prophecy just might be another man’s poetry.
So, is it like pornography, you’ll know it when you see it? Not quite:
prophetic Psalm is one which is validated in the New Testament. Often
enough this is by quotation, as is the case in Psalm 22. But much of the
Psalm is not quoted, but clearly prophetic.
Psalm is focused on the advent of Christ – either first or second. Psalm
2, for example, is focused on the second while Psalm 16 applies to the
first. This Psalm applies to both.
the Psalm will use the present tense, or even the past tense, in
describing the future. Don’t be confused by this.
of the more prominent features of prophetic Psalms is that they often show a
very low level of detail – for example, in Psalm 22 we hear of people gambling
for the victim’s clothes. Why is this?
that you might recognize the Messiah by the details.
so that you might understand his suffering. The Gospels give us the
factual account of the Crucifixion; this Psalm gives us the emotional
ordeal Christ endured.
are given in the partial (first advent) fulfillment so that you may be all
the more certain of the prophecy concerning his return.
of the Scripture shows Christ not only as savior but as exemplar – the example
for us to follow. The principle is always the same: the imitation of Christ.
We are quite willing to imitate him – as long as it costs little. But when it
comes to suffering, we are reluctant.
If it happened to the sinless Christ, what on earth makes you think you should
be treated any differently? Surely you will suffer as well.
when you do, shouldn’t you have the same reaction he had? It is good,
therefore, to hear his thoughts as prophesied a thousand years earlier.
reader will remember that Hebrew poetry rhymes in thought. In this section we
will see rhymes of the question and answer variety.
Psalms 22:1-10 NIV For
the director of music. To the tune of "The Doe of the Morning." A
psalm of David.
God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from the words of my groaning? (2) O
my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, and am not silent. (3) Yet you are
enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the praise of Israel.  (4) In you our fathers put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them. (5) They
cried to you and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not disappointed. (6)
But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by men and despised by the people. (7)
All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads: (8)
"He trusts in the LORD;
let the LORD rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
since he delights in him." (9) Yet you
brought me out of the womb;
you made me trust in you
even at my mother's breast. (10) From
birth I was cast upon you;
from my mother's womb you have been my God.
first question may be taken word by word.
– what cause would be so great that God the Father would abandon his only
begotten? Only the love he has for his children.
- Have –
note the past tense. Christ accepts it as fact; no sense of “wait a
minute.” It is, in a way, non-negotiable. What does this say about our
troubles and prayers?
- You –
yes, the God of the universe. If he abandons you, who else could possibly
cling to you? You can understand Judas and Peter forsaking him, but God?
- Forsaken –
we acknowledge the justice of God’s discipline, or chastening. But
doesn’t it seem unfair that God has gone beyond that here? We must
remember that Christ carried the sins of the world to explain that.
- Me –
remember who is really speaking here: Christ. The sinner David would
know God’s chastisement, but the Christ is abandoned. It seems so unfair.
is so strange that the Christ who had intimate fellowship with his Father now
asks why he is far away. It is a reminder that we should also expect this
feeling at times, when God withdraws for his purposes.
finds his first answer in history: think of what God has done for the nation
of Israel. It’s his first resource, and should be ours as well. God does not
change, and we need to remember that.
am so low
now proclaims the problem again – this time in social terms. Christ feels like
a worm. Imagine it! He who gave up the glories of heaven to join with us now
becomes less than us.
feeling comes from how other people are treating him. It’s a fact of life:
all humans – Christ included – need the acceptance by other people. We are
social creatures. So when Christ experiences this, you can know that he
understands quite well your torment when everyone else turns on you.
finds the answer to this again in history – but this time in personal history.
It is not the history of Israel to which he turns; it is his own history, from
his birth. “Our God, and the God of our fathers.” The torment is social; the
God who saves is personal.
Psalms 22:11-21 NIV Do not
be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help. (12) Many bulls
strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. (13)
Roaring lions tearing their prey
open their mouths wide against me. (14) I am
poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted away within me. (15) My
strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me  in the dust of
death. (16) Dogs have surrounded me;
a band of evil men has encircled me,
they have pierced  my hands and
my feet. (17) I can count all my bones;
people stare and gloat over me. (18) They
divide my garments among them
and cast lots for my clothing. (19) But you,
O LORD, be not far off;
O my Strength, come quickly to help me. (20)
Deliver my life from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dogs. (21)
Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
save  me from the horns of the
is no one to help. Christ suffers alone – and therefore is alone as our
we see the rhymes – this time “them and me”
Them – I’m surrounded by powerful people.
The word picture is powerful; we still use the lion as a symbol of power yet
today. The “bulls of Bashan” is a local reference; Bashan is an area east of
the Jordan noted for fine pasture (and therefore fat cows).
dust of death – in
vs. 14-15 we see some exquisite poetry:
“poured out” is a reference to the drink offerings of the Old Testament.
Where the sacrifices by fire at least fed the priests, the drink offering
is pure sacrifice. 100% of it goes for the glory of God.
out of joint” – anyone who has ever dislocated a bone understands two
things: it takes quite a bit of trauma to do this – and it hurts.
melts like wax” – the metaphor’s origin is apparently this Psalm. It’s a
common thought now; but remember the last time your courage just utterly
failed. He went through that; so will you. Being scared is human.
mouth is dried up “like a potsherd.” A potsherd is a pottery fragment,
often used in those days like we’d use a sticky note today. The emotions
are so strong his mouth dries up.
vividly, are those details of the Crucifixion which are so convincingly
prophetic. This is the kind of passage that liberal Christians would like to
postdate after Christ – but the thousand year gap is just too much. Every
little detail is under God’s command.
for help – is just
that. There is no sense here of why God should help; only the plea of the
sufferer. Take heart; if Christ can plead this way, so can you and I.
Psalms 22:22-31 NIV I will
declare your name to my brothers;
in the congregation I will praise you. (23)
You who fear the LORD, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! (24)
For he has not despised or disdained
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help. (25)
From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
before those who fear you  will I
fulfill my vows. (26) The poor will eat and
they who seek the LORD will praise him--
may your hearts live forever! (27) All the
ends of the earth
will remember and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before him, (28) for dominion
belongs to the LORD
and he rules over the nations. (29) All the
rich of the earth will feast and worship;
all who go down to the dust will kneel before him--
those who cannot keep themselves alive. (30)
Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord. (31)
They will proclaim his righteousness
to a people yet unborn--
for he has done it.
is a startling shift in tone here. As Paul often does, David expects that you
will draw the proper conclusion from this shift without being told how do to
it. We have gone from the suffering Christ to the risen Christ – and beyond
that to Christ returned.
is – as usual – a first reaction: praise. The Lord is risen; we praise God.
He returns to judge; we praise God. Indeed, as often happens, part of that
praise is to command others to praise. Why? For the rescue which comes. And
if God rescues Christ, he will rescue his followers as well, for they are
Christ’s brothers and sisters.
of the Church – and beyond
can see the church era in this:
is the spread of the Gospel over all the earth.
see the resurrection of the dead, those that go “down to the dust.”
see the dominion of God.
it sure? Look at the last words: “for he has done it.” It is that sure –