Read: Psalm 22; 2 Samuel 16:5 – 13; Esther 2:5
The Catalan rabbi Menachem Meiri (1249 – c. 1310) explained the enigmatic title of this Psalm “According to Ayeles Hashachar” (which can be translated “hind of the morning”) as referring to a melodious musical instrument that begins with a soft, low sound and slowly gathers strength – evocative of the increasing light of early dawn which culminates with the rising sun in its full glory. The choice of this particular instrument illustrates that musical instruments were carefully chosen according to their appropriateness to the psalm they accompanied. Jewish commentators on this Psalm of David believe it to be prophetic of Israel’s sufferings, and especially those during the exile in the days of Esther. Moshe Alshich, (1508–1593) a rabbi who lived in the town of Safed north of the Sea of Galilee, made an interesting connection between David and Esther. When David was fleeing from Jerusalem during the rebellion of Absalom, the Benjamite Shimei Ben Gera intercepted the fleeing king, cursed him viciously, and threw stones at him (2 Samuel 16:5 – 13). Yet though Shimei’s blasphemous actions were deserving of death, David would not permit Abishai to kill Shimei. The Talmud says this was because the Lord permitted David to foresee that Shimei’s descendants Mordecai and his cousin Esther would, half a millennium later, play the crucial role in the deliverance of the Jews from the hands of the Amalekite scoundrel Haman. Having been granted this foresight by the Holy Spirit, David made his right to royal dignity subservient to the salvation of his people. Unfortunately for Shimei, once he had fathered his progeny, he became expendable (2 Kings 2:8 – 9), and David avenged his honor.
Think About It: The link between David and Mordecai illustrates God’s control of history and His ability to plan ahead for the salvation of his people. How far ahead did God plan for my salvation (Ephesians 1:4)? Often being Spirit-led is equated with spontaneity. Is it really?
Prayer: Lord, thank You for including me in Your plan of salvation.
Read: Psalm 22:1; Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 3:18
Jesus made the connection between Psalm 22 and Himself when He quoted this psalm in His cry of despair from the cross. The torment Jesus endured is unimaginable for us, not because of the physical suffering (which was bad enough) but because He, the sinless One, took the guilt and shame of our sin on Himself and bore the brunt of God’s wrath against sin in our place.
Think About It: How can I begin to understand what Christ has done for me? Have I ever been falsely accused of even a minor offense? How did I feel? Would I willingly take the blame for a heinous crime and bear the shame and guilt for someone I knew to be guilty? What does Christ’s willingness to do this for me demonstrate about God (Romans 5:6 – 8)? How should I respond (2 Corinthians 5:14 – 15)?
Prayer: Thank you Jesus for bearing the wrath of God against my sin.
Read: Psalm 22:6 – 8; 14 – 18; Matthew 27:35, 43; Luke 23:34; John 19:24, 28; 20:25; Zechariah 12:10
The Bible was not divided into chapters until the 13th century of the Christian era, and verses were not numbered until the mid-15th century. In Bible times a passage of Scripture was referenced by simply quoting a portion of the first sentence of the passage. Jewish men, with only a precious few copies of Scripture available, were schooled from boyhood in Scripture memory and could recite large portions – especially from the Psalms. The religious leaders who had conspired to have Jesus arrested and condemned and who were present at the crucifixion could hardly fail to notice the startling resemblance between Psalm 22 (once Jesus loudly made reference to it) and the scene being played out before their eyes at Golgotha. Jewish commentators read Psalm 22 as a prophecy of the sufferings of the Jews; Christian commentators, following Jesus’ own application, read Psalm 22 as a prophecy of the crucifixion. The precision of the description is remarkable because when David composed this psalm crucifixion had not yet been devised as a method of execution.
Think About It: What aspects of Christ’s crucifixion are foreshadowed in Psalm 22? What does this Psalm say about the nature of biblical prophecy – how it comes to be, how it is fulfilled, and how it is interpreted (2 Peter 2:19 – 20)? Can I trust God’s word (Proverbs 30:5)?
Prayer: Thank you Lord, that Your word proves true.
Read: Psalm 22:27 – 31; Isaiah 60:3; Luke 24:44; John 12:32; Philippians 2:5 – 11
Many psalms begin with a despairing note and end with contrasting a song of triumph. Psalm 22 presents the greatest contrast of all the psalms. Psalm 22 goes from the absolute depths of God-forsaken despair to the heights of God’s glory and sovereignty and the salvation of nations and families to the end of the earth. There can be no doubt that Psalm 22 points to the cross, on which the moment of Jesus’ great despair and agony also becomes the moment of God’s greatest glory and salvation for the world.
Think About It: What are the parallels between Philippians 2:5 – 11 and Psalm 22?
Prayer: Lord, strengthen me to proclaim Your righteousness to the coming generation.
Read: Psalm 22:1 – 5; Job 3:24; Song of Solomon 5:6; Isaiah 59:11
Psalm 22 is more than a prophetic and theological psalm; it also presents a pattern of pain and consolation and ultimate deliverance, resulting in praise and an overflow of consolation. We would like our spiritual life to be “up, and up, and up,” but it is not always that way. In times of great distress we may feel like we can’t even pray. Overwhelmed, we lose the sense of God’s presence. Psalm 22:1 – 2 describes the feeling very well.
Think About It: What encouraging truths are presented in Psalm 22:3 – 5 that help counter the despair of expressed in the first two verses of the psalm? How can the reality of God’s holiness and sovereignty be an encouragement to me? What biblical examples of deliverance from distress are especially meaningful to me? What about my family or church history – how has God delivered those I personally know who trusted in God? How does that encourage me?
Prayer: Lord, in times of distress help me to remember that You rescue those who put their trust in You.
Read: Psalm 22:6 – 11; Job 25:6; Nahum 1:7; Galatians 1:15
Psalm 22 takes us on a spiritual roller coaster. After the uplifting thought of v. 5 regarding how God has delivered in the past, comes the disturbing thought of v.6: “But I am a worm and not a man…” God has helped the saints of old, but that was then, and that was them. There were giants in the earth in those days; what am I? I am nothing but a worm, scorned, despised, mocked by all; my spirituality doesn’t measure up, my faith is weak.
Think About It: What encouraging thoughts are presented in vv. 9 – 11 that counter the thoughts of self-doubt presented in vv. 6 – 8? What personal experience have I had of trusting in God and experiencing deliverance? What is the advantage of being in a spot where there is no one to help me but the Lord?
Prayer: Lord, help me to remember Your faithfulness in the past; thank You for those times when it becomes obvious that You are my only hope, because You are all I need.
Read: Psalm 22:12 – 18; 24; 25 – 28; 2 Corinthians 1:3 – 6
The roller coaster ride continues in Psalm 22: after the encouragement of personal remembrance of God’s deliverance comes the stark reality of the threat of physical pain and violence. The source of that pain might be the raging attacks of enemies, likened to strong bulls, ravening and roaring lions, a pack of encircling dogs. They attack, they ridicule, they bite, they pierce, they plunder, they gloat. But there is this consolation in v. 24: God does not despise or abhor the afflicted; He does not hide His face; He hears my cry for help. The turning point of Psalm 22 comes in verse 24 in the recognition of the truth about who God is, which is a very different matter from how I feel. I may feel forsaken, but my feelings are not the same as the facts of the matter. God does not abandon His children (Psalm 16:10). The powerful effect of realizing this truth is reflected in the remaining verses of the psalm, vv. 25 – 31, in which the cry of despair becomes a hymn of affirmation and praise.
Think About It: What are some of the things that the psalmist sees will result from his experience of God’s deliverance? What testimony of praise for God’s deliverance can I give that will lead others to seek salvation from the Lord?
Prayer: Lord, grant me boldness to speak your praises before the watching world.