(Continued from page 419)
Verse 8 records the words, 'He trusted on the Lord, let him deliver him', which Matthew records (Matthew 27:43) as the scornful attack by the scribes and elders who witnessed the crucifixion and applied it to the Lord. 'I was cast upon thee from the womb' (v9-11) may, in certain respects be said of every individual, but it is most appropriate from the lips of Christ the God-man (cf. Luke 2:40, 49, 52). God the Son and God the Father had never been separated until that eventful moment at Calvary, thus, the Son cried: 'Be not far from me, for there is none to help.' This obviously cannot apply to David, for he had never been in such a dilemma. But the Lord Jesus found no man to stand beside him at the cross for all his disciples had fled and there was none to help. When He looked down from the cross He saw the priests, rulers, scribes, Pharisees, and others gathered around Him like an infuriated herd of wild bulls (v12-13): 'Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round', referring to the richest pasture land in Palestine, east of the Sea of Kinnereth (Galilee), that produced the largest and strongest animals (Ezekiel 39:18; cf. Amos 4:1). The metaphor then turns from the threatening bulls to ravenous lions, eager to devour their prey with their monstrous jaws (v13 -'They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion;' David many times was led to speak of his enemies as lions, cf. Psalm 7:2; 10:9; 17:12; 22:21; 35:17; 57:4: 58:6) as the crowd, like roaring lions, howled at the Saviour who was already torn to pieces by the horrendous scourging He had suffered (v14):Holiness Through Jesus' Sacrifice
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: and my heart is like wax.
As the Lord Jesus looked down at Himself, hanging suspended on the cross with all of His ribs visible and struggling for breath, His strength was sapped (v14), 'poured out like water' and His body disfigured so that He recognised that, 'my bones are out of joint.' However Christ was affixed to the stipes, and whether His body shuddered with shock when the post was dropped into the hole or was distended as if upon a rack by the process of crucifixion, His body was stretched and torn out of recognizable human shape and this horrendous description by the psalmist David leaves us struggling to comprehend our Lord's agony as the torture of crucifixion wracked His body. The intense pain and suffering of the cross is coupled with the intense pain of bearing the sins of mankind, and the description -'My heart is like wax' (v14) - portrays the internal agony of our crucified Lord. In verse 15 Christ likens Himself to a piece of broken earthenware that has been fired in a kiln to such an extent that the last drop of moisture is driven out of the clay: 'My strength is dried up like a potsherd.' The complete debility witnessed in this cruel torture gives rise to a tormenting thirst that fastens the tongue to the jaws ('My tongue cleaveth to My jaws and Thou hast brought Me into the dust of death') and causes the Lord to cry out, as witnessed in the Johanine gospel, where we read of the fulfilling of this Scripture (John 19:28-30):
'After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith,'I thirst'. 29Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. 30When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said,'It is finished': and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.'
In verse 16 ('For dogs have compassed me') the words clearly apply to the Roman soldiers who roughly handled the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 27:27-35) and drew lots for His garment (v18): 'They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture' and 'pierced my hands and my feet' (v16). We know of no historical record that David ever had his hands and feet pierced. These verses are a prophetic picture of crucifixion, the torturous and inhumane method of execution invented by the Persians c. 600 B.C., but made more atrocious and notorious by the Romans, hundreds of years after this psalm was written. Jesus would have heard the insults of the spectators as they observed Him in His agony (v17): 'I can count all My bones; they look and stare upon Me.' As David penned these words he must have wondered what he was writing but, a thousand years later, the Lord Jesus literally experienced these horrors (cf. Matthew 27:39). So emaciated was Jesus from His fasting, and so distended was His body from the posture on the cross, that it was horrifyingly possible to count the bones of His body! The prophecy of verse 18 was so horrifically noteworthy in its fulfilment that all four of the evangelists record it (Matthew 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:34; John 19:24). Matthew 27:35 makes this clear:
'And they crucified Him and parted His garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet: 'They parted My garments among them, and upon My vesture did they cast lots.'
Again, there is no historical record to support this experience by David. Even if one were to discount other aspects of the psalm as having been deliberately fulfilled by Jesus, the Roman soldiers, who were oblivious to the Scriptures, never intended to verify the veracity of the Bible by fulfilling prophecy. Yet the psalmist accurately predicts the actions of these soldiers some 1,000 years before the Lord's death on the cross. We can say with surety that, if there had been any doubts that this psalm refers directly to the Messiah Jesus Christ, they are all swept away in the flood of this statement which fills us with love for our unparalleled Saviour. Christ Himself inspired David to write these prophetic words of His experiences when He paid the ultimate penalty for sin on Calvary's cross, dying in agony for the sins of the world to rise from the dead three days later (Matthew 27:63; Mark 8:31; John 2:19) to become David's Seed on the Throne (Matthew 1:1; Matthew 15:22; 21:9; Luke 1:32), summarised in Romans 1:3:
'concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was made of the seed of David according to the flesh'
The 'Suffering Servant', like David, was convinced that He had not been forsaken by God (v19-21: 'But be not thou far from me, O Lord'). God's back had been turned upon sin but, nevertheless, He was there for His servant, whether it be David or His Only Begotten Son, ready to help and keep his life from the power of the wicked enemy. 'Deliver my soul from the sword' (v20) is taken by some commentators to be a reference to the authority of the Roman governor, but it could refer to the fact that our Lord died, not from a death wound from a sword, but from the torture and agony of the cross on which He bore the sins of the whole of Creation.
The task of crucifixion and atonement complete, the psalm takes a new direction as the psalmist voices words of praise in view of the Lord's certain deliverance (v22-25), vowing that He will 'declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee'. As His brethren, we join our Lord Jesus Christ in declaring the praise of the Lord, both (v23) 'the seed of Jacob' and 'all ye the seed of Israel' and, more importantly (v25), 'the great congregation.' Verse 22 is put directly into the mouth of Christ in Hebrews 2:12, describing His relationship to His people:
11For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, 12Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee. 13And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me.
The psalm naturally divides itself between verses 21 and 22, and we note the connection between suffering and redemption, redemption coming through suffering. This was David's experience; this was the Lord's experience; and it is also the Christian's experience. The reason for this outburst of praise is that God the Father 'hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him' (v24). The seeming passivity of God during the ordeal of the cross was only that, seeming passivity, for He allowed Christ Jesus to bear the sins of mankind alone, but He never allowed Him to be alone.
Verses 26-31 picture the expanding groups of people who will join in the praise of God for His deliverance: (v26): 'The meek shall eat and be satisfied.' The Messiah now addresses Himself to the results of His suffering and death and those who were starving with no spiritual sustenance may now eat of the finished work of Christ until they are full. Not only does the Lord promise satisfaction through His death, but immortality as well (v26): 'Your heart shall live for ever.' 'All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord' (v27) informs us that the whole world is a mission field for believers and the Lord Jesus foresees countless Gentiles turning to Him for salvation (v28), 'For the kingdom is the Lord's: and he is the governor among the nations'. The promise of Isaiah 9:6 was given regarding the Messiah, 'the government shall be upon His shoulder', and will be realized when the King of Kings comes to establish His millennial reign upon this earth. In the closing verses of this psalm (v29-31) the universality of the Lord's kingdom is seen: 'All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship' [NASB: 'All the prosperous of the earth will eat and worship'], for not only the meek eat, but the rich and prosperous may find the Lord as well. Whether great or small, wealthy or a pauper, 'All they that go down to the dust shall bow before him.' We are reminded of Philippians 2:10-11:
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Until the time of this Kingdom Age the message of salvation shall be proclaimed, for (v30): 'a seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation'. God always has a remnant; His people are always present (v31): 'They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born.' Generation after generation will see those who come to Christ through the grace of God, for the message of the crucifixion is Eternal since the Lord Jesus Christ now reigns Eternally in the heavens (Revelation 5:13) in fulfilment of His finished work (John 19:30) at Calvary.
Believers may sometimes be alone, even imprisoned in solitary confinement for their faith but, as God's children, we are never abandoned or annihilated and the solitude of Jesus on the cross and His reception into the hands of God the Father prove that for all of us.
The shedding of the blood, in the language of Scripture, involves the taking, or the giving, of life. "The blood of Christ" signifies the death of Christ by His blood-shedding and is clearly explained in the foreshadowing Levitical sacrifices: "It is the blood that maketh atonement by reason of the life" (Leviticus 17:11).The Conditions Fulfilled
To fully understand the New Covenant in 'the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world' (John 1:29) it is essential to read the Book of Hebrews.
There we read that, because the blood of bulls and goats could not take away sin, the Lord Jesus Christ took upon Himself a human body so that He could shed His blood for the sins of the world (Hebrews 10:1-5):
HEB 10:1 The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming--not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. 2 If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. 3 But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, 4 because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. HEB 10:5 Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; HEB 10:6 with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. HEB 10:7 Then I said, `Here I am - it is written about me in the scroll - I have come to do your will, O God.' " HEB 10:8 First he said, "Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them" (although the law required them to be made). 9 Then he said, "Here I am, I have come to do your will." He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
The Bible says, "Almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission [forgiveness]" (Heb. 9:22). The Scriptures also reveal that "the blood of Jesus Christ . . . cleanseth us from all sin" (1 John 1:7)
Christ had no sins of His own to die for, being the only sinless man to walk the earth (Hebrews 4:14:
'Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin. 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Therefore it follows that His death was endured voluntarily and vicariously on behalf of those who were sinners. He gave Himself up to death and presented Himself to be made sin and to become a curse for those who, having sinned, had thereby brought themselves under the curse. He laid down His life and He predicted the manner of His death:
"I lay down My life … No one taketh it away from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment received I from my Father" (John 10:15, 18).
In the Garden of Gethsemane He gave proof that no man had power to put Him to death. He submitted to be bound and led away although He could have called legions of angels to defend Himself (Matthew 26:53). Again, as to His crucifixion, it was unique. He died as no other crucified person ever died. In every other crucifixion the breathing of the last breath is followed by the helpless drooping of the head; the Lord Jesus first bowed (or rather "reclined") His head and then dismissed His spirit. He reversed the natural process: "He poured out His soul unto death" (Isaiah 53:12). The word rendered "bowed" is that rendered "lay" in His statement (Matthew 8:20; Luke 9:58): "The Son of God hath not anywhere to lay His head." He found His true rest in the fulfilment of the will of the Father and in becoming obedient "even unto death."
In His crucifixion God's divine justice smote Him. The sword of Yahweh was awakened to smite "the Man" who was "Yahweh's Fellow" (Zechariah 13:7).
"He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes [His bruise, margin] we are healed … It pleased Yahweh to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief" (Isaiah 53:5, 10).
He made His soul "an offering for sin" (v10).
"Him who knew no sin He made to be sin on our behalf" (2 Corinthians 5:21).
God dealt with Him, the sinless One, as He must deal with sin.
All the conditions required were fulfilled in the person and death of Christ. Whereas "all have sinned," God can pardon - that is, justify the sinner - on perfectly righteous ground because we are:AN OBJECTION
"justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; whom God set forth to be a propitiation, through faith, by His blood" (Rom. 3:24, 25).
The King James Authorized Bible has been incorrectly translated from the Greek here: it is not "through faith in His blood" as the 1611 translators put it. The preposition is "by," not "in." Faith rests in the person. The comma after the word "faith" is important. Propitiation signifies that by which God shows mercy, and the ground of this is the blood of Christ.
Various objections are raised against the atonement. It is said to be impossible because guilt is un-transferable. Ahmed Deedat often sneered at the idea that man could somehow 'transfer' his guilt to another, saying that this was ever man's way of putting his guilt on another. But, while blameworthiness is not transferable, it is possible for one person to suffer for another's sins. This is frequent in human experience, for we see innocent children and adults suffering constantly for the sins of others . The recent demise of Sadaam Hussein's regime emphasised this fact, for many in the country were exterminated by him - even his own Muslim 'brothers'. The one distinction is that one sinner cannot make atonement to God for another sinner, as has been pointed out. If, however, one person can suffer for another's sin, how much more could the sinless Christ voluntarily submit to suffer the condemnation due to our guilt!A SECOND OBJECTION
Another objection raised is that it is immoral to smite the innocent for the guilty. Now that objection overlooks the fact that the person who judges and the surety for the sinner are one. God the Father and Christ His Son are one in the Godhead ("I and the Father are One"). There is not more than one God and the Triune God is One God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - and 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 informs us that we are reconciled in the new birth in Christ:A THIRD OBJECTION
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.
No natural illustration can explain the work of Calvary. No human reasoning can analyze the work of the atonement. That it was an act consistent with supreme moral rectitude is witnessed by the effects. It has never produced immoral relationships. The sinner who comes under its effects is brought into relationship with God and goes on his way, a justified believer, rejoicing to serve his Redeemer. The atonement is the means of bringing him into union with Christ, a union of love and loyalty to Him.
Another objection raised is that it is inconceivable that God should demand an atonement when man (supposedly) forgives his fellow without demanding an atonement. Would God act on a lower scale than man? Could He not forgive sin without an atonement? This objection ignores the fact that the relation of God to men in the matter of trespass differs from the relation of one man to another. Even among men different relations make a difference in the consequence of an act. A Christian man, suffering from the abuse of a disturber of the peace, may express his willingness to forgive, but a police officer has something else to say and police courts and magistrates make judgements. The interests of the state demand satisfaction. A man may forgive the murderer of his relative but, in many countries, a murderer must be executed. So God will justify only on a ground consistent with His attributes as the judge of mankind.A FOURTH OBJECTION
Another objection charges God with vindictiveness in meting out punishment to Christ. That, however, ignores the fact that the Father never ceased to love the Son. This infinite unchanging love is quite consistent with the fact that (John 3:16) "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son," and that "He spared Him not, but gave Him up for us all."
(Continued on page 421)