Stepping into the Psalms
Part IV: Jesus Steps In
March 24, 2013
SCRIPTURE READING: Psalm 22:1-5
Q Does that passage sound FAMILIAR? Where have you heard it?
These are in fact Jesus’ words on the CROSS. I have talked a lot about STEPPING INTO the Psalms, making the words our own and that is what Jesus is doing here.
* But he is doing MORE than that and we will see why Psalm 22 is perhaps the best Psalm for “PASSION WEEK.”
LAYERS OF MEANING
As I said a couple of weeks ago, the Psalms sometimes have “LAYERS of MEANING,” applying both to the original audience and having prophetic meaning later.
I think Psalm 22 has three layers of meaning:
1. The individual lament.
At the most basic level, this psalm was written to GIVE WORDS to any of us when we feel forgotten by God.
Psalm 22:1-5 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? 2 O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent. 3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel. 4 In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. 5 They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed.
We spent a lot of time on laments when we studied PSALM 13, and I would encourage you to listen to that sermon again, but the basic point is that sometimes we feel like God has deserted us.
The godly response is not to PRETEND everything is ok, but to honestly express your pain.
* Far better to HONESTLY EXPRESS something you shouldn’t feel than pretend to feel something you should.
But we move from expression to TRUST, remembering that God is good, even if we don’t feel it.
* Our “FATHERS” trusted in God’s unfailing love, his HESED.
God had promised to be their God and to care for his people. He had bound himself to them like a LOVING HUSBAND.
2. Israel’s plea
Another common type of psalm is “CORPORATE LAMENTS,” psalms that are prayers for God to protect the entire nation.
* Psalm 22 is an individual lament, but also expresses the way that the JEWS in JESUS’ day felt – like God had forsaken them.
Again, the Jews knew that God has COVENANTED to be their God, his hesed meant that he would not forsaken then, no matter who much it felt like he had.
* Just as it is UNTHINKABLE that AMERICA would be WILLING subject to FOREIGN POWER, so also that God would forsake them.
Jews looked forward to GOD’S DELIVERANCE, not only as individuals, but even more as a NATION. But at the time of Jesus, they were overrun by the Romans.
* “My God, why have you FORSAKEN us?” was in the mind of EVERY JEW – this is the context of Jesus’ day.
I said earlier that today begins the PASSION WEEK, the week between Palm Sunday and Easter. It is filled with events that are were PROFOUNDLY MEANINGFUL and SYMBOLIC.
* Nothing more so than his “WHEN”: Passover
But the biggest symbol of all was the Passover. Jesus chose this week of all weeks to be crucified because he was reenacting the Passover, promising God’s deliverance.
* It would be like a TEA PARTY member walking into Liberty Hall and reading the Declaration of Independence.
We can speak of a NATIONAL IDENTITY – the stories of a nation that form who they are and why they think the way they do. The REVOLUTION shapes who we are and our fierce independence.
* The EXODUS from EGYPT formed the identity of Israel.
The exodus had KEY THEMES that every Jew instinctively knew:
a) A wicked TYRANT oppressing God’s people.
b) A leader ANOINTED by God to miraculously deliver them.
c) A SACRIFICE, namely the Passover lamb.
d) God’s DIVINE PRESENCE dwelling with them.
e) The CALL to be HIS PEOPLE and REPRESENTATIVES to the world.
Jesus GREW UP with STORIES of Moses and the exodus, and of the other saviors in the past. In God they had put their trust, so we will do the same thing.
* Jesus FAMILY would have TOLD stories about all the failed Messiahs and prayed for the real one to arrive.
By doing WHAT he did, WHEN he did, HOW he did, Jesus was claiming that he was brining in a SECOND EXODUS.
THE CONQUERING KING
Those who followed Jesus knew there was a WICKED TYRANT: Rome. They believed that Jesus was the anointed deliver --> Messiah --> Christ. They believed they would soon be able to go from Psalm 22:1-2 to vv. 23-24:
Psalm 22:23-24 You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! 24 For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.
* TRIUMPHANT ENTRY as a king.
* CLEANSING of the temple
The cleansing the temple was the KING’S JOB (in the past has cleansed the temple and the land); Jesus was doing the same.
But he wasn’t only the anointed leader – he was also the DIVINE PRESENCE that would dwell with us.
We have a mental picture of Heaven being above and earth being below, but that was not how the Jews saw it. In their mind, they were two separate realms, but the TEMPLE was where they MET.
* Beginning with the PILLAR of FIRE, they the ARK of the Covenant and the TABERNACLE, the TEMPLE was were God dwelled.
When Jesus CALLED HIMSELF the TEMPLE, he was making a radical claim: Jesus himself was the temple, where God dwelled with man.
* But Jesus knew something else: Not only was he the deliverer and the temple, we was also the SACRIFICE.
What Jesus knew was that that the REST of PSALM 22 also applied to him, which leads us to the THIRD LAYER of meaning.
3. Messianic prophecy
Psalm 22 is not only an individual lament or corporate lament, it is also a MESSIANIC PROPHECY.
The GOSPELS frequently QUOTE the Psalms, and this Psalm more than any other. It’s not the first very, but passage after passage foretells Jesus’ death.
* It is sometimes called “THE FIFTH GOSPEL.”
As we remember the crucifixion this week, Jesus said something that has troubled us ever since:
Matthew 27:41-46 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! 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. 45 From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. 46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” – which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Q Is this starting to MAKE more SENSE to you?
I think that two things are happening here, and both of them show that Jesus has “STEPPED INTO” this psalm MORE COMPLETELY and fully than anyone else ever could.
1. Personal expression
On one level, Jesus is using the words of Psalm 22:1 to EXPRESSES the AGONY of his soul. He feels as if God has indeed abandoned him.
* This may indeed mean that for the first time he felt the deep CONNECTION between him and the FATHER RIPPED apart.
From this has come the belief that at this moment God poured HUMANITY’S SIN upon Jesus. That is possible, but not certain.
* What is certain is that Jesus did indeed FEEL ABANDONED by God, yet he pours out his heart to God.
2. Messianic identification
On another level, Jesus knows that this psalm he quoted is ABOUT him. He had always known it was about him. His Holy Spirit had INSPIRED DAVID to write it, expressing himself in ways that did not make perfect sense even when he wrote it.
* It is most NATURAL THING that it would have been at the top of his mind as he hung dying.
Point after point in Psalm 22 matches Jesus’ death so closely that is a key evidence of the INSPIRATION of SCRIPTURE.
I said last week that NATURE is one of the GREATEST EVIDENCES of God’s existence; passage like this are evidence that the God of the Bible is indeed the true God.
* This is not a case of “PROPHECY AFTER the fact,” as Psalm 22’s existence prior to Jesus is indisputable.
Let’s look at them:
1. Mocking of Jesus
Psalm 22:7-8 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.”
This is almost word for word of what the CHIEF PRIESTS and elders said to Jesus in the passage we just read, just before he cried out to God.
2. The crucifixion
It could be argued that Matthew put those words in the chief priests’ mouths to make it look like fulfilled prophecy, but that cannot be said of this next passage:
Psalm 22:14-16 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.
Crucifixion was INVENTED by the Romans WELL AFTER Psalm 22 was written. There is no way that David could have known what is was liked to be crucified, but yet this passage describes it remarkably well.
3. Casting lots
The next couple verses continue to describe the scene eerily well:
Psalm 22:17-18 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.
All four Gospels record this last one:
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.
In the past I have talked a lot about the HISTORICAL BASIS of the resurrection, that there is a strong rational basis for believing that Jesus was who he said he was and the early church believed him to be.
* In the New Testament era, FAITH did not BELIEVING without proof, but CONFORMING one’s life to VERIFIABLE EVENTS.
But if we think the whole purpose of Jesus quoting Psalm 22 was to show that he REALLY WAS God and that the BIBLE really is INSPIRED, we miss the POINT entirely.
* The point was DELIVERANCE, not from an earthly tyrant, but from the power of SIN and DEATH.
As amazing as the ORIGINAL EXODUS was, with plagues and a parting see, it was only the SHADOW.
* It only saved them from an earthly tyrant; Jesus saved us from the tyrant of SIN.
BRIDGING THE GAP
We DESERVE to be left in our own sin, ABANDONED and FORSAKEN by God. If God truly had forsaken us, it would be no more than we deserve. But JESUS, alone of all humanity, did NOT DESERVE to be forsaken, yet he truly was for our sake.
* Because JESUS was FORSAKEN by God, we do not need to be – Jesus BRIDGED the DIVINE GAP.
To say it all another way, because JESUS STEPPED into Psalm 22, WE DO NOT need to.
* Please text Sunday School Teachers ; service is almost over
Jesus “NEW EXODUS” was also GREATER in another way: the first had only saved ONE NATION, at the expense of another; Jesus saved the ENTIRE WORLD.
Psalm 22:27-31 All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, 28 for dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations. 29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him-- those who cannot keep themselves alive. 30 Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. 31 They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn – for he has done it.
One of the reasons Jesus has to come as he did, as an enemy of his own people, was that they had FORGOTTEN the last part of the exodus: Their DIVINE VOCATION to be a light to the world.
I TALK a lot about GOD’S GRACE, but not enough about what we are supposed to do with it. We have been richly blessed by God, now we need to SHARE that BLESSING with others.
* Invite friends and family to church for Easter.