In this Psalm we see an obvious similarity to what happened to Jesus. Note that we should not think that a similarity always means a text is necessarily a deliberate ‘type’. However, in this text, it would appear that David’s words are meant to be prophetic, so close is the similarity. Indeed, the ‘similarity’ is precise and clear! Sadly, many Christians see ‘types’ around every corner, when they are just imagination. Not so in this case.
This Psalm was written to the “chief musician upon Aijeleth Shahar”. The literal meaning of Aijeleth is a doe or deer, but in this context probably refers to the kind of melody to be used. The added Shahar means dawn, or at dawn (early), and the root means to seek diligently, early. It is thus more likely to be a type of musical form played at an early hour in the Temple. This appears to be possible given the urgency of the Psalm (even if presented in the temple after the event).
Again, we see David starting a psalm with fear and trembling and then ending with praise and glory! He is never down for long!
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?
O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.
But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest 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.
The opening question in this Psalm is directly quoted by Jesus on the cross! (Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34. Note that in Matthew, the sentence begins with “Eli, Eli”. In the Mark account these words are “Eloi, Eloi”. The Matthew word is Syro-Chaldaic, a language commonly spoken at that time, of Hebrew origin, with a pronominal suffix… something added to the call related to God’s name, ‘el. The word used in Mark is exactly the same – ‘my God’ – but is written in Aramaic, another commonly-spoken language, and also used as a pronominal suffix. Whilst the Hebrew suffix relates to ‘el, the Aramaic relates to the Aramaic form of the suffix, ‘elahh. But, both mean the same thing).
David was obviously in dire straits when he wrote this. Only the words “My God, my God” are used in the Psalm, whereas they are given in two different language forms in the New Testament, as if to emphasise Who the plea is made to (and because of different hearers). The word for God here is ‘el, because not only does it mean the one true God, Jehovah, but it also means God is the Mighty One. He is the One called upon by a mere human being for help, because He is mighty.
“Why hast thou forsaken me?”, ‘azab. It can mean to be deserted, or to be ‘left to’ something. However, its underlying meaning is of a servant set free. That is, God left David to his own devices. God will sometimes do this to emphasise His power when He returns. It should not be taken to mean total desertion by God, for God will not do that with those He loves (especially not His Son).
There are times when He looks upon us with love and yet allows us to endure something we think of as bad or almost overwhelming. I say ‘almost’ because God never takes us beyond what we can endure. He may do it as a precursor to helping us, so that we can know what it is like without His help, and then come to know that help from its divine source. Otherwise, humans tend to deny what is divine and attribute it to their own efforts or the workings of men.
David says: “why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?” This implies that God is not gone away altogether, but is far away. This is what the words ‘far from’, rachowq, mean… to be at a distance. To be at a distance also includes the notion of time, for distance equals a time period between X and Y. This confirms what I have said above, that God has moved away for a reason, but that He will come again in time, whether that time lapse is great or small. It is always for a purpose, for it is not our father’s intention to make us suffer on top of suffering.
When David asks God this question of distance, he is really asking “Why don’t you save me right now? Why must I wait?” The question of salvation, yeshuw’ah, is linked to the name of Jesus. The essence of this first verse, then, is not that God refuses to answer and help His children, but that for reasons of His own, He will not reply immediately. This, even though David (and we) roar out our distress, sheagah.
David was in severe distress and experienced grief because of his enemies and because God did not help straight away. God does not play games. If He inserts a time period between our pleading and His answer, it is always for a good reason, no matter how bad our situation seems to us. What this shows is that God does not just reply automatically, but weighs up every individual call for help and every cry of distress, and responds according to His will for our lives. When I was so badly attacked in 2005 I naturally wanted an immediate solution, but God had other plans, that involved me in waiting, and sorting out my responses to the attacks. I did not like it at the time, but now can thank God for doing this, giving me true strength and truth itself about those who were the attackers. It is why I now will not move away from my stance on the topics raised… God gave me the answers, and they are best.
Strangely, most Christians play the evangelical-smile charade. They pretend everything is fine, when it is not; they pretend they trust God, when they do not; they tell everyone God has answered when He has not; they say He has helped, when He has not yet responded. Act like David – be honest!
David, mighty king and warrior, admits that “I cry in the daytime… and in the night season, and am not silent”, “but thou hearest not”. David is inconsolable and is driven to distraction by his condition. Yet, though he says “thou hearest not” he knows this is rhetorical. We can testify to that because of what David says in other writings, and even in the words of this Psalm.
He KNOWS that God always hears; God does not LISTEN to the prayers and pleas of the unsaved, but He listens to, and hears, the genuine pleas of His children! We must not presume that He does not hear just because He has not given us an answer yet. The saved have direct access to God through the indwelling Holy Spirit.
David tells God what God already knows, and then says: “But thou art holy” and that He is surrounded by the praises of Israel. In saying this, David is admitting to his failures and sins, and praising God for Who He is. God’s ways are ALWAYS pure and true, because He is holy. God cannot do wrong, ever. That is how the sacrifice of Jesus was accepted by the Father: only a pure lamb could be a substitute for our sins and our deserved punishment.
David now begins to show his faith in the Lord; his natural grief is superseded by a growing acknowledgment of God’s holiness and goodness… “Our fathers trusted in thee” and, because they trusted, “thou didst deliver them.” So, though David pleads with God and says He is far away, he nevertheless realises that He is the same God as known to His ancestors, and is known to himself: He is the same yesterday, today and forever! He does not change, so the help He gave to the patriarchs will also be shown towards David… and us.
Men in the distant past cried to God for help “and were delivered”; they had faith in God “and were not confounded” (or, let down; disappointed). Does this not repeat what we have seen time and again, that if we call upon God in utter faith, He WILL answer? We will not be disappointed! There is often a big difference, indeed a gulf, between what we declare with our lips and what we know in our hearts.
This is why believers get no replies from God. It is not that He never answers, but that our spiritual condition is so low that He can do nothing until we repent and give Him praise and glory. This ties in with Matthew 6:7, 21, 25 and 33, 34.
But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.
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.
But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me 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.
Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.
Some Christians today believe that though saved they are reprobate because they still sin! This is another impossibility – and a blasphemy! No saved man can ever be reprobate, because to be reprobate is to be cast off by God, rejected! Thus, when David says he is only a worm, he is again being rhetorical, not actual – he is referring to his status before God, not to any evil in himself. As saved men and women we are children of the Most High Lord. We enjoy the status of royal heirs, not one of being lower than the dirt we stand on!
David is comparing himself to God, knowing there is no comparison. Thus, compared to God, David is “a worm, and no man”. Of course he knew he was a man, created by God. But, he is making a rhetorical point, that God is holy and higher than all creation, but that he, David, was brought low to the dust by his fallen humanity. In his sinful humanity he was worth less than a maggot!
Yet, all saved men are worthy in God’s eyes, through the sacrifice of His Son. They are not, then, mere maggots to be crushed underfoot – but they might feel worthless in their own right, because of their sins. In this way God allowed David to suffer for a while longer so that he continued to praise only God for His deliverance. David’s ‘thorn in the side’ was a temporary reminder of God’s supremacy in all things. Why say he was “no man”? It was a saying to mean he was not strong at that time.
This is found in what David says next: that he was a “reproach of men, and despised of the people.” (There are other possible meanings for this section, but we will not go farther at this time). In this he was saying what Christ Himself would say much later.
We cannot tell what situation David is referring to – was it prior to his becoming king and being chased murderously by Saul? Or, was it after he became king and began to suffer the hatred of enemies to a stern degree? It does not matter, for the grief is the same. It is good that we recognise our state before God – we are worthless in ourselves, but made worthy by, and in, Jesus Christ our Saviour. Everything good we have is through Christ, and not by our own efforts.
David’s enemies were having a ‘field day’ laughing outwardly at his misfortune and scorning him… something they dared not do when he was stronger! His enemies then said what the Pharisaic murderers said when they hung Jesus: “He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.”! This is the scorn shown in Matthew 27:43, “He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God.” Enemies of Christ will scorn and mock us, because we are God’s.
David’s reply is that since he was conceived, God had His hand on him! What David says is quite reminiscent of what was said of John the Baptist…God had ordained both to a position of His choosing, that they might fulfil his commands and purposes. David says that God had a special role for David, from the womb, from the time he was suckled. This tells us clearly that David was special to God, almost like John the Baptist, and was raised to be holy. This has a parallel in our own lives, for every saved man and woman is elected not just from the womb of woman, but in eternity.
Because God was with David even in the womb, David can say “Be not far from me; for trouble is near, for there is none to help.” David’s plight could not be rectified by his own means, or by the means of other men, but only by God Himself (verse 11). Really, as mere mortals we should understand that this is so, even if we seem to win a battle by our own efforts. This is because we win not by our own prowess, but because God has ordained it that way. He gives us the prowess and strength. And He also removes it, when He wishes us to remember Who is our Lord.
Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me 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 cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.
For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed 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.
David likened his enemies to “many bulls… strong bulls of Bashan…”. This is reference to either a yearling or young bull, full of ferocity (though it could equally refer to a strong horse). The noun, Bashan (‘fruitful’, or ha-Bashan – light soil) is reference to the east of Jordan, where the animals came from. These young bulls were dangerous animals, half-wild, and the area teemed with them, as well as with cattle. Some make a link between this and when Christ was surrounded by Pharisees and other enemies. I do not see this as a necessary ‘type’ at all, but simply as something similar.
It is an acknowledgement by David that his enemies were not just many, but frighteningly powerful. Just like hungry lions, young angry bulls open their mouths before attacking, a sign of their dominance. The enemy is so frightening, that David says he was reduced to utter fear… poured out like water… bones weak and cannot hold him… heart melting like wax… his bowels churning like liquid… weak and dry like a chunk of fired clay, his tongue stuck to the inside of his mouth… ever known such abject fear? I have. It is a fear of the enemy that can bring you down. It causes you to be so fearful that you cannot move. If this happened to such a strong warrior like David, how can we face our enemies?
All David saw was his enemies, baying for blood. If everything went according to human sense, he was about to lay dead in the desert. Dogs surrounded him, like vultures waiting for the dying to take his last breath, so as to rip him apart for food. They represented to David the contempt of enemies and his being brought low (Note: ‘dogs’ is also used to describe male prostitutes). So, not only was David facing death, but he was also feeling debased. He could not sink any lower.
Then comes a sure type of Christ, for the “assembly of the wicked” (Sanhedrin, or, for David, his mortal enemies in battle) surrounded him and “they pierced my hands and my feet”. We know what this means in connection with Christ, but David meant that his enemies were digging pits in his hands and feet – symbolic of his strength and power. Thus, they were undermining him and taking away his authority and might.
David “may tell all (his) bones” which looked at him. That is, he recalled how this happened and told himself he was finished. His bones looked on in disbelief and observed as David sank into grief. This can happen to the best of men and women.
Then comes another type of Christ: “They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.” Quoted in Matthew 27:35, Luke 23:34, John 19:24. These words by David were a definite type, because they were spoken as prophecy. This kind of ghoulish activity was undertaken by those who saw a man dying or dead and took what he wore for themselves, as usually happened on a battlefield. So, whatever situation David was in, he thought he was soon to die. Very often, God waits until all human hope is gone, before He intervenes.
But be not thou 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.
I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.
Ye that fear the LORD, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel.
For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.
My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him.
Despite the seemingly hopeless situation, David continues to call on God to deliver him. Just as Jacob refused to stop wrestling the angel, so David did not give up… God was driving him to the very edge of his endurance before stepping in. Calling God his “strength”, David pleaded “haste thou to help me.”
Even though David knew God acted in His own time, he was also human enough to realise that without urgent help, he would likely be killed in battle. And yet, he also knew that life and death were in God’s hands, so even if he was attacked, it did not mean he would be killed! It is a conundrum of our human lives, that we know God will do what is necessary, and yet we still fear. So, we urge Him to act NOW, before it is too late. Of course, it cannot ever be ‘too late’, because whatever He does for His children is always for their ultimate good and at exactly the time appointed.
David asked God to save him from death in battle, “my darling from the power of the dog”. By ‘darling’ he means that which is most precious and cannot be made good – his very life. He did not want to be killed by a snarling enemy, to be torn to pieces by the ‘dogs of war’. At that moment, David felt all alone, as yachiyd implies.
He wanted to be saved from those who were waiting to kill him, like a lion pounces and then snaps his jaws around his prey’s neck. He then said “for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.” Though no-one knows exactly what these ‘unicorns’ were, it is thought they may have been now-extinct wild bulls.
On the other hand, they may have been ‘unicorns’ as we perceive them – after all, it is also possible that dinosaurs still roamed the earth at that time. (That might seem to be a controversial thing to say, but not if we consider that these animals did exist at one time, and lived alongside mankind).
Other possibilities are that the unicorns were wild ox. The main point is that God heard David’s pleas from the horns of these animals. What did he mean? That is simple – horns were used like trumpets and as loud signals to go to war; they were used as urgent communications. Hence, God heard David’s urgent plea.
David is now, as usual, turning back to praise; he would praise God’s name before the tribes of Israel, both personally and in the Temple. His songs/psalms were just one way David glorified God. David then looks towards victory as he calls upon all who fear God to sing His praises. He was talking to his kinsmen, the Hebrews, and to the “seed of Israel”, who included the Gentiles after Christ came. This fear is a combination of actual fear, reverence and awe.
I am reminded of the way many Christians have effectively renounced their faith in God by believing in evolution. I say renounced, because to believe in evolution is to deny God’s creation as documented in God’s word. In this way they do not look upon God in awe for what He has done, nor do they revere Him. It stands to reason that if this is so, then they also do not fear Him as they ought.
David now begins to answer his own fears, as he always does! He confirms that God never turns away from His children who call for help (verse 24). God’s ears are always alert to the cries of His saved ones. He always hears their prayerful utterings.
And, as I have shown elsewhere, to ‘hear’ also means He gives an answer. Therefore, says David, he would praise God in the “great congregation”. By this he meant a tribal gathering of the people, a convocation in the Temple in honour of the Lord.
That he refers to the Temple and worship is underlined by “I will pay my vows before them that fear him”. This is an official day of praise, when David would make a votive offering, the sacrifice being made by his ‘vow’ to perform the ceremony.
The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever.
All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee.
For the kingdom is the LORD's: and he is the governor among the nations.
David is now expressing full praise for God, as the fears he started with wane and are covered by God’s grace and mercy. Instead of speaking in war-like terms, he now speaks in softer tones. There are times when we must be ‘war-like’ in our stance, but this must always be under the banner of God’s grace and mercy.
Thus, the “meek” or weak and afflicted, can rest quietly and enjoy what God gives them… they will be satisfied and will search out God to honour and obey Him, and the conscience of man will live forever when it is godly. It also refers to our saved state, which will be forever.
“All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD.” What does this mean? It obviously cannot mean that all people everywhere will know God or obey Him, because those in the world hate God and will never be saved. David follows this with “all the… nations shall worship thee”. This must be understood in the predestinated sense of election. That is, people will come to the Lord from all nations. Nowhere in scripture does ‘all’ mean ‘everyone’ in reference to salvation.
“the kingdom” refers to David’s kingdom and office, and all earthly kingships/rule. They are all under the sovereign rule of God, for He is “the governor among the nations.” Starkly, the nations today will not recognise this divine rule, and kick against God, destroying His peoples. But, this governor will return to stamp on these rulers, when they will discover, too late, that they are doomed. So, even if it seems we as believers are crushed, we must never tell evil rulers they have won! Instead, we must praise God and tell them they have no authority over us.
All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul.
A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.
They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.
David now makes a profound statement about life. He says that those who have been given much by God (“fat”) will eat and worship; those who are dead will bow before God, and no man can “keep alive his own soul”. This is a reference to Christ and His kingdom.
It is also a denial and rejection of atheistic belief in evolution and other philosophies of men; rather, it proclaims the truth, that God alone gives life, and He removes it again at a time He has appointed. The idea of man being unable to keep alive his own soul is another reference to predestination. Though we say a man is ‘kept alive’ by a machine or by doctors, we should really say he is kept alive by God.
“A seed shall serve him”. That is, the offspring of godly men, who are themselves godly, will serve or honour the Lord in what they do, and they will pronounce it for a generation. This does not refer to a generation of men, but to a time period to the end of time. Those called by God will “declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born”.
These people will hear of God’s might and power. It also presupposes the coming of the Gospel, being preached to all men. Whether we talk of God’s might in battle, or His power in salvation, it makes no difference, for both are in God’s hands alone.
© March 2011
Published on www.christiandoctrine.com
Bible Theology Ministries - PO Box 415, Swansea, SA5 8YH
Please 'Make a Donation' to support the work of Bible Theology Ministries