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Psalm 22 - Has God Forsaken Me?

INTRODUCTION: Some portions of Psalm 22 are quoted in the New Testament gospels which identifies them as prophetic about the sacrificial death of Christ. Even though David is not primarily thought of as a prophet, Psalm 22 could not have drawn from prophecies written about the Christ some centuries later by authors such as Isaiah. Some of the verses in Psalm 22 describe experiences in the life of David. Others were directed by the Holy Spirit to describe the sacrifice of the promised Messiah who was a very unique descendent of David in the flesh. Some verses might apply to Israel in general, and also to all people who would desire to follow the LORD in any generation. Believers can trust the content of scripture, even though sometimes it may be difficult to fully understand. 2 Timothy 3 "16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works."

NOTE: Scripture passages are from the 1769 King James Bible.


Psalm 22 1 {To the chief Musician upon Aijeleth Shahar, A Psalm of David.} My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? 2 O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent."

COMMENTS: In these first two verses only singular pronouns are used, and there are other psalms of David wherein he cried out to the LORD; but this one has the strongest expression of David feeling completely forsaken. There was a period of years when he was desperately fleeing to save his life from king Saul and the men appointed to kill him. That could have made him feel forsaken by the LORD, but the remainder of this psalm contains verses that are definitely prophetic for the son of David who is also the Son of God. David may have begun his writing of this inspired scripture with some inner personal thoughts, while the Holy Spirit certainly directed him to make the overall content applicable in other ways.

As David wrote of crying out day and night, he did not confess anything that he needed to make right before the LORD. That adds emphasis to his question of why the LORD had forsaken him. David experienced situations that motivated him to write other psalms about his trust in the LORD and his request that he would not be forsaken. Psalm 27 "7 Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me. 8 When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek. 9 Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation." David had no hesitation to honor and praise the LORD for his mercy to save. Psalm 138 "6 Though the LORD be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off. 7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me. 8 The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O LORD, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands."

The plea within verse one is not in chronological order with the other prophetic verses in this psalm about the Christ in his suffering, but some of those verses seem unrelated to David. I chose Matthew's gospel to show how Christ Jesus fulfilled this first prophetic verse. Matthew 27 "45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

Matthew and Mark both bear record that the additional Messianic references in Psalm 22 actually preceded that of verse one when they were fulfilled. The next section of the study further explores whether or not a cry to God will be answered.


Psalm 22 "3 But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. 4 Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. 5 They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded."

COMMENTS: In these three verses the pronouns are all plural as David's words describe what the LORD had done for the people of Israel over the centuries even before he was born. David used the expression that God inhabited (or dwelt) with them in the midst of their praises and adoration to a holy God. When they trusted in the LORD, he delivered them from their enemies. This seems to be a further expression of his struggle with the feeling of being forsaken by the LORD, even though he cried out repeatedly to the one he truly trusted to save him. .

When the LORD called Israel out of bondage in Egypt, he said he would dwell with them. Exodus 29 "45 And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God. 46 And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, that brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them: I am the LORD their God." But many times when Israel forsook the LORD, he forsook them until they returned to him in his mercy.

David said the LORD dwells within the praises of believers, and Psalm 90 provides another perspective that God is also the dwelling place of his chosen people. Psalm 90 "1 {A Prayer of Moses the man of God.} Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. 2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God." Paul wrote in various ways about the dwelling place of God. 1 Corinthians 3 "16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" Romans 8 "9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his."

When a person has the Spirit of Christ within, that person has the double blessing of also being part of Christ, never to be separated. Hebrews 13 "5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. 6 So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me."


Psalm 22 "6 But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. 7 All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, 8 He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him. 9 But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother's breasts. 10 I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother's belly."

COMMENTS: Singular pronouns are used in these verses as with the first two verses, so David may have returned to his own feelings of being forsaken. It is not clear whether David was writing from a personal perspective of being cast upon the LORD in hope from his mother's womb. psalm 71 contains similar wording, but the author is not identified. Psalm 71 "4 Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked, out of the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man. 5 For thou art my hope, O Lord GOD: thou art my trust from my youth. 6 By thee have I been holden up from the womb: thou art he that took me out of my mother's bowels: my praise shall be continually of thee."

however, this is the hope of every one who believes in Christ Jesus even in the most personally difficult times if we make the words of the Apostle Paul our own. Ephesians 1 "3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved."

In terms of prophecy, the Lord Jesus experienced the sort of treatment described in these verses when he was taken to be crucified. Matthew 27 "39 And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, 40 And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. 41 Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, 42 He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. 43 He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God."

Jesus, the son of David in the flesh through Mary was also called even before his miraculous conception. Luke 1 "30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. 31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. 34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? 35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God."


Psalm 22 "11 Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help. 12 Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round. 13 They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion. 14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. 15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death."

COMMENTS: Other psalms dealing with David in danger also use the phrase that I have below set apart with asterisks. Psalm 35 "19 Let not them that are mine enemies wrongfully rejoice over me: neither let them wink with the eye that hate me without a cause. 20 For they speak not peace: but they devise deceitful matters against them that are quiet in the land. 21 Yea, they opened their mouth wide against me, and said, Aha, aha, our eye hath seen it. 22 This thou hast seen, O LORD: keep not silence: O Lord, *be not far from me.* 23 Stir up thyself, and awake to my judgment, even unto my cause, my God and my Lord. 24 Judge me, O LORD my God, according to thy righteousness; and let them not rejoice over me." David asks to be judged based on the righteousness of God, and not on his own righteousness.

David may have used "strong bulls of Bashan" as a metaphor for ominous danger from the history of Israel. Numbers 32 "33 And Moses gave unto them, even to the children of Gad, and to the children of Reuben, and unto half the tribe of Manasseh the son of Joseph, the kingdom of Sihon king of the Amorites, and the kingdom of Og king of Bashan, the land, with the cities thereof in the coasts, even the cities of the country round about." King Og was described as a very large giant in the land. Deuteronomy 3 "11 For only Og king of Bashan remained of the remnant of giants; behold, his bedstead was a bedstead of iron; is it not in Rabbath of the children of Ammon? nine cubits was the length thereof, and four cubits the breadth of it, after the cubit of a man." The open mouths of roaring lions provides a fairly common mental picture of life threatening violence.

In verse 14 David used an expression that he was (or prophetically, Jesus was) being poured out like water and would not be recoverable in any ordinary manner. David had an actual experience as he made a symbolic gesture before the LORD when some of his men risked their lives based on something he had said wistfully. 2 Samuel 23 "15 And David longed, and said, Oh that one would give me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate! 16 And the three mighty men brake through the host of the Philistines, and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem, that was by the gate, and took it, and brought it to David: nevertheless he would not drink thereof, but poured it out unto the LORD. 17 And he said, Be it far from me, O LORD, that I should do this: is not this the blood of the men that went in jeopardy of their lives? therefore he would not drink it. These things did these three mighty men." This was not an insult to the men, but rather David explained why he could not drink it, and he gave thanks to the LORD for protecting them.

David used other symbolic figures of speech to describe this utterly helpless situation. When bones are out of joint, there is no strength for defense physically, but when the heart (or emotional strength) is melted like wax and has descended into the extremity of the bowel, resistance of any kind will be almost impossible. All forms of strength together were described as just a broken piece of finished pottery (unrepairable and utterly useless). When a person is so desperately thirsty that the tongue fails to find any trace of moisture in the mouth, death in the complete dryness of dust may soon follow.

Another psalm speaks of extreme thirst. Psalm 69 "20 Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none. 21 They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink." That passage from Psalm 69 is also attributed to David, and later the gospel of John recorded this about Jesus on the cross. John 19 "28 After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. 29 Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost."


Psalm 22 "16 For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. 17 I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. 18 They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture. 19 But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me."

COMMENTS: It would be difficult to find even the most remote reference to David about his hands and feet being pierced or his garments being divided among his captors. But the Holy Spirit guided David to write prophetically about his promised descendent who would suffer in this manner. Matthew 27 "35 And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots." It is interesting to note that the passage from Matthew contains "which was spoken by the prophet," in reference to David.

Then as in verse 11 of this psalm, the phrase "be not far from me" appears again in verse 19. Another psalm of David has that first phrase as well as a request for the LORD to make haste to help. Psalm 38 "20 They also that render evil for good are mine adversaries; because I follow the thing that good is. 21 Forsake me not, O LORD: O my God, *be not far from me.* 22 Make haste to help me, O Lord my salvation."


Psalm 22 "20 Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog. 21 Save me from the lion's mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns. 22 I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee. 23 Ye that fear the LORD, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel. 24 For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard. 25 My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him."

COMMENTS: Common usage today of darling brings to mind a feeling of endearment, and that may be a part of verse 20. The Strong's reference number for the Hebrew word is <03173 > and that term is translated in some other scriptures as son or only son. Abraham and Isaac foreshadowed a future event. Genesis 22 "15 And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, 16 And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only <03173 > son: 17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; 18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice."

The tone in the text of Psalm 22 seems to have changed now to more of expectation than of abandonment as he said God has heard him. He believed the "horns of the unicorn" would overpower the sword, the dogs, and the lion's mouth. Though there may be some fanciful imaginations about the term unicorn today, there is more than one scripture passage wherein unicorn denotes God providing great strength. Numbers 24 "8 God brought him forth out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn: he shall eat up the nations his enemies, and shall break their bones, and pierce them through with his arrows."

Now there is a clear call to praise the LORD in verses 22 to 25 because he has not ignored the afflicted or hidden his face from the cry for help. Praise will be offered openly in the congregation of those who fear the LORD. Another psalm attributed to David has a cry for help, uses the word darling, and gives praise for an answer. Psalm 35 "17 Lord, how long wilt thou look on? rescue my soul from their destructions, my darling from the lions. 18 I will give thee thanks in the great congregation: I will praise thee among much people."


Psalm 22 "26 The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever. 27 All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. 28 For the kingdom is the LORD'S: and he is the governor among the nations. 29 All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul. 30 A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation. 31 They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this."

COMMENTS: These last seven verses look ahead to the final disposition of God's predetermined plan to offer freedom from sin to all who will receive it. It is perhaps easier to relate to this text in light of the record of the New Testament, but there are also Old Testament references that point to death being overcome, and that is the reward that must be anticipated through the difficulties of life. Psalm 49 "15 But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me. Selah." Another passage from one of the prophets provides similar wording of hope. Hosea 13 "14 I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes."

Those who are meek and humble before the LORD shall be fully satisfied. For only such people will seek the LORD to praise him by their trust and obedience, and their soul shall live forever by the mercy of the God who gives life eternal. John 6 "48 I am that bread of life. 49 Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 50 This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die." Many who ate the manna in the wilderness as they came out of the physical bondage of Egypt, did not receive freedom from their spiritual bondage because they did not trust in the LORD. The miraculous supply of the manna for their physical food gradually did not satisfy many of them and they would not trust that the LORD had more in store for them than any pleasures of life in the body.

The ability to remember (verse 27: as to consider , think over) what God offers, and that is now spread to all people around the world in the record of Christ through many translations of the Bible. Jesus continued his metaphor. John 6 "50 This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." The giving of his flesh was through death on the cross, and that is a substitutionary death for sin that will provide eternal life to every person in the world who will accept it by faith. The "eating" is to take into our heart and soul the grace gift of the Holy Spirit because of the death of Christ Jesus in our place, which gives life far beyond what food could ever provide.

If anyone refuses to believe that the Holy Scriptures identify Jesus Christ as God, they will not receive eternal life. John 5 "37 And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape. 38 And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not. 39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me."

When the time came for Christ Jesus to complete his work of redemption he prayed to the Father. John 17 "1 These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: 2 As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. 3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. 4 I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. 5 And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was."

The Apostle Paul did much to spread the gospel of Christ after his own conversion, and he prepared others such as Titus to continue the work. Titus 1 "1 Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's chosen ones, and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, 2 in hope of eternal life, which God, who can't lie, promised before time began; 3 but in his own time revealed his word in the message with which I was entrusted according to the commandment of God our Saviour;" The future generation written about by David in Psalm 22 is comprised of those who become the offspring of God by faith, with worship and praise to him. They shall declare his righteousness from generation to generation around the world among the unbelievers until the return of Christ.

Paul directed all believers to have the blessing that is found only in being a humble and obedient servant in the likeness of Christ, while giving all glory to God the Father. Philippians 2 "5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

The eternal kingdom is the LORD'S and those who have placed full trust in the LORD already have their place secured in that kingdom. but even those who refuse to humble themselves and accept the LORD'S provision will be subject to the dominion of the LORD God, but forever separated from the blessings thereof. Isaiah 45 "21 Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me. 22 Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. 23 I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. 24 Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed."

Matthew 25 "31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:" ... Matthew 25 "41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:" ... Matthew 25 "46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal."


I thank you, LORD , that I can look to David as he wrote often about extreme difficulties, because I know he experienced such things even though he was a man after God's own heart. Help me to have the depth of faith that he had in you, when I go through my own trials. I want to have a commitment to praise your name during such times even if they seem too difficult to endure. I believe that you, LORD, are in the midst of the praises of believers today, as you were for Israel when they honored your name. I thank you that you have provided some family and friends around me who know Christ Jesus as the risen Savior. May we continually welcome you into our midst by our praise especially for the sacrifice of Christ for us. Jesus was despised and scorned in our place and allowed himself to be found helpless as he went to the cross even though there was no fault in him. All who trust in Christ were chosen by grace before the foundation of the world as part of the eternal plan of the only true God.

Thank you, LORD, for the prophetic verses in Psalm 22 about the son of David who is the eternal Son of God. The accuracy of those prophecies already fulfilled by Christ Jesus adds to the confidence believers have in the promises yet to come. The Word of the LORD will continue to be spread around the world in many nations and languages until the time has come for the everlasting kingdom to be established. There will continue to be scoffers until the praise of believers in scattered congregations around the globe is replaced by a great multitude of praise in the day of the LORD. The afflicted and persecuted will be brought into the everlasting kingdom of the LORD, and all those who would not believe will be forever separated from those who have life in Christ, because none can keep alive there own soul. My praise will forever be to the KING of kings and LORD of lords for the unsearchable riches of the gift of grace that has made me a citizen of heaven. Hallelujah and Amen!

Published 15 September 2016