It is written:
“To the Chief Musician. Set to “The Deer of the Dawn.” a Psalm of David.” (Psalm 22:1 Superscription)
Throughout the Old Testament, there are many prophecies made of the Savior that God would send to the Earth to redeem mankind. This Savior was known among the Jewish people as the Messiah (literally, “the anointed one”). Psalm 22 contains some of the most powerful and graphic descriptions of this Messiah. Written nearly a thousand years before the birth of Jesus Christ, David in this passage provides powerful prophetic insights into the future Messiah which were fulfilled by none other then Jesus Christ.
Yet is Psalm 22 actually a prophecy of Jesus Christ? Many in our day and age claim that there are no true prophecies of the Messiah in this passage, but that they are only descriptive of King David. It is further claimed that Christians have “hijacked” this passage in an attempt to legitimize their belief that Jesus of Nazareth is indeed the Messiah (or Christ).
How shall we respond to these objections?
Let’s start by noticing the fact that King David very clearly in Psalm 22 shows that he is ultimately discussing someone who would come in the future, a King that can only be regarded as the Messiah.
One of the evidences of this may be seen in the position of Psalm 22 in the context of Psalms itself.
“Although overlooked by most contemporary commentators across the board, the position of Ps 22 in the Psalter is essential to interpretation, and it supports the view of the NT gospel writers. The immediately previous psalms, as well as the entire preceding sequence from the book’s introduction (Pss 1–2) onward, support a messianic reading….Psalm 22 is messianic, not simply because Mark and Matthew understood it as such, but because that was the clear intent of the Psalter’s author and composer. In fact, when the literary context of the Psalter is examined carefully, the views of Matthew and Mark make perfect sense. The angst is a result of adopting a hermeneutical stance at odds with that of the Psalter’s composer.” (Robert L. Cole, “Psalm 22: The Suffering Of The Messianic King,” in Michael Rydelnik & Edwin Blum, The Moody Handbook of Messianic Prophecy: Studies and Expositions of the Messiah in the Old Testament, 529-530 (Kindle Edition); Chicago; Moody Publishers)
Cole shows us that the wording of the beginning and end of the Psalms (the Superscription) points to the conclusion that they are to be understood together as a literary unit, pointing to the Messiah.
“Rather, the sequence and order of the Psalms reveal a planned strategy and meaning for individual psalms as well as the entire book. 10 Evidence for this exists at the linguistic and thematic levels from psalm to psalm, groups of psalms, the five books of the Psalter, the superscriptions, and the shape of the whole. 11 Superscriptions are present in almost every case throughout Book I, and so with Ps 22.12 From Pss 19 through 21 the identical term is repeated, which could be translated “for/ of the leader, a psalm of David.” The first term lamnaṣṣêaḥ (Piel ptc), is common in the Psalter titles, but its meaning is difficult to pinpoint, as in many cases of vocabulary in the titles. It is used as an infinitive (Piel) in Chronicles for the direction of temple service appointed by David (1Chr 23: 4). Temple service included gatekeepers, officers and singers. 13 The plural of the same participle is also found in the context of temple service in 2Chr 2: 2, 18 and 23: 13.14 The term in Psalms is associated specifically with the service of music, as the accompanying term “song/ psalm” illustrates. 15 Music performed by the Levitical figures appointed by David is specifically defined as the practice of prophesying under the direction of the king (1Chr 25: 1, 2, 5). David’s words themselves are portrayed as prophetic in the Psalter, 16 and defined as so explicitly in David’s last words (2Sm 23: 1-3). 17 The term occurs only in the verses cited from 2 Chronicles and the Psalm headings. Common to both contexts are the topics of David, Levitical figures, prophecy, and music. The Levitical musical service under David’s direction, whether composed by him or the priestly figures themselves, was considered prophecy. The implication is that Ps 22 is to be considered likewise as a prophetic utterance of David used by the priestly singers. David the king is therefore portrayed deliberately as a priestly figure. His prophetic portrayal as priest and king has been exhibited at the very beginning in the first two psalms. 18 The title of Ps 22 likewise gives him priestly trappings by his association with singing “a psalm/ song of David” and a “choir director.” It is also significant that the final strophe of Ps 22 (vv. 22-31) portrays the formerly persecuted and deceased speaker of the first two strophes as now praising God within a great congregation of the faithful. The final verses (27-31) locate this congregational praise in the mouth of resurrected ones and future generations from all nations (vv. 27-31). The two elements at the beginning and end of Ps 22’ s superscription19 function likewise as a link to the psalms before and after. This practice can be seen in other psalm sequences. 20 For example, the lengthy superscription of Ps 88 matches the previous Ps 87 in its first third, and the following Ps 89 in its final words. The intervening third matches the content of the psalm itself. The situation in Pss 19–23 is similar although not identical. Nonetheless, the binding function of the superscription content is explicit and functions as another signal to read them continuously. Psalm 22 opens with the phrase “for the choir director,” and ends with “a Davidic psalm.” These two phrases at either end of the lengthy superscription of Ps 22 match exactly the content of the titles of Pss 19–21. Psalm 23’ s brief title matches exactly the final two words of the previous four. The central phrase of Ps 22’ s superscription, “according to ‘The Deer of the Dawn,’” is difficult to comprehend in light of the content of the psalm itself. 21 It is clear however that the beginning and end of this Hebrew title create linguistic linkage to the previous and following psalms.” (Robert L. Cole, “Psalm 22: The Suffering Of The Messianic King,” in Michael Rydelnik & Edwin Blum, The Moody Handbook of Messianic Prophecy: Studies and Expositions of the Messiah in the Old Testament, 530-531 (Kindle Edition); Chicago; Moody Publishers)
The context of this Psalm (as well as the Superscription which characterizes it and prophetically points to a future King) demonstrate clearly that the Messiah is ultimately in view.
With this in mind, the identification of the “King” in Psalm 22 as the Messiah is undeniable.
Cole writes elsewhere:
“However, there is significant and considerable evidence from the original Hebrew language of the book itself that proves that it is not a haphazard collection. Evidence of repeated words or expressions from one psalm to another indicates every chapter should be understood in the light of those around it. Psalms are chained together with unique vocabulary, and these are signposts from the author that they belong together and should be read accordingly. They also shed light on the message intended by the order. The immediate context of Ps 23 is its location between Pss 22 and 24, although the larger context including Pss 20 and 21 is important for its interpretation as well. Between Pss 23 and the previous Pss 20-22, there are matching and also deliberately contrasted terms that create a meaningful sequence and message….“If the gospel writers read Ps 22 as prophecy, there is a good chance that they read the following Ps 23 likewise. There is also evidence from ancient times that both Christian and Jewish interpreters read it as messianic prophecy.[ 5] The repeated language and concepts between Pss 20 and 21, and also between Pss 21 and 22, indicates they were intentionally placed together. Both speak repeatedly of the messianic king who is granted salvation[ 6] out of trouble (Ps 20: 5[ 6], 6[ 7], 9[ 10], and Ps 21: 1[ 2], 5[ 6]).[ 7] Ps 20: 5 Let us rejoice in your salvation Ps 20: 6a …the Lord has saved his anointed/ messiah Ps 20: 6b by the strength of the salvation of his right hand Ps 20: 9 Lord save the king Ps 21: 1 the king… how he will exceedingly exult in your salvation Ps 21: 5 his glory is great through your salvation It is no coincidence that it is only Ps 20’ s final half and Ps 21’ s first half that repeat the particular word “salvation.” The deliberate linking of the two psalms is explicit and there are more examples. Psalm 20: 6[ 7] refers to him as “his anointed one (messiah)” and then in verse 9[ 10] as “the king.” Immediately following in Ps 21: 1 he is mentioned again as “the king,” as well as in verse seven. Remarkably, it is the last verse of Ps 20 that matches the word “king,” found in the first verse of Ps 21. This is further proof of a deliberate juxtaposition of the two psalms. Ps 20: 6 his anointed one Ps 20: 9 the king Ps 21: 1 the king Ps 21: 7 the king It is the same king messiah whom God saves or delivers in each psalm. In all the above examples of Pss 20-21 the salvation is certain. By contrast, Ps 22: 1[ 2] quotes the same king complaining over the fact that his salvation or rescue is absent and distant from him. Instead of salvation he is experiencing terrible suffering. Psalm 22 portrays that suffering at length, and then not only speaks of answers to it in verses 22-31[ 22-32], but also describes his restoration. Psalm 23 explains his restoration as resurrection from the dead. These psalms describe the same king presented at the book’s introductory Pss 1-2 and in the intervening Pss 3-19. As noted above, Ps 20: 6[ 7] calls him the “Lord’s anointed,” which is the same title Ps 2: 2 gives him. Undoubtedly it is the same messianic king described in both.[ 8]” (Robert Cole, Why Psalm 23 Is Not About You, 33-82 (Kindle Edition))
And as we will see, there are many other elements of this King of Psalm 22 which point undeniably to Jesus, the Messiah of God.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.