A Psalm of David.

Another psalm by David.  This psalm is the cry of a forsaken sufferer bemoaning his terrible fate.  He cries out to God in his time of suffering.  His cries finally end in death.  The psalm does not stop there, however, as it goes on to take up his words of praise as he and the whole earth praise God in the time of the resurrection.

1.  My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?

These words were spoken by Christ on the cross (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34.)  Indeed, the last words in the psalm, “It is finished,” were also uttered there (John 19:30,) and so it may be that He, in fact, quoted the entire psalm on the cross, although only the first and last phrases are recorded for us in Scripture.

The word for “God” here is the singular El rather than the plural Elohim.  As such, it is particularly fitting for Christ on the cross, speaking to God singular rather than God plural.  It also speaks of God as Almighty, in stark contrast to the helpless sufferer here.

Why are You so far from helping Me,

Often in our suffering it seems indeed that God is far off from us.  At any rate, it seems that He is far from helping us, since no help seems to come.  Of course, this applies beautifully to the crucifixion, when Christ was seemingly forsaken by God and left on the cross.

And from the words of My groaning?

The word for “groaning” here means a loud lamentation.  It is used in connection with a roaring lion, and with thunder, so it is a loud noise indeed.  We can certainly imagine the cries of a sufferer on a cross in this terminology.

2.  O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear;

Christ was crucified in the daytime, as we know.  Although God can see in the day or the night equally, He seems to see this sufferer in neither, for He does not come to help.

And in the night season, and am not silent.

This might give us pause in applying this psalm to Christ’s death on the cross, since He hung there entirely in the daytime.  Yet we need to remember the unnatural night that came over the earth from noon to three o’clock on the day of Christ’s death (Matthew 27:45, Mark 15:33, Luke 23:44.)  It is during this supernatural night that His cries go up to God as we see here.

3.  But You are holy,

Although He has not answered the sufferer, His lack of response comes not from some sinful negligence, for He is holy, set apart above all sin.  The sufferer acknowledges this and praises Him for it even in his time of torment.

Who inhabit the praises of Israel.

The term “praises of Israel” is here a figure of speech.  No one can “live” in praises, and the praises of Israel did not somehow help God to stay alive.  “Praises of Israel” is a figure for the temple where the praises were offered.  God inhabited the temple, the place where Israel’s praises were offered.

4.  Our fathers trusted in You;

Speaking, of course, of the Israelite fathers.  The Lord Jesus Christ was an Israelite, and He could speak of these men as His fathers as well.

They trusted, and You delivered them.

The sufferer calls upon this precedent in hopes of his own deliverance.  The One Who delivered the fathers could deliver this sufferer as well.

5.  They cried to You, and were delivered;

Again this speaks of the precedent of the fathers’ deliverance.  We can think of multiple Old Testament stories to which this is referring.

They trusted in You, and were not ashamed.

The fact of their lack of shame brings the sufferer back to his own shame and its stark contrast to their experience.  He is in great shame, and so is different from these delivered fathers.

6.  But I am a worm, and no man;

This is not literal, of course, but speaks figuratively of the greatest shame imaginable.  This sufferer is brought to such a state of shame that he is no better than a worm.  We know indeed that the shame that Christ was brought to on the cross was like this.

A reproach of men, and despised of the people.

We think of those who reproached and despised Christ on the cross.  Indeed, the Old Testament proclaimed that anyone who was hung on a tree was cursed (Deuteronomy 21:22-23,) and so He was in a most despised position.

7.  All those who see Me laugh Me to scorn;

This is how all Christ’s enemies responded to His plight on the cross, laughing at Him and scorning Him in their supposed victory over Him.

They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,

Here the sufferer speaks of the mocking words of those who delighted in his calamity.

8.  “He trusted in the LORD, let Him rescue Him;

Similar words to those spoken by the mocking Pharisees and chief priests as they rejoiced over the Lord Jesus on the cross.

“Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!”

“He saved others; Himself He cannot save.  If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him.  He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if he will have Him, for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”  These are the words of the chief priests, scribes, and elders in Matthew 27:42-43.  Notice how they match nearly exactly the words written here.  Since many men are said to have spoken this, it is probably a conglomeration of things they said.  Thus, we imagine that some of their words matched this prophecy to the letter, only, of course, in a different language from that originally written.

9.  But You are He Who took Me out of the womb;

Here the sufferer speaks of his birth and reminds God that He has cared for him since then.  Thus His abandonment of him to his terrible fate seems all the more unbelievable.

You made Me trust when I was on My mother’s breasts.

Again emphasizing the fact that since he was an infant the LORD has cared for this suffering man.  Yet now His care seems to have left him for he is abandoned to his awful fate.

10.  I was cast upon You from birth.

Who but Christ Himself could truly meet this criterion?  We are sinful from birth, but Christ belonged to God from His earliest days, even from the womb.

From My mother’s womb

Christ was God’s even while still a fetus in the womb.  In our day, we view fetuses as if they were not people, thinking that we can kill them as we see fit.  Yet this is not the view of the Bible, and someday those who do such things will have to stand before God and answer for them.  The Bible often speaks like this of people existing in the womb.  God has no such view as some do today of people only becoming truly human at birth.  This is an evolutionary idea, not a Biblical one.

You have been My God.

This was true of Christ, but also of all Israelites, for they even before birth were marked out as belonging to God as part of His chosen people.

11.  Be not far from Me,

“Far from Me” is used as a figure for refusing to help.  We can easily see how one who refuses to come to a person’s aid is as if he were “far from” the person in spirit, even though he may be near in body and could help easily if he wished.  So God is called on not to be far from this sufferer.

For trouble is near;

Trouble is near, so God is called on to be near as well.

For there is none to help.

No one was available to help Christ.  By the time those of His followers who could have done something about it found out what was going on, it was already morning and His trial had been completed and His punishment declared.  Indeed, none could truly help Him in His work on the cross, for He alone could die there for the sins of the world.

12.  Many bulls have surrounded Me;

The sufferer’s enemies are spoken of as angry bulls surrounding him.  These words cause us to think of the trial of Christ and the animal-like hatred of those who stood opposed to Him.

Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled Me.

The giant cities of Bashan were apparently built by the Nephilim, the giants of old.  I have read a book by a man who visited them as they existed in the 20th century and spoke of their wonders.  They currently exist in a dry wasteland where none dare live.  Yet it seems that at the time this psalm was written, Bashan was still known, not necessarily for giant people, but for a certain kind of bull that was perhaps particularly fearsome.  Either that or this means giant bulls just like the inhabitants of Bashan were giant people.  Of course, the bulls symbolize people anyway, speaking of the enemies of the sufferer who stand against him.

13.  They gape at me with their mouths,

The gaping mouths of angry, bellowing bulls are compared to the gaping mouths and spewing words of hatred spoken by Christ’s enemies who stand against Him.

As a raging and roaring lion.

So their rage against the Lord is described.  How terrible was the hatred of these men for the One Who only came to heal those who were in need and to speak the words of God!

14.  I am poured out like water,

This begins an amazingly accurate description of death on a cross.  Since these words were penned by David hundreds of years before Rome was even built or the cruel method of crucifixion conceived, these words are all the more amazing.

And all My bones are out of joint;

This is one of the effects of hanging from nails piercing the hands and feet.  This does not speak of every joint in the body, certainly, but of those in the tortured limbs of the one hung on the cross.

My heart is like wax;

This speaks of the extreme strain on the heart brought about by the exertion needed to even breathe while hanging on a cross.

It has melted within Me.

Again this is because of the extreme stress of crucifixion on the heart.  The fact that Christ lived for six hours on the cross after suffering the sweating of blood in the garden, which already would have damaged His heart severely, shows that God would not allow Him to die until He wished to do so.  He laid down His life, and no man took it from Him.

15.  My strength is dried up like a potsherd,

Again this is the result of the extreme exertion required to breathe on a cross.  The body was hung in such a way that the lungs were pulled shut and one could not breath.  Only by pulling up on the hands and pushing up with the feet could one open the lungs to breathe.  Yet remember that these hands and feet were held up by nails!  This resulted in the dislocating of bones and the extreme exertion mentioned here.  Yet it seems that it made it possible to breath, as many who were crucified, nails, dislocations, and all, managed to live for days on the cross!

And My tongue clings to My jaws;

This speaks of the extreme thirst that one experienced on a cross.  Not only was there great exertion, but one was also hung up in the air where the sun could beat down freely on the sufferer.  Thus he would thirst terribly.  In order to keep him alive longer to suffer, the Romans would give those crucified drink, yet it would be the bitter taste of vinegar and not the refreshing cool of water that they would lift up to them.

You have brought Me to the dust of death.

There was only one possible result for one who hung on a cross without rescue, and that was death.  Surely no one was nearer to death than one on a cross, and yet no one was more helpless to bring it about, for though the crucifixion victim may have longed for death, he was unable to speed it forward at any faster pace than the slow and agonizing cross would bring about.

16.  For dogs have surrounded Me;

This speaks again of Christ’s enemies, calling them “dogs.”  They surrounded Him and there was no escape.  Yet He sought none, for this was what He came to do.  This may speak of the Roman soldiers who put him on the cross, for in Christ’s own words Gentiles were thought of as dogs  (Matthew 15:26.)

The assembly of the wicked has enclosed Me.

The word for “assembly” in Hebrew is qahal.  This word is synonymous with the Greek word ekklesia in the New Testament.  This is established by the Law of Divine interchange, whereby a word that is used in the Greek New Testament when it is quoting an Old Testament passage becomes exactly equivalent to its Hebrew counterpart.  Thus the words qahal and ekklesia are exactly the same.  Some people have wrongfully assumed that the “church” only appears in the New Testament.  They do not realize that qahal and ekklesia are the same word in two different languages.  The concept of the church runs throughout the Old Testament.  Therefore, it cannot be the sharp contrast to Israel that many falsely believe it to be!

Both the words qahal and ekklesia speak of those who are called out of the general populace and positioned by God or man in a specific area of service.  This speaks of the Jewish leaders, for it was their assembly that had sentenced Him to death.

They pierced My hands and My feet;

In Hebrew this reads, “As a lion (they break up) my hands and my feet.”  This meaning is more or less the same as we have it translated, but continues the figure of his enemies as animals attacking him.  It speaks, of course, of the driving of nails through the hands and feet to attach the sufferer to the cross.

17.  I can count all my bones.

This does not mean that the bones broke or poked through the skin.  The extreme effort and writhing of the victim on the cross would cause the bones to jut out from the body under the skin in many places.

They look and stare at Me.

This does not just speak of the bones, but of the fact that the sufferer on the cross was put there naked.  This was not just physical pain, but total humiliation as well, as one’s modesty was trampled underfoot by this forced public display.

18.  They divide my garments among them,

Again this is a prophecy of things that actually occurred at Christ’s crucifixion.  It was common for the soldiers to divide the clothing and any other valuables that the victim might have been carrying among themselves as a reward for their labor in crucifying him.

And for My clothing they cast lots.

Our Lord was not a poorly-dressed man, and the soldiers valued his garments enough to gamble for them.  Note that in the gospels it is the undergarment (or a tunic worn next to the skin,) sown in one solid piece like the high priest’s, that the soldiers cast lots for, another proof that He was naked on the cross (John 19:23-24.  See Companion Bible notes on these verses.)

19.  But You, O LORD, do not be far from Me;

This is one of the 134 places where the group of Hebrew scholars called the Sopherim (or Sophers) changed the name of the Lord from Yahweh to Adonai, thinking that they were respecting Him somehow.  But this call is to God as Yahweh, not Adonai.  I note that in the NKJV, “LORD” is spelled all in capitals as if it were Yahweh, so perhaps this instance at least has been repaired in the Hebrew text.

This is a repetition of the sufferer’s request in verse 11.  He desires the LORD’s nearness in this time of extreme suffering and trouble.

O My Strength, hasten to help Me!

The LORD is often spoken of as the Strength of the psalmist.  Indeed, He is the One Who truly gives strength to those who are helpless.  Now as his Strength the sufferer calls upon Yahweh for aid.

20.  Deliver Me from the sword,

“The sword” is figurative for any form of execution, in this case death on a cross.  We know that Christ was indeed delivered, but after death, not before it.  “Me” here is “my soul” in Hebrew, used figuratively for “me (myself)” in this passage.  Yet we could wish that the translators would have let us interpret the figure for ourselves rather than interpreting it for us, for we would like to know when the word “soul” occurs in the Hebrew so as to know all God’s teaching upon it.  At any rate, this is one way that the word nephesh or “soul” is used, as a figure for “me (myself.)”

My precious life from the power of the dog.

Again, as in verse 16, “dog” probably refers to the Gentile Romans who were the ones who put Him on the cross.  Also, “power” is in Hebrew “paw” of the dog, which is a figure of speech for the dog’s power (just as “hand” or “arm” is used for power when speaking of a human.)  The precious life of our Lord was spared through resurrection.

21.  Save Me from the lion’s mouth

Going back to the figure of His enemies as a lion (remember verses 13 and 16.)  Again their fierce anger suggests the figure of them as a roaring lion.

And from the horns of the wild oxen!

This refers back to the “bulls of Bashan” of verse 12.  He was helplessly in their power as a man pierced upon the horns of a bull.  Yet his cry is to Yahweh to save him from thence.