Tuesday, March 22, 2016

EXPLORE IT! - The Death Psalm

The Scriptures were very important to the Jewish people. When Jewish boys went to school they were required to memorize the Torah, the first five books of the Bible – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The girls also went to school and they were taught the Psalms and the Proverbs, as well as parts of the Torah. 

Being a Rabbi, Jesus would have had the entire Bible memorized, including the Psalms. When Jesus was dying on the cross, he quoted from what was known as the Death Psalm, Psalm 22. It is the wish of a Jew to be reciting Psalm 22 when they die. It is difficult for someone who is being crucified to speak. They have to push up with their legs in order to get a breath of air. Jesus begins reciting the Death Psalm by shouting, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” and as time goes by, you can see that the Psalm is still on his mind. He is repeating it in his head, and every time he gets to a place where it reminds him of something, he speaks. 

When the Psalm says, “From birth I was cast on you; from my mother's womb you have been my God,” Jesus says to his mother, "’Woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’" When the Psalm says, “My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death,” Jesus speaks, “I am thirsty.” 

As Jesus remembers what the Psalm says, “They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment,” He watches as the soldiers gamble for His own clothing. 

But the real good news comes at the end of this Psalm. It says: 

“All the ends of the earth 
will remember and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations 
will bow down before him, 
for dominion belongs to the LORD 
and he rules over the nations. 
All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; 
all who go down to the dust will kneel before him— 
those who cannot keep themselves alive. 
Posterity will serve him; 
future generations will be told about the Lord. 
They will proclaim his righteousness, 
declaring to a people yet unborn: 
He has finished it!” 

And with that, Jesus cries out, “It is finished!” and He dies there. 

“It is finished.” This is a truly remarkable sentence. The ramifications of such a statement are great. It’s over. It’s done. Jesus has paid the price. Sin and death have come to an end. But there is more to the death of Jesus than the forgiveness of sins. There is also redemption. The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross made a way not only for us to escape from an eternity in hell, but it also provided a way for us to be brought back to God. We are now able to come to God without there being a dividing wall between us. 

But the making of the way to bring people back to God is not something that is only for people as individuals. Our salvation and redemption is not something that for us only and only us to see. No. Christ’s sacrifice has made a way for the whole world to be brought back to God. The Psalm says: 

“All the ends of the earth 
will remember and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations 
will bow down before him.” 

It goes on to say that the LORD’s righteousness will be proclaimed to future generations, and that they will say, “He has finished it.” 

“He has finished it.” The death of Jesus is directly connected with the salvation and the redemption of the nations. Through the death of Christ, God will turn the hearts of the nations back to Him. The significance of Jesus saying “It is finished” can be found at the end of this death psalm, for the proclamation of the nations who have put their hope in God is that He has finished it. In Jesus, we see the fulfillment of this prophecy. Through His death, Jesus has finished it – meaning that he has made a way for the healing of the nations through the forgiveness of sins. 

It is God’s desire that everyone be saved – this includes people from every tribe, language, people and nation. One of the reasons that Jesus has not come back yet is that there are people who still do not know him. There are tribes and people groups who do not yet know about Jesus and what He did for them. We know this is true from the Scriptures. It is not that Jesus does not want to come back. He does. But he is waiting for the full number of the Gentiles to be brought into the Kingdom before he returns to proclaim judgment on the world and establish His reign on earth forever. 

This idea of God’s righteousness being extended to the very ends of the earth was not an idea that arose after the death of Jesus. The death of Jesus provided the foundation of this act to be carried out, but the idea that this would one day happen had been spoken of by the prophets long before Jesus made His home in an earthly tent – long before the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The prophets had seen this day and they looked forward to its fulfillment. Isaiah prophesied that the ends of the earth would turn to God. And this is what Jesus had in mind when He said on the cross, “It is finished.”

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