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The Psalms are very helpful in three crucial areas of our lives. From the days of the early church, people who have prayed the Psalms have found these benefits.
(1) Praying the Psalms helps us quiet the passions when they are inflamed by lust, anger, or some other emotion.
(2) Being familiar with the Psalms and using them in prayer is a spiritual weapon useful to battle demonic temptations.
(3) Daily praying the Psalms is a training ground for developing a deeper relationship with God and gaining spiritual vision.
Saint Augustine said this about Psalm 22: “This Psalm proclaims the passion of Christ as powerfully as any of the Gospels. The Psalm moves us as if we are actually looking at the crucifixion itself.”
As we continue to look at the crucifixion of Jesus, let’s use the images of this Psalm to more fully worship our Savior.
Surrounded by Enemies
When Jesus was on the cross, he was surrounded by both Roman soldiers and the religious establishment of Jerusalem. The image of “bulls” in the next verses can refer to these leaders, but also to demonic powers. More than likely, Jesus was assailed by both human enemies and demons.
Many enemies surround me like bulls;
they are all around me,
like fierce bulls from the land of Bashan.
They open their mouths like lions,
roaring and tearing at me.
My strength is gone,
gone like water spilled on the ground.
All my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like melted wax.
My throat is as dry as dust,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.
You have left me for dead in the dust. (Psalm 22.12-15)
Jesus experienced the intense physical distress of the most horrific way to kill a human being in the first century. The ordeal of a sleepless night, trials by both governmental and religious authorities, the beating by Roman soldiers, the walk to Golgotha, and the cross all added to his physical exhaustion. The Psalm gives us an idea of what Jesus felt.
Beyond that, he was helplessly nailed to a cross to be taunted by small-minded men – religious leaders, soldiers, people caught up in mob mentality, and the other two hanging on the cross beside him.
Demons were without a doubt everywhere in this scene. They inflamed the hatred of the crowd. They also attacked Jesus’ mind. We can imagine they said something like this, “You see these people. They hate you. Are you really going to die for them? What a fool you are! Nobody loves you. Even God has abandoned you.”
The last phrase of verse 15 speaks of great pain, “You have left me for dead in the dust.” In the midst of pain, God can give comfort and strength. However, at this time, even God was absent.
Paul explained why Jesus had to experience this horrific torment. He said, “Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him share our sin in order that in union with him we might share the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5.21).
Sin separates us from God. Jesus was willing to be separated from the Father during the most unspeakably painful time in his life, so that he could give us the ability to live in a right relationship with God.
Roman soldiers were regarded with fear and grudging respect by the people. The religious authorities were the most important people in Jerusalem. Yet, from the vantage point of Jesus on the cross, they were no more than scavengers, dogs looking for leftover scraps.
An evil gang is around me;
like a pack of dogs they close in on me;
they tear at my hands and feet.
All my bones can be seen.
My enemies look at me and stare.
They gamble for my clothes
and divide them among themselves.
O Lord, don’t stay away from me!
Come quickly to my rescue!
Save me from the sword;
save my life from these dogs.
Rescue me from these lions;
I am helpless before these wild bulls. (Psalm 22.16-21)
The view from the cross can act like a powerful lens for viewing the world. The soldiers gambled for Jesus’ clothes, because no person hung on a cross with their clothes on. From the vantage point of his utter humiliation, Jesus revealed the extreme moral poverty of his tormentors. They were nothing more than yard dogs, who scavenged for food. They were rogue animals, lions and bulls, who could only tear and bite.
As we worship Jesus, may he purify the way we see the world. Certainly, there are successful athletes, business people, politicians, religious personalities and more who are worthy of our respect. However, there is only One, who is worthy of our worship, Jesus. We are well advised to view the world through the eyes of the cross.
We can think through a list of Hollywood stars, religious leaders, sports figures, politicians, business moguls, and more who were at one time fawned over by adoring crowds. Following the exposure of their behind the scenes behavior, it was revealed that they were nothing more than scavengers.
The best way to not be deceived by people who can only destroy, but not heal, is to have our minds and hearts informed by the cross of Christ. A regular meditation on Jesus’ life, teaching, and passion will help us gain a proper perspective on life.
Shift to Praise
Psalm 22 shifts from agony and complaint to praise with verse 22. That will be the subject of tomorrow’s blog article.
For now, let’s add to the picture of God’s love through Jesus’ sacrifice for us on the cross by examining Isaiah’s picture.
The Lord says,
It was my will that he should suffer;
his death was a sacrifice to bring forgiveness.
And so he will see his descendants;
he will live a long life,
and through him my purpose will succeed.
After a life of suffering, he will again have joy;
he will know that he did not suffer in vain.
My devoted servant, with whom I am pleased,
will bear the punishment of many
and for his sake I will forgive them. (Isaiah 53.10-11)
Isaiah reveals that God’s purposes did succeed through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. We receive God’s forgiveness through what Jesus experienced on the cross – the humiliation, the pain, the abandonment, and more. We exalt him today!
May We Pray for You?
Maywood Baptist Church has a prayer team that is honored to pray for you. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. I will pray for you and let the prayer team know what you need.