March 17, 2014
From the desk of Dr. A.J. Higgins
The Distinctive Conjunctions
V 3 But Thou art holy
V 6 But I am a worm
V 9 But Thou He that took Me
V 19 But be not Thou far
V 24 But when He cried He heard
Conjunctions are some of the smallest words in our English vocabulary, yet they carry incredible force and significance. They are perhaps only exceeded by the power of prepositions in their impact on the meaning of a passage. As far as conjunctions, who can measure the value of the great “But” of Ephesians 2:4; and for prepositions, the countless number who have found peace in the little word “for” of Romans 5:6?
Psalm 22 contains five significant “buts” in its span of 31 verses. The word places into sharp contrast what precedes with what follows. The first one we find is in verse 3: “But Thou art holy.” Here is the Explanation for all He is passing through; here we understand why He has been forsaken.
The next one we encounter is the contrast in Estimation. “I am a worm and no man” is the value that the Gentiles and His own nation placed upon Him. He was a reproach or a shame to humanity in their eyes, and despised by Israel. The great heroes of the faith who had trusted God had always been vindicated by Him. Their trust had been rewarded and even their foes had to acknowledge that God was with them. But for Him at Calvary, there was no vindication despite perfect trust.
In verse 9, there is a contrast in His Evaluation. His life had been marked by trust from His mother’s womb. He was the only person who ever came into the world of Whom it could rightly be said that God was His God from His mother’s womb. His life had been one of unbroken and unwavering trust. Men mocked His claim to trust in God (v 8); a claim that they now viewed as false in light of His plight at Calvary. But He had trusted from the moment He left heaven’s wonders for the womb of the virgin.
Verses 16-18 tell of those surrounding the cross, and by implication, those not there. Here then is a great contrast in His Expectations. The dogs, bulls, and lions surrounded and closed in on their prey at Calvary. “Lover and friend” had forsaken Him. “But be not Thou far” was the plaintive cry of the abandoned Savior on the cross. Others might prove fierce in their attacks; others might prove failing in their faithfulness. But he turned to His God amidst this all and clung faithfully to Him.
Finally, in verse 24, there is a wonderful “but” amidst His song of praise to His God. “But when He cried, He heard.” His cry at Calvary was answered. It was not answered immediately; that was Friday. But it was answered on a Sunday morning. It was answered with resurrection. God did not despise or think lightly of the afflictions of the afflicted One; He did not permanently hide His face. The “but” of Exaltation tells us of a God Who was faithful and Who answered His cry. He was raised from the dead by “the glory of the Father” (Rom 6:4).
Look at the three “yet” expressions of Isaiah 53 for another similar meditation.
Trace the pronouns “Thou” and “My” through the Psalm as well.