This psalm has long been considered Davidic even though there is nothing in David's life which resembles the tilings he says. Those who deny the Davidic authorship forget that David was not only a poet; he was also a prophet. That is the key to this psalm. From beginning to end it points forward to Christ. This is not about David, but about great David's greater Son.
This psalm is in three parts, clearly discernible by the change of person in the pronouns.
In verses 1-21 we take our stand on a skull-shaped hill outside the walls of Jerusalem. They are nailing our Lord to the tree. There He hangs in agony and blood. We hear a cry, a tearful cry, the cry of a tragic victim. The pronouns are all the first person singular—I, me, my.
In verses 22-28 there is a sudden, startling change. These verses record some of the most terrible imprecations in the Bible. Curse after curse falls from the lips of the Lord. We take our stand on a blood-soaked battlefield. The armies of the earth have been drawn to Armageddon. The curse of God is upon them. We hear a blood-chilling, terrible cry, the cry of titanic vengeance. On earth our Lord never cursed anyone, He only blessed; but this is the day of God's wrath and a world which rejected His blessing must now face His curse. The pronouns are in the third person plural—they, them, their.
In verses 29-36 there is yet another change. Now we take our final stand on a blessed and renovated earth. The promise of the rainbow has been fulfilled and the glorious millennial day has dawned. The dark shadows all have fled, the earth has been cleansed, a redeemed people can look forward to a thousand years of peace, prosperity, and praise. We hear the same voice raised in a cry, only this time it is a triumphant cry of victory. The pronouns are all in the third person singular—he, him, his.
Such is this monumental psalm which has drawn and awed God's people for nearly three thousand years.
I. The Voice of One Crying in the Wilderness (69:1-21)
The words are the words of David, the heartbreak is the heartbreak of the Son of God. Here we have what the Holy Spirit calls "strong crying and tears." This is not the whimper of a babe or the cry of a hurt child. This is the unutterable anguish of a strong Man, the strongest Man who ever lived, broken by the woes of the whole wide world.
There can be no doubt that David had his private taste of “the torments of hell” after his sin with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband. We can trace his crying in such outpourings as in Psalms 32 and 51. But not even David ever experienced the despair voiced in the opening stanza of this psalm. But Jesus did. When He who knew no sin was made sin for us He sounded the depths of despair expressed in this psalm. We have the facts of the crucifixion in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. We have the feelings of the crucified in Psalm 69.
What feelings they were! Here we have utter revulsion, unspeakable horror, despair beyond words. As the hymn writer has put it:
The love that Jesus had for me,
To suffer on the cruel tree,
That I a ransomed soul might be,
Is more than tongue can tell.
A. His Desperate Plight (69:1-12)
If ever there is a portion of God's Word which needs to be approached with reverential awe, this is it. Here we must, like Moses, remove the shoes from our feet for the place whereon we stand is holy ground. Here, in these dozen verses, we have set before us the Saviour's woes and the Saviour's ways.
1. His Woes (69:1-6)
a. He Displays His Feelings (69:1-3)
(1) His Fears (69:1-2)
We are given a threefold picture of our sin as seen by our Saviour. Anyone who has entered into the spirit of these two verses will never again be able to think lightly of his sin. Let us look at these three pictures. It seemed to our Lord, as He hung there on Calvary's tree, that sin was destroying Him: "Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul."
On April 10, 1912 the great trans-Atlantic liner Titanic left Southampton for New York on her maiden voyage. She was billed as "the unsinkable ship," 66,000 tons of mechanics and magnificence. She was towed from her berth on April 10; five days later she was at the bottom of the Atlantic with countless fathoms of icy water rolling over her decks and filling her luxurious cabins and her great engine rooms. What happened? Simply this; she struck an iceberg which tore a three-hundred-foot gash in her side so that the waters outside came in. That was all. Then down she went like a lead balloon. The unsinkable ship was sunk.
Two thousand years ago, on a clear, starry night, in a remote Judean town, God launched a mighty vessel on the seas of time. It was truly an unsinkable ship. It had been engineered in eternity, the plans drawn up before ever the worlds were made. It was a vessel fashioned by the Holy Ghost in the virgin's womb. This great ship was launched with scarcely a ripple to disturb mankind. For in the little village of Bethlehem the Son of God became the Son of man as the second person of the Godhead entered into human life. The seas of sin surged all about Him. Some time after He was launched upon His way a monster by the name of Herod sent his soldiers to murder the little boy in His bed—in vain. The ship had slipped its moorings and was already far beyond the reach of that diabolically wicked man. There was a troubled wake, however, in Bethlehem as distraught parents looked at their massacred infants and called down God's curse on the king.
Jesus grew up in an ordinary home. The seas of sin rippled all about him. His brothers and sisters in that Nazareth home were sinners just like anyone else. They squabbled, told lies, displayed bad temper, were disobedient, self-willed, and naughty. His beloved mother, honored as she is by millions, confessed herself in need of a Saviour (Luke 1:47). His best friends at home, at school, at play, were sinners of Adam's ruined race. He lived in a world of sinful people. Every moment that He lived He rubbed shoulders with those whose lives were under the control of sin, self, and Satan. His closest companions were sinful men like boastful Peter, doubting Thomas, hot-tempered James and John, thieving Judas. Satan tempted Him at every turning point of life. His enemies set traps for Him, pressures built up all around Him. But there was no crack, no weak spot, no flaw in the armor of His impeccable holiness. The seas of sin surged around Him but He remained sinless and undefiled.
But at Calvary he struck the iceberg—and the waters came in unto His soul. A mighty gash had been made and sin surged in—not His, never that; but ours. He was "made sin" for us. And He sank swiftly. The waters outside had come inside. He experienced something He had never experienced before, sin in His soul. He cried: "Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul." He who for countless ages had known sin as God knows sin, known it in all His omniscience, now knew sin by actual touch and contamination and He cried out at the horror of it. "Save Me! Save Me!" But for Him alone, among all the countless millions who have thronged this planet since Adam, there was no Saviour provided, there was no Saviour possible. There could be no Saviour for Him if there was to be a Saviour for us.
He felt that sin was defiling Him: "Save me, O God. ... I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing." There was a gate in Jerusalem known as the dung gate. It was located at the southwest angle of Mount Zion. Below, in the valley of Tophet, accumulated the filth and garbage of the city. No worse fate could befall a person than to slip and fall into that horrible heap. Yet it seemed to the soul of the Saviour that something far worse than that was happening to Him. It was as though all the impurity of the human race had been gathered together in one stinking sewer, as though every perverted act, every pornographic thought, every savage and horrible atrocity, every wrong thought and lustful desire, every malicious lie, every depraved word, every sin however gigantic or however mean and spiteful were all concentrated in one bubbling cesspool. And He was sinking beneath it all. That is what the Lord experienced on the cross. No wonder He cried out, "I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing." We would be hard put to it to find anything more terrible in the whole Bible though we searched every one of its 31,173 verses and combed every one of its 773,692 words.
There was seemingly no bottom to it all. We need to remember that Jesus died for the sin of the whole world. He not only died for us, He died as us. The unspeakable horror of that will only sink in when we give it some thought. Think of men like Himmler and Stalin, think of the kind of people whose lives of crime and horror are commemorated in wax in London's famous chamber of horrors at Madame Tussauds. Think of the terrible things done in German concentration camps, in the dungeons of the Spanish Inquisition, by maddened and infuriated troops taking a city by storm. Think of the lives of pimps, perverts, and prostitutes. But why go so far afield? Let us think of our own sins and try to catalog them. Then let us remember that Jesus took our place and died both for us and as us. It is a thought beyond all thought.
We cannot comprehend what it meant. We can only pray with the hymn writer:
Oh, make me understand it,
Help me to take it in,
What it meant for Thee, Thou Holy One
To take away my sin.
On the cross it seemed as though sin was drowning Him as the flood-tides of God's wrath, dammed back since the fall, now burst upon Him. Over those wild wastes of judgment water there came the desolating cry: "Save me, O God... for the floods overflow me." The only answer was silence.
"I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried; mine eyes fail while I wait for my God."
I suppose most of us, at one time or another, have sobbed our hearts out over some childish disappointment, or over some sterner tragedy in life. We know what it feels like when the anguish persists but no more tears will come. Such were the tears Jesus wept over our sin in Gethsemane and on the cross. Truly God has gathered up every one of them, those liquid drops of agony drawn from the broken heart of the Man of sorrows, and put them in His bottle, and treasured them as precious beyond all count.
b. He Describes His Foes (69:4)
"They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of mine head: they that would destroy me, being mine enemies wrongfully, are mighty: then I restored that which I took not away."
The world had turned against Him. Roman, Greek, and Hebrew alike joined hands against Him at the cross. It was in a moment of dark but dreadful inspiration that Pilate had His title written in the languages of all three—the world of power, the world of culture, and the world of religion. The whole world signed and endorsed the rejection of God's Son. His enemies were countless. After sending Mary and John away He looked in vain for a friendly face as He gazed down from His elevated throne of pain upon the crowds that milled around the cross.
He, of all mankind, had no need to be there. He was there by sovereign choice, restoring that which He took not away—restoring man's lost sinlessness by being made sin itself. Those who constituted themselves His foes did so wrongfully. He had done them nothing but good. Wonder of wonders, even as they mocked Him and spat at Him—He loved them and was dying for them. Such were His foes. He had healed their sick and raised their dead and fed them by the thousand and taught them immortal truths and their answer was the cross.
c. He Discloses His Fate (69:5)
"O God, thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from Thee."
That was David speaking. Surely Jesus could never have spoken like that! How could He possibly talk of His "foolishness" and of His "sins"? Only by identification. He took our foolishness, took our sins, made them really and truly His own, became so identified with them that He could speak of them as His! Here, indeed, we need to stand with bowed head and broken heart and confess that this dimension of Calvary is beyond us. We believe it, but we cannot understand it. Here is a mystery of love and woe beyond all thought. It was for this, however, that He came into the world. This was part of that plan hammered out in a past eternity—for the triune God foreknew that if once They acted in creation They would also have to act in redemption.
d. He Declares His Faith (69:6)
"Let not them that wait on Thee, O Lord God of hosts, be ashamed for my sake: let not those that seek Thee be confounded for my sake, O God of Israel."
At that moment, the Lord was thinking, perhaps, of poor Simon Peter, skulking down the back alleys of Jerusalem, weeping his heart out, perchance in Gethsemane. He was thinking of Thomas whose nagging doubts seemed to have proven true. He was thinking of Simon the Zealot whose faith in Him had been fired by his enthusiasm for the kind of government Jesus would establish on earth when He came into His kingdom. He was thinnking of them one by one, all in hiding, all so ashamed of their fears and cowardice, all so confused at this tragic end to their hopes. He could see how they might think that God had let them down. Satan would be busy in their thoughts along that line. They had not bargained on it all ending on a Roman cross—even though He had warned them mat it would.
He addressed God as the "Lord God of hosts." He had told Peter just a few hours before, in Gethsemane, to put up his sword because there were twelve legions of angels straining over the battlements of Heaven at that very moment, willing then and there to usher in Armageddon if only given the word. Perhaps Peter would remember that in his tears and torment.
This was all part of a plan. The significant title, "the God of Israel," first occurs in connection with Jacob's parting from Esau, his buying of a parcel of land from Hamor, the father of Shechem, the building of an altar, and the subsequent disgrace of his daughter Dinah (Genesis 33:20). Jacob's self-confidence had again to be shaken. He seemed to have been about to give up his pilgrim character—yet God was still his God. He might have been prepared to revert to his Jacob character; God reminded him of his "Israel" title. The name "Jacob" is often thus contrasted with the name "Israel" to emphasize the sins of the patriarch and the nation, on the one hand, and its spirituality on the other.
Perhaps on the cross the Lord was reaching out to His disciples all of whom, except for John, seemed quite prepared to throw out the whole thing now that the cross had intervened between them and their hopes. Their faith had failed, but the Lord's faith had not failed and He affirms this faith in this verse.
2. His Ways (69:7-12)
Again our attention is directed to the cross and to the Holy Sufferer. Here, however, we have a view of the Lord surveying His ways and how those divinely-ordained ways had brought Him at last to the tree.
a. He Is Reproached (69:7)
"Because for Thy sake I have borne reproach; shame hath covered my face."
Crucifixion was a shameful way to die quite apart from the terror and pain of it. It was the kind of death the Romans gave to slaves and conquered enemies. A man dying on a cross was exposed naked for the world to see and the more ignoble functions of the body could not be hid. The embarrassment associated with the death was not the least of its horrors for a sensitive person. The Lord Jesus endured the cross "despising the shame" but, as we learn from this psalm, the shame was there. And the reproach. Indeed, this was the most impossible thing about Christianity to a man like Saul of Tarsus—how could Israel's Messiah be crucified when God's Word said, "Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree"? The reproach was as real as the shame.
b. He Is Rejected (69:8)
"I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother's children."
How accurate is the Word of God! In no way could those half-brothers and sisters of His, in that Nazareth home, be called "his father's children" since Joseph, their father, was not His father. But their mother was His mother. They had never understood His messianic claims. They had sought, indeed, to interfere with His work, deeming Him to be beside Himself. The estrangement had grown after His rejection in the Nazareth synagogue and the attempt by His townsfolk to throw Him over a cliff. We can well imagine the things that were said about Him in the synagogue the family attended and how His brothers would resent the "disgrace" He was, in their minds, bringing on the whole family. Mary, of course, knew the truth but His brothers, and perhaps His sisters too, resented Him. He must have felt their rejection very deeply indeed.
c. He Is Righteous (69:9-11)
No amount of human misunderstanding and resentment, however, could turn Him aside from the path He had come to tread. Mention is made, here, of three things which held Him on that divinely-ordained way.
(1) His Consuming Devotion Godward (69:9)
"For the zeal of Thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached Thee are fallen upon me."
As He hung there upon the cross, His mind went back to the beginning of His public ministry when, on the occasion of His first official visit to Jerusalem, He had deliberately cleansed the Temple. It was passover time and the unscrupulous Sadducees had sold concessions to merchants to profit from the demand for temple currency and sacrificial animals. Indignantly Jesus drove them out. In recording the incident later, John quoted from this verse: "And His disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of Thine house hath eaten me up" (John 2:17). It was this righteous act, an evidence of His consuming devotion Godward, that had turned the leaders of the nation against Him— especially when He repeated it at the end of His ministry.
The Apostle Paul quoted the remainder of the verse ("the reproaches of them that reproached Thee are fallen upon me") when, writing to the Roman church, he urged the believers to be mindful of the weaker brother. "For even Christ pleased not Himself," he wrote, "but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached Thee fell on Me" (Romans 15:3). The Greek word Paul used is interesting. It is oneidismos (and its companion oneidizo) which literally means "revilings." It describes the insulting, opprobrious language used against the Lord Jesus and His people. The Lord's determination to "do always those things that please the Father" inevitably brought Him into collision with sinful men and their natural reaction was to revile Him. They manifested toward Him the inbred hatred of God native to the unregenerate human heart.
(2) His Continuing Denial Selfward (69:10)
"When I wept, and chastened my soul with fasting, that was to my reproach."
Nothing Jesus ever did was right with a certain class of unbeliever. If He fasted He was an ascetic; if He came eating and drinking they called Him a glutton and a wine bibber and a friend of publicans and sinners. He was the most abstemious of men. He began His public ministry with a prolonged, forty-day fast. He knew how to keep His body in subjection to the monitoring Spirit within.
(3) His Convicting Distress Manward (69:11)
"I made sackcloth also my garment; and I became a proverb to them."
No occasion in the life of Christ, as recorded in the Gospels, makes mention of such an act. It was typical of the Old Testament prophets, however, that they used sackcloth and ashes visually to portray God's displeasure on the sins of the nation and the certainty of coming judgment unless there was repentance on the part of the people. In a metaphorical sense, Christ's whole life was one of "sackcloth." He was, indeed, "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief," greater than Job, Jeremiah, and Jonah in His sorrows for the sins of mankind.
There is no doubt that the Jews disliked Him intensely for the way His manner of life convicted them. They called Him "a Samaritan" (no greater insult could have been meant) and said He had "a devil" (John 8:48). The characteristic title for Him by the Christ-rejecting Sanhedrin was "that deceiver" (Matthew 27:63).
d. He Is Ridiculed (69:12)
"They that sit in the gate speak against me, and I was the song of the drunkards."
The gate, of course, was the place where official and everyday business was transacted in an oriental city in Bible times. "They that sit in the gate" were the country's officials. Even the most cursory reading of the Gospels shows how soon and how often Jewish officialdom spoke against Jesus. But what, perhaps, arrests us more than anything else is that He was "the song of the drunkards." They mocked Him in their taverns. Think of it! He whom angels worshiped, the One who was the theme of seraph's song—the song of the drunkards. In yonder glory land angels had crowded around His throne to awaken the echoes of the everlasting hills with their ceaseless chant: "Holy! Holy! Holy!" Now, in the public houses, with drink slopping down their beards, they lifted their tipsy voices in ribald song, mocking Him.
And He loved them, died for them; died, indeed, as them. Thus, all the way down these first dozen verses of this monumental psalm, we have a description of His desperate plight.
B. His Desperate Plea (69:13-21)
Only Psalm 22 compares with what we have here, as the inner soul of the Saviour is made bare before us. He has a twofold plea—hear Me! help Me!
1. Hear Me! (69:13-17)
The Lord Jesus, on the cross, turned His thoughts away from the revilings of men, away from man's unutterable cruelty, to God and to His infinite mercy.
a. God's Mercies Are Multiplied (69:13-15)
He dwells upon those mercies; He declares His confidence: "But as for me, my prayer is unto Thee, O LORD, in an acceptable time: O God, in the multitude of Thy mercy hear me, in the truth of Thy salvation."
He staked everything on that. His times were in God's hands. It might not be "an acceptable time," indeed, for God to show Him His mercy, not while He was acting as Sin-bearer, but that acceptable time would come. He had every confidence in that. God's wrath was about to fall, but that would be only for three dread hours. But His mercy endures forever. Beyond the storm lay the sunshine of a new, unending day.
Then, too, He describes His condition: "Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink: Let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters. Let not the waterflood overflow me, neither let the deep swallow me up, and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me."
He repeats the opening anguished cry. There has been no answer. The waters have only become deeper and the mire more dreadful. Now death itself looms on the horizon, the deep and the pit. It is evident that soon He must die. But does death sever us from the mercy of God? Could death cut Him off from those mercies which are from everlasting to everlasting? Never! Still the Holy Sufferer prays—"Hear Me! Hear Me!"
b. God's Mercies Are Magnified (69:16-17)
Now the Lord expands upon those sure mercies. They are wonderfully defined: "Hear me, O LORD; for Thy lovingkindness is good; turn unto me according to the multitude of Thy tender mercies."
We have noted this again and again in the psalms. God is not just kind and merciful. He offers not just kindness but lovingkindness, not just mercy but tender mercy, not just tender mercy but tender mercies. Everything is in the superlative. The Sufferer on the tree, abused and forsaken by men, soon to sink beneath the very waves of God's wrath, lays hold upon His mercies. He magnifies them. Goodness and mercy had followed Him all the days of His life and He was sure they would not desert Him at the last, come what may. Such an affirmation of the Lord's faith in His Father, in such an hour, at such a place, under such conditions is marvelous indeed. Then, too, those mercies are willingly displayed: "And hide not Thy face from Thy servant; for I am in trouble: hear me speedily."
He had no doubt at all. God's mercies had been displayed all down through the long, tragic history of man's sin—let it be displayed now. If not to Him, then to those who stood around the cross. "Father," He had prayed, "forgive them, they know not what they do." Even as He hung there, the victim, His prayer was being answered—at His expense.
That cross was like a mighty lightning rod, reared against the skyline of the world. The descending fury of God's wrath was caught by that tree and its dying victim. The high voltage of God's righteous wrath against the human race exploded in the soul of the Saviour. The human race escaped instant incineration because of the mercy of God. God's mercy was, indeed, being willingly displayed even in that dread hour. Well might we sing:
The tempest's awful voice was heard,
O Christ, it broke on Thee!
Thy open bosom was my ward;
It bore the storm for me.
Thy form was scarred,
Thy visage marred;
Now cloudless peace for me.
Jesus well knew He could not have it both ways. He could not be both the Saved and the Saviour. Still, He reveled in the mercy of God, mercy to be shown to rebel sinners of Adam's ruined race.
2. Help Me! (69:18-21)
Yet, for all that, the human side of Christ's sufferings are never far from the surface. The intense agony of the cross, the fearful anticipation of that dread moment when sin itself was to be visited upon Him, keep coming to the surface. So He prays, as Man, "Help! Help Me!"
a. Lord, Move Near to Me (69:18) "Draw nigh unto my soul, and redeem it: deliver me because of mine enemies."
Again His enemies intrude themselves, shouting, jeering, mocking: "He saved others, Himself He cannot save. ... If Thou be the King of Israel, come down from the cross and we will believe Thee. ... He trusted in God, let Him deliver Him now, if He will have Him." And even the dying thieves: "Save Thyself—and us."
How every one of those taunts must have stung! Did He sense that the moment was coming when His Father in Heaven would also turn His back? Is that why He uttered the agonizing appeal: "Draw nigh unto my soul"? Was the sense of distance already beginning to cast its shadow? Who can tell?
b. Lord, Make Note of Me (69:19-21)
The sufferings of the Saviour once more take over the psalm.
(1) The Scorn He Was Facing (69:19)
"Thou hast known my reproach, and my shame, and my dishonour: mine adversaries are all before Thee."
If the Sufferer goes over the same ground again and again it is because that is the way it is when one is in intense pain and anguish. Who can be logical in a time like that? Do we not tend to repeat the same phrases over and over when the physical pain or the mental anguish becomes more than we can bear? Again the Lord is overwhelmed by the shame, the disgrace, the scorn of His position on that cursed tree.
(2) The Sorrow He Was Facing (69:20)
He draws attention to this again. He asks God to help Him because He was in no condition to bear it: "Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness." He was now feeling His sheer weakness. He had been up all night. The night before had begun with the last Passover, a time filled with strong emotions, highlighted by the departure of Judas, the blood money jingling in his pocket, to make final arrangements for the betrayal, and by His last great intercessory prayer for the others. It had continued with the dreadful agony in the garden when, so intense was His anticipatory suffering, He had actually sweat great drops of blood and angels had been required to come and strengthen Him. Then all night long He had been marched here and there to face this trial and that, all the time being beaten and bullied and finally mocked and scourged.
The morning had seen Him staggering towards Golgotha and fainting beneath the weight of the cross. Then had come the actual crucifixion itself. For hours He had hung upon the cross beneath the burning heat of the sun, and having refused the customary stupifying drink, had felt the full force of the appalling pain. But more than anything else there was the heartless ingratitude of the Jews, the wholesale abandonment of Him by His disciples, and the unbearable loneliness of it all. He pleads that He had no companion to share it: "And I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none."
True, His mother had been there but He had sent her away. It was more than a mother ought to bear. Moreover, He knew that in the ages to come the church would make a goddess out of His mother. Indeed, in Rome, one can go to the Bascilica of Santa Maria Maggiore (Ste. Mary Major), the royal palace of Mariolatry, and see the extent to which some people will go. In the courtyard of this church, a little off the beaten track of the general pathway of Rome's pilgrims, is a very high stone crucifix. On the one side of that cross is a statue of Christ, depicted as the dying Saviour of the world; on the other side, crucified with Him, actually sharing His cross, nailed to the same tree, is a statue of the virgin Mary depicted as the co-redemptrix for the sins of the world. To sweep away all such hideously false notions, Jesus sent His mother away. As she and the beloved disciple John picked their way through the crowds, down the hill, and out of sight.
He was truly left without a human comforter in His pains. Every other eye in the place was an unfriendly eye, every other voice a hostile voice. The priests and leaders led the way and egged the people on in their abuse; the callous soldiers squabbled over His clothes, then made a game out of the whole thing and brought out their dice to gamble for them. He looked for some to take pity, but there was none, for comforters, but found none. We search the crowds for some sign of Zaccheus, for Nicodemus, for once-blind Bartimaeus, for Lazarus. If they were ever there they have long since drifted away. The loneliness of it broke His heart.
(3) The Suffering He Was Facing (69:21)
"They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink."
That was the crowning act of heartlessness. He had been on that cross for hours and was desperately thirsty. He spoke seven times from the cross. The first three sayings were uttered during the first three hours, in daylight; the last four sayings were uttered in the abysmal darkness and are dominated by the idea of atonement. During the hours of daylight He offered a prayer for His foes, gave a promise to the dying thief, and made provision for His mother. Then came the darkness. The fourth and fifth sayings highlighted two aspects of His anguish. In the central saying, the fourth one, He resolved His mental anguish and we have the anticipation of that in Psalm 22:1. In the fifth saying we have a disclosure of His physical anguish and we have an anticipation of that here, in this verse: "I thirst." He began His public ministry by being hungry (Matthew 4:2) and He ended it by being thirsty. Satan offered Him stones for bread on that occasion, now men offer Him gall and vinegar. We cannot be sure what the "gall" was but we can be sure it was something bitter. The Hebrew word is rendered "venom" (Deuteronomy 29:18; 32:32-33), "poison" (Job 20:16), and "hemlock" (Hosea 10:4). Truly the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.
On that note the first cry ends. It is followed by another, quite different cry. Between verses 21 and 22 of Psalm 69 we must place the entire age of the Church from Pentecost to the rapture. The sudden change is startling in the extreme.
II. The Voice of One Cursing in the Wilderness (69:22-28)
The scene abruptly changes; Mount Golgotha gives way to Megiddo. The curse Christ bore now recoils on the heads of those who have no use for Him and who are living at the end of the age when the cup of wrath, brimming over for centuries, is now poured out by a God who can hold back His wrath no longer. If the world will not have Christ as Saviour, very well, He shall come back as Judge and Avenger of blood.
There follows one of the most fearful maledictions in the Bible. We often overlook that this, one of the greatest of the Calvary psalms, is also one of the more dreadful cursing psalms. It is, in a sense, inevitable. Christ bore the curse for all mankind, but if His redemptive work is spurned and His sacrifice rejected, then the curse must inevitably return upon the head of the Christ-rejector, a curse intensified by the crime of Calvary itself.
The cross of Christ was God's great welfare provision for the human race. The cross was at once the high point in man's guilt—man could do no worse than crucify the Son of God; it was also the high point of God's grace—God could do no more to show His forgiveness, compassion, and mercy than to take the very instrument of man's hate and convert it into the means of man's salvation. For two thousand years now God, in the expressive language of the Apostle Paul, has been "making peace through the blood of His cross" (Colossians 1:20). The time is soon to come when God will make war over that blood. Woe betide those who turn their backs upon God's great peace offer, His great plan for the welfare of the race in the redemptive work of Christ!
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