The Agora
Tragedy And Triumph (Psa 22)

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"I Am A Worm" (vv 6-11)

Verses 6-8: THE SCORN OF MEN

As if in justification of his Father's absence from him, Christ disparages himself -- "I am a worm." The lonely prisoner becomes more sensitive to the gloom of his dungeon walls when his visiting friend has withdrawn. So also the lofty spirit of this man is drawn to consider now the stark reality of his earthly tabernacle -- in its corruptibility not superior to the lowliest of God's creatures. Powerless and passive as a worm, he feels himself scornfully crushed beneath the foot of man.

Verse 6: "I am a worm": Yes, he was a worn (Job 25:6). Shrouded in insuperable weakness, his words might well have been those of Job:

"I have said to the worm, Thou art my mother and my sister" (Job 17:14).
But for all that, Christ was a very special worm, as the Hebrew "toolath" indicates. This is the coccus, or cochineal, a unique worm from which scarlet dye is produced by crushing. The dye was used in the manufacture of the priestly garments and the other fabrics associated with the tabernacle. When the soldiers prepared to lead Christ out to be crucified, they first stripped him and put on him a robe dyed scarlet (Mat 27:28). Was he not the greatest of all priests, and the tabernacle itself, which God pitched and not man?

The scarlet derived from the "toolath" was required for the cleansing of lepers and those defiled by the dead (Lev 14:4; Num 19:6; Heb 9:19). As he stood before his executioners in the scarlet robe, Christ was this very "toolath" -- lowly and contemptible, yet bringing cleansing to others by his death. "He was despised and rejected"; yet with his bruising we are healed (Isa 53:3-5), who were once "dead" in the "leprosy" of sin.

"And no man": The word here is "ish" -- honorable man. "I am not what man is -- because of my sinlessness. I am not what man should be -- because of my nature. But I will yet become, through this death, what from the beginning God intended man to be; perfect, glorious, and immortal, having dominion over all creation" (Gen 1:26,28; Psa 8:6).

"A reproach of men": This word is "adam" -- common, sinful man. Here we approach most closely the spirit of this Psalm's great counterpart, Isaiah 53:

"He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not..."
Christ was not just reproached by his enemies as he hung upon the cross. He was and has often been since a reproach to his friends; this is in large part Isaiah's message: "We hid our faces... we esteemed him not..." Have not each of us, at one time or another, felt ashamed or embarrassed to be associated with Christ? What man or woman among us has not glanced furtively at the spectacle of a crucified Saviour, and then like Peter slipped into the shadows, with perhaps an oath on the lips -- "I know him not; leave me alone!" Our Saviour went forward to his cross of wood and nails; all too often we flee from our "crosses" of words and looks.

The perfect man, lifted up, draws all men to himself -- that Is, he offers all men the opportunity to come unto him. But, naturally speaking (and we are all more "natural" than "spiritual") the uplifted Christ repels men! Faced with the awesome majesty of a righteous God and the unwelcome wages of our own sins, we all seek to hide in one way or another: from our duties to proclaim the gospel, from our call to a devout and holy life, from the task of loving the unlovable. And in so neglecting his commandments we also reproach Christ and "break his heart" (Psa 69:20).

"Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by?" (Lam 1:12).
To weak and indifferent believers much like us, Paul sounded the call:

"Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach" (Heb 13:13; cp 2Co 12:10; Luke 6:22; 1Pe 4:14).
"And despised of the people": Many of Christ's countrymen vainly expected that he would assume the power and glory of an earthly king. "We trusted that it would have been he who should have redeemed Israel" (Luke 24:21). Therefore, the bitterness of their disappointment is proportionally greater. Due to this failed hope, and also the cunning deceit of the leaders, the people "disesteem" Christ and choose the brigand and terrorist Barabbas instead. "His blood be upon us and our children," they cry derisively, as though the guilt associated with the death of this man who betrayed their hopes were no more than that of a worm.

Verse 7: "All they that see me laugh me to scorn": Scorn and mocking accompanied the Saviour from Gethsemane until he expired on Golgotha. Judas set the tone with his insidious kiss. The men that apprehended him mocked him, as did the officers of the various courts, the chief priests, the Pharisees, the servants, the soldiers, and finally the common mob (Mat 27:39-43; Luke 23:35).

Unto the Gentiles, as Paul said, the crucified Christ was a "foolishness" (1Co 1:23) -- a source of laughter and derision. In his sacrificial death, set forth before all men, Christ was enacting the prophesied experiences of his nation Israel. As was Israel (Isa 43:10,12; 44:8), he was also God's "witness": a curse and a byword to all nations (Deu 28:37), "the man that hath seen affliction" (Lam 3:1).

"They shoot out the lip, they shake the head": Their malevolence was too great to be expended in words only; there were also signs and gestures. They "curl the lip", invoking the vision of a pack of wild snarling dogs (v 16).

Verse 8: "He trusted on the LORD": These were the very words of the priests and scribes who taunted him (Mat 27:43). Literally, as the margin, "he rolled himself upon" Yahweh. The Hebrew is "galah" -- from the word for circle; this root word gives rise to "Galilee" (the geographical circle of the Gentiles) and "Golgotha" (the skull, from its circular shape). It was at "Gilgal" that Joshua cut off the flesh and "rolled away" the reproach of Israel (Jos 5:9). And it was at Golgotha that the Galilean "rolled himself upon" his Father and "rolled away" for all time the reproach of sin from his brethren!


The bitterness of the taunts of his enemies has only the effect of driving the Messiah again to appeal directly to his Father. In these verses he reduces himself to the lowest point of frailty, when he had no separate existence in the womb of his mother. From that point he casts himself upon the Almighty. What more excellent representation is there of man's utter dependence upon God! And so aptly chosen were these words, in that Jesus the Son of God and Saviour of the world graciously put himself on a level with the most humble man; he was one of us! Thus we may see ourselves in his plea to the Father. Of his cry we partake, and the Father replies to all his children:

"Hearken unto Me, O house of Jacob... which are borne by Me from the belly, which are carried from the womb: Even to your old age I am He; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you... and I will deliver you" (Isa 46:3,4).
Verse 9: "Thou art He that took me out of the womb...": Here is a faint echo of the more prominent Scripture references to the virgin birth of the Son of God (Isa 7:14; Gen 3:15; Mat 1:23; Luke 1:35). Similar to this is Isa 49:1 -- which begins the section of that prophecy pertaining to the suffering servant:

"The LORD hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath He made mention of my name."
"Thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother's breasts": This should be "...make me repose upon" or "...keep me in safety". A baby, even Jesus, could have no special knowledge or hope. What we see here instead is Christ's acknowledgment of the special providence of God in his life from his infancy -- protecting him from such threats as the murderous Herod (Mat 2:20).

"Unnumbered comforts to my soul
Thy tender care bestowed,
Before my infant heart conceived
From whom those comforts flowed."
Verse 11: "Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help": All human aid, even all angelic sustenance, had deserted Christ as he had known it would:

"Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me" (John 16:32).
And though the Father is still silent, His Son is now persuaded that the Supreme Creator will never really desert His supreme creation. This momentary helplessness of the Son was designed by God -- so that no flesh, looking upon this spectacle, could ever glory again. In his absolute lack of strength Christ found the only help that was meaningful.

Brethren, may we do the same! May we learn that our strength and safety lie in Yahweh alone. He that believeth shall not make haste (Isa 28:16), he shall not be ashamed (Rom 10:11), he shall not be confounded (1Pe 2:6). To the cross we come, and learn that with God nothing is impossible, and for His children there is no ultimate evil. The Helper of the helpless is our God; all things in the world are ours, and we are His, the sheep of His flock -- scattered once but now regathered through the Great Shepherd's sacrifice.

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