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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Psalm 22, Part 2, A Song of Triumph

In Part 1, we looked at the first 18 verses of Psalm 22 as a lament. It was a perfect picture of Christ’s crucifixion as described in the New Testament. It is one of the most amazing segments of literature ever written. Starting with verse 19, however, an entirely different mood prevails. And yet, the reference to dog, bulls, lions, and the sword makes it clear that part 2 of the psalm fits with verses 1-18. In the later verses of part 1, the sufferer is laid in the dust of death. He dies! So how is he rejoicing in the entire rest of the psalm?

19 But you, Lord, do not be far from me.
You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
20 Deliver me from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dogs.
21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
save me from the horns of the wild oxen.

I know I’m pushing it here, but I like to think that we are seeing the soul of the not yet resurrected Christ in the above verses. He is separated from his body and sees the devilish realms that orchestrated his death still threatening. Believe me, bloggophiles, I have read many an afterlife scenario in which a soul was rescued from dark regions by a Being of Light, a cosmic Judge, a Loving Guide. This is the newly deceased Savior of mankind now hovering above the cross.  He knows that a trip to sheol is on the plan. He has attained the keys to death, hell, and the grave, and is about to use it. He sent one more prayer of supplication to the Father, whom he has been addressing all throughout the psalm.

22 I will declare your name to my people;
in the assembly I will praise you.
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or scorned
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.

The Messiah did not come to Earth to quietly slip away and have his mission forgotten. His thoughts turn to the Church or to the synagogue, where God’s people reside. He wants to make known the marvelous plan of God, but now that he is no longer here on Earth, it is up to us to carry on with that task. We are not to be closet Christians. We are to proclaim the message boldly. God has not abandoned us. He never will. He has a plan, even when he is not in evidence. In times of trial, we must remind ourselves of God’s former mercy to us and to our families.

25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows.
26 The poor will eat and be satisfied;
those who seek the Lord will praise him—
may your hearts live forever!

This Holy Hero who died and yet is not dead has wrought a great victory in the Earth. His renown will be known to the very ends of the planet and God will be glorified. No longer are only the Jews the Chosen, the holy people. God has invited all nations, all ethnic groups, for all time to his celebratory banquet. A thank offering, also called a fellowship offering, may be alluded to here. The meat of the sacrifice could be eaten by the offerer, but both genders, but people of all levels of society. It all had to be eaten on the day of the feast, so one invited as many guests as possible. The person calling for this celebration would openly tell the crowd about some vow that had been made, and how God brought deliverance and help. The main purpose of the feast was to eat and celebrate what God had done. The poor will no longer be in want or hunger. They will be well represented in the congregation.

27 All the ends of the earth
will remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before him,
28 for dominion belongs to the Lord
and he rules over the nations.

A later prophet named Isaiah would write that God’s temple would be a house of prayer for all people. There is no burnt offering in Psalm 22 because the Sufferer was the ultimate offering, the final atonement for the sins of mankind. It doesn’t mean that every person on earth would turn to God but that there would be representatives of every nation in the great assembly. Nor is there war in the psalm, because Jesus reminded us that his kingdom is not of this earth. He is the Prince of Peace.

29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
those who cannot keep themselves alive.

The poor will serve him. The many ethnic groups will serve him. The rich will serve him. Even the dead will honor him. These souls are not sleeping. They have left their wealth and fame, which had no power to delay the day of their death.

30 Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord.
31 They will proclaim his righteousness,
declaring to a people yet unborn:
He has done it!

Because of the triumph of the Holy Sufferer, all future generations will be blessed. The last words of the psalm (He has done it) have the same ring as “It is done!” It was God’s plan all along. The door has been thrown open. Blessings and eternal satisfaction await the one who ventures through it. Over them, the dogs, lions, and bulls have no more power, neither in this life nor in the one to come.