Jesus Forsaken of God and the Consequences: Part 1

Psalm 22  •  12 min. read  •  grade level: 6
Listen from:
The scripture that I have read (Psa. 22) is preeminently the psalm of One forsaken of God. In this it stands alone: not that there are not other psalms which refer to that most solemn hour, and to the blessed person who here speaks to God; but this psalm above all. It is not merely here that we have the Lord taking His place among men, the trusting One, which Psa. 16 gives—His trust carried on unbrokenly, looking on through death into resurrection, yea to glory at God's right hand.
But here what a contrast! He is abandoned of God, yet cleaves to Him wholly and vindicates Him absolutely. But He is forsaken of God. Now it is not His enemies that say so, though they too did—it is Himself; and it is Himself to God Himself. No believer had ever been thus forsaken or can be. “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. 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 Jehovah that he would deliver him, seeing he delighted in him” (vers. 4-8). Never was there such an hour even for Jesus, never can there be such an hour again. Good and evil were then brought to an issue in the only person who could solve the riddle; good and evil met in One that was perfectly good and yet then bearing evil at the hand of God. It was atonement. Not that this alone appears in the psalm; but Jesus made sin is the first and deepest thought and fact. There was no sorrow that He knew not; there was no shame that He was saved from. Bulls of Bashan were there; shameless dogs compassed Him about; the ravening lion was not absent. In truth these are but figures; and man was more cruel than all, baser and most deliberate, he alone indeed guilty, led on by a subtler mightier enemy; but, deepest, and most wondrous of all, God was there, and there first of all, as it could not but be, God as judge of sin, who made His Son that knew no sin to be sin for us.
First, I repeat, was this mysterious judgment of evil on the Holy One, not merely first in point of fact, but because it stands necessarily to itself the most solemn and solitary of all things for God and man, in time or eternity, in earth or heaven or hell. Befittingly therefore with this the psalm opens, for what could compare with it, past, present, future? The Lord Jesus had met Satan at the beginning in the wilderness, at the end in Gethsemane. He had broken his power for the earth and for man on it, spoiling the strong man's goods; but it was another and inconceivably profounder question now. It was sin before God. It was no mere conflict, it was nothing that could be broken or won in the power of obedience. There had been living goodness, and God's seal was upon it. But here was another thing. He had glorified the Father all His life, but now it was a question of glorifying God in His death, for God is the judge of sin. It was not a question with the Father as such, but with God as God touching sin. He who had glorified the Father in a life of obedience glorified God in the death in which that very obedience was consummated; and not merely this: evil was laid on Him in whom all was good, and they met. What a meeting!
Yes, God was there, not the approver of what was good only, but the Judge of all evil laid upon that blessed head. It was God forsaking the faithful obedient Servant; yet it was His God: this would—could—never be given up; for, on the contrary, He even then firmly holds to it, “My God, my God"; yet He has to add now, “Why hast thou forsaken me?” It was the Son of the Father, but as Son of man necessarily that He so cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Then, and then only, did God desert His one unswerving Servant, the man Christ Jesus. Nevertheless we how before the mystery of mysteries in His person—God manifested in flesh. Had He not been man, of what avail for us? Had He not been God, all must have failed to give to His suffering for sins the infinite worth of Himself. This is atonement. And atonement has two parts in its character and range. It is expiation before God; it is also substitution for our sins (Lev. 16:7-107And he shall take the two goats, and present them before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. 8And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat. 9And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the Lord's lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering. 10But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness. (Leviticus 16:7‑10); Jehovah's lot and the people's lot), though the latter part be not so much the subject of the psalmist here, and I do not therefore dwell on it now. The ground, the most important part, of the atonement, though all be of the deepest moment, is Jehovah's lot.
Here then we have God in His majesty and righteous judgment of evil—God in the display of His moral being dealing with sin, where alone it could be dealt with to bring out blessing and glory, in the person of His own Son; One who could when forsaken of God, reach the lowest, but morally highest, point of glorifying God, made sin for us on the cross. It was the very perfection of His bearing sin that He should not be heard. There was the sharpest pain and anguish and bitterness of rejection; and did He not feel it? Did the glory of His person render Him incapable of suffering? The idea denies His humanity. Rather was His deity that which made Him endure and feel it most, and as none other could. “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 enclosed 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. But be not thou far from me, O Jehovah: O my strength, haste thee to help me. Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog” (vers. 14-20).
Nevertheless the Lord Christ perfectly vindicates God who forsook Him there and then. Others had cried, and there was not one who had not been delivered; but it was His not to be. For the suffering must go to the uttermost, and sin be righteously atoned for, and this too not by power but by suffering.
But what is this that breaks on our ears, when the last drop in the cup is drained? “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,” says the Savior. He says, now He is risen from the dead, “I will declare thy name unto my brethren.” He had declared it: such was His ministry here below, but now on an entirely new ground. Death and death alone disposed of sin; death, but His death alone, could dispose of sin, so that the sinner could bow to God's righteousness about it, and be brought without sin into the presence of God. And this is what God Himself declares.
Mark here too the consequence of it, “I will declare thy name unto my brethren.” Now the Lord Jesus shows us in the Gospels the wonderful adaptation of the truth of the Old Testament. “Thy name” —what name? When bearing sin He speaks of God. When looking on to deliverance, or in enjoyed relationship, the godly Israelite speaks of Jehovah. But in the New Testament, while God remains God and must be ever the judge of sin, Father is the characteristic term of a relationship which the Son of God knew from eternity, yet knew none the less as man but in a truth and fullness which belonged to Him only. This in its reality and intimateness He would give them as far as it could be, in redemption, as many a soul here knows with joy. But I shall repeat it for some hearts which know not that blessed word in its sweetness and real meaning to the soul. Jesus could bring it out now.
“I will declare thy name unto my brethren,” and so He says, “I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God.” He had never said so before. He had been declaring the name of the Father, but He had never presented it thus; and your particular attention is called to the fact. It supposes not merely love, but this on a foundation of righteousness. Undoubtedly grace was that which gave Him and thus wrought for sinful man; but here He gives us, when sin was judged and put away, to know that His God is ours, and, when the life was bearing much fruit in resurrection, that His Father is ours. The glory of the Father and the nature of God were now engaged in blessing us with Him, as just before only the holy vengeance of God came out against sin. It was indeed glory in the highest, it was grace in the lowest, but all was on the footing of righteousness, without which all else would only inflate the soul and expose it to be dragged down into worse depths. The basis of God's righteousness is needed for the sinner, and he who in himself was but a lost sinner is now entitled to know God not merely as God but as Father. “I will declare Thy name unto my brethren.” There was pardon now, and peace; but not these only: there was association with Christ Himself. Far more than this indeed, but, as it is not here, we need not now go beyond what is before us, with only the modification given by the scriptures of the New Testament already referred to.
Now mark how the declaration of His name comes out. “My God, my God,” says Jesus, when and because He was forsaken on the cross, made sin and bearing our sins in His own body on the tree. It is the true and simple and strong answer to those who suppose that He had been all His life here below bearing sin; had this been so, He must have been all through forsaken of God, unless God shine with complacency while judging sin. It would be the virtual denial of His life in the joy and communion of His Father's love. Son of God here below, He had ever walked in the intimate and perfect acknowledgment of His Father's presence and of His own relationship, and hence so much the more did He feel what it was to be abandoned. But now the sin that was charged upon Him is gone by His dying for it; and, as the witness that all was gone, He is raised up from the dead and then declares that very name, not first “your” Father, nor our Father (this were beneath His glory, whatever may be His love), but “My Father and your Father, and my God and your God.” Thus what God is as Father to Him rests now on those for whom He died, on those whose sins had been blotted out by the blood of His cross.
But this is not all. The perfect and manifested acceptance of the Man that God made sin is altogether theirs now, not merely the love of the Father, but the glorified character and light of God. Thus it is love not solely in relationship but in nature; yea, more than this: all that God feels as God, all that pertains to Him vindicated forever, not merely is Christ's, but by Christ's work consequently belongs to those who rest on that person and that work. Such is the virtue and fruit of atonement; nor is it only for heaven, for it was brought out by Himself on earth. He was going to heaven; but it was expressly for wise and weighty reasons made known here to the souls that needed it most. To the poor in spirit, to the meek, His disciples, He had shown Himself the pattern of dependence and obedience, of grace and righteousness, of bright and peaceful communion with His Father; but all this of itself could only aggravate their condition, which was so far beneath His, and thus must be the more humiliating to His own, had not He by grace wrought their deliverance. With what force then the blessed truth broke upon their souls! God Himself, the Father of the Lord Jesus, was their Father, even as He was their God; all that is in God as completely in their favor by what He had wrought on the cross as all that is in Him as Father. And remark it is not merely “as a father pitieth his children,” for there is incomparably more now. He is the Father as the Christ knew Him. “I will declare thy name unto my brethren” brethren brought, and brought righteously, into the self-same relation, so that all the satisfaction and delight of God (not only of the Father, which relationship He has given us to enjoy, but of God) Himself in Christ is shared fully with us because of the acceptance we have in Christ our Lord.
[W. K.]
(To be continued)