I am a worm
Based on sermon preached in PCC morning service on, 1 Dec 2002


6 But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. 7 All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,  8 He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.   9 But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother’s breasts.  10 I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother’s belly. 11 Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help” (Psalm 22:6-11)

We saw previously that there are four parts in Psalm 22. The first three parts comprise three cycles describing the conflict between sense and faith in the human soul of the Lord on the Cross. The first cycle is from verses 1-5; the second from verses 6-11; and the third is from verses 12-21. Verse 22 onwards is a conclusion.

We dealt with the first sense-faith cycle in our previous study on this psalm. We saw how the Lord, the God-Man, was, as it were, forsaken of the Father because He was bearing the sin of the elect. The Lord was facing deep grief due to the anger of the Father directed at Him. But in the midst of His discouragement, He found courage in the fact that His Father is a prayer-hearing God.

In this second part of the psalm, we again see the Lord deeply disheartened. But this time it is not on account of separation from the Father, but on account of the insults and ridicule of His enemies who were beholding His suffering on the cross.

1. Despised By His Enemies

Consider how our Lord was despised by His enemies:

6 But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.

Very often, in the inspired Scriptures, this little word ‘but’ expresses hope in a hopeless situation. But here in our text, it is used to express the intensity of Christ’s suffering. The Lord has spoken about His being forsaken by His Father, but He found encouragement in the fact that His Father is a prayer-hearing God. Our hearts are lifted up as we read verses 4 and 5.

4 Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. 5 They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded” (Ps 22:4, 5).

But the Lord’s suffering would not end until His sacrifice is completed. As soon as the Lord found encouragement in the fact that God answers prayers, then another painful thought fills His mind.

BUT I am a worm, and no man.” We are brought low again. And again, we are confronted with how deeply the Lord is suffering at the moment expressed. Wave after wave of discouragement and sorrow is sweeping over His gracious soul. One moment He is encouraged by how God answered the fathers of faith: Abraham, Moses, David, etc; but the next moment He is made to feel and realise how low a situation He is in. So low is He that it is difficult for Him even to compare His situation with those of the fathers of old.

But I am a worm, and no man.” Obviously, the Lord is not speaking about His nature or character. He is speaking about how He is feeling and about His situation, and how He is being viewed and treated by others.

As it is, it is a great condescension for our Lord to take on human flesh. Human flesh is no better than that of worms. They are both made of the dust of the earth. But Christ our Lord condescended to be even lower; and He is being trampled by men as they would trample worms.

The prophet Isaiah gives us a glimpse of how low a condition the Lord is in:

“… his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men… He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Is 52:14, 53:3).

As our Lord hangs on the cross, the torment that He is facing is so great that His suffering is visible upon His face: “His visage was so marred more than any man.” We sometimes read that the Lord on the Cross exuded a look of confidence because He is the Son of God. But this passage tells us the opposite. He feels like a worm, His agony is clearly visible upon His brow.

I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. All they that see me laugh me to scorn” (v. 6-7) says our Lord.

The Jews, —scribes, elders and priests, —who demanded His crucifixion had no pity for Him. When a man sees another man suffering, he would at least feel some pity. He will surely not laugh at him. But this is what is happening as the Lord of glory hangs on the cross. Not only are the soldiers mocking and laughing at Him; the Lord’s apostate covenant people are also reproaching Him, ridiculing Him, and laughing at Him. Throughout His life, they have called Him all sorts of names. They called Him a blasphemer, a Sabbath-breaker, a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans, a false prophet, and even an agent of Beelzebub.

Now even on the cross, in His moment of deepest sorrows, they spare Him not. Indeed, they heap even more insults upon Him. W.S. Plumer is surely right in saying, “His enemies were never more derisive than when his agonies were greatest.” They heap terrible insults on Him. They mock Him for being a liar and a fool, and accuse Him of leading others astray. The tempt Him concerning His divinity the way that Satan tempted Him in the wilderness at the start of His ministry.

7b they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,  8 He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.

In Near-Eastern cultures, to “shoot out the lip,” or to protrude the lower lip is a very strong expression of contempt. And to add to that they wag their head, not out of pity, but out of ridicule and taunt: “He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.

By these words they are implying that He is not only a fool, but a charlatan. The word rendered ‘trust’ (גָּלַל, gâlal) is not the usual word for “trust” (בָּטַח, bâṭach, see v. 6). It literally means “roll”: “He rolled on the LORD.” I believe they are here speaking in a blasphemous, sarcastic way: “He wallowed on the LORD.” Yes, the meaning is “trust,” but here it is given a sarcastic twist. It is like in English we might normally say “Jack respects his boss,” but someone who wants to be sarcastic may say “Jack venerates his boss.”

Not only do they blaspheme the Son by casting aspersion concerning His faith in His Father, but they blaspheme the Father by implying that He could not possibly love this man hanging helplessly on the Cross.

The New Testament record of what happened puts it this way:

39 And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, 40 And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. 41 Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, 42 He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. 43 He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God” (Mt 27:39-43).

Oh, how deeply hurtful these words must be to the holy and gracious soul of our Lord. It must feel like a sword piercing His heart and twisting. He is there on the cross for the sake of sinful man, some of whom, —like the penitent thief, —might have been amongst those ridiculing Him. And not only so, but they are charging that He is forsaken of God; and He has just experienced the forsaking of His Father on account of the guilt He is bearing.

How much more difficult it must be for Him to bear those blasphemous words because He knows that He is truly the Son of God and the King of kings. At least twelve legions of angels are standing by ready to deliver Him and to vindicate His name if they are permitted to do so. But for the sake of His elect, the Lord forbears to call them, despite the extreme intensity of the pain He is suffering.

He has to wait patiently for His deliverance after He gives up His spirit. But in the meantime, He has to suffer all the verbal abuses, mockery and blasphemy silently.

Most of us will defend ourselves vehemently when we are wrongly charged, —because this is the best way for us to ease the pain of mockery or false charges against us. But the Lord has to endure all the pain silently. Why does He do so? He does so for you who are His elect. He remains on the cross and suffers the intense physical pain and mental anguish for our sakes.

Christ is dying as our substitute. Not only does He have to taste of God’s infinite wrath against us for our sin: He is also, in a way, tasting the insults and ridicule that we will otherwise have to suffer in hell, were we to be sent there.

No; hell is not a pleasant place to be in. There is no friendship in hell. There is no encouragement and sympathy in hell. Sinners who go there will never have a moment of relief. They will be gnashing at one another, blaming one another, ridiculing one another, accusing one another. Every moment in hell will be filled with unmitigated pain.

The Lord Jesus is enduring this kind of pain on our behalf. And this pain is especially intense because He is the God-Man. His perfectly pure soul is united with His infinitely divine Spirit. All the insults heaped upon Him are insults against the thrice holy God. The pain that our Lord experiences in His soul as He hangs on the cross must therefore be worse than the physical pain He has to endure. Yes, the intensity of suffering from being forsaken by the Father must have been the greatest. But the second most painful suffering must be the insults, not the physical pains.

This is why the Lord speaks about being forsaken by the Father (see v. 1-5), then about insults He had to bear (see v. 6-11); and then only about physical affliction (see v. 12-21).

Yes, it was for our sakes that the Lord suffered all these. He suffered wave after wave of discouragements for our sakes. What are the discouragements we face in this life compared to what the Lord faced?

Often when I am accused of something, I know that there must be at least some grain of truth in what is said. But the Lord is sinless. Every accusation, ridicule and insult heaped upon Him was totally baseless and therefore infinitely painful.

Consider therefore the great love toward us that our Lord manifested on the Cross as He endured those words of insults hurled against Him by His enemies.

But secondly, consider how the Lord experienced…

2.   Comfort in God’s
Power, Providence and Presence

When we are falsely accused of anything, we can ordinarily get some relief by setting the record straight. But our Lord does not have this luxury. He has to bear with the wicked insults until the sacrifice is completed.

But these insults are so heavy, so painful. How does the Lord bear up under it? How does He find encouragement to strengthen himself? He finds encouragement by turning again to the Father:

9 But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother’s breasts. 10 I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother’s belly.

Now, to some of us, this may seem to be very unusual reasoning. In fact, to an unbeliever, this reasoning will surely be very strange. The Lord is facing verbal abuses— insults, taunts, ridicule, and blasphemy. The people are crying out to Him: He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.” By these words, Satan seeks to discourage our Lord or even to cause Him to doubt God. But our Lord does not fall for his schemes. He turns His eyes to the Father.

But curiously, when He turns His eyes to the Father, He does not appeal to God as a just God who will vindicate Him. Instead, He recalls how God gave Him birth and nourished Him upon His earthly mother’s breast! Why is this so? It is so because the Lord, we must remember, is bearing the sin of His people. As such, He, as it were, deserves the insults and ridicule. He does not deserve it for anything He did, but we deserve it, and He is taking what we deserve upon His own shoulders. This, I believe is the reason why He does not appeal to God’s justice and vindication.

What then does He appeal to? He appeals to God’s power and special providence. This power is seen in His giving the Lord a miraculous conception, in bringing Him out of His mother’s womb and supporting Him all though His childhood. The argument is this: If God took pains to bring Him into this world, and provided for Him and protected Him from all the dangers of childhood, then how could God now allow Him to sink without deliverance?

The Reverend John Stevenson who wrote an excellent exposition on the 22nd Psalm entitled “Christ on the Cross” (1842), paraphrased the Lord’s argument this way:

“I am now brought as a man to extremity. It is said that God disowns me; but it cannot be so. My first moment of existence he tenderly cared for. When I could not even ask for, or think of his kindness, he bestowed it upon me. If, of his mere good pleasure he brought be into life at first, he will surely not forsake me when I am departing out of it. In opposition, therefore, to all their taunts, I can and will appeal to God himself. My enemies declare, O God, that thou hast cast me off—but thou art he that took me out of the womb. They affirm that I do not, and need not trust in thee; but thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother’s breasts. They insinuate that thou wilt not acknowledge me as thy Son; but I was cast upon thee from the womb; thou art my God from my mother’s belly.”

It is through this argument that the Lord finds strength and confidence to turn to the Father for help again:

11 Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.

Stand not aloof from me. Desert me not. No one else can help. I can appeal to no one. Even if there is anyone else whom I can appeal to, they cannot help me. The Scribes, Pharisees and Priest cannot help me. They are after my blood. The Jews cannot help me. They have been blinded by the evil one. The governor cannot help me. He is afraid of the Jews. The soldiers cannot help me: they are under orders. My disciples cannot help me: they have forsaken me. My earthly mother cannot help me: she is powerless to do anything. The holy angels cannot help for they are under strict orders to stay their hands. Only Thou canst help. Thou art He alone, whom I can turn to in this hour of anguish. Thou hast loved me with an everlasting love from the beginning. And Thou dost know the vow I made for the redemption of the Church. Thou alone can help in such a way as not to break the covenant of redemption we made.

But consider for a moment: What is our Lord’s request to His Father? Is it to help Him? No, it is “be not far from me.” Trouble is near: stay with me. Let me know Thy presence: that is enough! It is enough for our Lord merely to know that the Father is standing by Him. “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?” (Ps 118:6).

He knows that the Father will do that which is right. He brought Him into this world. He had sustained Him upon His mother’s breast. He protected Him from not only the natural dangers that attend every baby, but preserved Him from the wicked designs of King Herod. He kept Him and sustained Him through all the temptations that confronted Him, whether ordinary or extraordinary.

Now in this hour of His greatest need, need He ask the Father for help? All He needed is to know that His Father has not forsaken Him, and is standing by Him. That is enough.

Now of course this does not mean that it is wrong to ask the Father to help Him. Later in verse 19, the Lord will ask the Father to help Him. But here, by the fact that He asks only the Father’s presence, we learn that the mere sense of the Father’s presence is enough to encourage Him as He faces the terrible insults that are being hurled against Him.

Consider, therefore, how our Lord found comfort by contemplating on God’s power and providence and presence.

But finally, let us consider in summary and conclusion, how this passage ought to stir our hearts to love the Lord.

3.   A Loving Response
Called For

The Lord while suffering upon the Cross went into depths of sorrow that no other persons in the world ever experienced. He felt as a worm, His visage was marred more than that of any other persons.

Have you, dearly beloved, been sorrowful? Have you been deeply hurt? Think of the sorrow of the Lord. He was unjustly mocked, taunted, reviled, ridiculed, He became the reproach of man and despised of the people. He was undergoing what we deserve for our sin.

Whenever you are feeling pain in your heart because you have been falsely accused, think of the Lord. Remember that in all the accusations against you, there is surely an element of truth because of the corruption remaining within you. Spurgeon used to say concerning those who slander him: “Let them be, for if they know the truth concerning me, they would have much worst things to say!” When we think of this fact, we should not be as indignant as we often are, when we are accused or ridiculed.

But the Lord had no sin. He was perfect and holy in all that he did, thought and said. Even the slightest accusations against Him were blatantly false and would have grieved His holy soul deeply. But He endured all these for you. Will you not therefore think about Him each time you face ridicule, slander or reproach?

If my master endured unjust accusations and mockery for my sake, how can I fret and doubt God, —for accusations and mockery that I am surely deserving of to some degree.

Secondly, consider how the Lord appealed only for the presence of Father or a sense of His Father’s presence as trouble loomed.

Have you ever come to the point where no one can help you out of your predicament? Have you ever experienced circumstances where you do not even know how to pray because you wonder if your prayer is selfish or righteous, and you wonder if your desire is consistent with God’s will? Such situations are most perplexing and sometime frustrating.

The Lord Jesus, —in a similar though infinitely more difficult circumstance, found comfort in the knowledge that His Father was with Him. Would you not find comfort in the fact that the Lord Jesus promised never to leave you nor forsake you?

But how do you ensure that you know the presence of Lord through all your trials? How do you cultivate a sense of the presence of the Lord? Let me suggest that you may do so in the same way as you should cultivate a sense of assurance, namely, through the right use of the ordinary means, as our Confession teaches us in chapter 18.

Go to the Word; go to the Lord in prayer; meditate on Christ; go to the Lord’s Table by faith. If you will make use of these things, and seek constantly to mortify your sin, you will make your calling and election sure, and you will enjoy a sense of the presence of God in your life that will remain even when trials overwhelm your soul.

When you partake of the bread and wine at the Lord’s Table, remember that they symbolise the body and blood of Christ. As you eat the bread and drink the wine remember the bodily pain that Christ endure; and remember how his blood flowed for you. But do not stop there. Remember that the bodily pains that the Lord suffered, was the least of the pains He suffered. He suffered far more deeply in His human soul. He suffered for your sakes.

Were it not that He is the God-Man, and His divinity was sustaining Him, He would have been sunken and crushed under the weight of the infinite wrath of God and the depth of suffering due to the blasphemous mockery that He was facing.

Consider therefore how greatly, greatly, He suffered for you. Then let the Spirit of Christ instil grace and gratitude in your heart.

Indeed, I would go further and urge you to read the passage we are studying again. This time, read it, bearing in mind that many professing Christians today have joined the rank and file of those who insult and ridicule the Lord.

Those who think they are not really that wicked and that they deserve heaven for their good works are laughing and pouring scorn on the Lord saying that He need not have gone to the cross.

Likewise, those who bear the name of the Lord but live as practical atheist are insulting Him. One who is grateful to the Lord for what He has done will not live lawlessly and as practical atheists.

Is Christ important in your life? Or is He merely an appendage to your life? Your life belongs to you and you are merely adding Christ to your life? If that is so, you are insulting the Lord, who laid His life down for you.

Dearly beloved, we are not our own. We have been purchased by the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Listen to what Calvin has to say in this regard:

If we, then, are not our own but the Lord’s, it is clear what error we must flee, and whither we must direct all the acts of our life. We are not our own: let not our reason nor our will, therefore, sway our plans and deeds. We are not our own: let us therefore not set it as our goal to seek what is expedient for us according to the flesh. We are not our own: in so far as we can, let us therefore forget ourselves and all that is ours. Conversely, we are God’s: let us therefore live for him and die for him. We are God’s: let his wisdom and will therefore rule all our actions. We are God’s: let all the parts of our life accordingly strive toward him as our only lawful goal (ICR  3.7.1).

Conclusion

But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.” Christ the Son of God was made a worm in order that we who worse than worms might become the sons of God. Oh may our hearts be flooded with overwhelming sense of gratitude as we come to His Table this morning to taste of His love! Oh may we cease to writhe as worms in the filth of this dark and sinful world that we may walk as the redeemed sons and daughters of God to testify of His great love and condescension towards us! Amen.

—JJ Lim