“Why hast Thou forsaken Me?”
Everything recorded in this 22nd Psalm was written prophetically, penned by divine inspiration, as the very words spoken by our blessed Savior when he hung upon the cursed tree, bearing our sins as our Substitute. Spurgeon wrote…
“Before us we have a description both of the darkness and of the glory of the cross, the sufferings of Christ and the glory which shall follow. Oh for grace to draw near and see this great sight! We should read it reverently, putting off our shoes from off our feet, as Moses did at the burning bush, for if there be holy ground anywhere in Scripture it is in this psalm.”
The words of this psalm are the very words of our blessed Savior when he hung upon the cursed tree as our Substitute, when he who knew no sin was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. At the apex of his obedience, at the time of his greatest sorrow, in the hour of his greatest need the Lord Jesus cried out to his Father, — “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
Then our all-glorious Redeemer tells us how utterly forsaken he was, so utterly forsaken that the Father refused to hear the cries of his own darling Son in the hour of his greatest need. — “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.” I read those words with utter astonishment. I will not attempt to explain what I cannot imagine. But these things are written here for our learning, that we might, through patience and consolation of the Scriptures, have hope.
I hang all the hope of my immortal soul upon this fact: — When the Lord Jesus Christ was made sin for me, he was utterly forsaken of God and put to death as my Substitute; and by his one great, sin-atoning Sacrifice, he has forever put away my sins. He not only bore our sins in his body on the tree, he bore them away!
Yet, in verse 3 our holy Savior, when he was made sin for us, answers the cry of his own soul’s agony. He cried, “My God, my God, Why hast thou forsaken me?” — “But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.” Why was the Lord Jesus forsaken by his Father when he was made sin for us? Because the holy Lord God is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. Our Savior was forsaken by the Father when he was made sin for us, because justice demanded it. — “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity” (Habakkuk 1:13).
Here, in verse 3 our Savior, when he was dying under the wrath of God, justified God in his own condemnation, because he was made sin for us. He proclaims the holiness of God in the midst of his agony. He is so pure, so holy, so righteous, so just that he will by no means clear the guilty (Exodus 34:7), even when the guilty One is his own darling Son! Rather than that his holy character be slighted, our Surety must suffer and die, because he was made sin for us.
Our Savior had no sin of his own. He was born without original sin, being even from birth “that Holy One” (Luke 1:35). Throughout his life he “knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21), “did no sin” (1 Peter 2:22), “and in him is no sin” (1 John 3:5). But on Calvary the holy Lord God “made him who knew no sin sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Just as in the incarnation “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14), in substitution he who was made flesh “was made sin for us.”
I do not know how God could be made flesh and never cease to be God; but he was. I do not know how God could die and yet never die; but he did (Acts 20:28). And I do not know how Christ who knew no sin could be made sin and yet never have sinned; but he was. These things are mysteries beyond the reach of human comprehension. But they are facts of divine revelation, to which we bow with adoration.
In dark Gethsemane, as he anticipated being made sin, our Savior’s holy soul shook within him; and his holy heart broke. Anticipating the pains of God’s holy fury against sin, his unbending justice and unmitigated wrath were beyond calculation, and the Savior’s soul was so crushed within him that he was sore amazed, and very heavy, even unto a sweat of blood. His strength was gone, his spirit sank, he was in an agony.
Then, as he hung upon the cursed tree, bearing our sins in his on body, he cried, as we read in Psalm 22:6, 14-15, — “I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people…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.”
It was the thought and anticipation of being made sin for us, not of simply paying the debt due unto our sins, but of being made sin, that caused his bloody sweat in Gethsemane. It was this fact, the fact that he was made sin for us that caused him to be forsaken of his Father, as he hung upon the cursed tree on Golgotha’s hill.
“Yes, my God bore all my guilt,
This through grace can be believed;
But the horrors which He felt
Are too vast to be conceived!”
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