The Messiah’s Vicarious Suffering.
To the chief musician, for use in the public assembly of the congregation, upon Shoshannim, to be sung to the melody “On the Lilies.” The psalm is referred to seven times in the New Testament, either by quotation or by unmistakable implication, as prophetical of Christ and the Messianic period. Cp. John 15, 25; 2, 17; Matt. 27, 34; John 19, 29.
LAMENT AND PRAYER. — V. 1. Save Me, O God; for the waters are come in unto My soul, the Messiah crying in the agony and distress, in the anguish of His sufferings, their flood threatening His very life. V. 2. I sink in deep mire, into the abyss of a swamp’s sink-hole, where there is no standing, where He has lost His foothold; I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow Me, overwhelming and submerging Him. V. 3. I am weary of My crying, with His calling for sympathy and help in His great trouble; My throat is dried, burned or scorched, parched and raw, by the excessive use of His voice; Mine eyes fail while I wait for My God, melting in tears, His eyes have become exhausted, worn out with straining in the unfulfilled hoping and longing for rescue at the hands of God. The Messiah now pictures the nature of His misery, the reason for His bitter complaint. V. 4. They that hate Me without a cause, while He is innocent of any wrong-doing, are more than the hairs of Mine head, having increased at such a rate that they outnumber the hairs which are commonly considered beyond numbering; they that would destroy Me, desiring to cut Him off from the land of the living, being Mine enemies wrongfully, are mighty, they make use of falsehood and deceit in trying to gain their object. Then I restored that which I took not away, literally, “What not I robbed, then I restored,” that is, the Messiah not only alleges His personal innocence and sinlessness with great emphasis, but also states that He is being held to pay, to give compensation for, something which He did not rob, of which He did not despoil those seeking redress. The entire paragraph pictures the climax of Christ’s sufferings. Both in Gethsemane and on Calvary the anguish of soul with which He was battling was of a nature exceeding all human experience and understanding. All His calling at that time availed Him nothing; He was obliged to drink the cup of God’s wrath to the very dregs. His enemies, operating with the meanest falsehoods, set upon Him without reason, to take His life. But the supreme secret is found in the fact that He was called upon to replace, by means of this suffering, what He had not robbed. He bore the punishment of the sins of mankind; the guilt of transgressions as committed by countless human beings was charged to His account. It was a vicarious suffering which Jesus Christ endured, a vicarious satisfaction which He was called upon to render. God made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him, 2 Cor. 5, 21. It is as the Substitute of mankind that the Messiah now laments. V. 5. O God, Thou knowest My foolishness, the folly of the trespasses which He here ascribes to Himself; and My sins are not hid from Thee; for so fully did He enter into His role as the Substitute of mankind that He stood before God in the nakedness of the guilt imputed to Him, as though it were really His own. V. 6. Let not them that wait on Thee, O Lord God of hosts, be ashamed for My sake, His prayer being that those who were depending upon Him for their salvation and thus putting their trust in the true God alone should not be disappointed in their hope; let not those that seek Thee, namely, by looking to the Messiah for their only deliverance, be confounded for My sake, O God of Israel. In the midst of His great offering our great High Priest did not neglect His intercession for the believers; while He was suffering as the greatest sinner who ever lived on earth, His one thought was for those whose transgressions He had taken upon Himself. V. 7. Because for Thy sake, by God’s predetermined foreknowledge and counsel, I have borne reproach, Is. 53, 4. 10; shame hath covered My face, the full disgrace of the guilt of all mankind. V. 8. I am become a stranger unto My brethren, the members of His own nation regarding Him with aversion in His great Passion, and an alien unto My mother’s children, His very relatives being among those who refused to accept Him as the promised Savior, John 1, 11; 7, 5. V. 9. For the zeal of Thine house, not only the outward building of the Temple, John 2, 17, but especially for the spiritual temple of Jehovah, for His holy Church, hath eaten Me up, consuming Him with anxiety; and the reproaches of them that reproached Thee are fallen upon Me, whatever objections were raised by the enemies to take away the honor of God, struck Him, the Messiah, with full force. V. 10. When I wept, in every bitter experience of His ministry, and chastened My soul with fasting, keeping under restraint, aloof from all wickedness, that was to My reproach; no matter what His behavior, some critic arose to condemn Him, Matt. 11, 19. V. 11. I made sackcloth also My garment, as one in deep mourning, abstaining from even the appearance of evil; and I became a proverb to them, His name and acts being bandied about jestingly. V. 12. They that sit in the gate, the nobles, the leaders of the people, speak against Me; and I was the song of drunkards, of drinkers of strong drink, the rabble of the taverns and streets joining in making mockery of Him, not only during His ministry, but especially when He hung on the cross. The Messiah now returns to the situation as pictured in the beginning of the psalm. V. 13. But as for Me, placing His own person in extreme opposition to that of His mocking enemies, My prayer is unto Thee, O Lord, in an acceptable time; He knew that the Father is well pleased with Him in spite of the degradation of His sufferings. O God, in the multitude of Thy mercy hear Me, answering Him favorably, in the truth of Thy salvation, since it was the will of God that not a single soul of the great host of sinners should be lost, but that salvation should be gained for all men. V. 14. Deliver Me out of the mire, the swamp of the evils which had been laid upon Him, and let Me not sink; let Me be delivered from them that hate Me, and out of the deep waters, the floods of His misery and anguish which threatened to engulf Him. V. 15. Let not the water-flood overflow Me, neither let the deep, the abyss of death, swallow Me up, and let not the pit, the cistern, or well, shut her mouth upon Me, the picture being that of a receptacle for rain-water in the steppe, whose opening was shut with a large stone. V. 16. Hear Me, O Lord, answering Him favorable; for Thy loving-kindness is good, comforting and gracious; turn unto Me according to the multitude of Thy tender mercies, drawing near to Him in unmerited favor; for He was not merely playing a part, but was actually laboring under the burden of sins placed upon Him. V. 17. And hide not Thy face from Thy servant, in unforgiving anger; for I am in trouble, in the distress and anguish of the guilt tormenting Him; hear Me speedily, an urgent cry for early deliverance, Ps. 22, 1. V. 18. Draw nigh unto My soul, for the purpose of rendering His divine assistance, and redeem it; deliver Me because of Mine enemies, who were upon Him to take His life. V. 19. Thou hast known My reproach and My shame and My dishonor, the result of the sin imputed to Him according to the divine counsel of love for the salvation of mankind; Mine adversaries are all before Thee, no one being more familiar with the enemies and their plans, with the devil and his host, than the omniscient God. The Messiah’s lament grows in urgency as His distress increases. V. 20. Reproach hath broken My heart, the jeering slanders which struck Him from all sides crushed His soul; and I am full of heaviness, weak, failing under the burden; and I looked for some to take pity, waiting for sympathy and condolence in His unexampled misery, but there was none; and for comforters, men whose show of understanding kindness might serve to alleviate His anguish, but I found none. He had to tread the wine-press of God’s wrath all alone. V. 21. They gave Me also gall for My meat, for food in the midst of His sufferings; and in My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink, offering Him this astringent liquid when His body was racked with the most unbearable thirst. Such was the awful misery, the untold agony; the immeasurable anguish of Christ’s suffering, in His capacity as the Substitute of mankind, as the Redeemer of the world.
PLEA FOR VENGEANCE. — V. 22. Let their table become a snare before them, spread for a banquet as it appeared, Ps, 23, 5, it should become a trap to the enemies; and that which should have been for their welfare, let it become a trap, literally, “and to the secure for a snare.” Since no amount of seeking and calling could bring the enemies to their senses; since they persisted in rejecting Him and His Gospel, therefore the Messiah calls upon God to punish them as the hardness of their hearts deserved. V. 23. Let their eyes be darkened, in spiritual blindness, that they see not, and make their loins, commonly regarded as the seat of strength, continually to shake, in terror, dismay, and feebleness. V. 24. Pour out Thine indignation upon them, so that they would be submerged in the flood of righteous divine wrath, and let Thy wrathful anger take hold of them, overtaking them like a victorious enemy, for the purpose of enslaving and punishing them. V. 25. Let their habitation be desolate, their tents standing empty; and let none dwell in their tents, not one inhabitant remaining to relieve the horror of utter desolation. V. 26. For they persecute Him whom Thou hast smitten, pursuing the Messiah, stricken by the Lord as He was; and they talk to the grief of those whom Thou hast wounded, mockingly telling about the pains which the Lord’s wounds caused Christ as He hung on the cross. V. 27. Add iniquity unto their iniquity, charging their trespasses to their account with full interest; and let them not come into Thy righteousness, by their own fault they would not become partakers of the salvation which was gained also for them. V. 28. Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, where the redemption of the Messiah would have entered their names for eternity, and not be written with the righteous, to whom the perfect righteousness of the Savior is imputed by faith. Such is the fate of those who consistently refuse to accept Jesus Christ and His salvation, who reject the counsel of God which has planned their righteousness. They have no one but themselves to blame if the righteousness of the Savior is not imputed to them, if their names are stricken from the book of life. Having disposed of His enemies in this manner, the Messiah returns to His complaint and prayer, but with a triumphant strain over the salvation of all believers. V. 29. But I am poor and sorrowful, miserable and in pain, because of the burden of sin and its punishment which He has taken upon Himself; let Thy salvation, O God, set Me up on high. He was sure of victory and of triumph, even in the midst of His suffering; He was sure that the deliverance of God would exalt Him. And therefore His song of praise and thanksgiving to God was made even then. V. 30. I will praise the name of God with a song and will magnify Him with thanksgiving, for the completion of the great work of atonement, the sacrifice of praise rising from His lips more sweetly than incense. V. 31. This also shall please the Lord better than an ox or bullock that hath horns and hoofs, for all external acts of worship, without the proper devotional attitude of the mind, as the out. growth of true faith, are vain. Besides, the one sacrifice which our great High Priest brought is more acceptable in the eyes of Jehovah than all the offerings of brute beasts that were ever slaughtered, since with one sacrifice He has perfected forever them that are sanctified, Heb. 9. V. 32. The humble shall see this and be glad, the truly repentant and sorrowful rejoicing with their Redeemer over the fact of their salvation; and your heart shall live that seek God, literally, “ye who seek God,” let live your heart, their souls being filled not only with gladness, but with a new and wonderful life, the life which has its source in God and brings the only lasting, satisfying happiness. V. 33. For the Lord heareth the poor, listening attentively and graciously to the voice of those who feel their need of salvation, and despiseth not His prisoners, those who have so long been bound by the fetters of sin and its consequences. Therefore the psalm ends with a triumphant burst of praise in honor of the salvation of God, as revealed and obtained in the Messiah. V. 34. Let the heaven and earth praise Him, the seas and everything that moveth therein, all creatures, the entire universe being called upon to give all honor to His merciful and holy name. V. 35. For God will save Zion, His Church, and will build the cities of Judah, all the congregations of the Messianic period being included here, that they may dwell there and have it in possession, all the blessings of Jehovah, as given through the redemption of Christ, being given to the believers through the means of grace. V. 36. The seed also of His servants, all the spiritual children of the many messengers of the Lord, who proclaim the redemption of Christ, shall Inherit It, the blessings continuing in the Church as long as time endures; and they that love His name shall dwell therein, here in time in the Kingdom of Grace and its many cities, hereafter in eternity, in the Kingdom of Glory. After the days of the Church Militant will have been ended, the eternity of the Church Triumphant will begin, when the redeemed of the Lord will dwell with their exalted Head forevermore and praise His name, world without end.