Psalm 22:1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
These are haunting words for anyone to pray, but David was desperate, and felt abandoned by God. He was being attacked by ruthless men, and God seemed strangely absent. David trusted God, served God, and worshipped God. But where was God when David needed him most?
Some people think that life with God is uniformly joyful, but nothing could be further from the truth. There are moments of delight, but also of despair. Jesus himself quoted this verse while he hung on the cross. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46).
Jesus’ fellowship with the Father had never been interrupted, because Jesus never sinned (Hebrews 4:15). But when he bore the penalty for our sins on the cross, God apparently withdrew all sense of his favor. By quoting the first verse of this Psalm, Jesus drew attention to the whole Psalm, which parallels his crucifixion in many ways. Consider the following:
Psalm 22:7 All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
As Jesus hung on the cross, the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him (Mark 15:31). Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads (Matthew 27:39). The parallel is undeniable. David and Jesus both experienced public ridicule and mocking.
Psalm 22:13 Roaring lions that tear their prey open their mouths wide against me.
David’s opponents reminded him of a lion tearing its prey. Likewise, Jesus’ flesh was torn from the lashing he received (John 19:1).
Psalm 22:14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.
Crucifixion was known to cause the dislocation of bones, as victims hung on a cross for hours before they died. The gospels do not mention this explicitly, but it is possible that some of Jesus’ bones came out of joint as he hung on the cross.
Psalm 22:15 My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.
If you have ever been extremely thirsty, you know what this is like. The tongue sticks to the roof of the mouth, as if seeking moisture. Jesus was parched as he hung on the cross. I am thirsty (John 19:28), he said.
Psalm 22:16 Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet.
David’s enemies were like dogs biting his hands and feet. But Jesus’ hands and feet were literally pierced when he was nailed to the cross. Even after he rose from the dead, Jesus’ hands had holes in them (John 20:27). But he was pierced for our transgressions (Isaiah 53:5), said Isaiah. And, They will look on me, the one they have pierced (Zechariah 12:10), predicted Zechariah.
Psalm 22:17 All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me.
Crucifixion was meant to humiliate so victims were normally naked. As Jesus looked down from the cross he saw his enemies gloating. We can only imagine his humiliation as his enemies stared at his naked, bony, crucified body.
Psalm 22:18 They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.
The parallel here is remarkable. When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. Let’s not tear it, they said to one another. Let’s decide by lot who will get it (John 19:23-24). So they divided Jesus’ clothes, and cast lots for his garment, just as David described.
Psalm 22:26 The poor will eat and be satisfied.
Psalm 22 begins somberly, but ends gloriously. It speaks of a meal for the poor that will leave them completely satisfied. This reminds us of the wedding supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9), but also the meal Jesus ordained the night before his death (Luke 22:17-19). For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death (1 Corinthians 11:26), he said. Jesus gave his body and blood, so we could feast on him through faith.
Psalm 22:27 All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord.
After Jesus rose from the dead, he told his followers to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). They spread out far and wide, preaching the gospel wherever they went. Two thousand years later, people around the world gather each week to remember Jesus Christ, receive the Lord’s Supper, and turn to him in faith. [D]o this in remembrance of me (Luke 22:19), he said.
Psalm 22:31 They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!
The last verse of this psalm reminds us of Jesus’ last words from the cross: It is finished (John 19:30), he said. When Jesus died on the cross, his work of redemption was complete.
Psalm 22 sounds like an eyewitness account of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, so we have to remind ourselves that David actually wrote this Psalm about a thousand years before Christ. By quoting the first verse of this Psalm, Jesus gave us a glimpse of what he was going through on the cross. And because the Psalm ends well, he was pointing to the good that would come as a result. This kind of prediction and fulfillment are a clear sign of divine authorship.
Reflection and Review
How would this Psalm help Jesus prepare for his crucifixion?
Did God actually forsake Jesus?
Why did Jesus have to suffer so much?