Bible Studies on the Messianic Psalms
Psalm 22 Part 1 - Prophecy of the crucifixion and the wrath of man
by I Gordon
In this study we are entering into the holiest of grounds in relation
to the cross... Psalm 22. This is the Rolls Royce of Messianic
prophecies concerning what happened at Calvary 2000 years ago. This
Psalm, along with Isaiah 53, gives the greatest detail of not only what
Jesus went through physically, but also, and more importantly, what he
went through spiritually. But before we begin looking at this critical
prophetic passage I want to start with a passage about prophecy in
A few months back I was in correspondence with an Atheist who wanted to
know why I believed. This man's motive was to try and convince me that
God doesn't exist, and well, that Jesus never existed either! Good luck
with that! So how do we know that God exists and that Jesus was who He
said He was - the Son of God, the Messiah, and the Lamb of God who
takes away the sins of the world? If a non-Christian said to you 'What
proofs have you that what you believe is true?' what would you say?
The God of Prophecy
Let's look at one passage where God declares how we can know. The
statement I want to start with is Isaiah 41:21-23
Isaiah 41:21-23 Present your case, says the LORD. "Set forth your
arguments," says Jacob's King. (22) Bring in your idols to tell us
what is going to happen. Tell us what the former things were, so
that we may consider them and know their final outcome. Or declare
to us the things to come, (23) tell us what the future holds, so we
may know that you are gods. Do something, whether good or bad, so
that we will be dismayed and filled with fear.
In the days of Isaiah, everyone had 'a god'. All the nations and their
inhabitants were religious in that sense. The question was who is
right? So the God of the Bible issues a challenge here to any who would
claim to be 'gods'. It is a simple two fold challenge: Tell us the
former things and the things still to come. In other words, if you
think you are worshipping the true God then tell us how this planet and
life began. Man can't do it. Evolutionists can't do it.
What about what is still to come? If a so-called 'god' is actually
'God' then He would know both, right? Now a person may be able to make
something up about how things began because we weren't there to verify
it. But the truthfulness or lack thereof is abundantly exposed in
trying to declare what is still to come!
Predicting what is to come is not so easy. Man-made future predictions
are about as accurate as the weatherman who said 'I'm 90 percent right - 10 percent of the time.'
Yet the entire Bible is made up of approximately 28-30% prophecy of
what is still to come and it is 100% accurate! Our God knows the end
from the beginning. When new news is revealed each day, God hasn't
learnt anything new. He knows it before it happens. When a political
party reveals some great new policy, God hasn't learnt anything new.
Well, we are none the wiser either for that matter! Yet with Bible
prophecy we have recorded predictions made hundreds and even thousands
of years before they came to pass. Yet they have been proven true. So
we are going to look at one such chapter this morning.
Psalm 22 - Overview
Let's start with a simple overview of this chapter. It was written by
King David around 1000 BC. Yet it goes far, far beyond anything that
happened to him. It has 31 verses and about half of those have a direct
reference and fulfilment recorded in the New Testament. It begins with
'My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?' and ends, in the original,
with the expression 'It is finished'. And if you know the words that
Jesus spoke from the cross then you will know that those are two of the
most important statements that He made. This chapter describes in
amazing detail the process and results of crucifixion 500 years before
crucifixion was first introduced or practised.
While popularised and perfected (if you can call it that!) by the Roman
Empire, the Encyclopaedia Britannica reports that the first historical
record of Crucifixion was about 519 BC when "Darius I, king of Persia,
crucified 3,000 political opponents in Babylon.'
Now the Psalm itself can be split as follows:
1) Wrath from God (verses 1-6)
2) Wrath from man - both verbal and physical (verses 7-21)
3) Blessing of God for Messiah & believers. (verses 22-31)
We'll look at this Psalm in the order of how it played out at Calvary,
starting with the wrath of man.
The wrath from man - Verbal Mental.
(7) All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: (8)
He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him,
since he delights in him. (9) Yet you brought me out of the womb; you
made me trust in you even at my mother's breast. (10) From birth I was
cast upon you; from my mother's womb you have been my God. (11) Do not
be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.
Leading up to this, Jesus had been arrested during the night before and
had trials before the Jewish High Priest and Sanhedrin, Pontius Pilate
and Herod Antipas. He had been scourged, has a mock purple robe put on
with a crown of thorns and is lead away to be crucified. So our passage
begins with the wrath and taunts of man. Jesus was placed on the cross
at 9am in the morning and was on the cross for just over 6 hours.
Commentators often split those hours between the wrath of man for the
first three and the wrath of God for the last three because of the
great darkness that enveloped the land from 12-3pm. Verses 7-8 record
basically word for word what is later stated in the Gospels concerning
the mocking and taunts from mankind when Jesus was on the cross. Here
is how Mathew records it:
Matthew 27:39-44 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking
their heads (40) and saying, "You who are going to destroy the
temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from
the cross, if you are the Son of God!" (41) In the same way the
chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him.
(42) He saved others, they said, "but he can't save himself! If
he's the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and
we will believe in him. (43) He trusts in God. Let God rescue him
now if he wants him, for he said, 'I am the Son of God.' " (44) In
the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped
insults on him.
Let's look at the group mocking Jesus: First you've got the general
masses; the average Israelite passing by and wanting to have a gawk at
the latest crucifixion... they're shaking their heads at him as if they
are His superior and have a go. Then you've got the religious echelon:
The chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders. They still
remember the day when Jesus rightfully pointed out, in public, that
they were 'the blind leading the blind', 'whitewashed tombs' and
'snakes and a brood of vipers'... Not sure Jesus had read 'how to win
friends and influence people' when it came to the religious leaders of
His day. So they're there enjoying this moment. And then you've got the
criminals... the robbers. There was one crucified on each side of Jesus
and both of them, at least at the beginning, are hurling insults at
Jesus. Thankfully one turned.
How would you have responded at such a time to all the insults?
Possibly with a little spite and venom? 'Go take a running jump...' may
have been getting close to the tip of your tongue. How did Jesus
respond? Peter tells us:
1 Peter 2:22-23 'He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in
his mouth. (23) When they hurled their insults at him, he did not
retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he
entrusted himself to him who judges justly.'
And that is what we see in this passage in Psalm 22. In the face of the
insults He reminds Himself of how the Father has been there for Him
since He was in the womb. He has trusted in God since being on His
mother's breast. God was always His rock and strength.
(12) Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. (13)
Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me.
In a later verse He also adds that 'dogs have encircled me'. So this
psalm likens three groups of those around Jesus to three different
animals: Bulls, dogs and lions. The Believer's Bible Commentary (Big
'Bashan, east of the Jordan, was known for its rich pasture-land
and for its strong, well-fattened animals. Amos later referred to
the luxury-loving Israelites as cows of Bashan.'
So this reference is likely pointing to the rich powerful religious
leaders of Israel who lived off the fat of the land. 'Dogs' is a well
know term for Gentiles and in this case would have spoken of the Roman
soldiers and leaders who carried out the crucifixion. Finally the lion
is used as a metaphor for Satan so this reference may be speaking
spiritually of the warfare and circling going on in the demonic realm.
So here are the groups circling: Religion, the world and Satan...It is
worth noting that these three are persecuting Christians with greater
urgency and in greater numbers today than ever before. And as a passing
comment it should be noted that persecution will come to the west. We
should never think we are immune.
From Man - Physical Wrath: Crucifixion.
Let's move on to the physical aspect of man's persecution in verses
(14) I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My
heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. (15) My strength
is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my
mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. (16) Dogs have surrounded me; a
band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my
feet. (17) I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me.
(18) They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.
(19) But you, O LORD, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to
Remember: This is describing crucifixion in detail 500 years before it
would be invented, 900 years before the Romans began using it and 1000
years before Jesus would be crucified
. This was not a Jewish method of capital punishment - that was
stoning. The psalmist is describing something entirely foreign to the
Jews in this prophetic Psalm. In view of this, let's examine the
description of crucifixion given here:
I am poured out like water:
Jesus is at the point of complete and utter exhaustion! He has nothing
left. His life has been poured out through the hot beating sun and the
agony of continually trying to lift Himself up to breathe.
All my bones are out of joint:
Ever had a dislocated bone or joint? The ligaments hold our bones in
joint. They are like strong rubber bands but when they are stretched
too far or break, the bone is forced out of its joint. You can only
imagine the intense pressure on the bones and joints and ligaments as
the victim hung from the cross which is being described here.
My heart has turned to wax:
The heart, under immense shock and sustained pressure as described
above, is giving way.
My strength is dried up like a potsherd, my tongue sticks to
the roof of my mouth:
Extreme dehydration is setting in. He compares Himself to a piece of
broken pottery. A broken clay vessel completely dried out by the
furnace of God - Physically and spiritually. It was at this point that
Jesus spoke from the cross saying 'I thirst'.
They have pierced my hands and my feet:
That of course is exactly what a crucifixion does. The nails to hold
the victim to the cross are driven through the wrist area normally and
through the feet. This word 'pierced' is important. This is the first
of three highly significant prophetic scriptures using it. This one in
Psalm 22 describes the actual physical act of crucifixion: They pierced
my hands and my feet. The second describes the reason why:
Isaiah 53:5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed
for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
The third prophetic passage is in Zechariah and describes a coming day
when the nation of Israel's eyes will be opened and they will see what
Zechariah 12:10 ...They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and
they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve
bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.
I can count all my bones:
Like most victims crucified by Rome, it is likely that Jesus was naked.
All His bones were visible and, as his bones were out of joint, they
would have been prominent. But in fulfillment of another Psalm (34:20)
none of his bones were broken. Thus when the soldiers came to break the
legs of the victims to bring about a quicker death (as the victim
wasn't then able to push themselves up to breath) they found that Jesus
had already died and didn't break His legs. And all the while that this
happened, houses around Israel prepared their Passover lamb in strict
adherence to the Biblical command that, among other things, the lamb
should not have any bones broken. (Ex 12:46) And yet they were
willfully blind to the fact that the real Passover Lamb was being
sacrificed at that same time upon a cross.
They divide my garments among them, And for my clothing they
This is exactly what the Roman soldiers did. All four gospel writers
record this act. John writes:
John 19:23-24 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. (24) Let's not tear it, they said to one
another. "Let's decide by lot who will get it." This happened that
the scripture might be fulfilled which said, "They divided my
garments among them and cast lots for my clothing." So this is what
the soldiers did.
We are only halfway through this Psalm but I want to draw a few
conclusions from what we have read so far:
My sin put Him there
Jesus didn't go through this for Himself. He had no sin to pay for.
Someone once said
'Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us,
we have to see it as something done by us.'
As I read through this Psalm again I couldn't help think of my own
life - not just as a non-Christian but also as a believer and
realize that that alone was enough to put Jesus on the cross. As we
read from the prophet Isaiah: 'But he was pierced for our
transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities...'
For a good part of our life we were likely no different to the
crowds mocking Jesus
We like to think of ourselves, had we been there in that day,
standing with Jesus, supporting Him and opposing the angry mocking
crowd. Yet most of us spent a long part of our life just going
along with the flow of the crowd thinking and acting as they do.
Our Daily Bread: When you study the painting of the crucifixion by
the famous Dutch artist Rembrandt, your attention is first drawn to
the cross and to Jesus. Then, as you look at the crowd around the
cross, you are drawn to the faces of the people involved in the
awful crime of crucifying the Son of God. Finally, your eyes drift
to the edge of the picture and catch sight of another figure - almost
hidden in the shadows. This, we are told, was a self-portrait of
Rembrandt, for he recognized that by his sins he helped nail Jesus
Someone has aptly said, 'It is a simple thing to say that Christ
died for the sin of the world. It is quite another thing to say
that Christ died for my sin! It may be an interesting
pastime to point fingers at those who crucified Jesus, but it is a
shocking thought that I can be as indifferent as Pilate, as
scheming as Caiaphas, as calloused as the soldiers, as ruthless as
the mob, or as cowardly as the disciples. It isn't just what they did - it was I who nailed Him to the tree. I crucified
the Christ of God. I joined the mockery!'
The wonder of the Substitution
Vernon McGee writes:
'My friend, He went through it all, [striped and] crucified
naked, that you might be clothed with the righteousness of
Christ, and so be able to stand before God throughout the
endless ages of eternity.'
He was and is the substitute for all those that believe. An example
story might help:
During the war between Britain and France, men were conscripted
into the French army by a kind of lottery system. When
someone's name was drawn, he had to go off to battle. There was
one exception to this, however. A person could be exempt if
another was willing to take his place. On one occasion the
authorities came to a certain man and told him he was among
those who had been chosen. He refused to go, saying, "I was
shot and died 2 years ago." At first they questioned his
sanity, but he insisted that this indeed was the case. He
claimed that the military records would show that he had been
conscripted 2 years previously and that he had been killed in
action. "How can that be?" they questioned. "You are alive
now!" He explained that when his name came up, a close friend
said to him, "You have a large family, but I am not married and
nobody is dependent upon me. I'll take your name and address
and go in your place." And that is indeed what the record
showed. This rather unusual case was referred to Napoleon
Bonaparte, who decided that the country had no legal claim on
that man. He was free. He had died in the person of another!
And so it is with us. Christ was our substitute and died in our
place. But God sees all believers as having died in Him; the
justice of the law and the punishment for sin have already been
met. It has no further legal claim on us... we are free! That's why
Galatians 6:14 May I never boast except in the cross of our
Lord Jesus Christ...
Why boast only in the cross? We don't boast in the hangman's noose,
the guillotine, the gas chamber or the electric chair. But we do
boast in the cross of Christ. Not because of the suffering and
death but because of the victory won! Because He took the place we
deserved so that we, for all eternity, could be free.
Someone took the time to tell you about this truth...
The last thought that I was thinking about as I went through this
is that someone told us about this truth. Just about every
salvation involves other people telling them the truth and praying
for them. Think of your own salvation for a little while. Who was
praying for you? Who spoke to you about Jesus or gave you books or
Dvd's to watch to hear the truth? For me, my sister and my Mum
played a big role. My sister gave me a Bible on my 18th
birthday. Worst present I ever received! Or so I thought as
know-it-all teenager! And they, and many others, prayed! The truth
of the cross is a wonderful truth and we are not called to keep it
to ourselves. On the one hand, we live in a difficult age where
many hearts in the West are hardened to the truth of the Gospel. On
the other hand, we live in an age where events and changes in this
world start to make some to wonder what is happening and to seek
for an answer outside of them. So I encourage you, if you are not
already, to pray for those you know who don't know the Lord and to
look for opportunities to share the Gospel, the 'Good News' where
the Lord leads and the door is open.
We will continue next time with the second part of this Psalm where we
go back to the initial verses and look at what Jesus experienced
spiritually - both in being forsaken by God and the glories that would