Before you start reading, I should probably note that this is a little different from my normal approach. This is a little less devotional like and a little more informative. As I studied these verses I felt that I needed to share what I was learning in order to show how important it is to not just read your Bible, but to study it. You would be amazed what you learn when you just dig a little bit deeper. So let's take a look at this passage together. As many (but not all)of the Psalms are, this one was written by David, King David.
11 Be not far from me, for trouble is near;
For there is none to help.
12 Many bulls have surrounded me;
Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled me.
13 They open wide their mouth at me,
As a ravening and a roaring lion.
14 I am poured out like water,
And all my bones are out of joint;
My heart is like wax;
It is melted within me.
15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd,
And my tongue cleaves to my jaws;
And You lay me in the dust of death.
16 For dogs have surrounded me;
A band of evildoers has encompassed me;
They pierced my hands and my feet.
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.
David seems pretty distraught right? Now take a moment and reread that but think of Christ as being the author instead of David.
I could have "read" this Psalm hundreds of times as I was "reading" through my Bible but until I slowed down, until I stopped to actually pay attention to what I was reading, I never even realized that this was a reference to Christ and the crucifixion. Looking back, it should have been more than obvious - especially in vs. 16 where David writes, they pierced my hands and my feet...
But lets take a closer look at each of those verses to discover just how foretelling this is of the crucifixion.
Vs. 11 states Be not far from me, for trouble is near; / For there is none to help. In Matthew 26:36-46 we see that those closest to Christ, His dearest friends, Peter, James and John, could not even stay awake while the betrayal of their Savior was imminent. Trouble was near and Christ did not have a single soul to help him (Henry).
In vs. 12 the bulls of Bashan have surrounded him. When I read this, I thought, this can't be a reference to Christ. It has to be David because I don't even know where Bashan is... This same reference is used in Ezekiel 39:18 as well as Amos 4:1. You see, "Bashan was a district beyond the Jordan, very fertile, where they were accustomed to fattened cattle, which became, in consequence of the excellent pasture, the largest, as well as the fattest of the country" (Clarke). This metaphor means that these 'bulls' were the most wicked, violent, and potent enemies around (Wesley). I can easily visualize those of high rank who were out to get our beloved savior: the chief priest, the governor, etc. Vs. 13 also includes this group but changes the metaphor to a lion, which may be more relate-able in our day and age.
Vs. 14 is actually up for debate. Clarke notes that "the images in this verse are strongly descriptive of a person in the deepest distress; whose strength, courage, hope, and expectation of...relief, had entirely fled" and does not believe that this lines up theologically with Christ's suffering and must, therefore, be solely applied to David. I disagree. For one, Christ was fully human, I am sure He was afraid to die such a painful death. After all, he was sweating blood in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was tortured, pulled in two directions - that of the flesh, that of God. You cannot tell me He was not suffering. I believe He suffered in a way we cannot humanly fathom, His distress was beyond compare. Secondly, whether I am correct or not, when I read I am poured out like water, the imagery brings to mind the spear that pierced Christ's side. Blood and water poured out of His side. The next line reads And all my bones are out of joint. It was customary for the soldiers to break the legs of those being crucified in order to speed up the process of suffocation and death. However, Christ was already dead when they checked and they did not have to break any of His bones, a crucial part of fulfilling Scripture for the Passover lamb was not allowed to have any broken bones (Exodus 12:46). However, I imagine that from hanging in an awkward position, only nails holding His body in place for so long, that some of His bones felt or were disjointed...yet unbroken.
My strength is dried up like a potsherd, / And my tongue cleaves to my jaws; / And You lay me in the dust of death. The Hebrew for 'potsherd' is literally that for pottery (Strong's H2789). Think about how dry a clay pot is - the amount of moisture in a clay pot is the amount of strength he has left. I think that same idea of dryness carries over to the next line where he speaks of his tongue 'cleaving' or 'sticking' to his jaws (Strong's H1692). I have been there - if you have ever gone under for surgery you know this exact feeling - your mouth is so dry that your tongue sticks to your cheeks and your teeth like a gnat sticks to fly paper. It is a horrid feeling. Christ even says from the cross "I am thirsty." Then moments later He gave up His spirit, or was lain in the dust of death as David puts it in this Psalm (John 19:28-30).
The next verse, 16 is the most obvious for me since it references the piercing of hands and feet. I feel like that verse should have jumped off of the page and screamed, "Hello...this Psalm isn't just about David. Take a minute to really read this would ya?" For dogs have surrounded me; / A band of evildoers has encompassed me; / They pierced my hands and my feet. But sometimes I am just plain oblivious.The first interesting thing here is that it references dogs surrounding Him, not bulls or lions but dogs. If you remember from earlier, the bulls represented those of high rank, such as Caiaphas or Pilate. The dogs, then, would represent those of lower rank such as the pharisees who brought Him before the bulls in the first place (Henry). But the really neat thing about this verse is the obvious part, the piercing of hands and feet. First of all, "These words cannot with any probability be applied to David, but were properly and literally verified in Christ" (Wesley). And secondly, these words were written hundreds of years before the Roman punishment of crucifixion had even been invented (Storylines)! Talk about being inspired by the Spirit! David didn't really have a reason to write this - as far as we know, he was never pierced at his hands and feet, nor did he have any clue that someday in the distant future that would be a form of capital punishment. I am baffled in a good way at this information, amazed would probably be a better word. I believe that Scripture was inspired, breath by the Holy Spirit. But to see the evidence of it, to know that there is not another single explanation for something like this, it is incredible!
I cannot read the rest of these verses without solely visualizing the crucifixion of Christ. David has become a distant thought, a weak memory. 17 states I can count all my bones. / They look, they stare at me. I want you to go back to that image of Christ hanging on the cross, only three nails keeping His body attached to two boards - his body would have been distended, you could have easily counted His ribs. Matthew Henry even believes that "His blessed body was lean and emaciated with labour, grief, and fasting, during the whole course of His ministry," making Him look years beyond His age and adding to this imagery. We move onto the mention of staring and know that "Crucifixion was a slow process, and we recall the long hours in which the crowd sated their hatred through their eyes" (Expositor's). Their staring would have been a relentless torture, knowing that He was dying to save the very people who were killing Him, hating Him now. Verse 18 is yet another instance that "cannot be applied to David, but was literally fulfilled in Christ" (Wesley): They divide my garments among them, / And for my clothing they cast lots. When I hear the term 'cast lots' my mind immediately refers to the crucifixion - there is no question. You see, "though it was no great instance of Christ's suffering, yet it is a great instance of the fulfilling of Scripture in Him" (Henry).
Isn't it incredible how much you can learn from really reading the word of God? Reading His word everyday can be helpful. But instead of taking that 10, 15, 30, 60 minutes or more a day you spend simply reading a passage, take that time and pick one or two verses and really study. There is so much more beneath the surface that is just waiting to be discovered!
I detailed in this post what resources I use to study and how they can help you. It would be a great place to turn if you aren't sure where to start. If you don't have the time to check it out now, bookmark the page and come back to it later. Get more out of your time with God. Start now by clicking the following link: Love His Word
Another post details why even adding a journal to your reading time can be beneficial. This is a simpler approach than the one give above and can be a good way to take a baby step in the right direction. If you are intimidated by the word 'study,' start here and work you way up. Any step in the right direction is a great step! Click the following link to get started today: Writing, Reading, Applying.
Share in the comments below some of your tips for studying His word and digging deeper.