Friday, December 19, 2014

The Cry of the Suffering Christ by W. J. Hocking (Part 1)

“My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? why art Thou far from My salvation, from the words of My groaning? My God. I cry by day, and Thou answerest not; and by night, and there is no rest for Me: and Thou art holy, Thou that dwellest amid the praises of Israel.” (Psalm 22:1-3)

In Psalm 22 we have one of the many Old Testament prophecies which refer directly to our Lord Jesus Christ. This one, however, is distinguished from the rest because it foretells facts concerning His unique and unfathomable sufferings which are not to be found in other predictions. Here we have them in all their simple, solemn, and pathetic sweetness from the lips of the Holy Sufferer Himself.

Three Outstanding Messianic Psalms

Many Psalms give glimpses of Jehovah's Anointed One Who was to come, but three of them are conspicuous among the rest by the vivid details of His sufferings which they make known beforehand. Besides Psalm 22, there are Psalm 69 and Psalm 102. All three foretell in words of song the amazing pathway of the Hope of Israel laughed to scorn by all who saw Him and the Saviour of men without a place to lay His head. Each of the three Psalms presents its own particular phase of the sufferings of Christ followed by its appropriate sequel, but the one which touches our affection and devotion most deeply is Psalm 22.

The theme of Psalm 69 is the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ as He unflinchingly bore the reproach of Jehovah in the face of those who hated Him without a cause. High and low were His enemies. Those that sat in the gate spoke against Him, and He was the song of the drunkards. “Save Me, O God,” He cried, “for the waters are come into My soul.” Jehovah heard and answered, as the latter part of the Psalm shows. God will bring righteous and overwhelming retribution upon the ungodly generation that rejected and crucified their Messiah. The sufferings caused by the enmity of man are followed by the righteous judgment of those who caused those sufferings.

Psalm 22 is differently framed, and its theme is unique. Here, though the sufferings depicted are far deeper and more poignant, the result for man is not judicial but merciful. Not a word is uttered about wrath and judgment for man. Indeed, one might almost call Psalm 22 the nearest approach in the Old Testament to the revelation of the super-abounding grace of God in the New. Instead of thunderbolts of wrath from God falling upon those who maltreated the Messiah, the Psalm ends with praise arising to God from all mankind. The sufferings of Christ will yield what the whole world has never yet rendered to God — united and universal praise. Now, there is praise from a few here and a few there; but the Psalm views a time when all the world will be rejoicing in God and giving Him what is due to His name, giving Him, in fact, what man's tongue was designed to render — intelligent and heartfelt praise. And “in that day” all the “kindreds of the nations” will worship before Jehovah of Israel in consequence of the sufferings of Christ which are set forth in the prophetic monologue of this Psalm.

Psalm 102 also celebrates the sufferings of Christ. There Messiah is presented in His humiliation among and by men and in His invariable attitude of meek and lowly submission to whatever was the will of God. The Psalm is called “the prayer of the afflicted when He is overwhelmed.” In His infinite greatness, Christ “emptied Himself,” and obediently took the poor man's place in a world of self-sufficiency and self-exaltation. He was forsaken of men, and left to mourn “as a sparrow alone upon the housetop.” In His distress, Messiah cried, “O My God,” desiring that He might not be taken away in the midst of His days. Thereupon Jehovah vindicates His suffering and outcast Son (vers. 24-27). Though the days of His humiliation might be shortened, was He not the Creator of the earth and the heavens? All creation perishes, but Messiah abides unchanged continually, the Same “yesterday and today and for ever.” Thus, the prayer of the afflicted One is answered by a divine witness to the intrinsic glory of His person; and the passage is quoted in Heb. 1:10-12 as a crowning testimony to the glory of the eternal Son, by Whom God spoke to men in New Testament days.

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