At verse 6 of Psalm 22 the psalmist shifts from the Messiah’s spiritual suffering to His physical and emotional distress.
6 But I am a worm and not a man,
A reproach of men and despised by the people.
7 All who see me sneer at me;
They separate with the lip, they wag the head, saying,
8 “Commit yourself to the Lord; let Him deliver him;
Let Him rescue him, because He delights in him.”
The Hebrew word translated “worm” in verse 6 is tola, the word for crimson or scarlet. It is also a word for a certain type of worm. In this context it is most likely referring to the bloody red condition of the Messiah after His flogging — when He would have been so mutilated and swollen that He would no longer even resemble a man and would be an object of derision.
So, this passage describes the intense physical suffering of the Messiah combined with the emotional suffering He would experience as onlookers sneered at Him and cried out caustic taunts.We find the fulfillment of this prophecy in Matthew 27:39-42:
39 And those passing by were hurling abuse at Him [Jesus on the Cross], wagging their heads,
40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”
41 In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking Him, and saying,
42 “He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we shall believe in Him.”
Another Affirmation of Faith
Once again, in verses 9 through 10 of Psalm 22, the psalmist has the Messiah reaffirming His faith in the midst of His intense sufferings.
9 Yet, You are He who brought me forth from the womb;
You made me trust when upon my mother’s breasts.
10 Upon You I was cast from birth;
You have been my God from my mother’s womb.
This reaffirmation of faith is an incredible act of will, and it is an example for all of us. Our tendency is to wallow in self-pity when the going gets tough. David refuses to do this. He takes the opportunity to reaffirm his faith and indicates prophetically that the Messiah will do the same in the midst of His passion.
It reminds me of the tough faith of Paul. When he was in prison in Rome, awaiting execution, he wrote: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). He proceeded to urge his fellow believers to “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). He then revealed the secret of his positive attitude in the midst of suffering: “I can do all things through Him [Jesus] who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
In other words, Paul was saying that we should keep our eyes focused on the Lord rather than our troubles, and “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
Another great example of tough faith can be found in the life of the Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah. He prophesied that if the Jewish people did not repent, their nation would be destroyed. He lived to see his prophecies come true.
When the siege of Jerusalem had been completed by the Babylonians, Jeremiah walked through the streets writing a funeral lament in which he vividly described the physical destruction and human carnage that surrounded him. That lament constitutes the book of Lamentations.
In the middle of his lament, as if to preserve his sanity, the prophet suddenly stops weeping and vocalizes one of the greatest statements of tough faith recorded anywhere in the Bible (Lamentations 3:21-24 RSV):
21 This I recall to mind,
Therefore I have hope.
22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
His mercies never come to an end.
23 They are new every morning.
Great is Your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul.
“Therefore, I will hope in Him.”
In the next part of “The Passion in Psalm 22” series, we’ll look at the Crucifixion described in Psalm 22:11-15.