Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sermon: Psalm 22 The Saviour in the Psalm

As we read the Psalm this evening, I wonder what you made of it? Portions of it seem very familiar, such as those first words: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ They’re the words that Jesus quotes on the cross, as he cries out to the Father. Now because of that, you might be tempted to think that this is an eye-witness account of the crucifixion.

Just think of the reporting of verses 7-8: ‘All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; ‘He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!’ That’s exactly what the chief priests and scribes cry out at Jesus as he hangs on the cross.

Or think of the thirst of the Lord Jesus - ‘my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws.’ And what about this comment: ‘For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and my feet - I can count all my bones - they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.’

The details are as realistic and accurate as the accounts we read in the four gospels. Has this newspaper report, this first hand testimony been sneaked into the Psalms when the Bible was being compiled? How can it be so spot on in what it says?

Yet remember who the author is. In the title of the Psalm, we’re told that this is ‘a Psalm of David’. Our Psalm was written a thousand years before Jesus; hundreds of years before crucifixion was even invented; yet it perfectly matches and describes the scene of the crucifixion.

You might be thinking - well, so what? Why does it matter that this was written so long before? This is just another of the so many types and shadows and prophecies we find in the Old Testament, pointing forward and bearing witness to the work and redemption of the Lord Jesus; another confirmation that the cross has been God’s plan all along; that Jesus was walking in the way prepared beforehand for him, fulfilling the Father’s will and the word of the Lord in saving us.

David has experienced some kind of difficulty, in which it felt as if God had abandoned him; he records the incident; but the Holy Spirit, who inspired those words, applies them to great David’s greater Son; providing in advance, the details of the great cost of our salvation.

As Jesus quotes these words on the cross, he’s not picking words at random. He is consciously fulfilling the scriptures, and pointing to the context of the verse; the whole Psalm in which it is contained. He’s showing that he himself is the truly God-forsaken one; as the Father turns his back on his Son, who bears the weight of our sin on his shoulders.

By nature and choice, we turn our backs on God. We follow the devices and desires of our sinful hearts, and forsake God. Yet Jesus, the Father’s Son who from all eternity has been in the bosom of the Father; the beloved Son - as he takes our sin upon him, the Father must turn away; must judge our sin in his body. Jesus is cut off - bearing our sin he feels the forsakenness we deserved.

But that’s not the end of the story. You see, Psalm 22 does not end with the prophecy of the cross. And Jesus’ death is not the end of the story either. As Paul writes to the Corinthians - if it was the end of the story, then we’re the most of all people to be pitied; without hope. Did you notice the change that comes in the middle of verse 21? It says this: ‘Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!’ The rest of the Psalm is so much more positive - in it, we find the praise of the saving Lord.

The I continues - it’s the same person speaking: ‘I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.’ David - and the Christ - sees beyond death to this ongoing existence; this new life for the Lord and his people.

This is good news of a great hope for all who trust in the Lord - the offspring of Jacob; the offspring of Israel. There is peace and prosperity for the congregation - blessings abound.

But again, that’s not the end of the story. The scope of salvation is wider still - ‘All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.’ It’s not just salvation for Israel - but salvation for all nations, for anyone who trusts in the Lord. That’s why we, Northern Irish or British or however you designate yourself - why we can share in this great salvation; how we can be confident of our place in eternity.

So how do we apply our Psalm? What can we take away from it? How will life be different for us?

The first thing to take away is that God’s word is true and trustworthy. Even though this was written a thousand years before the crucifixion, we see how perfectly accurate it all was. Imagine trying to write a prediction for something that would happen in 3012? If it was written down and protected, and then discovered in that year; how accurate do you think you would be?

Yet this scripture was written by David under the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to perfectly point to the way of salvation; the cost if would take to bring us back to God. So as you read the scripture; especially the Old Testament - ask yourself - what does this show us about the Lord Jesus?

Secondly, it shows us the great love of the Lord Jesus, that he would endure such shame and pain for our sake. The gospel accounts can be very sparse - they merely say ‘he was crucified’. Here we find what it involved for the sinless one to bear our sin. Will your heart be moved to praise and thank him, and marvel at his love?

And finally, we’re shown that the cross was no mistake, no accident; that things didn’t just happen to go wrong. The cross was the settled will and plan of God, and was not the end of the story. The good news is that Jesus has endured, and now sits enthroned in heaven, from where he calls his people to himself, from every tribe and nation and language and people.

Will you join your voice to that great crowd that no one can number, and rejoice in his death and his resurrection? The battle has been fought; the victory is secure.

This sermon was preached in the Brooke Memorial Hall, Brookeborough on Sunday 11th March 2012.

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