1 My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?
The comfort we receive from the Lord while here on earth is tremendous. Psalm 94:19 says, “In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul.” The hearts and minds of faithful Christians are sustained daily by God’s great mercy and care. Beyond this earthly realm however is eternal comfort. Thoughts of eternity with God elicit moments of peace as we contemplate the land beyond where “there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Revelation 21:4). The ultimate comfort is heaven. This Psalm prophesies of the One whose suffering and death opened the way to heaven so that we can enjoy this hope here on earth and peace and comfort in eternity.
The Psalm opens with a plaintive cry from one whose anguish is so deep that he considers that God has turned a blind eye to his pain and a deaf ear to his pleas for help. His calamitous state is further seen in verses 6-8 and 16-18. Were this just the writer himself bemoaning his sorrowful situation, we would be sufficiently touched to feel for him and to pity his poor condition. However, when we come to the New Testament and find that these verses are prophecies of none other than Jesus Christ Himself during His suffering up to and while on the cross, we realize the depth of the heartache felt by our Lord while He walked the earth in human flesh. That He Himself suffered is enough to make us weep, but that He suffered due to no sin of His own is not only enough to make us weep, but also to thank God for the temporal suffering Jesus endured so that we might avoid eternal suffering in hell.
The Messianic prophecies of Psalm 22 find their fulfillment in the events recorded in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Psalm 22:1 is uttered by Jesus while He hung on the cross (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). Psalm 22:6-8 describe in perfect prophetic fashion the surrounding scene of human indecency as Jesus was giving His life’s blood for our sins (Matthew 27:39-44; Mark 15:29-32; Luke 23:35-37). Psalm 22:16 foretells the piercing of the Christ (Matthew 27:35; Mark 15:25; Luke 23:33; John 19:18; 20:24-27) while Psalm 22:17-18 give more details regarding the actions of the onlookers at the cross (Matthew 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:34).
These verses are just a few of many Old Testament prophecies regarding the sacrificial death of the Messiah. Just as some do today, some in the days of the apostle Paul rejected the idea of a suffering Messiah. “But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness: But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” (I Corinthians 1:23-24). Their unbelief notwithstanding, the necessity of the sacrifice of Christ is clearly seen. “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” (Hebrews 2:9). Sinful man cannot atone for his own sins. God’s perfect justice (Deuteronomy 32:4) could only be satisfied with the sacrifice of a sinless human (I Peter 2:21-24). “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” (I Peter 1:18-19). That sinless human was God in the flesh (John 1:1,14), Jesus Christ.
Having devoted space to a discussion of the Messianic prophecies of Psalm 22 and their fulfillment in Jesus, we now give some time to an explanation of how this all serves as a source of comfort. There are two important points worthy of our consideration.
First, the agony experienced by the Messiah reminds us that our Lord is quite familiar with human suffering. He wept with the family of deceased Lazarus who mourned the loss of their loved one (John 11:35). He was saddened by the unfaithfulness of those whom He came to seek and to save (Luke 19:10,41). He was betrayed by a friend (Matthew 26:14-16). His closest confidants forsook Him in His hour of trial (Mark 14:50). As Isaiah prophesied of Him, Jesus was “despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief…” (Isaiah 53:3). When we say that the Lord understands our troubles, we genuinely and literally mean that He understands our troubles for He Himself met life’s difficulties face to face as a man. As the apostle Paul wrote, “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16). No matter how deep the hurt in our hearts, in the Bible we have the words of the One who walked life’s perilous path and in prayer we can go to the Father through Him (I Timothy 2:5).
Secondly, the suffering of the Savior reminds us to keep our earthly troubles in perspective. This life is not all there is. King Solomon wrote of man going “to his long home.” (Ecclesiastes 12:5). Two verses later he said, “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” (Ecclesiastes 12:7). Regardless of the duration of any suffering we might experience, its length pales in comparison to eternity. We are all steadily marching toward the end of this life and the beginning of the next. Peter wrote, “For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower falleth away.” (I Peter 1:24). Hebrews 9:27 reads, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27). This is a sobering thought and would indeed be most disturbing and depressing had it not been for that suffering Savior who paid the price for sin so that those who obey Him could face life’s difficulties with the hope of heaven in their hearts. Because of the blood of Christ, faithful Christians can look at life’s challenges from the perspective of one who knows that these troubles are temporary rather than eternal. He or she can face troubles with assurance of eternal relief because Christ entered “into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.” (Hebrews 9:24).
Psalm 22 is indeed a remarkable reminder of the eternal comfort awaiting the faithful as a result of the suffering and ultimately victorious Messiah, Jesus Christ. “And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours: and their works do follow them.” (Revelation 14:13).
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