George Booker
Psalms Studies - Book 1

Psalm 22

1. Structure

1-21. The victim, his sufferings, and his enemies....

or, the sufferings of christ
22-31. The God-glorifying outcome of this tribulation....

or, the glory that should follow

The first section is roughly divisible thus:

1, 2.
3- 5.
6- 8.

2. Historical setting

There is so much evidence that the psalms of David, whilst certainly to be read also as psalms of Messiah, spring out of his own personal experiences. It would be strange indeed if Psalm 22 proved to be a unique exception to this pattern, the more so since there is overwhelming evidence that Bible prophecy has relevance to its own time (or the immediate future) and also to Messiah, either in his first or second advents or both.

Here there is utter helplessness and an intense weakness (or sickness? vv. 14,15). Enemies indulge in mockery and every ill-treatment. Nevertheless there is confidence in recovery, for which God will be glorified by a thankful multitude.

David’s sickness and bitter experiences at the time of Absalom’s rebellion might account for much of this language; and so also the satisfying outcome of that dreadful crisis. But it is difficult to find specific meaning for many of the details of Psalm 22 in such an interpretation. And, whereas other “Absalom” psalms stress David’s humble confession of sins, Psalm 22 has nothing of the sort.

The apostle Peter offers the inspired commentary (on other of David’s psalms) that “David, being a prophet and knowing....he seeing this before, spake of the resurrection of Christ” (Acts 2:30,31). And, again, “David speaketh concerning him....” (2:25). So perhaps Psalm 22 should be considered as in a relatively special category, of prophetic vision by David, having little if anything to do with his own experiences.

3. Recited on the cross

It is important to recognize that this psalm, recited in full on the cross, was one of the great solaces of the suffering and dying Messiah.

Verse 8 was quoted by the men who had condemned Jesus, thrown at him in scorn and ribaldry! What a marvellous dramatic irony that it should be they who quickened his tiring mind to a Scripture uniquely appropriate to all his circumstances. Thus, all unsuspecting, his enemies brought wonderful reinforcement to his failing spirit. And how these evil men would be startled when he took up their blasphemous use of Holy Scripture and identified himself with the whole psalm, from beginning to end.
Jesus certainly quoted verse 1, in a slightly modified form (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34).
“It is finished” (John 19:30) is the exact equivalent of “He hath done this” (Psalm 22:31).
John 19:28 has been often misread: “....that the scripture might be fulfilled, [he] saith, I thirst.” To assert that Jesus said “I thirst” just to fulfill one small prophecy (Psa. 22:15) as the only one which he had not yet fulfilled, is a trivialization of Scripture. Here the word “fulfilled” is not the normal word for the fulfillment of prophecy (not, for example, the same as in 19:24,36); its meaning is: “that the scripture might be finished...(ended, or completed)”. Jesus was reciting the psalm, but was too parched to go on, and at verse 15 (“My tongue cleaveth to my jaws”) he desperately needed a drink, and having received it, he was able to go on to the end (“It is finished”), spoken with head uplifted.
When Jesus said: Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani, why should Jews standing by (they could not possibly have been Romans) mistakenly think that he was calling for Elijah? Could Eli really be mistaken for Eli-yahu? But if they heard Jesus recite verse 8 (“He trusted on the Lord, and he will deliver him”), the Hebrew of that phrase is virtually an echo of Eli-yahu. Hence: “Let us see whether Elijah (Eli-yahu) will come to save (deliver) him.”

4. Psalm 22 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:

(1)         the cross of christ:

Psalm 22:
The cross from Messiah’s viewpoint
Isaiah 53:
The cross from our viewpoint

(2)         christ our shepherd:

Psalm 22:
The Good Shepherd in death
(The Past)

(“I lay down my life”: John 10:11,15).

Psalm 23:
The Great Shepherd in resurrection
(The Present)

(“Lo, I am with you always”: Matt. 28:20).

Psalm 24:
The Chief Shepherd in glory
(The Future)

(“Come, ye blessed of my Father”: Matt. 25:34).

(3)         Christ our sacrifice:

Psalm 22:
The perfect Sin-offering
Psalm 40:
The perfect Burnt-offering
Psalm 69:
The perfect Trespass-offering

5. Messianic fulfillment

My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? The inference, often made, that on the cross Jesus suffered complete neglect, is quite mistaken. For several reasons, it becomes impossible to believe that Jesus experienced total abandonment by his Father:

  1. In quoting, Jesus switched from the Hebrew azavtani (which means “forsaken me”) to the Aramaic sabachthani (“entangled me”: s.w. Gen. 22:13: the thicket). Thus: ‘My God, my God, thou hast [an assertion, not a question!] ensnared and provided me as the sacrificial victim!’
  2. If Jesus were abandoned by his Father, then the vivid and twice-repeated type of Gen. 22 is quite misleading! “They went both of them together (the Father and the Son)” (vv. 6,8).
  3. The idea of abandonment is so important, if true, that it requires to be supported by more than one solitary verse.
  4. Psalm 22:24 is explicit that Jesus was not left without divine help. - “For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.”
  5. The emphasis of such passages as 18:4-17 (see notes) is so strong as to require not desertion, but actually its very opposite.
  6. Other Messianic psalms speak of alarm or doubt such as is natural to human weakness (94:17-19, RV mg.; 71:9-12; 73:13,17,21,22; 42:5; 116:11). As lesser mortals experience a sense of loneliness and helplessness, so also must have Jesus. But in neither their case nor his was it true.
  7. “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee” was spoken to the first “Jesus” (Joshua: Josh. 1:5), and applied to those in Christ (Heb. 13:5). Then, is it conceivable that the servant is greater than his Lord?
  8. Psalm 22:1 may carry the meaning: ‘Why does my God let it appear to these my enemies that I am utterly forsaken?’ This is the very idea in Isa. 49:14,15.

Why art thou so far from helping me? Contrast Psa. 35:3; 62:1,6,7. This so far is almost literal, for Golgotha was “without the camp”, remote from the Holy of Holies and on the north side of the temple area: Lev. 1:11.

And from the words of my roaring. This is the “strong crying” of Heb. 5:7; the figure of a lion (the “Lion” of the tribe of Judah: Gen. 49:9; Rev. 5:5!) caught in a trap.
Daytime....night. At the crucifixion, there was both daylight and (divinely-arranged) darkness!

But thou hearest not. RV: answerest not. So it would seem, at least at first. Every prayer gets its answer — either Yes, or No, or Wait!
Though separated by silence and darkness from the Father, Christ still expresses trust in Him: ‘I know Thou wilt hear me, since Thou didst hear Israel’: Exod. 15:1; 1 Sam. 2:1; Psa. 34:3,4.
But thou art holy. Kadosh signifies righteous, just, or pure. It is used of the Lord in the highest ideal of absolute perfection. Christ’s words are the language of profound resignation: ‘Thou art just....Not as I will, but as Thou wilt.’ The unanswerable justice of the Holy One was being enacted in solemn and terrible drama on Golgotha. The perfect righteousness of the Holy One was being attested in the sufferings of His Son (Rom. 3:25,26). This is what “flesh and blood” — even the flesh and blood of His only-begotten Son — deserves; mankind is being called upon to look, and consider!

Here also is the triumph of faith. Even in the awesome stillness Christ still trusts in the Hearer of prayers, although He appears to hear him not. In the wide swirling ocean of dark temptation, the Saviour stands like a rock and a beacon. ‘It matters not what I endure — even (if possible) rejection; Thou alone art holy!’

Thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel = “Thou who art enthroned upon the praises of Israel”, i.e. upon the “heavenly” throne under the outstretched wings of the cherubim in the Most Holy (cp. vv. 21,24).
Here is the intelligent pleading of precedent, and also for us the answer to the questions we may sometimes ask or think: Why should I read the Old Testament? or Why should I learn all that history? Our Saviour continually mined these fields for gems of faith, and he stored up these treasures against the time when he would need them. ‘Our fathers trusted in Thee; so I trust, and more so. Thou didst deliver them; I know Thou wilt deliver me. They cried unto Thee; I cry even more, my God, my God. They were not confounded; so now leave me not in these straits to the confusion of my face and the eclipse of Thy purpose, O Thou who inhabitest the praises of Israel!’
Our fathers trusted in thee. LXX hoped — the word often used for hope of children: Rom. 4:18; hence Isa. 53:10: “He shall see his seed” (cp. vv. 30,31 here).

And thou didst deliver them, e.g. Isaac, the prototype (Gen. 22:11,12), and Israel, God’s firstborn (Exod. 14:13).
They cried: s.w. verse 2.
But I am a worm. “I have said to the worm, thou art my mother and my sister” (Job. 17:14; cp. 25:6; Isa. 41:14). An expression of abject humiliation, and also a Hebrew term of derision for a man with no offspring (cp. Isa. 53:8; but contrast, in the spiritual sense, vv. 10,11 there and vv. 30,31 here).

But it is also much more: 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 crucify him, they first stripped him and put on him a robe dyed scarlet (Matt. 27:28). Was he not the greatest of all priests, and the true Tabernacle, which the Lord pitched and not man (Heb. 8:2)? 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-worm, lowly and contemptible, yet in its “crushing” bringing cleansing to others! “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.

A reproach of men: In the LXX, it is the same word as in Mark 15:32 only. Compare also Isa. 53:3. See notes, Psa. 69:19. Christ was not just reproached by his enemies as he hung upon the cross. He was and has often since been 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? Who 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? Our Saviour went forward to his cross of wood and nails; all too often his “followers” flee from their “crosses” of words and looks.
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 (Matt. 27:39-43; Luke 23:35). Unto the Gentiles, as Paul said, the crucified Christ was a “foolishness” (1 Cor. 1:23) — a source of laughter and derision. In his sacrificial death, set forth be-fore all men, Christ was enacting the prophesied experiences of his nation Israel. Like them, he was a witness (Isa. 43:10,12; 44:8) in becoming a curse and byword to all nations (Deut. 28:37), as “the man that hath seen affliction” (Lam. 3:1).
He trusted on the Lord. For the same idea, see 1 Pet. 2:23. Literally: “he rolled (himself) unto the Lord”. This makes most sense as an allusion to the cherubim chariot of Jehovah — “the chariots of Israel and the horsemen thereof” associated with Elijah (Mark 15:36).

He delighted in him: s.w. 41:11, another psalm of Messiah’s suffering.
But thou art he that took me out of the womb. The Old Testament has copious anticipations of the Virgin Birth: Psa. 71:6; 89:26,27; 110:3, LXX; Gen. 3:15; 49:1,25; Isa. 7:14; 49:1; Jer. 31:22; Mic. 5:1,2; 2 Sam. 7:14.

AV mg. and RSV: Thou keepest me in safety is correct; fulfilled in Matt. 2:13-16.
I was cast upon thee from the womb. Since the conception of Jesus was so abnormal, Mary would have no small worry concerning his birth. But a woman of her devoutness and faith knew herself to be in God’s care in every respect: “Cast upon the Lord that which he hath given thee” (55:22; quoted in 1 Pet. 5:7).

Thou art my God from my mother’s belly, but not (as a false theology would have it) from all eternity!
There is none to help. At the crucifixion there were those who would have helped, but could not. 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 the Father — so that no flesh, looking upon this spectacle, could every glory again. In his absolute lack of strength Christ found the only help that was meaningful.
Strong bulls of Bashan. A fine figurative way of describing powerful men of stature — the chief priests who compassed Christ in his death. But Exod. 21:32 requires that when a bull gores a man, there must be a payment of thirty pieces of silver! And this was done, to provide Gentile believers in Christ with a place of burial in the Holy City: Matt. 27:5,7.

Bashan signifies “fruitful”. This very fertile area east of the Jordan was noted for its excellent herds (Ezek. 39:18; Amos 4:1). Livestock were sent there for fattening; there the bull attained its full power and vigor (Deut. 32:14). These brutes are remarkable for their proud, fierce, and sullen manner; being sacrificial animals, they are fitting symbols of the priestly antagonists of our Lord. Well-fed, pampered with all luxury, stout and strong, they gazed with contempt upon the poor and naked and weakened frame of Jesus.
They opened wide their mouths (RSV)... as a ravening and roaring lion. Literally, “ravening” means “tearing in pieces”. Compare the figures of speech in Lam. 2:15,16; 3:46. The lion’s secretive crouching, sudden spring, fearful roar, and rending of the prey give another representation of the bestiality of Christ’s enemies: “My soul is among lions....even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword” (Psa. 57:4). The “tearing to pieces” suggests the cruel and inhuman Roman scourge, totally different from the Jewish whip. “The Roman lash was often multi-thonged and inserted with pieces of lead, brass, or pointed bones — so that when wielded with force, it tore away large chunks of flesh, exposing veins, inner muscles, and sinews.” Strong men often died under the Roman scourge, even before they were crucified. For others, it was called “the halfway death”.

With their mouth (RV). Not mouths, as AV: but singular, signifying unanimity in an evil purpose; note “all” in Matt. 26:59; 27:22; Mark 14:53,55,64; Luke 22:70.
I am poured out like water. ‘My life-blood is poured out like water’ (John 19:34), or like the blood of the Passover lamb at the base of the altar.

All my bones are out of joint. “Bones” may signify fibers, in the wider sense of ligaments and muscles as well as bones, When the beam to which the victim’s hands were nailed was lifted and affixed to the upright stake, its sudden jerking would shake the body most appallingly. The ligaments would be torn and even separated; the muscles stretched and weakened and cramped. An excruciatingly painful weight would be thrown upon the hands and wrists and shoulders.

In a spiritual sense: the Hebrew is, literally: ‘My bones have divided themselves’ (i.e. from me); LXX: “are scattered” (s.w. Matt. 26:31). Also see the spiritual significance of Eph. 5:30.
My strength is dried up like a potsherd. Christ feels himself to be a broken, useless, and scorched vessel of earth — filled with impurities. While the “potsherds” of the earth strive together and with their Maker (Isa. 45:9; Prov. 26:23), this singularly unique “potsherd” (made of the same “earth”) strove to the end against his inherent weakness to gain the victory over sin on behalf of his fellows.

My tongue cleaveth to my jaws. As a result of loss of blood, exposure, heat, and fever, the sufferer had by now become severely dehydrated. “I thirst”, he cried (John 19:28). Those who have lived through grueling deprivations testify that extreme thirst is the most intolerable of all sufferings. The dryness of Christ’s mouth and lips and tongue was such that his speech was practically unintelligible (Psa. 22:1).

And thou hast brought me into the dust of death. This is Gen. 3:19 in its most bitter fulfillment.
Dogs....the assembly of the wicked. The first of these means Gentiles (Matt. 15:26; Phil. 3:2; 2 Pet. 2:22); Pilate had to sign the death-warrant, and Roman soldiers drove the nails. The second means the Jewish Sanhedrin (edah = an appointed assembly).

They pierced my hands and my feet. An unmistakable anticipation of crucifixion. (The Hebrew k’ari means like a lion, which is basically meaningless. But the LXX and other versions presuppose the word karu, as in Psa. 40:6; 57:6.) David must have felt himself to be a helpless victim of a vicious dog pack; they are encircling him, sinking their sharp fangs into his exposed limbs, tearing and rending his flesh while his life-blood flows out like water. So it is with Christ, but the “fangs” are not literal teeth: they are iron spikes and the staff of a spear: 2 Sam. 23:7. “And they shall look upon (or, unto) him whom they have pierced” (Zech. 12:10; John 19:37; Rev. 1:7).
LXX has: They counted all my bones. They look and stare. Compare Luke 23:27,35; Gal. 3:1. “My knees are weak through fasting, and my flesh faileth of fatness” (Psa. 109:24). “My heart is smitten, and withered like grass; so that I forget to eat my bread. By reason of the voice of my groaning, my bones cleave to my skin” (102:4,5). The man who went to the cross was a man who had already begun his sacrifice. By this time he had no form or beauty that might lead natural men to desire him. The flame of his life flickered low; his zeal for his Father’s “house” had consumed him (69:9). He had willingly spent all; there was no need to hold any strength in reserve. His emaciated condition, his extended position upon the cross, and his nakedness all contrived to bring from his tortured lips the pitiful observation: “I may count all my bones!”
They part my garments among them. These clothes were the perquisites of the Roman quaternion. With reference to David the meaning is probably this: The rebels (Absalom, Ahithophel, etc.) share out the honors of state normally vested in the king; these would be symbolized by the special robes for special occasions. So also with Christ: Gentiles have apportioned to themselves his offices as Prophet, Priest, and King (but not sacrifice!); and for two millennia Israel has gone without any of these.

“For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” (1 Tim. 6:7).

This is the second hint (cp. v. 17) of Christ’s total nakedness, a great shame. Nakedness is a readily-recognized symbol of sin (Rev. 3:17; 16:15). Christ was cursed by the Mosaic Law in being hanged upon a tree (Deut. 21:23; Gal. 3:13); the public nakedness to which he was subjected may also be seen as part of that curse. It is one of the echoes of the early scenes of Genesis to be found in the Saviour’s death; in many respects, Christ became the “last Adam” to remove the curse brought by the sin of the first.

They cast lots upon my vesture. The division of his few garments was begun, but at last the four soldiers came to the most valuable garment, Christ’s tunic. It was seamless throughout (John 19:23), like the robe of the high priest (Exod. 28:31,32); to rend it would be to destroy it. Its seamless unity mirrored his blameless life. They cast lots and Christ’s last possession passed into the hands of a nameless sinner. He now faced death with nothing but his holy character and his indomitable spirit.

Harry Whittaker (Studies in the Gospels, p. 773) suggests that the special seamless robe, and perhaps his other clothes, the “filthy garments” of his suffering (cp. Zech. 3:3,5) may have been quietly purchased back, washed and folded, and laid by loving hands in his tomb: ‘Lay these by his side. He will surely need them before long.’
20. darling. This highly unusual expression means ‘my very special one’ (Gen. 22:2,12,16; Psa. 35:17; 68:6 (solitary); Prov. 4:3; Jer. 6:26; Amos 8:10; Zech. 12:10). LXX reads “my firstborn”. Could this be a reference to Peter in peril? John 18:6-16. Compare: “I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not” (Luke 22:32).
Save me from the lion’s mouth. Both Paul and Peter appropriate these words to themselves: 2 Tim. 4:17; 1 Pet. 5:8 (link this with the comment on v. 20).

From the horns of the unicorns. But the only “unicorn” is an African antelope. RV, RSV, and NIV read wild oxen. Note the parallelism in Isa. 34:7; Deut. 33:17; and Psa. 29:6. It is probable that this expression describes the ox-cherubim of the sanctuary. Thus, thou hast heard me from.... means: ‘Thou who art enthroned above the temple-cherubim (vv. 3,24), hear my cry and come to my rescue.’ This happened at Golgotha (see notes on Psa. 18:6-15, and esp. v. 10). Verse 24 and the rending of the veil are in response to this prayer on the cross.

The theme and tone in this section are dramatically different. Yet this is not a different psalm tacked on to the other, but a very fitting, very moving, logical development of what has gone before.

The darkness enshrouding Golgotha is lifted (at least so far as Jesus is concerned), and the last conscious moments of our Saviour’s mortal life are ones of joy. More clearly than ever before can he foresee “the joy set before him” (Heb. 12:2); buoyed up in this way he endures the cross to the very end. His words, prophetically recorded by David, indicate that his vision was of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb:

Psalm 22

Revelation 19
In the midst of the congregation will I praise thee
The four and twenty elders
Ye that fear the Lord, praise him
Praise our God, all ye servants
In the great congregation
The voice of a great multitude
I will declare Thy name unto my brethren
Alleluia, for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth
The meek shall eat and be satisfied
The marriage supper of the Lamb

I will declare thy name unto my brethren. Christ in his death was declaring the righteousness of God and thereby providing a basis for the forgiveness of man’s sins (Rom. 3:23-26). The words here are quoted in Heb. 2:12 as additional proof that Jesus truly shared the stricken nature of his disciples. They are his brethren, and are so called for the first time after his resurrection: John 20:17,19. And the “Name” he manifested to them (John 17:6) was this: “The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Exod. 34:6,7). It is the perfect follow-up to the picture of suffering and sacrifice already presented.

In the midst of the congregation. The solitary suffering of vv. 1-21 has brought into being a congregation (LXX: ekklesia) of whom the suffering Servant is now the acknowledged leader and king. It is no accident that when the risen Lord appeared to his assembled brethren (John 20:19), he stood in the midst.

“I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world....For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me....And I have declared unto them thy name (in life), and will declare it (in death and resurrection): that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:6,8,26).
Ye that fear the Lord comes first in the triad here, followed by Jacob and then Israel. Again, Luke’s record makes deliberate allusion in 23:40,47.
For. This linking word is not unimportant. Compare “therefore” in Isa. 53:12, and “wherefore” in Phil. 2:9.

He hath not despised. An effective understatement for the pleasure of the Lord (twice in Isa. 53:10).

Neither hath he hid his face from him refers to the shining forth of the glory of God’s cherubim (80:1; Num. 6:26; cp. vv. 3,21 here).

When he cried....he heard, as in 28:1-3,6,7; 18:6-16; 3:4.
My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows. This latter phrase implies the eating of peace offerings (Deut. 12:11,12), with Christ in his kingdom (Luke 22:16; Psa. 22:26; Isa. 25:6; John 6:50,51).
The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the Lord that seek him: your heart shall live for ever. For some of the numerous connections between resurrection and eating, see Mark 5:43; John 12:1,2; Rev. 19:9; Exod. 24:11. And with special application to Christ himself, see Luke 24:35,42,43; Acts 10:41. Finally, of course, Christ himself is the “bread of life” for those who are raised from the dead: John 6:33,40,41,50,51,54,58.

That seek him is significantly echoed in Acts 15:17.
All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord; and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. The outcome of all the shame and suffering described in this psalm: a world-wide kingdom of God. Remarkable!
The theme of vv. 27, 28 is continued. Read as RV: All the fat ones of the earth, even he that cannot keep his soul alive. An acknowledgment at last that there is no salvation save through this Man: Psa. 49:7.
A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation. The “Seed” is a Biblical theme traceable as far back as the garden of Eden. The “seed of the woman” (Gen. 3:15) is both singular and plural, as is the seed of Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3; 13:15; Gal. 3:16,27-29). As in all things, the natural is a pattern of the spiritual: A single seed placed in the ground can by God’s oversight produce a multitude of fruit, a numerous “seed”. So it was, and will be, with Jesus:

“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24, RSV).

In his death Christ was the sower going forth into the field, weeping as he bore the precious seed to its resting place. But he believed the promise that the single “seed”, left to die in the ground, would doubtless come again, being transformed into a harvest of a rejoicing multitude (Psa. 126:6). This spiritual posterity would be reckoned a “generation” in God’s sight, “a chosen generation” (1 Pet. 2:9), the “children” whom God would give His Son (Isa. 8:18; John 17:6; Heb. 2:13).
They shall come, and declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born. The “rebirth” to spiritual life of Christ’s spiritual seed will be the final and climactic declaration of God’s righteousness in Christ (Rom. 3:25,26). When death is swallowed up in victory, it will be as though a new nation were born in one day from the “womb” of the earth (1 Cor. 15:54; Psa. 110:3; Isa. 66:8).

6. Conclusion

The suffering servant of Jehovah was cut off from the land of the living, apparently with no offspring whatsoever. The eunuch on the road to Gaza was puzzled: “Who shall declare his generation?” (Isa. 53:8; Acts 8:33,34). He had none; and yet he was to have a great seed! The “eunuch” Jesus was to become the “father” of hundreds of thousands! of millions! As his life-blood watered the soil of Golgotha they passed before his eyes: the company of the awesome spectacle of familiar friends, of children not yet born, and of old men long dead — all his “seed”!

“I beheld, and lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and peoples, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation unto our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb’” (Rev. 7:9,10).

What began with a sob ended with a song. With a towering vision of the future glory Christ was sustained in those final moments....and now the time had come. He gathered his strength to utter the last words. One final moment....that the pain, the humiliation, the grief would be indelibly printed upon his mind. And then....“It is finished!” It was the cry of a servant whose work is done, a sufferer whose trials are over, a conqueror whose victory is won.

“It is finished.” He closed his eyes as the heavens thundered and the earth quaked. Perfect love had proven itself stronger than death. The beloved Son of God passed through the veil. But with God there could be no ultimate evil: even the death of His only-begotten Son would contribute to His righteous purpose. Tragedy would give way to triumph. Out of death would come life, endless and lovely and glorious.

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