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10. Psalms 22, 38, and 88: Which Are Messianic?

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Outline of Series

Argument:

I. Psalm 22 is nearly always considered messianic.

II. Psalms 38 and 88 are seldom, if ever, included in academic lists of messianic psalms. 

III. Psalms 22:1-21a, 38, and 88 have strong similarities among themselves and with New Testament citations and allusions.

IV. The texts of Psalms 22:1-21a, 38, and 88 are highly similar in tone and content.

V. Given that a few academic writers, for example, Augustine and Richard Belcher, and many devotional writers, such as Andrew Bonar, claim to hear the voice of Christ in his passion prophetically spoken through the words of Psalms 38 and 88, this writer concludes that these psalms and many such psalms may reasonably be considered as prophetically pronouncing the prayers of Christ, even though not directly cited as messianic by New Testament writers.

 

I. Psalm 22, which is directly messianic, is one of the most frequently cited psalms in the New Testament. In addition to quotations, there are multiple allusions to it. Portions of the psalm refer to events that never occurred in King David’s life, nor in the life of any other Israelite king. Psalm 22 was always and originally intended to refer to King Jesus, as the inscription on the cross above his head testified, ” …’This is the King of the Jews.'” (Luke 23:38)

 

 

New Testament Citations of Psalm 22

 

Psalm 22:1 To the choirmaster: according to The Doe of the Dawn. A Psalm of David. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?

 

 

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?”

Mark 15:34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

 

Psalm 22:18 they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.

 

 

John 19:24 so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” So the soldiers did these things,

Matthew 27:35 And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots.

 

Psalm 22:22 I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:

 

 

Hebrews 2:12 saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”

 

 

New Testament Allusions to Psalm 22

 

 Psalm 22:1 To the choirmaster: according to The Doe of the Dawn. A Psalm of David. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?

 

Hebrews 5:7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.

Psalm 22:5 To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

 Romans 9:33 as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

Psalm 22:7 All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;

 

Luke 23:35 And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine.

See also Mat 27:39-43; Mar 15:29-32

Psalm 22:8 “He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”

Matthew 3:17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Mark 1:11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Luke 3:22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Psalm 22:15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.

 

John 19:28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.”

Psalm 22:16 For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet–

 

Mark 15:24 And they crucified him…

Luke 24:40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.

John 19:37 And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”

John 20:25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

See also Mat 27:35;  Luk 23:33; Joh 19:23

Psalm 22:17 I can count all my bones– they stare and gloat over me;

 

Luke 23:35 And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!”

Psalm 22:18 they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.

 

Matthew 27:35 And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots.

See also Luke 23:34

Psalm 22:20 Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog!

 

Revelation 22:15 Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

See also Phi 3:2

Psalm 22:24 For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him.

 

Hebrews 5:7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.

 Psalm 22:26 The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD! May your hearts live forever!

 

John 6:51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

 

Psalm 22:27 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.

 

Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

 Psalm 22:28 For kingship belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations.

 

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

 Psalm 22:29 All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, even the one who could not keep himself alive.

 

Philippians 2:10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

 

II. Following is a list of commonly accepted messianic psalms. Neither Psalm 38 nor Psalm 88 is on this list. Generally, only those psalms which are cited in the New Testament are considered messianic. Academicians debate whether psalms not cited by New Testament authors as messianic can be considered so by other academicians and lay readers.

Messianic Psalms Quoted in the New Testament

Excerpted from  http://www.simplybible.com/f01p-psalms-about-christ.htm

 

III. Following is a chart showing similarities between Psalm 22, which is broadly accepted as directly messianic, and Psalms 38 and 88 respectively, which are generally not included in lists of messianic psalms.

 

Verse Comparisons of Psalms 22, 38, and 88

 


Psalm 22

NT Citations NT Allusions Psalm 38

Psalm 88

         

1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?

Mt 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?”

See also Mk15:34

Heb 5:7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.

21 Do not forsake me, O LORD! O my God, be not far from me!

14 O LORD, why do you cast my soul away? Why do you hide your face from me? 4 I am counted among those who go down to the pit…5 like one set loose among the dead… whom you remember no more, for they are cut off from your hand.

         

18 they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.

Mt 27:35 And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots.

See also Jn 19:24

     
         

22 I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:

Heb 2:12 saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”

     
         

7 All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;

 

Lk 23:35 And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!”

 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine

 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”

16 For I said, “Only let them not rejoice over me, who boast against me when my foot slips!”

 

 
         

11 Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help.

 

Mt 26:56 But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled.

11 My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague, and my nearest kin stand far off.

8 You have caused my companions to shun me; you have made me a horror to them. I am shut in so that I cannot escape;

         

12 Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me; 16 For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet–

   

19 But my foes are vigorous, they are mighty, and many are those who hate me wrongfully.

 
         

15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.

   

13 But I am like a deaf man; I do not hear, like a mute man who does not open his mouth.

 14 I have become like a man who does not hear, and in whose mouth are no rebukes.

4 I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am a man who has no strength,

         

17 I can count all my bones– they stare and gloat over me;

       
         

20 Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog!  21 Save me from the mouth of the lion!

   

20 Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog!  21 Save me from the mouth of the lion!

9 my eye grows dim through sorrow. Every day I call upon you, O LORD; I spread out my hands to you… 13 But I, O LORD, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you.

         

 

Psalms 38 and 88 add the element of God’s wrath to the crucifixion. Additionally, Psalm 22:1-2 speak of God’s having forsaken Christ, but Psalm 22 does not speak of God’s will and purpose having placed Christ on the cross. Psalms 33 and 88 do make this clear in addition to making clear that the cross was an expression of God’s wrath.

Psalm 38:2 For your arrows have sunk into me, and your hand has come down on me.

 3 There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin.

Psalm 88:6 You have put me in the depths of the pit, in the regions dark and deep.

 7 Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah

 8 You have caused my companions to shun me; you have made me a horror to them. I am shut in so that I cannot escape;

Psalm 88: 15 Afflicted and close to death from my youth up, I suffer your terrors; I am helpless.

 16 Your wrath has swept over me; your dreadful assaults destroy me.

 17 They surround me like a flood all day long; they close in on me together.

18 You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; my companions have become darkness.

None of the three psalms considered here make clear that Christ’s death on the cross was substitutionary—a sacrificial atonement for sin–the just for the unjust, the righteous for the unrighteous. The New Testament epistles do teach this, however.

NET  2 Corinthians 5:21 God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God.

ESV  Romans 8:3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,

Hebrews 9:26 … he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,

In 1 Peter 2:24 just above, Peter quotes from Isaiah 53:5.

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.  4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.

The New Testament’s Acts and epistles use forms of the word “suffer” when referring to Christ’s sacrificial ordeal upon the cross.

Acts 1:3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

Acts 17:3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.”

Hebrews 9: 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own,  26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.  27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,  28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Hebrews 13:12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.

 

IV. Further insight into similarities among Psalms 22, 38, and 88 can be had by reading the three psalms side by side or in parallel fashion.

 

 

Psalms 22, 38, and 88 Side by Side

 

Psalm 22:1 To the choirmaster: according to The Doe of the Dawn. A Psalm of David. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?

Psalm 38:1 A Psalm of David, for the memorial offering. O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath!

Psalm 88:1 A Song. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah. To the choirmaster: according to Mahalath Leannoth. A Maskil of Heman the Ezrahite. O LORD, God of my salvation; I cry out day and night before you.

Psalm 22:2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.

Psalm 38:2 For your arrows have sunk into me, and your hand has come down on me.

Psalm 88:2 Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry!

Psalm 22:3 Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.

Psalm 38:3 There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin.

Psalm 88:3 For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol.

Psalm 22:4 In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them.

 

Psalm 38:4 For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.

Psalm 88:4 I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am a man who has no strength,

 

Psalm 22:5 To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

 

Psalm 38:5 My wounds stink and fester because of my foolishness,

Psalm 88:5 like one set loose among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, like those whom you remember no more, for they are cut off from your hand.

 

Psalm 22:6 But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people.

 

Psalm 38:6 I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; all the day I go about mourning.

Psalm 88:6 You have put me in the depths of the pit, in the regions dark and deep.

 

Psalm 22:7 All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;

 

Psalm 38:7 For my sides are filled with burning, and there is no soundness in my flesh.

Psalm 88:7 Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah

 

Psalm 22:8 “He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”

 

Psalm 38:8 I am feeble and crushed; I groan because of the tumult of my heart.

Psalm 88:8 You have caused my companions to shun me; you have made me a horror to them. I am shut in so that I cannot escape;

 

Psalm 22:9 Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.

 

Psalm 38:9 O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you.

Psalm 88:9 my eye grows dim through sorrow. Every day I call upon you, O LORD; I spread out my hands to you.

 

Psalm 22:10 On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

 

Psalm 38:10 My heart throbs; my strength fails me, and the light of my eyes–it also has gone from me.

Psalm 88:10 Do you work wonders for the dead? Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah

 

Psalm 22:11 Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help. 1

 

Psalm 38:11 My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague, and my nearest kin stand far off.

Psalm 88:11 Is your steadfast love declared in the grave, or your faithfulness in Abaddon?

 

Psalm 22:12 Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me;

 

Psalm 38:12 Those who seek my life lay their snares; those who seek my hurt speak of ruin and meditate treachery all day long.

Psalm 88:12 Are your wonders known in the darkness, or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?

 

Psalm 22:13 they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion.

 

Psalm 38:13 But I am like a deaf man; I do not hear, like a mute man who does not open his mouth.

Psalm 88:13 But I, O LORD, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you.

 

Psalm 22:14 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;

 

Psalm 38:14 I have become like a man who does not hear, and in whose mouth are no rebukes.

Psalm 88:14 O LORD, why do you cast my soul away? Why do you hide your face from me?

 

Psalm 22:15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.

 

Psalm 38:15 But for you, O LORD, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.

Psalm 88:15 Afflicted and close to death from my youth up, I suffer your terrors; I am helpless.

 

Psalm 22:16 For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet–

 

Psalm 38:16 For I said, “Only let them not rejoice over me, who boast against me when my foot slips!”

Psalm 88:16 Your wrath has swept over me; your dreadful assaults destroy me.

 

Psalm 22:17 I can count all my bones– they stare and gloat over me;

 

Psalm 38:17 For I am ready to fall, and my pain is ever before me.

Psalm 88:17 They surround me like a flood all day long; they close in on me together.

 

Psalm 22:18 they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.

 

Psalm 38:18 I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin.

Psalm 88:18 You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; my companions have become darkness. [Psalm 88 ends]

 

Psalm 22:19 But you, O LORD, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid!

 

Psalm 38:19 But my foes are vigorous, they are mighty, and many are those who hate me wrongfully.

 

Psalm 22:20 Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog!

 

Psalm 38:20 Those who render me evil for good accuse me because I follow after good.

 

Psalm 22:21 Save me from the mouth of the lion! … [Psalm 22 continues with abrupt change to praise]

Psalm 38:21 Do not forsake me, O LORD! O my God, be not far from me! [Psalm 38 ends]

V. This writer sees the situation and events of Jesus’ life as recorded in the gospels significantly represented in the words of the Psalmic prophet in Psalms 38 and 88. The strong correlations between Psalm 22, openly acknowledged as messianic, and Psalms 38 and 88 support this conclusion.

Among modern academicians, Richard Belcher Jr. also sees Christ in Psalm 88 (Belcher,  75-76).

Concerning Psalm 38, The Orthodox Study Bible states, “Ps 37 [38 Hebrew] reveals the great love of Christ for mankind in His sufferings and death on the cross…” and “And although He was ‘separate from sinners’ (Heb 7:26) and ‘knew no sin’ (2Co 5:21), yet out of His great compassion for sinners, He prays this prayer in a relative sense as though He were one of them. Thus, He takes the place of sinners as one of them, and intercedes to the father for their salvation in the midst of His sufferings and death on the cross” (The Orthodox Study Bible, 707).

Concerning Psalm 38, Augustine, as cited by Andrew Bonar, writes, “It would be hard not to apply to Christ a Psalm that as graphically describes his passion as if we were reading it out of the gospels” (Bonar, 128-29).

Bonar’s consideration of Psalm 88 also focuses on Christ as the speaker in that psalm (Bonar, 263-65).

In short, those who approach the reading of these and similar psalms devotionally have little trouble seeing them as prayers of Christ during his passion.

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