October 27, 2014
From the desk of Dr. A.J. Higgins
They Gave Me Gall
“They gave Me gall for My meat;
and in My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink.”
To the first-time reader of Psalm 69, the words of verse 21 appear to bring the initial part of the Psalm to a discordant end. His shame and reproach have been the theme of the song thus far; yet it ends with a reminder that gall was offered for His meat and vinegar was given in His thirst. Why is this mentioned as the capstone of His undeserved and ill-treatment at the hands of men? What does it denote and what is it meant to convey to us?
Ignorance as to the ‘Why’ of His Suffering
The gall was given to alleviate some of the suffering of the cross. The offer (Matt 27:34) was perhaps as an anodyne given routinely to all criminals. The reason would be that the Roman soldiers would assume that everyone would want to escape pain and suffering as much as possible. It was the natural thing to do.
They were ignorant that before them was One Who had come expressly for the purpose of suffering. Rather than avoiding the awfulness of what the cross would mean, it was the purpose for which He had come: “Christ hath once suffered for sins” (1 Pet 3:18).
Insensitivity as to the Depth of His Suffering
In response to the Lord’s words, “I thirst” (John 19:28), soldiers ran and filled a sponge and, having placed it on a reed, offered it to Him. But His thirst was not merely that of a physical need that they could meet. As the hart panted after the water brook (Ps 42:1), so His holy soul panted after the resumption of the enjoyment of His fellowship with God. Who can measure the soul thirst when He was forsaken at Calvary? In the words of Psalm 16, “In Thy presence is fullness of joy” (v 16); at Calvary, that “presence” was withdrawn. The opposite of the fullness of joy can only mean the depths of grief and sorrow. His was a thirst not to be slaked by human hands and natural means. Yet men were totally insensitive to the awful depths of His grief and thirst. To them, it could be met by a sponge dipped in vinegar.
He uttered His words, “I thirst,” in light of the need to fulfill Scripture. But it also revealed the insensitive heart of men to the reality and depths of His suffering.
Indifference to His Worth
Gall and vinegar, strange “gifts” to bring to the One Who hung upon the cross, yet was King of the Jews. At His birth, Magi brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Now Gentiles once again bring “gifts” to Him. Gall and vinegar – not very costly, and not very fitting.
There were those at the cross who shouted, in response to His words, “Let be; let us see whether Elias will come to save Him” (Matt 27:49).
Indifferent to the worth of the One Who hung before them, soldiers presented things which highlighted His shame and dishonor. The very opposite of what He deserved was offered at Calvary.
Thus, the sufferings and shame of Christ as depicted in Psalm 69 end upon an appropriate and fitting note: that which displayed the ignorance, insensitivity, and indifference of man to His suffering and worth.