One of the great turning-points that led me to have a greater awe in the Bible was when I found that the Bible spoke of Jesus before he ever came. The Bible spoke of him hundreds, and almost thousands of years before he came. There are scores of prophecies of Jesus in the Old Testament. My favorite one though, is the twenty-second Psalm.
Psalm 22 depicts the whole crucifixion scene. Here are verses 12-18:
Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
they open wide they’re mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion.
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast;
my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.
For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and my feet- I can count all of my bones-
they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them,and for my clothing they cast lots. (ESV)
Now let me rehash some of what we read above in case you missed it.
- The person speaking here dies at the hands of persecutors (you lay me in the dust of death)
- The person here is in deep physical anguish (my heart is like wax; my strength is dried up)
- The person here has their hands and feet pierced (they have pierced my hands and feet)
- The person’s garments are taken by the persecutors (they divide my garments among them)
- The person’s clothing -seemingly a different article of it than above- is also gambled for (for my clothing they cast lots)
The Awe of God’s Foretelling
This is astonishing! In the beautiful mysterious way that Biblical prophecy does, this Psalm startlingly, even pointedly, depicts Jesus’ last moments. What’s even more fascinating, is that not only does it mention his hands and feet being pierced, but it also mentions both the dividing of Jesus’ garment, and the gambling for his cloak. This is detailed in the Gospel of John chapter 19, verse 23:
When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be. (ESV)
Another interesting fact is that this Psalm couldn’t fully represent David, its Old Testament author, because these events do not line up with how David died, or even how he was persecuted.1
So how long before Jesus’ crucifixion was this Psalm written? Biblical scholars place the composition of this Psalm in the time of the Davidic Dynasty, somewhere around 1000 BC.2 But even scholars who push for a later date, date the writing of this Psalm around 587 BC.3 So this Psalm was written at the latest about 600 years before Jesus underwent crucifixion. Now, what’s incredible about this date, even the later date, is that this is before the practice of crucifixion even existed yet.4 So the Psalmist mentioning hands and feet being pierced has no natural explanation.
The Consolation of God’s Promise and His Plan
Why would God go through the trouble of announcing this beforehand in this strange mysterious way? Because God delights to fill us with awe at the beauty and mystery of his coming as a man. Jesus quoted this Psalm from the cross.5 It was one of his last words before he died. He cried out from the cross “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” which is the first line of Psalm 22. This was Jesus pointing us to this Psalm, and his death as the fulfillment of it.
This Psalm is the poetry of God, displaying to us the agony of his own suffering for us. It is fitting that the most glorious event in the cosmos was foretold by it’s creator in song. In his infinite mercy, God became a man, was born into human history, and lived a perfectly righteous life, in order that he could take all our sin, shame, condemnation, punishment, and death, -all of it, on himself through the cross, and give us his brilliantly perfect righteous life in place of our own sinful one.
Why was Jesus forsaken on the cross? So that we never will be. We will never be forsaken, left, forgotten, or neglected by him. There no longer remains punishment, shame, guilt, or fear. They were all placed on Jesus in the brutality of the cross. Instead he pours out on us his love, kindness, delight, and nearness. You are so dear to him, that he died for you. There is no more religious working, white knuckling, measuring up, earning, or trying to merit his approval, because his perfect, sinless, earthly life he gives to you; it is counted as yours. You are adored. Your sins are gone. You are free. And you will be an example of the glorious depth of his unparalleled love throughout the ages of eternity future.