Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Living Ethically in the Light of the Bible
Matthew 9:9-17; Acts 11:19-30; Psalm 22:12-31; Genesis 48
Psalm 22 continues to express the fear and loneliness of someone being persecuted wrongly. He is surrounded by a loud, angry crowd, with no one to help. As discussed yesterday, he remembers his dependence on God in the past, and appeals to him to come near. Abandoned by everyone, and surrounded by evil, God is his only hope.
Having seen his external situation, the psalmist now lets us see things as he sees them. The psalmist brings us inside the heart and mind of someone wracked with pain, whether due to others’ cruelty, as here, or the cruel ravages of disease. His body is so spent and formless, it is as if he is being poured out. Every joint is out of place. His heart is so overwhelmed it has lost its form and is simply a ball of wax. His mouth is so dry, his tongue is glued in place. Anyone in agonising pain can connect with the psalmist. Since he was inspired by God, we know that he understands our pain. He knows what we are going through, so we can know with the psalmist that God is not far off.
But if it wasn’t already apparent, it now becomes very clear that God not only empathises with our suffering but has experienced this agony himself. The details of the next few lines describe what any honest reader can see is the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Crucifixion had not been invented at the time when this psalm was written, yet the details are remarkable. A 1986 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association confirms that the symptoms described are medically consistent with what would be expected as someone was crucified. Verse 18 literally reads ‘I counted out all my bones,’ which one Jewish scholar says ‘is puzzling’ and so translates it: ‘They counted …’ We have in Psalm 22 the view from the Cross, as Jesus experienced it.
God knows what we are going through. No matter how painful, how unjust, how dejected, how rejected we may feel, God understands. He has experienced whatever we are going through and felt our pain. He can empathise with us in every way (Hebrews 2:18; 4:15). And we can have confidence that he will come to our aid (Psalm 22:19). He will deliver us, as he did Jesus. He did not spare him his suffering, but went through it with him.
The psalm changes dramatically in the middle of verse 21. The first line is an appeal for rescue; the second line unexpectedly has its verb in the past tense: literally, you answered me. The psalmist becomes confident in what God has done, and therefore is confident in what God will do. be how God will bring is in the end. Eventually, all will recognise God, justice will reign, and the poor and afflicted will be satisfied. In this future time, the dead and those not yet born will praise God. We may not see him with us now, but we take it on faith that he is. We will eventually see that he has helped us through our circumstances, no matter how bad they were at the time. We can praise him and give thanks that ‘He has done it’ (v. 31).