The Righteous One’s Song of the Cross or Messiah Bearing the Cross & Wearing the Crown

a brief study of Psalm 22, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 27 Oct 2006

I believe that all the psalms are messianic in one way or other. But Psalm 22 is the most famous of the Messianic Psalms. Hardly anyone in the history of the church will disagree that this Psalm is a prophecy concerning the deepest sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary.

Yes, some think that David was originally describing his own sufferings, while others believe that this Psalm refers exclusively and originally to Christ. But all agree that only the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ can fully explain the language used in this Psalm.

This Psalm is quoted numerous times in the Gospels to show how the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled ancient prophecies. Therefore, I believe we should interpret the first person pronouns in this Psalm to be all referring to the Lord Jesus Christ, without a need to apply to David as a type. So we agree with Matthew Henry that…

"In singing this psalm we must keep our thoughts fixed upon Christ, and be so affected with his sufferings,—as to experience the fellowship of them, and so affected with his grace,—as to experience the power and influence of it."

This is how we must look at this Psalm in this study.

It is easy to see that this psalm has two main parts. From verse 1 to verse 21, we are given a glimpse of the Messiah’s suffering. From verse 22 to the end, we are given a vision of Messiah entering into His glorious kingdom.

1. Messiah’s Suffering

In this first section, we see the Lord suffering as wave upon wave of sorrow swept over him as he hung on the cross. In fact if you read the passage carefully, you will discern three waves of sorrow sweeping over the Lord.

We must realise that these three waves did not necessarily sweep over the Lord consecutively while the Lord was on the cross. But they represent the sorrow that attended his soul

The first wave contains the painful words of our Lord which he cried after the three hours of darkness:

1 My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

The Lord spoke these words in Aramaic: "Eli eli lama sabathani." Christ our Lord, the eternal son of God was on the cross as our representative. He was bearing our sin. He was suffering the wrath of God on our behalf. Our guilt was imputed to Him. For that reason, He was at the moment the guiltiest person who ever lived. And to underscore that, for three hours the Sun refused to shine. During those three hours, all that our Lord saw of the Father was His back and His angry face.

At the end of the three hours our Lord cried out "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

I mentioned this before many times: at no time during our Lord’s earthly ministry, did He address His Father as ‘God’ but always as ‘Father.’ But here in His hour of dereliction, sensing only His Father’s wrath, He cried out plaintively: "My God, my God,…."

But even as the Lord experienced His darkest hours, He did not give up hope. He found encouragement in the fact that God is a holy God, who has proven Himself to be merciful in the history of His people:

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.

But our Lord was not only afflicted because of the Father’s wrath. He was afflicted by His own people mocking Him.

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.

This was the second wave of sorrow that swept over His soul. He was mocked and ridiculed by the priests and the people misled by the priest, as well as those who were disappointed that He did not free them from the Romans dominion as they had expected.

But once again, our Lord triumphed over it. He took comfort that His life was in the hand of His Father. His Father gave Him human flesh. His Father gave Him life as the God-Man:

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.

In times of great distress and confusion, it is always helpful for us to remember that we are creatures of dust that exist only by the sovereign power of God. If we understand that, then it will not matter anymore what others say about us so long as we are doing the Lord’s will.

But that does not mean that it would be the end of our pain and sorrow in this world.

Our Lord experienced not just mental anguish, but physical torment.

12 Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round. 13 They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion.

The Lord was surrounded by fierce and unreasonable people. His friends had fled or were kept at a distance. All around Him were people who wanted Him to die, or were doing their duty to kill Him.

They mocked Him and scolded Him. They gnashed their teeth at Him because of their jealousy.

They surrounded Him like lions and bulls and dogs (v. 16). They stripped Him of His garment, stretched Him out on a wooden cross and nailed Him to it, hands and feet to the Cross:

16 For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. 17 I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. 18 They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.

They hung our Lord on the Cross to die a slow and excruciating death. He was stretched and impaled in a most painful manner. He was exposed to the elements. He was in pain and bleeding profusely. He could hardly breathe. You could count His rib bones. The soldiers cast lots for His garments— the only possession He had.

He would die of exposure, exhaustion, blood lost and dehydration.

14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. 15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.

It was in thirst our Lord cried out ‘I thirst.’ But though His body was drying up, He was still full of the Spirit.

He did not despair, but turned again to His Father in prayer (v. 19-21). He called His Father to be near Him and to deliver Him. What an example for us!

And our Lord, full of faith knew that the Father would hear His prayer. He knew that the Father would raise Him from the dead.

So this poignant psalm ends not with a poignant note, but with a triumphant note.

2. Messiah’s Glory

22 I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.

Our Lord anticipated that His Father would accept His sacrifice and He would rise from the dead. He would join His people to worship the Father. The writer to the Hebrews, quotes these words when he says:

"11 For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, 12 Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee" (Heb 2:11-12)

Our Lord went to the cross in our flesh. He lived and died for us. He died because of our sin. He bore our sin. Therefore He is not afraid to call us His brothers and sisters even though we sin against God and fall short of God’s glory.

Instead, He calls us to join Him to praise the Father. And He assures us of the Lord’s blessings:

23 Ye that fear the LORD, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel. 24 For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.

The Father heard the cry of our Saviour. He will surely hear our cry too. He did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted. He heard and answered Him when He cried to Him. So we can be sure He will also hear us when we cry unto Him.

But now the foremost thought in our Saviour’s mind is the joy of praising the Father in the great congregation of the people who would be redeemed by His blood:

25 My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him. 26 The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever.

Our Lord paid His vows. He came to fulfil His covenant vow to lay down His life for His people. He came to redeem a great congregation to worship the Father.

They shall live forever and they shall be contented in the Lord.

And this would be true not just for His people who are already in the covenant, but for as many as the Lord our God shall call—

27 All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. 28 For the kingdom is the LORD’s: and he is the governor among the nations.

He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. When He has laid down His life, He would be exalted to the right hand of the Father as He is appointed ruler and governor over all the affairs of the universe.

At the cross, He secured victory over the devil. He crushed the head of the serpent. But the serpent is threshing about in its dying throes.

There war is won, but there are mopping up battles to be fought. Christ our Lord is powerfully directing the battles. All power is given unto Him in heaven and on earth.

The apostle Paul is referring to this mopping up battle when he says in 1 Corinthians 15:24-26—

"23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. 24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. 25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death."

In that day when He shall destroy death forever, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord. Or as the Lord says in verse 29—

29 All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul.

In that day, there will be none refusing to bow. For either they will bow in adoration and love or they will bow in fear and trepidation.

Rich or poor, powerful or weak, all will bow down to worship Him.

But whatever might be the case, a seed shall serve Him.

30 A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation. 31 They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.

This seed refers to those who are spiritually united to Christ. Paul says:

"Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ" (Gal 3:16)

The seed of Christ will serve the Lord in their generation and they will declare to their children’s children about what Christ has done.

Eventually, all the elect will be called. Then as a generation, even the seed of Christ, they shall serve the Father forever and ever.


What a blessing!

What a wonderful psalm. This Psalm begins with the darkest and most painful of human experiences ever,—for the God-Man suffered as no man ever suffered.

But the same Psalm ends with the most glorious and joyous of human experiences ever,—for the God-Man is exalted and all His elect are united to Him to enjoy Him forever and ever.

The darkest and most painful experience was suffered by our Lord. The brightest and most joyous experience will be ours and our children’s.

But oh what expense and what love. Christ suffered infinitely in order that we might have perfect bliss for all eternity.

May the Lord grant us that we may out of gratitude to Him worship Him and serve Him with all our soul, heart, mind and strength until the day we rest fully in Him to enjoy Him forever and ever. Amen.

— JJ Lim