The Agora
Tragedy And Triumph (Psa 22)

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There could not be a more appropriate subject for study than Psalm 22. This is true for at least two reasons: First, the Psalms as a whole are the songbook of God's nation, the pattern of our hymns, and the meditation of God's people in all ages. The Psalms speak to the heart. And second, this particular psalm is the key by which we enter the mind of Christ, our Saviour, as he surrendered his life upon the cruel cross as a propitiation for our sins. Our natural affections for one another, our fellowship in the family of God, even our very existences... all these are meaningless except as we live in the shadow of the cross. The life of faith begins upon the knees -- when we come to the end of our own strength and cleverness, and discover anew the true meaning of sacrificial living and dedication in the One Perfect Man. For in him alone the loving Father has brought life and immortality to light, and without Christ in our lives there is truly no hope. In our helplessness and fear we look up, and our exclamation becomes that of the Roman Soldier as he gazed upon the Galilean: "Truly this man is the Son of God."

A true understanding of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is essential to salvation. This is beyond dispute. As Christadelphians we often stress the uniqueness of our beliefs in regard to the kingdom. But the "good news" concerning the name of Christ and all it implies is just as much a mystery to our church friends as is the kingdom. Here also our "pioneer brethren" have rescued the truth from Papal and Protestant superstitions. Here also it is our duty and pleasure to understand, so that we might proclaim to others that "God so loved the world..."

The sacrifice of Christ, however, must be more than a matter of first principles. The scope of Scripture teaching on this subject can never be fully comprehended. As our understanding deepens, we must acknowledge that the cross of Christ has become a moral and not just a "theological" issue. The sufferings of Christ teach us not only "truth", but also a frame of mind; for they that are truly Christ's have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts. And they live henceforth no more to please themselves, but rather to please their Father in heaven.

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In Psalm 22 we find a subject and theme completely outside David's natural imagination and experience. Sufferings he had, that is a fact -- but never of the intensity nor the type which is here portrayed. It was an inspired spectacle of the pen that must have left even the writer himself unnerved at the finished product. It has been truly said that this is a psalm that man (alone) could not have written if he would, and would not have written if he could. It is beyond all doubt a divine pronouncement, a heavenly commentary on the sin of man and the salvation of Yahweh, given a thousand years before Golgotha. Psalm 22 is so explicit in its detail that no further proof is needed of the Bible's inspiration than its fulfilled prophecy It is a standing challenge (along with Isaiah 53) to all skeptics and critics of Scripture.

"The key to the Psalms lies in the pierced hands." Christ, after his sufferings, revealed the wounds in his hands to his friends -- thereby demonstrating the only principle upon which God may save individuals: We can almost hear the supercharged words to the two disciples of Emmaus:

"Ought not the Messiah (first) to have suffered these things, and (then) to enter into his glory?" (Luke 24:26).
The sufferings and then the glory: this is the divine order, and it is closely paralleled in the two major divisions of Psalm 22:

Verses 1-21: "The sufferings of Christ" and
Verses 22-31: "The glory that should follow" (cp 1Pe 1:11,12).

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The unique character of this psalm, and a further reason for its inability to be satisfactorily applied to David, is seen in this: throughout its 31 verses, there is not the slightest hint of a confession of sins! This intense suffering was the state in which a perfect, unblemished man found himself -- and even the extremity of his final situation could not provoke him to sin with his lips against his Creator.

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Before proceeding to a verse-by-verse consideration of Psalm 22, it would be well to consider it in its larger context. We are probably all familiar with the reasons for there being four diverse gospel records instead of one unabridged account. Basically, it is so that each book may present a special view of Christ, and the four separate angles give us that overall grasp of the subject we could not otherwise have. This same principle is evident with Psalm 22 and certain of its companion Scriptures. In its insight and power and feeling Psalm 22 stands alone, but like a precious stone, its effect upon the beholder is enhanced by an appropriate setting. Consider the following arrangements:


Isa 53: The cross from our viewpoint
Psa 22: The cross from Christ's viewpoint


Psa 22
The Good Shepherd in Death -- "I lay down my life" (John 10:11,15)
Psa 23
The Great Shepherd in Resurrection -- "Lo, I am with you always" (Mat 28:20)
Psa 24
The Chief Shepherd in Glory -- "Come, ye blessed of my Father" (Mat 25:34)


Psa 22: The Perfect Sin-Offering
Psa 40: The Perfect Burnt-Offering
Psa 69: The Perfect Trespass-Offering

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