Ellet J. Waggoner
The Present Truth : September 9, 1897
“I will declare Thy name unto My brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto Thee.” Hebrews 2.12
Who is it that uses these words? —It is Christ—“He that sanctifies.” And the place where we find them is Psalm 22.22, which we must carefully study, if we would learn all that it is intended we should learn from them. In our study thus far we have seen that the Lord’s statement, “I will declare Thy name unto My brethren,” shows us His wonderful love and condescension; He is not ashamed to call us poor sinners brethren; now we are to learn a lesson of even greater comfort and encouragement—a lesson of how to conquer by faith, the faith of Jesus Christ. He who reads the words, “I will declare Thy name unto My brethren,” without considering the circumstances under which they are uttered, loses the most wonderful and precious lesson in the whole Bible. Let us therefore study the picture that is presented to us in the twenty-second Psalm.
The Psalms as a whole are the words of Christ. “David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet Psalmist of Israel, said, The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, and His Word was in my tongue.” 2 Samuel 23.1, 2. Indeed, in the whole Bible we have the Spirit of Christ, in the prophets, testifying (1 Peter 1.10, 11), although often, as in so many of the Psalms, the writers described their own personal experiences. Thus in Inspiration we have the mystery of the Incarnation. Christ in the flesh, as Man, has all the experiences of mankind, so that no one can have suffered anything or passed through any sort of trial that Christ has not endured; nay, more, that Christ does not at that very moment share. When we read the Bible, but especially the Psalms, with this in mind, we find in them unsearchable riches of comfort.
But this applies most especially to the twenty-second Psalm, for in that we have the most unmistakable evidence that it is a description of Christ’s experience, and yet it is most intensely human. In it every soul can read his own struggles and temptations, and discouragements,—and, if he has faith, his own victories.
Before we take up the Psalm in regular order, let us note a few verses which show us that it comes as a whole right from the heart of Christ.
Verse 1: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me.” Compare Matthew 27.46, and the connection.
Verse 6: “But I am a worm and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.” Compare Isaiah 52.14; 53.3
Verses 7, 8: “All they that see Me laugh Me to scorn; they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the Lord that He would deliver Him; let Him deliver Him, seeing He delighted in Him.” Compare Matthew 27.39, 43
Verse 16: “They pierced My hands and My feet.” Verse 18: “They part My garments among them, and cast lots for My vesture.” Compare John 19.23, 24
These verses show us that the Psalm is the outpouring of Christ’s soul in His most trying earthly experiences. Nevertheless it is “a Psalm of David.”
“My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” “O My God, I cry in the daytime, but Thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.”
These words show to us that the experience covers more than the few hours during which Christ hung on the cross; for here we read about crying day and night. It was not only the time that He hung upon the tree, that He felt forsaken, but there were many other times in His life when darkness and despair seemed about to overwhelm Him. This explains the nights spent in prayer.
Not Forsaken – God is Faithful
How many persons often think that God has really forsaken them? What a blessed comfort to know that they share that feeling with Jesus; nay, more, that it is His own experience in us.
“Oh, yes,” says one, “but the case is different with me, for I am a great sinner, and it is my sins that have hid His face from me.”
Yes; there is nothing but sin that can make a separation between God and any soul, and it was just this that made Christ feel that God had forsaken Him; for the Lord “hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities.” Isaiah 53.5, 6. It was our sins upon Him, which He bore as if they were His own, that caused His “strong crying and tears.” Our sins, the very same sins that cause these feelings of despondency with which we are so well acquainted. Good! Then when these feelings come to us, we will remember that they came to Jesus, and we will let Him dispose of them, just as He did when on earth.
Now comes a ray of hope piercing through the gloom: “But Thou art holy, O Thou that inhabits the praises of Israel. Our fathers trusted in Thee; they trusted, and Thou didst deliver them. They cried unto Thee, and were delivered; they trusted in Thee, and were not confounded.” Verses 3-5
If the soul in trouble will only hold fast to the everlasting truth that God is holy and good, and that His mercy endures for ever, he has a sure anchor. This is that which “enters into that within the veil.” But when I know that God is good, then I know that He has not forsaken me. And then comes the thought of God’s goodness to men in past ages, how He delivered Noah and Lot and Joseph, and Jeremiah, and Daniel, and so many others, and that He is the same God still. Yes, truly God is good to the children of men.
A Desperate Case
“But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.” Verse 6.
Thus the tempter seeks to deprive us of the comfort we began to receive from the thought of God's goodness to men of old. “Yes; but they were better men than I am; God could well deliver them, for He had some material to work with; but I am but a worm, unworthy of notice.” Who has not had just such thoughts? All the wealth of God’s love, as manifested to the men of old is lost on us, because we feel ourselves so unworthy, because of our sins. What a comfort to know that our sins caused Jesus the same feelings of worthlessness and unworthiness; for just as surely as He gained the victory over them, so shall we in Him.
But the case is desperate. “All they that see Me laugh Me to scorn; they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the Lord that He would deliver Him; let Him deliver Him, seeing He delighted in Him.” Verse 7, 8. “Many there be which say of My soul, There is no help for Him in God.” Psalm 3.2. Despised of men, and taunted by Satan because of our sins, we are tempted to think that there is no help for us in God. But let us never forget that Jesus had the same experience.
He was esteemed as “stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” “But He had no sin to trouble His conscience,” says the one who is unwilling to take the comfort of Christ. Indeed He had our sins, and they rested upon Him just as if He Himself had committed them; for Him “who knew no sin” hath God “made to be sin on our behalf.” 2 Corinthians 5.21, R.V. “He was tempted in all points like as we are.” Hebrews 4.15. It is impossible that any man can be more oppressed and cast down because of sin than Christ was, and when we remember that it was our sins that caused it, we will allow Him, since He still lives to make intercession for us, to carry out His own experience in us to the full.
Trouble may come from every quarter, yet the Lord holds fast to the goodness of God. “But Thou art He that took Me out of the womb; Thou didst make me to hope when I was upon My mother’s breasts. I was cast upon Thee from the womb; Thou art My God from My mother’s belly.” Verses 9, 10. Sinners are we, and unworthy to live? Yes; but nevertheless we do live, as it is by the power and grace of God that we have lived to this moment. “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness.” Lamentations 3.22, 23. Why has the Lord allowed us to live all these years, and not simply allowed us to live, but kept us alive? —Because He desired our salvation, for “the longsuffering of our God is salvation.” 2 Peter 3.15. He who has “no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live” (Ezekiel 33.11), has no pleasure in trouble and suffering. If He wished us to perish He would not have kept us alive till this day. He, who has kept us thus far, will continue to keep us, and much more, as we recognize His presence and power. The world has a saying, “While there’s life, there’s hope,” but few realize how much it means. Christ is the life; where there is life there is evidence of His presence; and where there is His presence there is eternal hope. All things are possible to him who desires salvation, and who trusts. “Let Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, according as we hope in Thee.” Psalm 33.22
The Cry for Help
Now comes a cry for help in the sorest need: “Be not far from Me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help. Many bulls have compassed Me; strong bulls of Bashan have beset all round. They gaped upon Me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of My bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and My tongue cleaves to My jaws; and Thou hast brought Me into the dust of death. For dogs have compassed Me; the assembly of the wicked have enclosed Me; they pierced My hands and My feet. I may tell all My bones; they look and stare upon Me. They part My garments among them, and cast lots upon My vesture. Be not far from Me, O Lord; O My strength, haste Thee to help Me. Deliver My soul from the sword; My darling from the power of the dog. Save Me from the lion’s mouth; for Thou hast heard Me from the horns of the unicorns,” or wild oxen. Psalm 22.11-21
In these verses we have the condition of Christ, not only when He hung on the cross, but in His life before that tile, and especially when He was in the desert “with the wild beasts” (Mark 1.13), tempted by the devil. He prays to be saved from the lion’s mouth, and so may we, for our “adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Peter 5.8. It is because of sin that beasts are wild and ferocious; and Satan is the originator of sin; all fighting and devouring, whether by man or beast, is the working of Satan. So that the fierce wild beasts that surrounded Christ in the wilderness, threatening to devour Him, were a vivid representation of the devil, who was seeking His soul’s ruin.
In the desert of temptation Christ was made to suffer as no other being has ever suffered. He was weak in body, threatened by the wild beasts, and surrounded by Satan and his hosts; for “the assembly of the wicked” enclosed Him. The last clause of verse 21 shows that He was brought to the last extremity. “From the horns of the wild oxen Thou hast heard Me.” Nothing could more graphically express the sorest need; one could not be exposed to greater danger; on the point of the wild oxen’s horns, one would think that there was no hope for life, that he was indeed wholly forsaken; but from just such a perilous position the Lord cried for help, and was heard.
Victory and Praise amidst Trouble
While in the miserable condition described in this chapter, seemingly utterly forsaken by the Father, surrounded by wild beasts and demons, with every ray of hope seemingly excluded, He says:—
“I will declare Thy name unto My brethren; in the midst of the congregation will I praise Thee.”
There is where victory lies. “The name of the Lord is a strong tower.” The Lord’s name is, “Merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” Exodus 34.6, 7. If when one is in trouble, and in trouble because of sin, let him declare that name, and he will find help. Jesus said: “In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” John 16.33. How did He overcome?—By holding fast to the fact that God is everlasting love and a mighty Deliverer.
Read now the remainder of the Psalm, and you will see that from this point there is no more darkness or mention of trouble. All thought of trouble is lost in a song of praise. But remember that all these words of praise are uttered while in the condition described in the preceding verses. That is the secret of victory.
How wonderful these words of Christ, “I will declare Thy name unto My brethren” appear, when we consider the circumstances under which they are uttered. Out of the depths of distress they come, with a force and confidence that forces the enemy to flee. And how precious are the words, when we remember that they are spoken on our behalf. It is Christ in the flesh who utters these words, and therefore they are for us to utter when in trouble.
Do you seem to be overwhelmed with trouble and temptation, and does everything look dark and forbidding, so that it seems as if hope itself were dead?—There is a sure cure: declare the name, that is, the mercy and goodness of the Lord, to others who are in need. Instead of talking about your darkness and discouragements, begin to tell how good the Lord is, and to praise Him. You can do it, for it is true, whether you feel it or not. Don’t be afraid; there is no danger of overstating the facts in the case, when you sing of the mercies of the Lord. Never mind feeling; stick to facts. The sun shines even though clouds come between. Christ fails not, and is not discouraged. By faith, His courage becomes yours, and then by encouraging others your courage is always fresh.