“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life” (Prov. 13:12). This proverb incisively captures the longing to see a promise fulfilled.
In Acts 2, Peter recalls God promising David to one day raise up one of his offspring to be king of an everlasting kingdom (2 Sam. 7:1-17). David never saw this promise realized, but he told of it. David was not merely a psalmist but also a prophet (Acts 2:30), and he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of Christ (Acts 2:31). Psalms 22, 23 and 24 prophetically tell the gospel story in vivid detail (Luke 24:44).
Psalm 22: The Psalm of the Cross
Generally, the Psalms are birthed out of specific circumstances, but there is not a known historical incident in David’s life linked to Psalm 22. Regardless of the plight that produced this Psalm, it is clear that it prophetically portrays a future historical incident: the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Psalm 22 depicts the horrific Good Friday scene where the Sufferer was:
- Forsaken by God (Ps. 22:1; Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34)
- Abused verbally by men (Ps. 22:6-7; Matt. 26:67-68; 27:27-31)
- Ridiculed by men for His trust in God (Ps. 22:8; Matt. 27:39-44; Mark. 15:29-32; Luke 23:35, 39)
- Surrounded by enemies (Ps. 22:12-13, 16; Matt. 27:27-31, 39-44; Mark 15:16-20)
- Weakened physically (Ps. 22:14-15; Matt. 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26)
- Thirsty (Ps. 22:15; John 19:28)
- Pierced in His hands and feet yet bones not broken (Ps. 22:16-17; Matt. 27:39-44; John 19:31-36)
- Stared at by the people (Ps. 22:17; Matt. 27:55-56; Luke 23:35, 48-49; John 19:20)
- Humiliated as lots were cast for His clothing (Ps. 22:18; Matt. 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:34; John 19:23-24)
- Afflicted yet prayers answered (Ps. 22:21, 24; Heb. 5:7-8)
Not only does this psalm accurately depict the agonizing death of the Sufferer (Ps. 22:1-21), but it also shows the humility of the Sufferer who, in the midst of anguish, praises God (Ps. 22:22-31). The writer of Hebrews connects the Sufferer of Psalm 22 to Jesus who was “crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” (Heb. 2:9). Jesus, who is subject to no one or nothing, modeled perfect humility by subjecting Himself to suffering (Heb. 2:10), and in His suffering, He sang the praise of God (Ps. 22:22; Heb. 2:12).
Psalm 22 depicts Jesus in the moment where He bore the full brunt of the curse in our place (Gal. 3:13-14). We should have been forsaken, but He was forsaken so that we could be brought near and experience peace (Eph. 2:17). The psalm concludes with the hope that righteousness will be given to a people yet unborn (Ps. 22:31). Jesus, the only Righteous One, took our unrighteousness so that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21).
And the psalm that begins with a cry of abandonment ends with the words, “he has done it,” a proclamation that mirrors Jesus’ last words of, “It is finished” (John 19:30). It is finished because Christ endured the scorn of the cross and rescued believers from the curse of the fall. Because it is finished, we have genuine hope that, in the midst of our suffering, God the Father hears the cries of the afflicted (Ps. 22:24), God the Son empathetically stands with the afflicted (Heb. 4:14-16) and God the Holy Spirit comforts the afflicted (John 14:15-17).