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April 4, 2015

– Psalm 22 is often called the “Crucifixion Psalm” or “The Psalm of the Cross” and is clearly a Messianic psalm giving a detailed prophetic description of our Lord’s crucifixion almost 1000 years before the actual event. Spurgeon writes “For plaintive expressions uprising from unutterable depths of woe we may say of this psalm, “there is none like it.” It is the photograph of our Lord’s saddest hours, the record of His dying words, the lachrymatory (containers used in Roman tombs to collect funeral tears) of His last tears, the memorial of His expiring joys. Before us in Psalm 22 we have a description both of the darkness and of the glory of the Cross, the sufferings of Christ and the glory which shall follow (Heb 2:9). Oh for grace to draw near and see this great sight! We should read Psalm 22:1-31 reverently, removing the sandals from our feet, as Jehovah instructed Moses at the burning bush (Ex 3:5), for if there be holy ground anywhere in Scripture it is in this Psalm.” “And can it be that I should gain, An interest in the Savior’s blood? Died He for me, who caused His pain—For me, who Him to death pursued? Amazing love! How can it be, That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?” (C Wesley)

Matthew and Mark both quote from Psalm 22:1 as they record Jesus’ cry of anguish “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Mt 27:46, Mk 15:34). In verse 6 we encounter a most unusual description of Messiah – “I am a WORM and not a man.” While there is no record of Christ uttering these words on the Cross, there is little doubt that these words were on the heart of our Lord. As Jon Courson says “Great is the mystery (of godliness) that God became a man (1Timothy 3:16). But greater still is the mystery that the MAN became a LAMB (Jn 1:29) and the LAMB became a WORM to save you and me!”  As Spurgeon says Psalm 22:6 “is a miracle in language. How could the Lord of glory (1Cor 2:8) be brought to such abasement as to be not only “made for a little while lower than the angels” (Heb 2:9), but even lower than men? What a contrast between “I AM” (Jn 8:24,28, 58) and “I AM A WORM”! Yet such a double nature was found in the Person of our Lord Jesus when bleeding upon the tree. He felt Himself to be comparable to a helpless, powerless, down-trodden WORM, passive while “crushed for our iniquities,” (Isa 53:5), and unnoticed and despised by those who trod upon Him. “He was despised and forsaken of men, a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and like one from Whom men hide their face. He was despised (disdained, held in contempt), and we did not esteem Him (Literally, “we estimated Him as nothing”).” (Isaiah 53:3) He selects a WORM the weakest of creatures, which is all flesh; and becomes, when trodden upon, writhing, quivering flesh, utterly devoid of any might, except strength to suffer. This was a true likeness of Himself when His body and soul had become a mass of misery—the very essence of agony—in the dying pangs of Crucifixion. Man by nature is but a WORM (Job 25:6, Isaiah 41:14); but our Lord Jesus puts Himself even beneath man (Php 2:7-8), on account of the scorn that was heaped upon Him and the weakness which He felt, and therefore He adds, “and not a man!” Indeed, as William Cowper wrote, “God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform!”

Spurgeon goes on to observe that “There is a LITTLE RED WORM which seems to be nothing else but BLOOD when it is crushed, it seems all gone except a blood-stain; and the Saviour, in the deep humiliation of His spirit, compares Himself to that little red worm. How true it is that “He made himself of no reputation” (Php 2:7KJV) for our sakes! He emptied Himself of all His glory; and if there be any glory natural to manhood, He emptied himself even of that. Not only the glories of His Godhead, but the honors of His manhood He laid aside that we might come to “know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for our sake He became poor, that we through His poverty might become rich.” (2Cor 8:9) “Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were a present far too small; Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.” (Isaac Watts)

Warren Wiersbe adds that Psalm 22:6 is surely a description that applies “to our Savior. “I am a worm and not a man” is a forgotten “I AM” statement that speaks of how little value the leaders of Israel and the Roman officials placed on Jesus of Nazareth. A WORM is a creature of the ground, helpless, frail, and unwanted. Isaiah 52:14NIV predicted that Messiah would be terribly disfigured by His enemies and not even look human  – “Just as there were many who were appalled at Him–His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and His form marred beyond human likeness (so that He seemed to be “not a man”).” Isaiah’s description recalls the words of Stuart Townend’s beautiful modern hymn “How great the pain of searing loss, the Father turned His face away. As wounds which mar the Chosen One, bring many sons to glory (Heb 2:10).”

As mysterious as is the figure of the King of glory (Ps 24:7-10) condescending to become like a mere WORM, the picture is even more profound when we examine the original language. The Hebrew word for WORM is TOLA, which most scholars associate with a CRIMSON WORM (Coccus Ilicis) that in ancient times was crushed to procure its blood-red SCARLET dye (Hebrew for “scarlet” is same word TOLA), the SCARLET dye used to adorn the “ten curtains” of the Tabernacle (Ex 26:1), “the screen for the (one) doorway of the” Tabernacle (Ex 26:36, cp “I am the door” Jn 10:9), the Veil separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies (Ex 26:31, cp Jesus’ cry with a loud voice, yielding up His Spirit and the Veil of the temple tearing from top to bottom, opening “a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His [torn] flesh” – Mt 27:50-51, Heb 10:19-20) and the beautiful garments of the high priest (Ex 28:5-6, Jesus became our “merciful and faithful high priest” Heb 2:17). Indeed, how deep is the mystery of these OT uses of TOLA which depict a WORM in Ps 22:6 and in 33 OT passages (most in Exodus) depict the blood-red SCARLET material which foreshadowed the Messiah, even His work of redemption on the Cross! Little did the Roman soldiers comprehend the deep significance of the SCARLET robe they placed on Christ, mocking Him with their cry “Hail, King of the Jews” (Mt 27:28-29)! And so we see the Holy One of Israel Who was “made for a little while lower than the angels” (Heb 2:9), then even lower than man, and yes finally made like a mere TOLA, a helpless “crimson worm,” a WORM that was crushed beneath the load of our sin, “having become a curse for us.” (Gal 3:13)  “Well might the sun in darkness hide, And shut His glories in, When Christ, the mighty Maker died,For man the creature’s sin.” (I. Watts)

And so it should not surprise us to see the Spirit use the Hebrew word TOLA to picture our SIN! In Isaiah 1:18 Jehovah gives the universal invitation “Come now, and let us reason together. Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow. Though they are red like CRIMSON (Hebrew = TOLA!), they will be like wool.” In a display of God’s amazing, mysterious grace, the Spirit chose the same Hebrew word (TOLA) to depict MESSIAH and SIN! Indeed Paul explains this deep mystery, writing that the Father “made Him Who knew no sin to be SIN on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2Cor 5:21) When Christ was crushed by the weight of our sins, like a crushed crimson worm (TOLA), He shed His blood, that our sins might be covered by His crimson flow and we might be forever clothed in Christ’s “garments of salvation, wrapped with His robe of righteousness.” (Isaiah 61:10). These deep truths recall the original words of Isaac Watts’ hymn “Alas! and did my Savior bleed, And did my Sovereign die! Would He devote that sacred head, For such a WORM as I?” And the answer is a resounding “Yes!” His crimson blood for our crimson sin, that we might be washed whiter than snow!  “Hallelujah What a Savior! Thank You God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Amen”

Play this wonderful modern hymn…
How Deep the Father’s Love for Us (by Stuart Townend)

How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure
That He should give His Only Son, to make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss, the Father turned His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One, bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross, my sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that held Him there until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life; I know that “It is Finished!”

I will not boast in anything: no gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ; His death and resurrection
Why should I gain from His reward? I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart: His wounds have paid my ransom

For more detailed discussion:

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