Summary: This messianic psalm is a psalm in which David, at a time in his life that was dark and seemed to be hopeless, cried on the Lord for deliverance and received it. David also, as a prophet, speaks of the Lord's suffering, death, and resurrection.
I really love the psalms. Psalm after psalm we see the writers just pour out their hearts out to the Lord. No matter what their emotions and attitudes were, they approached their God with their concerns. We see psalms of praise glorifying the Lord for who He is and what He has done for his people, but we also see psalms with emotions and attitudes quite different from the psalms of praise; psalms of lament. In these psalms we see some of the darkest moments of the psalmists lives, where they were the most troubled; in the most despair.
Psalm 22 is classified as a psalm of lament, and it follows a common structure of this genre of psalms. It begins with a cry to the Lord, followed by a lament over whatever the psalmist is battling, followed by a confession of trust and a petition for the Lord’s help, and finishing with an exclamation of praise.
CONTENT: DAVID OR CHRIST?
One of the biggest debates surrounding this psalm is the question, “Who is it about?” What do we think about when we first read this psalm? The suffering of Christ on the cross. I believe it gives us an amazing picture of many things that happen at the crucifixion of our Lord. But we need to ask the question: “Does this psalm only apply to Jesus on the cross?”
On the subject of the Psalm itself, there is considerable diversity of opinion:
1. Some referring it all to David;
2. Others referring it all to Christ (Translators of NKJV; everything in Caps); and,
3. Some, because of the application of several verses of it to our Lord in his sufferings, take a middle way, and apply it primarily to David, and in a secondary or accommodated sense, to Christ.
I think this third way of looking at the psalm is the best of the three approaches. We should always try first to understand it within the historical context that it was written, which I believe when we do so we can get so much more out of our application of it to Christ and the crucifixion scene.
So we are going to first look at this psalm making applications to David, trying to keep in our minds what is going through David’s thoughts and emotions, so we can make an application to Jesus and the cross later.
Psalms 22:1-5 1 My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning. 2 O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer; And by night, but I have no rest. 3 Yet You are holy, O You who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel. 4 In You our fathers trusted; They trusted and You delivered them. 5 To You they cried out and were delivered; In You they trusted and were not disappointed.
So we begin this psalm with 2 verses that many have struggled with in this psalm, and the Lord’s quoting of it in Matthew 27:46. It seems like David is saying that the Lord has just turned His back on him and is not listening to him when he calls to him in his distress. Is that what he is saying here? Did the Lord abandon David?
I don’t believe that the Lord turned His back to David and was not listening to him. The Lord doesn’t turn His back on a faithful servant, and as far as I can see concerning this psalm, there is nothing within it that would tell us that David had any sin in his life that was hindering his fellowship with God. I believe that David makes it clear that the Lord did not forsake him in verse 24:
Psalms 22:24 For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Nor has He hidden His face from him; But when he cried to Him for help, He heard.
Within this psalm, we’re given a picture of David here concerning the context of (just as I believe the title suggests) a doe that is completely surrounded and stuck in a trap where there is no escape, groaning/ or roaring as the word in v2 literally means; roaring for help, but no one has come as yet to rescue.
David at this point was in great distress because his enemies were surrounding him and there was not yet any attempt by the Lord as he could see at delivering him. I think it is true to say that suffering is so much harder when you feel that there is no one there to help you through what you are going through. With David, his life at this present time is full of distress and gloom; full of darkness, which would give him the feeling that God was not near. He cried by day and by night, continually, without receiving any rest from his sufferings at the hands of his enemies.