What does Psalms 22 mean?
Descriptions in this psalm indicate a painful execution—something David did not suffer. This implies that the terminology used here is symbolic of David's feelings. At the same time, it serves as a prophetic explanation of what would happen to the Promised One. These events would be fulfilled in the crucifixion of Jesus, who will reference this text from the cross (Matthew 27:46).
This passage opens with a statement of pain and suffering, commonly expressed by those who are suffering. In essence, this is the cry of someone asking, "Where are you, God?" That's a natural reaction to hardship, seen elsewhere in Scripture (Habakkuk 1:2–4). As in other places in Scripture, the eventual answer is always proven to be the same: God is there, and He is in control—there is hope (Psalm 22:1–2).
David immediately shifts to an expression of confidence in the Lord. The Bible defines faith as a trust based on experience. Hebrews chapter 11, for instance, notes that God's work in the lives of others is the basis of our trust in His promises (Hebrews 11:13–16). Even in what seems like a hopeless moment, David is confident that God is still in control (Psalm 22:3–5).
After expressing confidence, David then returns to describe the depths of his pain. This includes phrasing comparing the attacks of his enemies to those of dogs, lions, and wild oxen. The suffering one is depicted as emaciated, naked, humiliated, mocked, and battered. Despite skeptical claims, the most reliable manuscripts of these verses make it clear that this person is "pierced," further supporting this as a messianic prophecy (Psalm 22:6–21).
The last verses of the psalm shift to a hopeful tone. David anticipates that He will be delivered, one way or another, from this situation. He expects, at that time, to give God praise in a public setting. The imagery of these final verses is also prophetic. It looks ahead to the time when Christ will reign over the earth and all Israel will be reconciled to God (Psalm 22:22–31).
It is interesting to note that Jesus referred to the first words of this psalm during the crucifixion (Matthew 27:46) and also echoed the last words of this psalm at the moment of His death. Both Psalm 22 and Jesus' suffering on the cross ended with an expression of accomplishment and finality (Psalm 22:31; John 19:30).
Psalm 22:1–21 depicts David's questioning of God's silence and estrangement from him in his desperate situation. The structure of this prayer, and the images it evokes, are prophecies of Messiah's sufferings. Isaiah 53:3–8 likewise predicts these experiences and explains that Messiah endured them for us sinners. Matthew 27:46 reports that Jesus quoted Psalm 22:1 when he was suffering on the cross. First Peter 2:24 –25 refers to the sufferings of Jesus the Messiah and calls Jesus ''the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.''
Psalm 22:22–31 focuses on David's praise to God, whereas the earlier passage focused on his prayer to God. We read there that trouble took a heavy toll on David. Here we find David thanking the Lord for the triumph he gave David over his foes. We find a similar contrast in chapters 27 and 28 of Matthew. One records the awful death of Jesus, the other His amazing deliverance out of the grave.
This psalm may be divided into two parts. The first part, verses 1–21, contains an urgent prayer, in which the suppliant questions a holy God's distance from him in his time of suffering. It also contains a graphic description of the Messiah's suffering. Messiah's suffering included humiliation, the taunts of unbelievers, a distressful sense of loneliness, and intense physical pain. The second part of the psalm continues a prayer to be delivered, and includes a glimpse of resurrection and exaltation. The psalm praises God and announces a future time when God will receive worldwide acclaim and worship.
This psalm of David should be understood in association with Psalms 23 and 24. Psalm 22 describes the sufferings of the Good Shepherd, Jesus, for His sheep. Psalm 23 describes His care for His sheep. Psalm 24 describes His return in glory to reward His sheep. Psalm 22 includes prophetic sayings which Jesus uttered from the cross. It also predicts the afflictions he endured there (Matthew 27:27–56; Luke 22:63–65; 23:18–49). Isaiah 53 also prophesies the sufferings that Jesus suffered on the cross.
The book of Psalms is composed of individual songs, hymns, or poems, each of which is a ''Psalm'' in and of itself. These works contain a wide variety of themes. Some Psalms focus on praising and worshipping God. Others cry out in anguish over the pain of life. Still other Psalms look forward to the coming of the Messiah. While some Psalms are related, each has its own historical and biblical context.
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