Friday, December 19, 2014

The Cry of the Suffering Christ by W. J. Hocking (Part 9)

Brief Outline of Psalm 22

This prophetic psalm is a concise delineation of Christ in His sufferings as the propitiating sacrifice and in the resulting praise to God from all mankind. The psalm throughout is a direct address to God, and the Speaker is Christ Himself. It is divided into two principal sections. In the first, Messiah is speaking in the midst of His sufferings as One forsaken by God, the Holy One of Israel, and His prayers for relief are unheard. In the last section, Messiah is heard and delivered, whereupon He leads a song of triumphant praise to Jehovah in which all the nations of the world eventually join.

Thus, the spirit of Christ in this psalm by the prophet David testified beforehand of the sufferings of the Christ and of the subsequent glories (1 Peter 1:11). The solemn and impressive portraiture in its early part sets forth the Lord Jesus in the work of making expiation for sins, which was peculiarly and exclusively His own. He Who endured the cross describes its principal anguish, otherwise unknown to men and angels. Messiah also foretells the celebration of His victory in praises to God from all men everywhere.

(A) In the first section (vers. 1-21), Messiah calls to His God concerning what He is suffering in utter loneliness. Man works his evil will upon Him unchecked by the Holy One of Israel. Throughout His sufferings, Christ communes with His God in the utmost assurance of trust (vers. 1-5; 9-11; 15; 17-21).

(1) Ps. 22:1-6. The Holy Sufferer is conscious that God has deserted Him in His extremity and stands aloof from His groaning and incessant cries for help. Christ confesses that this estrangement is because God is holy, while He Who knew no sin has been “made sin.” In the midst of this unexampled suffering on earth, Christ, having emptied and humbled Himself for this service, retains His lowliness of mind, and as “a worm and no man” claims nothing from God but meekly submits even to this abandonment as His righteous and holy will.

(2) Ps. 22:7-11. Christ speaks of the people's mockery of His trust in God as His unfailing Helper, but He knows that from the womb He had been chosen and preserved by God. And He still calls upon God not to be far from Him in His trouble, but to help Him, for there is none else.

(3) Ps. 22:12-15. Christ sees His enemies surrounding Him like strong bulls of Bashan, while He is weak like poured-out water. But the weakness of crucifixion He accepts as the will of God, and says to Him, “Thou hast brought Me into the dust of death.”

(4) Ps. 22:16-21. Christ is oppressed by the callous shamelessness of the wicked men who compass Him about like dogs. They pierce His hands and feet, strip Him naked, gamble for His vesture, and indulge to the full the lust of their staring eyes upon Him. But yet again He pleads to be delivered from the sword, from the power of the dog, and from the mouth of the lion.

(B) At this point in the psalm an abrupt change occurs in the style of the Speaker, which continues to the end. In the middle of verse 21, His theme is no longer His affliction but His deliverance. The entreaty of prayer becomes the rendering of praise. The night of weeping is over and the morning of joy has dawned. The Afflicted One is conscious that His appeal has been heard and answered. The culmination of His suffering has been fully and efficaciously endured. The will of God He had come to do has been accomplished, and He has been delivered. In consequence of His triumph, the name of Jehovah Who inhabits the praises of Israel, will eventually be extolled in tributes of praise and adoration throughout the whole earth.

(1) Ps. 22:21. God hears the complaint of His forsaken One, transfixed upon the horns of the unicorns. Christ upon the cross declares “It is finished,” bowing His head in death, thus terminating His obedience on earth (John 19:30; Phil. 2:8).

(2) Ps. 22:22-24. Having been delivered, the Afflicted One becomes the Offerer of praise to God and the ever-acceptable Precentor of His people. He declares the name of His Deliverer to His brethren (John 20:17). In the midst of the assembly He awakens praises to God (Heb. 2:12). Then Messiah calls upon all the people of Israel to glorify and revere Jehovah (ver. 23), for Jehovah had not, as they had done (Isa. 53:2, 3), despised and abhorred the affliction of the Afflicted One, Whose cries Jehovah now had heard.

(3) Ps. 22:25-31. Messiah foretells the praises from the whole earth that will arise to Jehovah during the millennial kingdom. In the “great congregation” of Israel, the risen and glorified Messiah will offer His praise with those that fear Him (vers. 25, 26). All the Gentile nations will turn to Jehovah and render Him due reverence and worship (vers. 27-29). Also, unborn peoples shall be instructed in the righteousness of God established by Christ Jesus through His work of expiation (Rom. 3:21-26). The echoes of “It is finished” will still be reverberating everywhere, for all shall be taught that “He hath done it” (vers. 30, 31).

The New Testament fully establishes the prophetic and Messianic character of this psalm. Our Lord on the cross adopted its opening words as His own (Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34). The division of Christ's garments is expressly foretold (ver. 18). The historical piercing of His hands and feet agrees with the prophecy of ver. 16, also with that in Zech. 12:10, “They shall look on Me Whom they pierced,” as well as that in Rev. 1:7, “Every eye shall see Him, and they which have pierced Him.” Thus the Psalms and the Prophets unite beforehand in their witness to Christ and Him crucified.

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