Psalm 22 records some event in the life of David in which he suffered extreme heartache. He felt desolate and disorientated. This is clear from vv. 1–2, 6–8, and 12–18. But amidst this heartache, David clung to God. He professed great confidence in God even as he confessed that he was confused by God. We see this in vv. 3–5 (in which he remembers the character and the past conduct of God); vv. 9–11 (in which he remembers the care and concern of God); and vv. 19–21a (in which he remembers the closeness of God).
But as we have seen, this psalm is not merely about David; it is about the greater David—the Lord Jesus Christ. As Derek Kidner writes, “No Christian can read this without being vividly confronted with the crucifixion…. Whatever the initial stimulus, the language of the psalm defies a naturalistic explanation; the best account is in the terms used by Peter concerning another psalm of David: ‘Being therefore a prophet … he foresaw and spoke of … the Christ’ (Acts 2:30f).”
At least six prophecies are contained in this psalm that were fulfilled in the crucifixion of Jesus. In fact, the picture of crucifixion itself was a prophecy, since Jews did not practice this form of execution! So, yes, this is not a psalm that merely records physical suffering, it is not the story about physical illness, it is a psalm about an execution. It is a psalm about Good Friday.
The psalm is not to be read exclusively for the purpose of seeing the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Rather, it is to be read to see how Jesus responded in the midst of His sufferings. He responded faithfully.
As we saw previously, apart from the faith of Jesus Christ, we would not be able to have faith in Him. The cross wonderfully reveals that God is believable. Jesus believed in the promise of God the Father to the point of death—even death on a cross. And since Jesus believed Him, so should we. The faith of Jesus about the cross, revealed by Him on the cross, means that we should believe God’s Word about the cross (see Galatians 2:20).
In summary, Psalm 22—at least the first 21 verses—reveals the faithfulness of the Lord Jesus Christ. But, there is more to the story. Psalm 22 is also about the fruit of His faithfulness. That is, it also about Easter Sunday. We see this from the second half of v. 21 through the end of the psalm. This is the record of the rest of the story. It is the record of the fruitfulness of the Lord Jesus’ faith. It is the record of the reward that he received for his faithfulness. And we should seek to find ourselves in the right place in this story.
It is Finished
The NKJV and the CSB get v. 21 exactly right, “You have answered Me!” This accords with “It is finished” (John 19:30). Through all the suffering, the Lord Jesus Christ was faithful, and, in the end, His faith was vindicated. “You have answered Me!” That is, “You have responded to My faithfulness! And because of this, I can now commit My spirit into Your hands. Indeed, it is finished!”
But we need to answer the question, how did God answer Him? After all, Jesus did die. And in that sense, He was not delivered from the sword (v. 20). In fact, this is a bit of a stumblingblock for Muslims.
Islam alleges that Jesus Christ was not crucified, and bases this assertion on the words of Hebrews 5:7: “In the days of His flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who as able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.” Muslims claim that, if Jesus was crucified to death, this verse cannot be true. It is amazing what portions of Scripture they claim as authoritative!
But this argument is absurd, for a couple of reasons.
First, it is absurd because the New Testament argues extensively that Jesus Christ rose from the dead—after His crucifixion (Acts 2:23–25, etc.).
Second, it is absurd because the New Testament never suggests that Jesus prayed to be delivered from physical death. Rather, He prayed to be delivered from the wrath of God; He prayed to be delivered from what the Bible calls “the second death.” And from this He very much was delivered. This is why we gather each Lord’s Day to celebrate that He is risen!
So, with these words (“You have answered Me” and “It is finished”), Jesus meant that the work for which He came to earth was completed. He came to ransom many, and His death on the cross accomplished this. He had paid the price, and that price was accepted by the Father. Related to this was that His suffering was over. Quite literally, vv. 1–21 were finished.
Yet there was more. You see, though Jesus had paid the price, though His sacrificial death on our behalf was accepted by the Father, redemption could not be applied if Jesus remained dead. If He remained dead then His body would have seen corruption (see Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:27), and that would mean that the sacrifice was not accepted. If He remained dead, He was no different than the first Adam. It would mean that He was merely a man, not the God-Man—not Messiah. It would mean that He was a sinner. But, thanks be to God!
Up from the grave He arose,
with a mighty triumph o’er His foes.
He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
and He lives forever with His saints to reign.
He arose! He arose!
Hallelujah, Christ arose!
What about the Garden?
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed, “If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me.” He then concluded, “Not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39). Jesus was not praying for deliverance from the sufferings that the first 21 verses of our psalm refer to. No, He was praying for deliverance from the ongoing wrath of God. In other words, Jesus was praying to be resurrected. And according to both Psalm 22:1 and subsequent history, He was heard. Because of Jesus’ reverence, because of His perfect fear of the Lord, as evidenced by a life (and death) of perfect obedience, the Father raised Him from the dead to suffer no more. This is the rest of the story—the culmination of Easter weekend. This is the theme of Psalm 22:22–31.
It is very apparent that v. 21 marks a huge shift in emotion. Once the psalmist is heard, all lamentation ceases and the tone moves from pain to praise, from suffering to singing, from alienation to reconciliation. As VanGemeren comments, in this latter section “the taunts of the mockers are thus drowned out by the songs of the faithful.”
This is the story of Easter: from the horror of Good Friday to the happiness of glorious Resurrection Sunday. Is this your story?
If we only had the first 21 verses, we would indeed be of all men the most to be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:19). But we have more verses than this. We have the rest of the story, as recorded in vv. 22–31.
If the first part of the story highlights the faithfulness of the Lord Jesus Christ, then the second part of the story highlights the fruitfulness of Christ. If the first part emphasises the redemptive work of Christ, then the second part emphasises the reward given to Christ (see Isaiah 53:11–12).
But implied in these verses is also the appropriate response to the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is Fruitful
What was the result of Jesus’ faithfulness? What did His finished work accomplish? What fruit did it bear? In other words, what resulted from the resurrection Jesus? The remainder of the psalm answers this very question.
A Renewed Congregation
According to vv. 22–26, Jesus finished work secured a renewed congregation. We call this the church.
I will declare Your name to My brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will praise You. You who fear the LORD, praise Him! All you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him, and fear Him, all you offspring of Israel! For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor has He hidden His face from Him; but when He cried to Him, He heard. My praise shall be of You in the great assembly; I will pay My vows before those who fear Him. The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek Him will praise the LORD. Let your heart live forever!
That these verses prophesy the victory of the Lord Jesus Christ is made clearly in the New Testament:
For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying: “I will declare Your name to My brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You.” And again: “I will put My trust in Him.” And again: “Here am I and the children whom God has given Me.”
It was from His bleeding side that His bride, the church, came. It is an amazing thing that our elder Brother is also our friend and our God!
One of the rewards that Jesus received from the Father was a new people of God, made up of Jews (v. 23) and Gentiles (v. 27). Are you truly a part of this new people of God? Are you a bona fide member of the church of God?
Easter and Christmas are two times in the Christian calendar when this is most often seen. Easter and Christmas services are often filled with submarine Christians—those who only surface twice a year. The reality of God’s people is usually displayed the Sunday after Christmas and Easter, when the submarine Christians once again submerge for the next six months.
This is why it is so important to emphasise meaningful church membership. If the church was important enough for Jesus to give His life for, we cannot allow it to become an optional extra in our lives. This is precisely one of the reasons that church discipline is so important in the life of a healthy church. It takes church membership seriously. It takes the bride of Christ, which He purchased with His own blood, very seriously.
Are you renewed by the new birth because of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Let’s note several things about this congregation whom Jesus purchased with His blood.
A Proclaiming Congregation
First, the congregation that Jesus purchased is a proclaiming congregation: “I will declare Your name to My brethren” (v. 22). This was not only what David was committed to doing, but it also prophesies what the greater David would do. Jesus desires the glory of His Father (John 12:28; 17:1).
When God’s renewed congregation gathers, it gathers to hear from its Head, Jesus Christ. And He desires to point us to our Father. This occurs through the proclamation of God’s Word: regardless of who is proclaiming it. Those who preach need to take preaching deeply and deathly serious. And when a preacher does so, regardless of who that preacher is, the congregation should listen.
The ease of Internet access in our information age is not always a positive thing. It is not the time when the preacher is preaching to connect to the Internet for your own personal Bible study. By all means, be Berean, but do so after the service. During the preaching, listen to the voice of God delivered by the preached Word. When we gather, we gather to listen to the risen Lord. He has come to show us the Father; let us gather to listen to the full and final revelation of God (see Hebrews 1:1–2).
A Praising Congregation
The congregation that Christ purchased is also a praising congregation. These verses are filled with praise: “I will praise you” (vv. 22); “praise Him” (v. 23); “My praise shall be of You” (v. 25); and “praise the LORD” (v. 26).
We must remember that Resurrection Sunday is not the only celebration of the resurrection. Every Sunday, as we gather for worship, we are to gather with the disposition, “Christ the Lord is risen today: Hallelujah!” Every Sunday is a special remembrance of the resurrection. This requires focus on Christ who then focuses us on the Father. It requires the ministry of the Holy Spirit (see Ephesians 5:18ff). It requires saturation in and with the Word of God (Colossians 3:16ff).
Reflection on the reality of the resurrection loosens our tongues. When the early disciples were confronted with the resurrection, they were filled with joy (Matthew 28:1–8; Acts 4:33; etc.). Joy was deeply characteristic of the early church. The epistles command us to rejoice and to be thankful (1 Thessalonians 5:16, 18; Philippians 4:4). Such joy is discernible (1 Peter 3:15). All such joy is predicated on the gospel.
Christians should be the happiest people on the planet. If we are not, the problem is with us, not with our Lord!
A Participating Congregation
The purchased congregation is a participating congregation. “My praise shall be of You in the great assembly; I will pay My vows before those who fear Him. The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek Him will praise the LORD. Let your heart live forever!” (vv. 25–26).
These verses portray the old covenant practice of making a vow in exchange for a blessing. When the blessing was granted, an appropriate sacrifice was made and then shared with others. There was a congregational meal in which God was honoured and obedience was celebrated.
This is significant regarding the work of Christ on the cross. Jesus vowed to die for a people whom the Father gave to Him. Jesus vowed to present them wholly holy to His Father (see Ephesians 5:25–27; etc.). Jesus vowed to save all whom the Father gave to Him (John 6:37–44). But all of this was dependant on Jesus being raised from the dead (John 5). The Father kept His Word, and Jesus is keeping His.
But what is beautiful here is that Jesus grants us the privilege of participation with Him in this: “The poor shall eat and be satisfied.” This is quite possibly a prophecy of the Communion meal. We participate with the risen Lord in several ways.
First, we participate with Him as He reconciles His people. That is, we are the mouth and the feet of Christ as He reaches all the ends of the earth. We have the privilege of participating with Him in this great and glorious work.
Second, we participate with Him as He purifies His people. As we submit to the risen Lord, we grow to be more like the Lord. As we abide in Him, we come to look more like Him, thereby pleasing His, and our, Father.
Third, we participate with Him as He meets with us at the Table. On the night in which Jesus was betrayed, He told His disciples that He would not eat the Communion meal with them again “until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom” (Matt 26:29). What did He mean? To what time period was He referring?
Jesus may have meant that He would not eat His Supper with them until His final return to earth (see 1 Corinthians 11:26). But He may equally have meant that He would eat this meal with them once the kingdom had been inaugurated. I take it that way.
That is, upon the fulfilment of the events of Psalm 22—the Easter story—He started to participate with them in this meal once again. Jesus spent forty days with His disciples after His resurrection and before His ascension. It is unimaginable that He would not eat this communal meal with them. It would have been a wonderful time of instruction about their participation with Him in His death, burial and resurrection—and in all that would follow.
Be that as it may, we are privileged to participate in this festal meal that was initiated because of the faithfulness of the Lord Jesus to His vows. Easter reminds us of our unbreakable identification with Jesus on this holy week and our privilege to participate in fellowship with Him and to participate in His ongoing work. The Lord’s Table reminds us of this.
With such an enormous blessing at our disposal, it is no wonder that the verse ends with, “Let your heart live forever!”
The Remarkable Consummation
Verses 27–29 highlight the remarkable consummation to which we look forward: “All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You. For the kingdom is the LORD’s, and He rules over the nations. All the prosperous of the earth shall eat and worship; all those who go down to the dust shall bow before Him, even he who cannot keep himself alive.”
As we contemplate these verses, we must keep remembering that these are the words of the risen Lord Jesus Christ. This is a part of His vow to the Father upon experiencing His faithfulness. Quite literally, Jesus offered the world to His Father.
We see this truth taught in many places in the New Testament. The kingdom parables of Matthew 13 highlight God’s inheritance of the world through Christ. John 3:14–17 show how Christ wins the world to Himself for His Father through His sacrificial death and resurrection. Second Corinthians 5:17–21 teaches that Christ is reconciling the world to Himself by means of the gospel, and 1 Corinthians 15:20–28—the longest and clearest explanation of this truth in the New Testament—tells us that, when the kingdom has been consummated, it will be handed to the Father.
Jesus was given the nations as His inheritance upon His resurrection (Psalm 2:6ff; Matthew 28:18–20). But He wants to win these so to give them back to the Father. Amazing love between Father and Son!
Derek Kidner gets it just right when he comments, “It is not only a matter of prophecy minutely fulfilled, but of the sufferer’s humility—there is no plea for vengeance—and his vision of world-wide ingathering of the Gentiles.” We see this especially later in the psalm (vv. 27ff).
But let us not forget that we are privileged to play a role in this. The way that the nations will come to know of the rule of King Jesus, under the rule of the Father, is by our evangelising and by our discipling the nations. As we do so, as we make the invisible rule of Jesus visible, so King Jesus readies a kingdom to the glory of His Father.
Again, with reference to the point about our participation with the risen Lord, we are blessed to be in partnership with the Triune God! Do we contemplate this enough? Do we remember that we are not alone (Matthew 28:20)? Such a realisation will go a long way towards hopeful engagement in the Great Commission. For one thing, it will highlight just how great this Commission is! And with the Triune God on our side, we cannot lose!
None of us is exempt. There is great opposition, but we are all responsible to be involved in the furtherance of the Great Commission. Hearts are hardened, but they are no match for the risen Lord, who is intent on bringing all glory to His Father. Nothing will stop Him. Every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess—to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:5–11).
So, let us be hopeful in this remarkable consummation. All that is happening today is happening according to God’s perfect, sovereign plan. Alan Ross states it well: “When people hear that the one true and living God actually answers prayers and saves people from death, they will turn to him in faith and become his witnesses to their generations.”
Therefore, let us not flee from the hardships of our own society. Let us not be unbelieving about the power of the risen Lord to save. Let us not be disheartened about the potential of the church. We cannot keep ourselves alive (v. 29). But our God can. Easter is proof of this. We are heading for a glorious consummation!
The Righteous Commission
Finally, in vv. 30–31, we read of the righteous commission: “A posterity shall serve Him. It will be recounted of the Lord to the next generation, they will come and declare His righteousness to a people who will be born, that He has done this.”
These verses conclude the victorious crescendo of this psalm. They conclude the theme of the immediate context: God’s worldwide victory through the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
But again, how will this consummation come about? Through obedience to the Great Commission. And this will occur, primarily, one family at a time. This seems to be inherent in the words of v. 30: “A posterity shall serve Him,” and, “It will be recounted of the Lord to the next generation.”
These phrases speak of a godly seed from generation to generation. They picture one generation faithfully retelling the story of God’s faithfulness to His servant so that the generation also believes and will serve Him. Then that generation will tell the next generation, which will tell the next generation, until all multigenerational telling culminates in the final consummation.
This is further reinforced in v. 31, where we are informed just what it is that subsequent generations will keep recounting. Specifically, the Great Commission is rooted in a message that must be made known. The message that must be declared, and then believed, is of God’s “righteousness”—a righteousness that “He has done”; a righteousness that “He has accomplished.” This is the message of Easter. This is the rest of the story. This is the gospel of God.
Good Friday is necessary. Jesus had to die on the cross if we would be saved. But why? Because God’s righteous demands must be satisfied. Why was Jesus “abandoned”? Because sin had to be punished if God would not abandon sinners. Jesus knew this. That is why He kept talking truth to Himself as He cried out in lament on the cross.
But Jesus knew that God is righteous and therefore He knew that the Father had to raise Him from the dead. He had to for two reasons: (1) His covenant with His Son; and (2) His knowledge that Jesus was sinless, and that the second death therefore had no hold on Him. God the Father, being righteous, raised Jesus from the dead. In doing so, all for whom Christ died rose with Him unto justification (Romans 4:25). In other words, Easter weekend, as revealed in Psalm 22, was a vindication of God’s righteousness (see Romans 3:21–26).
He Has Done It
In many ways, the most glorious verse in this psalm is the last one: “They will come and declare His righteousness to a people who will be born, that He has done it.” This verse is packed with gospel dynamite. It is akin to Romans 3:21–26. This verse, as in Romans 3, justifies God.
If David was indeed undergoing some kind of suffering, hyperbolically explained here in the opening 21 verses, then his cry of desolation, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (v. 1) may call into question God’s goodness. For the psalm makes clear that the writer, or the one being represented, is suffering unjustly. That is, He is innocent and yet He is being treated as an outcast, as a dog, as a criminal. And yet God seems to be idly standing by. No wonder He cries out with such sense of abandon.
Yet in the end, by the rest of the story, we read that He has been delivered. God has heard His cries and He is no longer the victim but is rather the victor. His sufferings have been replaced with reward. He who was ridiculed and rejected is now ruling and reigning—to the ends of the earth!
We can only rightfully conclude that, all along, God knew precisely what He was doing. We can only rightfully conclude that, all along, God was in control. We can only rightfully conclude that, all along, God was doing justly. Though things were so dark on that Friday, so much so that even His followers lost hope, yet three days later it became clear that God satisfied His righteousness—that God had done this and only He had done this! That is the gospel. That is the gospel story that God can forgive sinners and yet remain just (see Proverbs 17:15).
He can do so, He does so, precisely because of what Jesus experienced in vv. 1–21. The sinless one stood in the place of sinners. He was executed, crucified in the place of sinners. He was abandoned because of my sin. God punished my sin as He said He would (Genesis 2:17; Romans 6:23). He did so righteously. But because Jesus was sinless, God could not and would not leave Him in the tomb. Because God is righteous, He raised Jesus Christ from the dead, securing my justification (Romans 4:25). For these reasons, Paul could write that God is both just and the justifier of those who identify with the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross and in His resurrection.
Only God could do this. That is why this good news is called “the gospel of God” (Romans 1:1; 15:16; etc.). That is why the last words of the Easter story are, “He has done this.”
Yes, it is finished. The story climaxed with the resurrection, and everything from here on out is simply a mopping up operation. Better, the rest of the story is the gathering in of all who are a part of this story. Is that you? Are you fulfilling your congregational responsibilities? Are you gathering in and contributing to the growth of the congregation? Are you declaring His gospel to your posterity? Are you equipping them to do so to those who will be born? In other words, do you love to tell the story? Is it yours?
So, this is the story of Psalm 22, which is the story of Easter. Good Friday was followed by Glorious Sunday. This gives perspective to all the chapters of our own stories. But the remaining issue, the most relevant thing remaining is, where do you fit in this story?
Do you identify with the mocking and murderous masses, or do you identify with the one who cried, “My God, My God”? In other words, can you say, “My God”?
Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Jesus Christ is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. He is God’s appointed Lamb, whom He slew as atonement for the sins of all who will identify with Him. So, have you laid your hands on Christ as your substitute? If so, then His story is what gives meaning to your story.