What a change! Instead of the songs of victory, we hear the moaning of one in anguish. It is not the voice of those who shout for the mastery, as were the preceding songs of Zion, but the voice of one who cries in weakness.
Yet this abrupt transition is quite a natural one. We saw the warrior - we saw the fruits of his victory - we saw the prospects of yet farther glorious results from that victory.
Now then we are brought to the battlefield and shown the battle itself. The battle which virtually ended the conflict with Satan and all his allies. We hear the din of that awful onset. Our David in "the irresistible might of weakness" is before us crying in the crisis of conflict: Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani! the words uttered on Calvary, and preserved in every syllable as they were used by the Saviour then.
Some have sought to mingle the believer's confidence with Christ's in this Psalm. But it is too awful in its strain to admit this application, though we may learn from Christ's example as well as words on the cross as Peter is fond of showing in his first letter.
The words of v1 may indicate that such cries were uttered more than once during the Redeemer's days of anguish. There were other seasons beside the cross when the Father was near to lay on Him the weight of the burden of guilt, and when, for a time, he left Him, forsaken.
These were seaosns of the hottest trial ever known in warfare, for it was warfare in which nothing could exhaust the resources brought up against the champion, while also there were divine supplies on his side.
The scheme of this Psalm is evident at a glance. There are two parts.
From v1-21a is Messiah's sufferings.
From v21b to the end is his entering into his glory.
His first coming is the theme of the one; his glorious kingdom established fully at his second coming is the theme of the other. This is so very obvious that we shall be brief in our remarks, leaving the reader to meditate for himself with the history of the Lord in the Evangelists before him for the first part, and his eye glancing through the Apocalyptic visions for the second.
The Psalm is quoted in Hebrews 2:11 where v23 is cited. The piercing of hands and feet, v17, may be considered in Luke 24:39, John 20:27.
The title is strange: On Aijeleth Shahar - literally "the hind of the morning".
It tells of joy to anguish and anguish to joy.
The hind leaps from height to depth, valley to hilltop, rising from its quiet lair, where it has reposed til morning, when met by a hunter's cry.
That there was such an instrument used we cannot tell - it is a mere conjecture; at the same time it is interesting to notice how truly the scene of the hind roused at morning from its rest (not to bound at liberty like Naphtali in Gen 49:21 but) to be chased by the hunters, corresponds to the tale of persecution related here, when dogs encompass him.
Without attempting to explore the riches, the unsearchable riches of these mournful cries, let us listen to a few of their sad echoes.
In v3, we have a declaration that Israel's Holy One shall be praised more than ever for his holiness, because of his impartial treatment of Him who cries "why have you forsaken me?" Strange as it may seem it shall turn out to be an illustration of his holy character; and if before this He inhabited Israel's praises, much more hereafter.
In v4, that note "Our fathers" (as Psalm 40:5) from such lips may well touch our hearts. He is not ashamed reader to call you and me his brothers. He identifies himself with us. Our fathers are His fathers, that His Father may be ours. How like Him who afterwards (v22) calls us "my brothers" and who on earth did say after his resurrection "go tell my brothers."
We do not dwell on the ample field of remarks opened by v6-22. The people in v6 is especially His own Israel. The taunt v8 is equivalent to his saying "commit your way to the Lord!" (Psalm 37:5). In v20, "my only one" is understood to be the soul described as dear like an only son. How appropriate on the lips of Him who asked the memorable question in Matt 16:26: What will it profit a man if he gains the world but loses his soul?
It is in v21 that the tide turns. The clauses, you have heard me, ought to be taken by itself. It is a cry of delight. IT is like Luke 22:43. The lamentation of v2 is over now - He is heard now! And his being heard is not a blessing to him alone. He runs to bring his disciples word: I will declare your name to my brothers (v22).
These words are characteristic of Him who spoek John 17:26, and whose first resurrection act was to send word to his disciples, by the name "my brothers" and then to send them to all the earth. His special love to Israel is apparent when he said, beginning at Jerusalem. Here he calls them:
"You seed of Jacob, glorify Him -
For He has not abhored the affliction of the poor." (v23,24)
He has not treated the poor sinner as an unclean thing to be shrunk from (Lev 11:11), passing by on the other side (Luke 10:31). All shall yet praise Him who makes their heart live forever by feeding them on this sacrifice (v26).
Verse 28 shows us the Kingdom come, and Christ the Governor among the nations; at which time we find a feast partaken of by all nations, and observed by sinners who were ready to perish:
"All that are fat on the earth shall eat and worship. (v29)
Before Him shall bow all that go down to the dust.
And he who could not keep alive his soul."
The essence of the feast is indicated at v26, as consisting in knowing and feeding upon Him who is our Paschal Lamb, even as in Isaiah 25:8, the feast of fat things is Christ Himself, seen and known, eye to eye.
The people of that time are "the seed" of v30. If men do not at present serve Him, yet their seed shall - there is a generation to rise who shall do so.
"Posterity shall serve Him,
It shall be related of the Lord to the generation to come.
These shall go forth (on the theatre of the world) and declare his righteousness
To a people then to be born
For He has done it!
The Hebrew is very elliptical. It seems as if the word were used intentionally in an absolute and indefinite way to fix our thoughts on the thing being done. A finger points to the scene, a voice says: He has performed. Here is deed, not word only. Here is fulfilment, no promise only.
The meek may eat and be filled. It is done. Jesus did it all as he cried: It is finished. In that hour He saw his sufferings ended and his glory begun, and could proclaim victory through suffering.
What a song of Zion is this. Messiah at every step beginning with Eli, Eli, and ending It is Finished: Messiah, bearing the cross and wearing the crown.