Psalms 22:1. My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
What a dolorous cry! How terrible it must have been to have heard that cry, but how much more terrible to have uttered it! For the dear Son of God, the Well-beloved, with whom the Father is always pleased, to be forsaken of his God, was indeed grief unfathomable.
Psalms 22:1. Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?
It seems as if the Saviour’s voice, and almost his mind, had failed him, for he calls his prayer “roaring” likening himself to a wounded beast. When any of you cannot pray, or think you cannot, remember these words of your Lord. If he, the ever-blessed Son of God, speaks of his own prayer as a “roaring”, what must ours be! You know that Isaiah spoke of his own prayer as being like the chattering of a crane or a swallow, or the mourning of a dove, as if there were no articulate utterance about it; but to the ear and eye of God, there is music in a sigh, and beauty in a tear. As our Lord had to pray like this, do not wonder if we, sometimes, should feel that God has forsaken us. If there were such dark clouds for Christ there may well be some for us also.
Psalms 22:2. O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.
If we remember Gethsemane, and think how Jesus prayed there, even to an agony and a bloody sweat, shall we wonder if, sometime, our prayers seem to be put on one side, and we do not immediately receive answers of peace to them? Yet, you see, our Lord kept on crying to God both day and night.
Psalms 22:3. But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.
Settle it in your hearts that, whatever God does, he is holy. Never harbour a thought against his, never imagine that he is hard, or unjust, or unfaithful.
That cannot be, so, if the worst comes to the worst, never let your faith have any question upon this point.
Psalms 22:4-5. Our fathers trusted in thee; they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.
Look back, and see how God helped our ancestors. Recall how, in the past ages, the Lord always was the Deliverer of all those that trusted in him. Was a righteous man ever finally forsaken of God? Since the world began, has not the Lord, sooner or later, appeared to deliver his children? It is wonderful to hear our Divine Master pleading in this fashion; but most wonderful of all is that next verse: —
Psalms 22:6. But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.
There is a little red worm which seems to be nothing else but blood when it is crushed, it seems all gone except a blood-stain; and the Saviour, in the deep humiliation of his spirit, compares himself to that little red worm. How true it is that “he made himself of no reputation” for our sakes! He emptied himself of all his glory; and if there be any glory natural to manhood, he emptied himself even of that. Not only the glories of his Godhead, but the honours of his manhood he laid aside that it might be seen that, “though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor.”
Psalms 22:7-8. All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head saying, He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.
Or, as the passage is quoted in Matthew, “Let him deliver him now, if he will have him.”
Psalms 22:9. But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother’s breasts.
This is a very wonderful thing. I do not think we remember as we ought that, for years after our birth, we could do nothing to help ourselves, yet we were taken care of even then. He who has passed safely through his infancy need not be afraid that God will not help him through the rest of his life, and if we should live so long that we to a second infancy, the God who carried us through the first will carry us through the second. He has already done so much for us that we are bound to trust him for all the future. Now let us see, as I reminded you just now, how this passage is referred to in the Gospel according to Matthew.
This exposition consisted of readings from Psalms 22:1-9; and Matthew 27:33-44.
Stand and look up at Christ upon the cross, and look upon these words, as his. He himself is the best exposition of this wondrous psalm.
Psalms 22:1-2. My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.
Gethsemane!—there is the key—a prayer unanswered at that time: “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” It was not possible. He must drink it. “In the night season I am not silent.”
Psalms 22:3. But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.
No hard thoughts of God, even when he was forsaken. A forsaken Christ still clings to the Father, and ascribes perfect holiness to him.
Psalms 22:4-6. Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded. But I am a worm, and no man: a reproach of men, and despised of the people.
How low did Christ descend for our sakes not only low as man, but lower still! Never was godly man forsaken of God, and yet Jesus was; so he is lower than we are while he hangs upon the tree “a reproach of men, and despised of the people.”
Psalms 22:7-8. All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him, let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.
Was not this just what they said at the cross? Ah, little did they know that he saved others; himself he could not save, because a matchless love held his hands there, as with diamond rivets.
Psalms 22:9-10. But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother’s breasts. I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother’s belly.
He remembers his wonderful birth. He was God’s, indeed, from the very first.
Psalms 22:11. Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help. They have all gone. Peter and all the rest have fled. There is none to help.
And there stand the Scribes and Pharisees, and the great men of the nation.
Psalms 22:12-14. Many bulls haw compassed me; strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round. They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion. I am poured out like water,
All dissolved—nothing could hold together—quite spent and gone.
Psalms 22:14. And all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax:
He felt the inward sinking fever brought on him by the wounds he had upon the cress. “My heart is like wax.”
Psalms 22:14-16. It is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd: and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws: and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. For dogs have compassed me:
There they are—the cruel multitude—thrusting out the tongue and hooting at him. “For dogs have compassed me.”
Psalms 22:16. The assembly of the wicked have inclosed me:
The hind of the morning is now surrounded by the dogs. He cannot escape.
Psalms 22:16-17. They pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me.
Horrible, to the tender, modest soul of Jesus, were those vile stares of the ribald multitude as they gazed upon him.
Psalms 22:18-22. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture. But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me. Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog. Save me .from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns. I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.
The sun that was darkened, now shines again.
The Saviour’s griefs are o’er.
A calm is spread over his mind. He is about to say, “It is finished!” and his heart is comforted. We leave that passage there.