But be not thou far from me, O Lord: O my strength, haste thee to help me.
Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.
Psalm 22 speaks directly and exclusively of Jesus Christ. It is His words as He hung upon the cross.
Matthew Henry aptly writes: “In singing this Psalm we must keep our thoughts fixed upon Christ, and be so affected with his sufferings as to experience the fellowship of them, and so affected with his grace as to experience the power and influence of it.”
The focus of the Psalm is in verse 1 where, from the cross, Jesus cries: “My God, My God! Why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?” (see Matthew 27:35). That cry echoes through the Psalm and signals the changes of thought. We hear it again in verse 11, and yet again in verse 19: “Be not far from me….” Jesus is forsaken. He cries from the depths into which the consequences of our sins led Him—in pursuit of our redemption. And when He has finished the work, we hear it change to that joyful cry, “Thou hast HEARD [answered] me…,” in verse 21.
With that understanding in place, we can observe that the Psalm divides itself into two parts at verse 21 as the pivot point. At that juncture, the gospel accounts tell us that Jesus looses a triumphant shout: “It is finished” (Mark 15:37, Luke 23:46, John 19:30); for Jesus had satisfied divine justice and eternally removed all that can separate Him and His elect from the holy God. Fellowship with God in life and love and grace and glory is restored—reconciliation is realized. Now Jesus is free to vow joyfully to His Father that He will share the blessings of peace with His brethren, and declare the good news of this reconciliation in His blood, not only within the great congregation, but to all the ends of the world, and build Himself a church confessing in her generations, that “He has done this!” (vv. 22-31).
This Psalm takes us where no other portion of Scripture takes us in quite the same way—down with Jesus into something of His inner experience on the cross, down into forsakenness, where nothing but unmingled holiness and trust in God supported His soul as the God-man; and up with Him in His victory. What our Lord describes of these atoning sufferings are His—ALL HIS—and HIS ALONE! But everything He says has eternal significance and application to us as believers.
Every believer, having his eternal election ratified by God’s effectually calling him into union with Christ by faith, may confess: “These are His experiences for me; and they are mine in Him. Jesus carried me into and through all that He did and suffered and achieved!”
That is true, believer, because this Psalm is the sharing of the inner thoughts of our federal (covenantal) Head, Representative, Surety, Substitute, and Redeemer with us. Into Him God legally and personally incorporated us in His eternal decree of election. Christ and we, His brethren, are all ONE in God’s sight. So, this Sufferer— this Substitute—is bearing our persons in His own mighty person; to His person God has imputed all our sins, making Him, legally and personally, “to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (II Cor. 5:21). God did that exactly so that He might punish our sins in the person of His Son according to His human nature, and thereby reconcile us to Himself. “ByHis stripes we are healed” (Is. 53:5-6), for God was reconciling us to Himself by Jesus Christ (II Cor. 5:18). What Jesus did, suffered, and achieved, therefore, God takes as done, suffered, and achieved by each of His elect! We arereconciled to God in the person of His Son!
It is wonderful also to realize that Jesus bore us in His heart on the cross—He didn’t forget us, not for a moment. As soon as He drank the last bitter dreg of the cup of the wrath of God, and God answered and embraced Him back into His fellowship, Jesus turns to those for whom He suffered, and speaks the words of verses 23 and 24: “Ye that fear the Lord, praise him: all ye the[spiritual] seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel. For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither has he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him he heard” (vv. 23-24). Ah, do you hear Him, believer? Do you sense the weight of glory He shares with you in those words?
Reconciled soul, praise, glorify, and reverence God for what He has done for you in Jesus! Declare your trust: “I have peace with God through my Lord Jesus, for all my guiltiness of sin, all my alienation, and all my forsakenness have been eternally removed by Jesus!” Glory with Him, “It is FINISHED. God hears me!” Open your heart to the reconciled God’s promises, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). “Fear not, for I have redeemed you…. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you: when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon you. For I am the Lord your God…” (Is. 43:2-3).
Ah, believer, are you not a “more-than-conqueror through him that loved you…”? Is there anything that “shall be able to separate you from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:37-39)?
No! For the Lord has heard HIS cry from the horns of the unicorns—for you.