When we come to verse 16 of Psalm 22, we encounter one of the most remarkable prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures:
16 For dogs have surrounded me;
A band of evildoers has encompassed me;
They pierced my hands and feet.
Keep in mind that these words were written 1,000 years before the birth of Jesus. That means they were also written 700 years before the Romans refined crucifixion as a method of execution. Yet, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, David prophesied that the Messiah would die by having His hands and feet pierced!
The Jewish method of execution at the time David wrote the psalm was by stoning. This was still true a thousand years later when Jesus lived. But the Jews had lost the power of implementing capital punishment under Roman rule, so they turned Jesus over to the Roman authorities when they decided He should be executed.
All four of the gospel stories record the execution of Jesus by crucifixion. The Gospel of Mark describes it succinctly as follows (Mark 15:22,24):
22 Then they brought Him to the place Golgotha, which is translated, Place of a Skull…
24 And they crucified Him…
A Final Comment About Suffering
The prophet concludes his observations about the suffering of the Messiah in verses 17 and 18:
17 I can count all my bones.
They look, they stare at me;
18 They divide my garments among them,
And for my clothing they cast lots.
All the Messiah’s rib bones are laid bare as He gasps for air while hanging on the execution stake. And the emotional suffering continues as no one shows any compassion. Instead, while His life ebbs away, those carrying out the cruelty pass the time by gambling for His clothing!
Matthew describes the fulfillment of this prophecy in this manner (Matthew 27:35):
35 And when they had crucified Him, they divided up His garments among themselves by casting lots.
A Final Prayer
In verses 19—21 of Psalm 22, the psalmist records a final prayer uttered by the Messiah. It is a plea for deliverance from Satan:
19 But You, O Lord, be not far off;
O You, my help, hasten to my assistance.
20 Deliver my soul from the sword,
My only life from the power of the dog.
21 Save me from the lion’s mouth;
From the horns of the wild oxen You answer me.
None of the Gospels record Jesus uttering such a prayer on the Cross, but undoubtedly He must have done so, perhaps silently or in a whisper.
In the prayer, the Messiah affirms that God the Father is near to Him, although He seems distant because He cannot countenance the sin that the Messiah must bear. He ends the prayer by asking for deliverance from Satan (the lion) and his demonic hordes (the wild oxen).
In the next part of “The Passion in Psalm 22” series, we’ll look at the Resurrection alluded to in Psalm 22:22-25.