Psalm 22: The Psalm Of Calvary (Part 3)

Along the way in our little devotional Saturday Psalm series, we have said that Psalm 22 can rightly be called “the Psalm of Calvary,” given how the Lord Jesus adopts the words of King David for himself, crying out as he hung on the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” This psalm was written some three thousand years ago and some one thousand years before the life of Christ. And yet, in Matthew’s recording of Jesus’ words while suffering and dying on the cross of Golgotha (27:46), the New Testament helps us see that this prayer of David was ultimately fulfilled by the experience of our Lord. Psalm 22, understood christologically, is the Psalm of Calvary.

But Psalm 22 does not merely highlight the agonies of body and soul at the crucifixion. It takes us beyond the cross to the empty tomb and even further, giving us hints at coming eschatological splendor.

From Death to Resurrection

Here in verses 22–31 we see death giving way to resurrection. In the second half of verse 21 the stone is rolled away and our Savior stands forth alive. We have gone from “Good Friday” to “Resurrection Sunday.”

What is especially wonderful about Psalm 22 is that it not only tells us what it was like for Jesus on the cross, but also how our Savior responds to the fact of the resurrection. It tells us how he responds even before it tells us how we ought to respond. Verse 22 says, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.” Or verse 25: “From you comes my praise in the great congregation.” The Septuagint, the great Greek translation of the Old Testament, renders verse 25 as “in the midst of the church”—that is, in the midst of the people of God. David is saying, “Let me add my voice to the myriad of voices in the great congregation.”

There is wonderful typology and fulfillment here: The great congregation, for David, was likely the throngs of thousands, the Hebrew pilgrims coming up to the Temple Mount during the high holy days to worship God. But the New Testament tells us that the great congregation, as Jesus speaks of it, is far beyond what David could have dreamed—a great assembly of people from every tribe and tongue and nation redeemed by his blood.

Notice too how Jesus invites us to join him in responding to this rescue-triumph-resurrection in verses 23 and 24: “You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him and stand in awe of him all you offspring of Israel! For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, he has not hidden his face from him but has heard when he cried to him.”

The Lord God delivered David; and even more splendidly, the Father delivered his Son. Jesus Christ is alive. The Father heard his cries and delivered him. As Psalm 16 puts it, the Lord did not allow his Holy One to see corruption and his soul was not abandoned to Sheol (Ps 16:10).

Acts 2:23–24 tell us that everything went exactly according to the divinely ordained plan: “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” Moreover, Romans 4:25 says that this was done, not merely as a showy demonstration of divine love, but in order for the Lord to procure and accomplish the pardon and justification of his people: “[Christ] . . . was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”

The great congregation (and we included) are summoned to worship because the tomb is empty, the throne is occupied, and Jesus lives. “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:55). Jesus has risen. He has shattered the bands of death for all who believe, so that even in all the tears and grief of our life situations and all the hard providences that the Lord ordains, there is yet cause to rejoice.

The Great Congregation

And what a congregation it is. The poor and the afflicted are there (26). The rich and the prosperous are there (29). And in verse 27, the congregation extends even to “all the ends of the world who shall remember and turn to the Lord and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.” Rich and poor, Jew and gentile, people from all walks of life brought into this great congregation through faith in Jesus in order to praise God because the tomb is empty, and Christ lives.

Psalm 22 sounds like an echo of Ephesians 2:17–22, does it not?

And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Psalm 22 conjures up an image resembling Revelation 7:9–10, does it not?

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

In Psalm 22:30–31, we learn how this great congregation will be brought together: “Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn.”

These verses seem to indicate that from this triumphant deliverance, a very ordinary, natural “missionary movement” will be launched forth. This movement will span the years and span families and congregations, one generation to the next, as parents tell children and people tell other people about the Lord’s wondrous deeds. Here the principles undergirding Deuteronomy 11:18–21 join forces with the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18–20 in glorious, biblical-theological union. The church, the people of God, are discipling the coming generations in the truth of the Lord and they are telling all who will hear the glorious good news of this risen Savior, until that great day when people from every tribe and tongue and nation are around the throne to say, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Rev 5:12).

The Finished Work of Christ

And what is it exactly that will draw these nations? What will make them turn from their idols and bend the knee to the risen Christ? Verse 31 gives the answer: “He has done it”—or as Jesus himself understood those words as he hung at Calvary, “It is finished” (John 19:30). The work is done. Our debt has been paid. Our sin and guilt atoned. There is nothing else to do but bow in repentance and faith, in adoration and praise.

Christian, because Jesus died, there is pardon and mercy and cleansing for you and me. And because Jesus lives, not even death can destroy our hope or silence our praise.

In any given congregation right now, I suspect with reasonable confidence that there are folks “in the trenches” for a variety of reasons. Some folks are in spiritual and emotional anguish. On the other hand, there are many who have known abundant blessing and are delighting in God in the land of the living. Meanwhile, a cult of death and the enshrining of wickedness and demonic power and malice seems to be on the advance in our day. But the thing is, you can face it all, Christian, with a holy defiance. There is forgiveness of sin in him because he lives. There is comfort in sorrow because he lives. And there is hope for days to come because the tomb is empty, and Jesus lives.

Friends, as we have studied Psalm 22 on this and previous Saturdays in preparation to worship the Lord the following day, my prayer is that on this and every Lord’s Day—every week of resurrection joy and rest and gladness—God would be pleased to give us fresh eyes of faith and trust such that we would look and cling unto Christ Jesus for the comfort of our hearts and the joy of our souls.

Having given this wonderful text a brief exegetical, expositional, and pastoral survey, we will return one last time for a fourth installment wherein we will consider further implications and applications from this marvelous psalm.

©Sean Morris. All Rights Reserved.

You can find the whole series here. 


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Posted by Sean Morris | Saturday, April 13, 2024 | Categorized Biblical Exposition, Biblical theology, Psalms, Saturday Psalm Series | Tagged Bookmark the permalink.

About Sean Morris

Sean was educated at Grove City College, Reformed Theological Seminary (Jackson, MS), and the University of Glasgow (Scotland). He is an ordained teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, and serves as a minister at the Covenant Presbyterian Church in Oak Ridge, TN. He also serves as the Academic Dean of the Blue Ridge Institute for Theological Education. He is currently pursuing his PhD in Historical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Sean lives in Oak Ridge with his wife, Sarah, along with their children and useless beagle.


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