The Gospels record the amazing life of the greatest man who ever walked the earth. There, the events, miracles, actions, words and character of Jesus of Nazareth clearly demon­strate him to be the Son of God with power.

Yet despite all their detail, it is the Psalms that add another and equally important dimension to our understanding of our Messiah. For it is in the Psalms that we are allowed to enter into his very mind and emotions. It is this “spirit of Christ” (1 Pet 1:11) in the Psalms that dramatically takes us not only into his sufferings, but also into his thoughts and feelings in such a way that can only touch our hearts.

Although there are many Messianic Psalms, there are a select group that reveal the true depth of the struggles Christ would experience. Arguably the greatest of these is Psalm 22. Is there a Psalm that allows us to enter more into our Lord’s state of mind than this? In fact, this Psalm is shown by Paul to be Christ’s own words (Heb 2:12), yet penned pro­phetically by David. This clear demonstration of the power and certainty of Divine inspiration can be as faith-assuring to us as it was to Jesus himself.

David’s Salvation

Some commentators have sug­gested that this Psalm has no historical background in the life of the Psalmist because of its purely Messianic nature.

Although this is possible, it is fitting that grievous trials in the life of David caused him to reflect on that promised one who would be “touched with the feelings of our infirmities.” How often in trial are we thrown upon our God and only then truly appreciate the wonder and certainty of His promises in bringing many sons to glory through the captain of their salvation made perfect in suf­fering (Heb 2:10)?

It would seem that Psalm 22 would have been written at a time when David was caused to have a complete focus on Christ and his redemptive work. There are three significant events in the life of David that not only fit this scenario, but link us to Psalm 22 through either the historical accounts or other Psalms written during these times. All three are therefore plausible possibilities:

  1. David’s sin with Bathsheba
  2. Absalom’s revolt and David’s ultimate redemption
  3. Adonijah’s conspiracy, David’s sickness and Solomon’s coronation

David’s Sin with Bathsheba

We are hugely indebted to David for the powerful lessons we learn from his Psalms during this time. How encouraging it is for us to see David have a right spirit renewed in him when he was caused to reflect on what his Messiah would go through because of David’s sin? Some evidence to support this timing could be as follows:

PSALM 22TIME OF DAVID’S SIN
“Words of my roaring” (v1)“Through my roaring” (Psa 32:3)
“Daytime...night season” (v2)“For day and night” (Psa 32:4)
Twice it is mentioned regarding the evil that “compassed” him (v12,16)Twice it is mentioned regarding the mercy that “compassed” him (Psa 32:7, 10)

Although David in 2 Sam 12, when prostrate on the ground in prayer, could be a fitting time here to reflect on the Messiah, the links seem weak in comparison to the next two possibilities. However, it has been valuable to mention this event due to the bearing this had on both Absalom’s and Adonijah’s revolts (Cp 2 Sam 12:11-12 & 16:21-22).

Absalom’s Revolt and David’s Ultimate Redemption

This was one of the lowest points in David’s life, for it brought up not only his past failures but was a betrayal from one “which came forth from his own bowels” (2 Sam 16:11). Yet in these events we have David’s own experiences mirroring that of Christ. From David fleeing in 2 Samuel 15:17, as “the King went forth” and “passed over the brook Kedron” we see the parallels to the path that Christ himself walked on the night he was betrayed (cp John 18:1). Compare:

PSALM 22TIME OF ABSALOM’S REVOLT
“My God, My God”Psa 35:23 “My God”
Psa 35:24 “My God”
“Why have you forsaken me” (v1)Psa 38:21 “Forsake me not”
“Why are you so far from helping me” (v1)
“Be not far from me” (v11,19)
Psa 35:22 “O Yahweh ...be not far from me”
Psa 38:21 “Be not far from me”
“There is no silence in me” (v2)Psa 35:22 “O Yahweh keep not silence”
“Words of my groaning” (v2)Psa 38:9 “My groaning is not hid from thee”
“Reproach of men” (v6)Psa 69:7,10,19-20 “Reproach” x4
“Laugh me to scorn...shoot out the lip” (7)Psa 35:16 “Hypocritical mockers”
Psa 35:21 “Open their mouth wide against me”
“Trouble is near...be not far from me” (v11)Psa 38:6 “I am troubled”
Psa 69:18 “Draw near my soul”
“Poured out like water...no strength in me” (v14-15)Psa 38:7-8 “No soundness in my esh...strength faileth in me”
“I may tell all my bones” (v17)Psa 35:10 “All my bones shall say”
“Part my garments” (v18)Psa 69:20-21 Christ on cross
“Haste to help me” (v19)Psa 38:22 “Make haste to help me”
“My darling” (v20)Psa 35:17 “My darling”
“From the power of the dogs” (v20)2 Sam 16:9 “This dead dog curse my lord the King”
“In the midst of the congregation” (v22)
“In the great congregation” (v25)
Psa 35:18 “I will give thanks to thee in the great congregation”
A seed shall serve him” (v30-31)Psa 69:36 “A seed also of his servants shall inherit it”

 

Adonijah’s Conspiracy, David’s Sickness and Solomon’s Coronation

This was another major low point in David’s life, for it seems he also suffered a sickness that took him to the point of death (1 Kings 1). Adonijah seized

However the links between Psalm 22 and the Psalms written during this time (Psalm 35, 38 and 69) abound:

On this opportunity and tried to instate himself as king. It was through the faithful actions of Nathan, Zadok and Bathsheba that this was averted. David’s recovery and appointment of Solomon, followed by his coronation in 1 Chronicles 28 and 29 provide significant links to show that Psalm 22 could also have been written about this time:

PSALM 22TIME OF ABSALOM’S REVOLT
“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (v1)1 Chron 28:20 “Even my God...He will not fail thee nor forsake thee”
1 Chron 29:17 “My God, thou triest the heart”
“I will declare thy name unto my brethren” (v22)1 Chron 28:2 “Hear me, my brethren
“Will I praise thee” (v22), “Praise him, glorify him” (v23)1 Chron 29:13 “Praise thy glorious name”
“In the midst of the congregation will I praise thee” (v22)
“My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation” (v25)
1 Chron 28:1,8; 29:1,10,20 David assembles “the congregation”
1 Chron 29:10,20 “David blessed Yahweh before all the congregation”
“For the Kingdom is Yahweh’s” (v28)1 Chron 29:11,23 “Thine is the Kingdom... Solomon sat on the throne of Yahweh”

 

Another key piece of evidence is the links be­tween Psalm 22 and Psalm 71. The setting of Psalm 71 can be seen as late in David’s life from verse18, “I am old and grey headed”:

PSALM 22PSALM 71
“My God, my God”Psa 71:22 “Oh my God”
“Why hast thou forsaken me?” (v1)Psa 71:9,18 “Forsake me not”
“I was cast upon thee from the womb” (v10)Psa 71:5-6 “Thou art my trust from my youth...from the womb”

 

These links are developed more fully in the CSSS1 notes (please refer to the excellent exposition on pages 269-271). Psalm 71:9 specifically speaks of David’s cry of “forsake me not” coming in his old age, which provides a strong suggestion that Psalm 22 could be related to this time. When we see the flow of Psalm 71 into Psalm 72 and the wonderful connection of Solomon as a type of Christ both in 2 Samuel 7 and Psalm 72, it provides more significant points for the later timing of Psalm 22.

Yet all these events are related. The revolt of Absalom and Adonijah both arise as consequences of David’s sin. So it would be fitting for David to recount the events of Absalom’s revolt and the lessons learnt during Adonijah’s conspiracy. David also had loose ends for Solomon to tie up which further connect the two scenarios (1 Kings 2v7-9). As such, the connection of these two events makes it harder to accurately link Psalm 22 to either one or the other time period.

In any case, the power of Psalm 22 is seen in the complete focus that David has on Christ, his sufferings, but particularly the state of mind and feelings of the coming Messiah during these trials. We will begin to delve into this vitally impor­tant aspect of the Psalm in the next issue.

Footnotes

  1. CSSS Psalms Volume 1 page 269-271