Doug Van Meter - 21 April 2019
The Lord’s Salvation (Psalm 22:21b–31)
In recent studies, focused on the Lord’s Passion Week, we have looked at the Lord’s Supper (his betrayal) and the Lord’s sufferings (in which he was burdened, battered, and buried). As we conclude this brief series, we look now at our Lord’s salvation (blessing). Jesus did not remain buried; he was “rescued” (Psalm 22:21) from the grave. He is risen, indeed!
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of Christianity. Without the empty tomb, there is no gospel. The longest chapter in the epistles (1 Corinthians 15) makes this clear. Without the resurrection of Jesus, there would be no need for the epistles, for there would be no church, for Jesus would not be Lord (Acts 2:36).
But there was a resurrection, and Jesus is Lord, and that is great news for those who believe on him. Because he rose from the dead, those who believe in him will also rise (1 Thessalonians 4:14; 1 Corinthians 15:12–22). And that provides hope for us, both while we live and after we die.
A Living Hope
Christians have “a living hope” (1 Peter 1:3) because we have a living Saviour. This hope abides with us always, including during times of suffering—times like David wrote of in Psalm 22.
If David finished Psalm 22 with verse 21a, his sufferings would have produced despair. He might have resolved to face life with a stiff upper lip and stoic determination, but that would be all he could do.
But thank God that Psalm 22 doesn’t end there. It includes the wonderful statement, “You have rescued me” or “You have answered me” (NKJV). In other words, the Lord saved him. The psalm opens with suffering but ends with salvation; it ends with the Lord’s salvation. It ends with the living Lord saving his servant.
We have seen that Psalm 22 logically and salvifically leads to Psalm 23. That is, the Saviour had to suffer in order to become our shepherd. We must come face to face, as it were, with the cross of Jesus and embrace what he has done for us before we are able to truly say, “The Lord is my Shepherd.”
But in this study, we will see that Psalm 22 also leads to Psalm 24. It leads us to a risen King, who has transformed God’s throne of judgement to a throne of grace. He has removed our condemnation and secured our justification by his resurrection from the dead.
As we focus our attention on the truth of the resurrection, let us celebrate our God as we join with David in celebrating the Lord’s salvation, through one greater than David: Jesus Christ the Lord. We will consider vv. 21b–31 under several headings.
The Lord’s Salvation is Sudden
David has just prayed, “Save me from the mouth of the lion” (v. 21a), and in the same breath he exults: “You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen” (v. 21b).
Again, Psalm 22 was written by David out of his very personal anguish. David had suffered—a great deal. He was pursued with murderous vengeance by king Saul, a man to whom David had shown tremendous loyalty. At one point, he was hated by those he was leading and they sought to kill him, blaming him for their defeat by the Amalekites at Ziklag. David showed the key to his perseverance as he “strengthened himself in the LORD his God” (1 Samuel 30:1–6).
Because of his trust in his covenant-keeping God, he kept faithful to his covenant and kept going, kept leading the way—yes, kept shepherding his beleaguered flock—and victory was secured.
But doubtless the most painful suffering that he underwent was when his own son betrayed him and sought to rip the kingdom from him. I imagine that Psalm 22 may very well have arisen out of that profound sadness.
If ever David would have been brought to a sense of abandonment by God (vv. 1–2), then certainly that painful experience would have done it. If ever David may have been confused about what God was doing (vv. 3–11), especially in the light of God’s faithfulness to his covenant people, that would have been the time. If ever David would have felt crucified by his foes, mocked and vilified by his fellow-countryman (vv. 12–20), it would have been then. If ever David would have felt the fangs of Satan, the roaring lion (v. 21a), Absalom’s betrayal would have done it.
Thankfully, Psalm 22 doesn’t end halfway through v. 21.
Jesus, Suddenly Saved
After Jesus died, seemingly by “the mouth of the lion,” his future seemed completely hopeless. All his disciples could do was to give him a decent burial.
Two of them (Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus) took his body down from the cross, wrapped it in linen, coated it with perfumed ointments, and then placed his body in Joseph’s tomb and rolled the door in front of it. Mournfully and tearfully, they returned home.
Their Messianic hopes had vanished with the setting of the sun after this phenomenal day. They would not easily forget the scenes, the sorrow, and the sadness. Nor would they easily forget the satanic hatred toward Jesus of Nazareth. I doubt that many of Jesus’ would-be disciples slept well that night. But, of course, Jesus did.
Jesus had told the repentant thief who was crucified alongside him that “today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). That is precisely where Jesus went upon uttering the words, “It is finished” (John 19:30) and, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46). Technically, Jesus did not “sleep,” but neither was he sorrowful. Those days were all behind him. And that was because of the Lord’s salvation, as recorded in Psalm 22:21b: “You have rescued me.”
Thankfully, the psalm does not end with a cross; it ends with a crown. So it was for the greater David, the Lord Jesus Christ, for “up from the grave he arose, with a mighty triumph o’er his foes.” This was all because of the Lord’s salvation.
This was the prophetic purpose of Psalm 22. In these 31 verses, we see the sweep of God’s securing of our redemption: Jesus suffered to death and rose to newness of life. Therefore, we are saved.
The ESV is not as accurate here as the NKJV. Verse 21 in the Hebrew reads, “Save me from the lion’s mouth, and from the horns of the wild oxen!
You have answered me.” There is a sudden, almost spontaneous, change that occurs halfway through the verse. Midway through the crisis, it comes to an end. Almost mid-prayer, the answer arrives. At the height of the storm, God sends the calm. At the point of hopelessness, hope arises. At the arrival of death, resurrection occurs. Just like Easter weekend, so long ago.
Just when perhaps Satan thought he had secured the victory, the resurrection occurred. Jesus arose from the dead. His cry of dereliction was answered by God’s vindication displayed through resurrection (1 Timothy 3:16; Romans 6:4).
Some translations say, “You answered me,” but the implication is well-captured with the ESV’s translation. Indeed, in answering David’s pleas, the Lord rescued him. The Lord saved him. The Lord also saved Jesus.
The Father Rescued the Son
Sometimes it can be confusing when we think about who raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus claimed resurrection power himself (John 10:18), and the Holy Spirit was also involved (Romans 8:11). The resurrection was a Trinitarian act. Yet the Scriptures credit God the Father with this act, more than the other two members of the Godhead (Romans 6:4; Galatians 1:1; 1 Peter 1:3; see also Romans 8:11—the Spirit and the Father!).
Here is the point: Jesus Christ’s work on the cross was forever vindicated by the Father when he raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus’ suffering to the point of being abandoned by the Father for those hours on the cross came to an end—once for all. His resurrection proclaimed and promised this.
In Psalm 16:8–11 David also prophesied of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Peter quoted this psalm on the day of Pentecost when he powerfully preached as a witness of the resurrected Saviour (Acts 2:25–28). In that psalm, David also acknowledged how the Father had rescued him from the grave.
Salvation is of the Lord, Alone
I said that the Lord’s salvation of David was immediate. Not only did it occur suddenly, but it also occurred without mediation.
So it was with the resurrection of Jesus. No disciples were involved. No human hands of any kind were involved. It just happened, as the Lord had said it would. Too bad none of his disciples believed him. Despite their unbelief, the Lord did it.
So it is with our salvation: It, too, is immediate. It is sudden and supernatural. Paul’s conversion on the Damascus Road is a stark illustration of this truth (Acts 9:1–19). Lydia believed as soon as the Lord opened her heart (Acts 16:11–15). John Wesley recalled how his heart was “strangely warmed” to the gospel when the Lord opened his heart.
Those who have been converted understand these realities. They understand the strange phenomenon of a new appetite for the things of God.
The Lord’s Salvation is Shared
When God rescues, when God saves, it is a community affair.
I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him.
From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will perform before those who fear him. The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord!
It Results in Congregational Celebration
David records that, when the Lord answered his prayer, when the crisis had lifted and spiritual calm followed, he could not keep the good news to himself. He had the urge of the hymnist: “Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord.”
God’s deliverance moved David to gather with the congregation to celebrate God’s goodness.
These verses are referenced in the New Testament with reference to Jesus Christ. Hebrews 2:10–12 reads,
For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying,
“I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”
Note the identity that exists between Jesus (“he who sanctifies”) and those whom he saves (“those who are sanctified”). Jesus calls them, “brothers.” The writer wants Christians to be encouraged that Jesus “is not ashamed” of this identification.
The picture is beautiful, humbling, and profoundly instructive. The writer applies Psalm 22 to Jesus and makes it clear that the risen Lord gathers with his congregation; the resurrected Lord gathers with the gathered saints to give praise to the God who saves.
Jesus praises God for the resurrection and he joins with Christians to do so. The question is, do we? Do we praise God for the resurrection? Is this a part of our theology? It should be, because, without it, we have no gospel.
Do we realise the privilege to gather with Jesus?
An essential application arising from this is that when we think of Easter, let’s be sure to think of the Father. Apart from him, there would be no sacrifice, no Saviour, and no salvation. Keep John 3:16 before you. The Father loves us, as much as the Son does, and as much as the Holy Spirit does. The Father delights when we delight in his Son. The Father rejoices when he sees brothers and sisters happy with their elder Brother. He delights in us as we come to look more and more like his risen Son.
When Hell is Replaced with Heaven: A Justified Congregation
One final observation at this point: The resurrection provides justification, which creates the congregation. Speaking of Abraham, Paul wrote,
No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
Those who have felt the affliction of their sin and, out of the fear of the Lord, have turned to him make up God’s congregation.
“When it feels like hell” would be a good way to describe the first twenty-and-a-half verses of this psalm. But when God immediately intervenes, then hell turns to heaven and the cry of desolation turns to the praise of justification. So it is for the sinner who comes to properly fear the Lord. Then hell becomes real and the gospel for the first time becomes good news—really good news!
It Results in Congregational Participation
In vv. 25–26, David paints a verbal picture of the worshipper making a freewill offering to God upon receiving some blessing from him: “From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will perform before those who fear him. The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD! May your hearts live forever!” (Psalm 22:25–26).
David is fulfilling his vow of worship upon receiving this blessed rescue. And in keeping with Deuteronomy 12:17–19, others are invited to join in the festal celebration.
David’s blessings were to lead to others sharing in this blessing. So it is with our Saviour. Those for whom he died share in the blessing of his resurrection. Paul makes this clear, in many places in many ways, but perhaps nowhere clearer than in Romans 6:1–11
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Union with Christ
The doctrine of the Christian’s union with Christ is too often neglected. This is tragic, for when we lose sight of what God has done for us in Christ, we tend to fall into the trap of legalism, the curse of a performance-based approach to God. But when we realise that the work of Jesus, especially on Easter weekend, secured forever our standing with God, then we are built up, encouraged in the faith—and in our faith—together.
German theologian Karl Barth was once asked “When were you saved?” He replied, “In AD 33, when Jesus Christ died and rose again.” That is a great answer!
Those who have been born again were there when they crucified the Lord. They were there when he was placed in the tomb. They were there when he rose from the dead. And therefore, his people are today there in heaven seated with him on the right hand of the Father. This is all because of Easter weekend. This is all because of what David prophesied over three thousand years ago when he penned Psalm 22.
Again, note that the Father saved, delivered, or rescued the Son by the resurrection and Jesus has brought us along to join him in the celebration of this newness of life. Our Saviour merited—he literally earned—God’s favour. The Father crowned him, exalting him. And he invites us to share in his reward. In fact, he insists that we do so. And because of his glorious grace, as David writes, our “hearts will live forever!” (26b). What a Saviour!
The Lord’s Salvation is Sovereign
All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations.
All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, even the one who could not keep himself alive.
Not only is the local congregation to join in this Easter Celebration, but along with them, and with the nation of Israel (v. 23), “all the families of the nations” are to join in the celebration (v. 27). This deliverance—this salvation from the Lord—is too great to be limited to one nation. It is news for the whole world.
David realised that his being the king of Israel was under the kingship of Yahweh. Therefore, his deliverance must redound to the glory of this King. In other words, God’s salvation of David was not merely for David’s sake. Rather, it was for the sake of all the world bowing to God as King.
If this palm was written in the context of Absalom’s rebellious, treasonous betrayal, then this makes this statement all the more profound. David would then have been acknowledging that God is King, and no one can thwart his purposes.
So with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Father’s resurrection of Jesus was for the purpose of the exaltation of Jesus (Philippians 2:5–11). The resurrection assures that King Jesus will receive the honour due to him, even from his enemies. This may be what v. 29 refers to. Kidner comments, “All the fat ones of the earth shall eat and worship. That is, those who at present are self-sufficient will put aside their arrogance to join the humble at the feast (cf. 26), if they would gain the life which is not theirs to command (vv. 26c, 29c).”
Who is King?
By the resurrection, God was demonstrating his kingship, his rule over all. And the one that he raised from the dead, though coronated King (Psalms 2; 24; 110) is concerned that his Father get the credit for being King (see 1 Corinthians 15:24–28).
We are not king, so we must acknowledge the one who is. David warned that we must respond to God’s anointed and appointed because approved King with humble submission or else we will face his wrath, “Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 2:10–12). Kiss him, today.
The Lord’s Salvation is Sure
David brings this painfully glorious psalm to a wonderfully encouraging close with the assurance that God’s deliverance of David means that the future would be secured: “Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the LORD to the coming generation; they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it” (Psalm 22:30–31).
A “posterity shall serve him.” Generations will proclaim the righteousness of God, the good news that God is faithful to save his people. And they will do this until the end of time. There message will be, simply yet profoundly, “He has done it.” That is, the Lord saves. Salvation is of the Lord (Jonah 2:9).
Remember that God had made a covenant with David that he would always have someone on the throne to rule his people (2 Samuel 7). This meant that David’s reign would need to survive whatever onslaught he was presently undergoing.
It seems that, with the answer he received, with the rescue he was given (21b), David was assured that the future was bright. Since David had survived, God’s promise of a posterity was certain. But that certainty would not rest either in David or in any of his immediate descendants. Rather, the certainty of a better day and of God’s eternal kingdom rested in David’s greater Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
When God raised Jesus from the dead, it assured that a “posterity” would serve him. It assured the ongoing message that the righteous God would give to repentant sinners the righteousness that sinners need; that is, the righteousness of his Son: the one who would be so righteous that sinners would hate him, to the point of betraying him; the one who would die on the cross in order to pay the debt he did not owe, so that we could have a righteousness we do not deserve; the one who would then be raised from the dead so that we will be forever justified before a holy God; the one whom we worship today because of the Lord’s salvation.
“It is Finished”
The closing words of the psalm point us to some of Jesus’s last words: “It is Finished” (John 19:30). Indeed, “He has done it.” The question facing you and me is, what will we do with what he has done?
By God’s grace, let us take up our cross and follow him. Repent and believe and continue to repent and believe. Believe in the Lord’s salvation. The resurrection reminds us that he saved his Son; he will save you as well.