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This Bible study on Psalm 22 contains outlines, extensive cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, lessons to learn, and applications.  Visit our inductive Bible studies for more studies on this and other books of the Bible. 

Psalm 22 Bible Study Commentary And Questions – The Suffering Of The Messiah

Outline

I. David’s confusion (1-2)
II. David remembers God’s goodness (3-5)
III. David’s sufferings (6-8)
IV. David remembers God’s faithfulness (9-11)
V. David’s trials (12-18)
VI. David pleads with God for deliverance (19-21)
VII. David praises the Lord (22-31)

I. David’s confusion (1-2)

Discussion Questions

• Who wrote this psalm?
• What is the key theme of this psalm?
• Is this Psalm about David or Jesus or both? Explain.
• What do you observe about David’s emotions and feelings as he was praying this?
• Is it wrong to mention being forsaken and God not answering his prayers? Was this lacking faith?
• Have you ever felt like you were abandoned and God did not answer you?
• What might you be tempted to do during those times?
• What can you learn from David’s response when he was confused?
• What does this passage teach you about prayer?
• What prophecies in this Psalm did Jesus fulfill?

Cross-References

Matthew 27:46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. Messianic psalm – Psalm 22 is one of the most famous Messianic psalms in Scripture. That means that many of the events described by the writer point forward to the life and experiences of the coming Messiah. While David was describing his own feelings and situation to some extent, at the same time he was being inspired by the Holy Spirit to write about the future Messiah. That future Messiah would be David’s descendant and often called “son of David.” (Luke 18:38). David’s life pointed to his.

Many of the things David describes in Psalm 22 were partially realized in his own life, but fully fulfilled in the Messiah.

For example:

• David felt forsaken. The Messiah would be forsaken to a much greater extent.
• David felt like a “worm” and “despised” by people. The Messiah would experience more deeply.
• David experienced mocking. The Messiah was ridiculed and scorned to the point his accusers killed him.
• David was prepared for a task from before birth (9-10), while the Messiah was chosen for to save the world from before the foundations of the earth were layed.
• David felt weak, stretched, and faint (14-15). The Messiah would literally experience all of these things.
• David was figuratively pierced. The Messiah would be literally pierced (16).
• David experienced hunger (17). The Messiah would be wracked on a cross so that his ribs could be counted.
• Whatever David experienced as far as his clothing being taken and gambled for, the Messiah watched as they gambled for his clothes while He was hanging on the cross.

The list goes on. As you read this Psalm the name, “Jesus!” yells at you from the pages. It is almost impossible to read this Psalm without thinking, “this sounds like Jesus.”

Even atheists and devout Jews who seek to deny the prophetic implications of this Psalm spend much time arguing against the fact that it refers to Jesus. They do this because it sounds like Jesus!

If something walks like a dog, barks like a dog, and looks like a dog, it is probably a dog.

In this case, the obvious references to the life, and especially the death, of Jesus on the cross cannot be denied.

And Jesus did not want people to miss it. When He was hanging on the cross, he quoted Psalm 22:1.

Matthew 27:46 – And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Why did He say these exact words at this exact time? Part of it was to call attention to the fact that He was fulfilling the prophecies made about the Messiah even in the Old Testament. Saying these words was a way to point all onlookers to Psalm 22. He is basically saying, “Look at Psalm 22! Don’t miss it! Don’t miss the implications of what I am doing here.”

2. This Psalm is evidence of the inspiration of Scriptures and God’s sovereignty – Fulfilled prophecy is one of the most convincing indicators that Scripture is inspired and credible. In Psalm 22, David writes in remarkable detail about the events surrounding Jesus’ death, which wouldn’t occur for over a thousand years. The descriptions very accurately portray death on a cross, which hadn’t even been invented yet!

And lest anyone say that Scripture has been changed over the years to force it to fit Jesus, when the dead sea scrolls were discovered a fragment of Psalm 22 was found that validated the modern translations we have of Psalm 22.

The Old Testament is filled with foreshadowing, types of Christ, prophecies, and symbols which point to the coming Messiah. God’s redemption plan was established before creation. This shows His sovereignty over history and the writing of Scriptures. It shows His providence in that He is not a passive observer of human history, but He writes the story. And it shows His grace as He gives us, His creation, ample evidence of what He is doing and going to do so that we have no excuse for missing it.

Reflect – Spend some time reading and meditating on this Psalm. Consider what these prophecies teach us about the character and nature of God.

3. David’s confusion – David felt that God had abandoned Him. We don’t know when he wrote this psalm, but there were many times in his life he faced serious trials. Often, he was on the run for his life. He had been anointed as king of Israel, and yet things didn’t go smoothly right away. Things got worse. Even later after he was king, he fought many battles. His own son attempted a coup and started a civil war. That civil war was followed by another civil war.

At some point during all of this, David cries out to God in confusion. And he did not immediately feel or see an answer (verse 2).

Reflect – Had God forsaken him? Was it wrong for him to pray this way?

God does not forsake His people. This is a promise.

Deuteronomy 31:6 – Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.

Believers are held safe in His hands.

John 10:27-28 – My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

And yet many times, it may feel as if God has forsaken us. When we experience pain, suffering, or terrible trials it is hard to see the hand of God in those situations. This is what David was feeling.

As we move forward, we will see that David expressed trust in God (verses 3-5), so he was not impugning God’s character. Rather he was attempting to understand why God allowed him to face such difficulties. He wanted to know God’s purpose in allowing these sufferings.

The best place to take our confusion is to God. When we have questions, we should ask Him. God knows our hearts already. There is no purpose in feigning total understanding or agreement with the situation we are in. Faking our feelings or attempting be more spiritual than what we are will get us nowhere.

If we do not understand something, we should ask God and study His Scriptures. The very same question can be asked in sincerity or out of disbelief (or even hostility). Mary and Zachariah both asked the angel how the prophecy regarding their prospective children could come to pass. The angel rebuked Zachariah but graciously answered Mary. Gabriel must have discerned that Mary asked out of a sincere desire to learn while Zachariah asked out of disbelief.

Application – Be honest with God. Take your confusion to Him.

We should point out that when Jesus cried out with these words to God, He was forsaken by God during that moment (at least on some level.) He took the sins of the world onto Himself and carried them on the cross. Because of that, God poured out His wrath upon Him. His perfect fellowship with God was severed.

We learn two key principles from this.

A. Jesus was truly forsaken so that you don’t have to be. He took your sin onto Himself so that you don’t have to bear it. When Jesus asked “Why have you forsaken me?” to the father, the answer is “so that I never have to forsake anyone else again.” Jesus is the way to the arms of the Father. And once you are safe in His arms, He will never let you go.

B. Know that however you may feel and whatever trials you are experiencing, Jesus faced far worse on your behalf. If your flesh cries out to God asking why He has abandoned you and doesn’t you, remember the truth. The truth is, He loves you. He does not forsake you. And that truth was proven on the cross. You might feel like you are abandoned, but feelings lie to us all the time.

Hebrews 4:15 – For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.II. David remembers God’s goodness (3-5)

Discussion Questions

• How does David deal with his feelings of doubt and confusion?
• Was he reminding himself of God’s holiness or praising God for it?
• How can you address feelings of doubt or confusion in your prayers?
• When you are feeling confused, how important is it to make statements of your faith in God during prayer time?

Cross-References

Proverbs 3:5 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. Yet you are holy – David did not allow his feelings to take him off the deep end. As soon as he shared with God his confusion about his current situation, he immediately came back to the foundational truth, “yet you are holy.”

David held on to what he is sure of. He doesn’t attack God’s character. He knows God is holy and good. He repeats this to himself.

And in verses 4-5, he acknowledged that God has been faithful in the past. He has answered prayers. He has not abandoned His people. That knowledge gave David renewed faith and confidence in the Lord.

Application – David gives us a good model of prayer here. It is good to take our confusion to God. But we should not remain in a questioning posture for a long time. When our feelings make us question God’s plans, we should review the truths we know about Him. We should repeat back His promises. We should recall how He has been faithful in our lives in the past. We should make declarations of faith in God’s goodness. It can be helpful to take our eyes off of the immediate troubles surrounding us and lift them up to gaze at God. When we do, the potency of those troubles will fade.

III. David’s sufferings (6-8)

Discussion Questions

• Why did David describe himself as a worm?
• How was Jesus like a worm?
• Why was Jesus despised?
• How were verses 7-8 fulfilled in Jesus’ life?

Cross-References

Matthew 27:40-44 – “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.

Isaiah 53:3 – He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. I am a worm and not a man – David felt dehumanized by many of the things he faced. He wasn’t even treated like a man, much less like a king. A worm does not defend itself. It is trampled on, cast aside, and ignored. A worm is not valued or respected. It is despised.

This statement also points to Jesus. He was despised, disrespected, rejected, cast aside, and trampled. The cross dehumanized Him, robbing Him of His dignity.

The word in Hebrew for worm here refers to the kermes worm. The kermes worm is small and seemingly insignificant. But in ancient times, it was a source of crimson dye. The word crimson itself comes from the word “kermes.”

Its process for giving birth was very interesting. A female kermes worm would attach itself to a tree. Once attached, it wouldn’t leave. Its own body would protect its eggs. After they were hatched, the new larvae would feed on their mother’s body. After she died, crimson fluid would stain her body and leave a mark on the tree. It was from these dead bodies that scarlet dyes could be extracted in the ancient world. Finally, the body itself will turn white and fall to the ground like snow.

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