It Is Finished
February 21st – Les Kovacs Psalm 22
Observe: King David is once again in mortal peril and calls on the Lord to save him. In the first 18 verses, he expresses such anguish because of the dire circumstances he finds himself in: he feels forsaken by everyone he trusts, including God, and feels insignificant; he is mocked by his adversaries; he is surrounded and fears for his life; he feels broken and beaten down; his throat is parched. Yet through all of this he remembers that the Lord is his deliverer, and calls on Him to come quickly. He remembers that his strength comes from the Lord and calls on all of Israel to praise Him for HIs mercy. David calls on everyone to the ends of the earth to praise the Lord and turn to Him because He is Lord over all. Everyone is to exalt God’s righteousness, even those yet unborn.
Interpret: Psalm 22 is considered a Messianic Psalm in that it refers directly to the account of Jesus on the cross, even though David wrote it around one thousand years before Christ’s death. The parallels between David’s psalm and Jesus’ words is nothing short of miraculous. At a time when David feels most persecuted and is praying to God for deliverance, the Lord gives him a glimpse into the most significant moment in all of human history, which Jesus is dying on the cross. The first words of the Psalm are “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” These are the same words Jesus speaks in Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34. In verses 6-8, David says that his enemies are mocking him, but trusts God to rescue him. The Gospels accounts record the people mocking Jesus by derisively saying that if God loved Him so much then God would save Him. David writes of being surrounded by strong bulls and roaring lions that tear their prey apart, just as Jesus was beaten and tortured by the soldiers before the final indignity. Verse 14 says “I am poured out like water, my bones are out of joint”, which is a perfect description of Jesus as He hung upon the cross and had His side pierced by a lance. Verse 18 says, “They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment”, exactly as the mockers do on Golgotha.
Despite all his troubles, David does not lose hope. He knows that God was faithful to the descendants of Jacob and did not hide His face from them, so even in his pain he praises God for all the good things that have come from Him. He foretells that all the earth will rejoice and bow down before the Lord, and that His righteousness will be declared to future generations and to a people yet unborn, which would be us. And he ends the psalm with words, “He has done it!” which echoes Jesus’ final words in John 19:30, “It is finished.”
Application: If you didn’t know that the writing of the Psalms and the Gospels were separated by a thousand years, Psalm 22 might appear to be an eye-witness account of the crucifixion of Christ. The similarities are strikingly real. But this is not only a Messianic Psalm, it is also a Lament, as David beats his chest over the unbearable straits in which he finds himself, while in his next breath, he declares our universal dependence upon the Lord and professes his gratitude for the grace of God.
At the most consequential moment in all of human history, Jesus hangs on the cross, and in His full humanity, He asks the same question that David did in the opening of this Psalm, and that we sometimes ask when we are faced with what seem like insurmountable problems in our lives. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Indeed, why would God forsake Jesus, His only Son, in these final minutes? It's because God detests sin and cannot allow it into His holy presence, ever. This is why we, broken humanity, would be eternally separated from God without an acceptable atonement, which we in our fallen state can never make. But Jesus, who was absolutely without sin, took our place in punishment, made the ultimate sacrifice for our sins, and bought our freedom with His very life. He became vulnerable for us. It should have been us on the cross of shame from whom God withdrew His favour, but instead Jesus took our place. He exchanged His purity for our corruption; His perfection for our brokenness; His glory for our shame.
When we experience the lowest, darkest times of our lives, whether it’s financial problems, health issues, or relationship breakdowns, which we all go through from time-to-time, we can feel like David and wonder why the Lord feels so far away from us. We feel as though we are carrying more burden than we can cope with, that we are blocked at every turn, that there is no one to help us and are all alone in our hardships. At times like that we can do what David did; turn to the lifter of our heads (Ps 3:3); and remember God’s goodness and His many blessings to us. Praise His holy name and trust in His good and perfect will.
Jesus knew what it meant to be in the most horrible of circumstances, yet He willingly endured more punishment than we will ever know because of His great love for us. By His sacrifice, He bridged the gap between us and abolished our separation from Himself. Because of what He did for us on the cross, we can know that God has not, and will not, ever forsake us.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we know that when we are faced with life’s challenges, you want us to bring our heartaches to you. Help us trust you when things go wrong in our life. Deliver us from our enemies, particularly when we suffer unjustly. We thank you that you did not abandon Jesus, nor will you abandon us when we cry out to you. We thank you for your great loving-kindness in all circumstances. This we pray in the merciful name of Jesus, Amen.
Song: It Is Finished – Matt Redman
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In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.