Who is it about? The subject of Ps. 22 is known as “the afflicted one.” In this song, he experiences intense suffering while still choosing to trust in God’s promises for the future.
Traditionally this Psalm has been associated with the agony of Jesus experienced at his crucifixion.
So, did David really intend to write a song about the Messiah? Or, by calling this song Messianic, are we merely guilty of reading the New Testament back into the Old?
Let’s let the text speak for itself. Here’s what the afflicted one experienced:
- Felt forsaken (vs. 1a)
- Felt unheard (vs. 1b-2)
- Felt small (vs. 6a)
- Felt despised( vs. 6b)
- Felt ridiculed (vs. 7a)
- Felt slandered (vs.7b)
- Felt trapped (vs. 12-13)
- Felt empty (vs. 14)
- Felt used up (vs. 15)
- Felt weak (vs. 15)
- Felt unable to speak (vs. 15)
- Felt attacked (vs. 16a)
- Felt broken (vs.16b)
- Felt extreme pain (vs. 16b-17a)
- Felt scoffed at (vs. 17b)
- Felt marginal (vs. 18)
- Felt injustice (vs. 18)
Some (really good) scholars don’t believe David intentionally wrote about the suffering of the Messiah in this psalm. Instead, they believe Ps. 22 refers to the general suffering experienced by God’s righteous people.
However, I believe David writes about the coming sufferings of the Messiah in a prophetic sense in this psalm, and here’s why:
1) Ps. 22 refers to a unique situation
Ps. 22 does not refer to any recorded incident of David.
David wrote out of his own real experiences as a king, father, servant of God, and sinner. We can trace the historical origin of most of his songs from other accounts in Scripture. For the most part, we know the backstory of each psalm. That is not the case for Ps. 22, which leads me to believe, David is writing about someone other than himself.
2) Ps. 22 uses unique language
Old Testament heavy weight Derek Kidner calls Ps. 22 “the psalm of the cross.”
In fact, Kidner says the “language of the psalm defies a naturalistic explanation.” Listen to the following verses and consider how they uniquely apply to Jesus’ crucifixion:
- Vs. 1 – “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (see Matt. 27:46)
- Vs. 16 – “They piercedMy hands and My feet;” (Luke 24:40)
- Vs. 18 – “They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.” (see Matt. 27:35; Jn. 19:23-24)
Is it possible David is writing about the suffering of the Messiah? Yes, considering Acts 2:30 calls David a prophet.
Throughout history, others have thought the same thing. Consider the title given to this psalm by editors who shaped the final form of the Psalter: “The Suffering, Praise, and Posterity of the Messiah.”
Why is it such a big deal that we believe Ps. 22 speaks about the Messiah?
In Ps. 22, we are given a picture of the righteous sufferer par excellence. That’s a fancy way of saying that even in the midst of undeserved suffering, the individual of Ps. 22 chose to trust in God.
Listen to the petitions of his heart:
- Do not be far (vs. 1a, 11, 19)
- Help me (vs. 2, 19)
- Deliver me (vs. 6a, 20-21)
- Answer me (vs. 6b-21)
Even in the midst of searing physical pain & debilitating emotional abuse, this individual trusted that God was at work in the events of his life.
- He trusted that God was holy (vs. 3)
- He trusted that God was trustworthy (vs. 4)
- He trusted that God was personally invested in his life (vs. 9-10)
David foresaw the unswerving trust of the Messiah, and knew his suffering would bring about God’s global and perfect kingdom where there is no more suffering (vs. 26-31). David resumes his own voice beginning in verse 22, pledging his own trust. David says:
- I’ll declare your name (vs. 22a)
- I’ll praise you in public (vs. 22b)
- I’ll get others to praise you (vs. 23)
- You are near (vs. 24b)
- You hear (vs. 24c)
- I’ll pay my vows (vs. 25)
What does Ps. 22 have to do with me?
Ps. 22 tells those who experience similar abuse that there is a God who will bring justice. The God of Ps. 22 is holy, and he is trustworthy. Even more so, he is personally invested in your life even when it seems he is not.
He hears your prayers, he answers your heart’s deepest cries, and he is near to you. And because of the suffering experienced by the Messiah, you can trust you will see a day when there is no more pain and no more abuse.
While you wait on Him, David urges you to do demonstrate your trust as he does – declaring God’s name and praises. What does the suffering of the Messiah mean for you? According to Ps. 22, the suffering of the Messiah means you can trust – once again.
What are you clinging to today? What truth from Ps. 22 brings you the most peace and comfort?
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 The authors of Jesus the Messiah don’t believe this Psalm is a direct prophecy of Jesus Christ. Rather, this psalm and others like it are “designed to show that Jesus suffered a rejection common for one who is righteous and faithful before God.” If anything, the New Testament demonstrates Jesus is “the righteous sufferer par excellence,” and “the culmination in a pattern of suffering the righteous often face.” (See Jesus the Messiah, pg. 433).
 Also the position of Derek Kidner. (See his commentary, pg. 122).
 Kidner, 122.
 According to Kidner, the word for “piercing” is considered a problematic Hebrew phrase; however, the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew) translates it as such nearly two centuries before Jesus’ crucifixion.