March 03, 2014
From the desk of Dr. A.J. Higgins
Psalm 22:1 Why art Thou so far from helping Me
22:11 Be not far from Me for trouble is near
22:19 Be not Thou far from Me, O Lord, O My Strength
There are distances which cannot be measured by any standards known to man. Neither imperial, metric, or any other customary units of measurement suffice. Light years pale into insignificance when we come to the distance the Lord Jesus knew at Calvary. “So far” is the only description that adequately measures the distance. Each of the three expressions of distance in Psalm 22 gives a different aspect of His being forsaken on the cross. Each reveals something different about what He had to experience for our salvation.
In verse 1, He was abandoned. “Why hast Thou forsaken Me?” is the unanswered question which echoes throughout the moral universe, finding its answer only in the heart of God. Perhaps, verse 3 might express His bowing to the holy claims of God: “But Thou art holy.” In contrast to that, however, it might deepen the moral mystery that the One Who is holy should abandon the only Holy Man Who ever lived. “Thou” and “Me” would then be the emphatic words of the sentence.
In verse 11 He is alone; there were none there to help. Not only was He forsaken of His God, but there was no one there to comfort or encourage. While there may have been the women around the cross, their appreciation for His suffering and their understanding of its reason was limited. Alone He endured the hatred of men, the hostility of Satan, and, most poignantly, the hand of God. Neither the tears of the “daughters of Jerusalem” nor the broken heart of Mary (Luke 2:35) plumbed the depths of His grief.
In verse 19, we move beyond His being abandoned by God and alone without friend or comforter. He is seen attacked on all side by His foes: the sword of death, the lion (Satan), the dogs (Gentiles), the unicorn or wild ox (Israel). His foes were on every side and His friends had fled.
Like the scapegoat of the Day of Atonement, He is seen going into a land “not inhabited,” a land into which no one else had ever, or will ever, travel. Even those lost eternally will not experience what He experienced. The reason: they have never known the fellowship and presence of God. He knew it in its fullness, unblemished and unbroken, throughout a past eternity. That was the point from which He came. He traversed the distance to the cross. He alone could know the full grief of the withdrawal of the enjoyment of that fellowship. He alone can measure that distance.
1. Although the word “so” in verse 1 is in italics, if we allow it as the meaning of the expression, then “so far” is found twice: here and in Psalm 103:12, “So far has He removed our transgressions from us.”
2. There are three statements in verse 1: “. forsaken Me . so far from helping Me . and from the words of My roaring.” Link these three with three statements about our Great High Priest in the Hebrew epistle. He is able to succor, able to sympathize, and able to save. Can you see how they correspond?
3. Compare Psalm 22 and 23: What is the contrast with the forsaking He knew in Psalm 22 when you come to Psalm 23? In fact, can you contrast virtually every statement in Psalm 23 (what we have and enjoy), with what He experienced in Psalm 22?