Alexander Maclaren’s The Life of David as Reflected in His Psalms
Part 2 of 5
When Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910) wrote The Life of David As Reflected in His Psalms, he tried to find all the psalms David wrote and put them in order.
He had to decide which psalms David wrote and when he wrote them. Some he could decide with greater certainty than others.
Psalm 22 is one of David’s, but we don’t know when he wrote it. Maclaren included it with what he called the exile psalms.
These are the psalms written during the years that King Saul was seeking to kill David. David talked a lot about his suffering in these exile psalms. That’s why some scholars don’t think Psalm 22 fits into this time period. The sufferings described in it don’t match what David himself experienced, at this time or at any other time in his life.
Instead, they describe someone being crucified.
Maclaren counted Psalm 22 as one of David’s exile psalms. He saw it as the culmination of those works; it marked David’s graduation from exile and his advance to a greater level of prophecy.
David was now ready to become king. His sufferings in exile has made him into a better king than he would have been otherwise. They also made him into a better prophet.
According to Maclaren, the sign of this prophetic growth is the fact that David is not describing his own sufferings anymore. He is beyond himself in this Psalm.
Remember the question an Ethiopian posed to Philip the evangelist in the book of Acts. The Ethiopian had been reading from Isaiah. He wanted to know if Isaiah was talking about himself or about someone else (Acts 8:34).
In that case, he was reading Isaiah 53. It was clearly about someone else.
But in some of David’s early psalms, the answer is not so clear. He goes back and forth between his personal pain and the greater purposes of God.
Then, in Psalm 22, he breaks through in a whole new way. He is so far beyond himself. He is so clearly not in this psalm.
This makes it hard to place the psalm in historical context. But Maclaren’s idea is compelling. Here is how he put it:
“In most of the other psalms where David speaks of his sorrows we have only a typical foreshadowing of Christ. But in this, and in such others as lxix. and cix. (if these are David’s), we have type changing into prophecy, and the person of the psalmist fading away before the image which, by occasion of his own griefs, rose vast, and solemn, and distant before his prophet gaze,—the image of One who should be perfectly all which he was in partial measure, the anointed of God, the utterer of His name to His brethren, the King of Israel,—and whose path to His dominion should be thickly strewn with solitary sorrow, and reproach, and agony, to whose far more exceeding weight of woe all his affliction was light as a feather, and transitory as a moment. And when the psalmist had learned that lesson, besides all the others of trust and patience which his wanderings taught him, his schooling was nearly over, he was almost ready for a new discipline; and the slowly-evolving revelation of God’s purposes, which by his sorrows had unfolded more distinctly than before ‘the sufferings of the Messiah,’ was ripening for the unveiling, in his Kinghood, of the glory that should follow'”
Psalm 22 (ESV)
To the choirmaster: according to The Doe of the Dawn. A Psalm of David.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
“He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him;
let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”
Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
On you was I cast from my birth,
and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
Be not far from me,
for trouble is near,
and there is none to help.
Many bulls encompass me;
strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
they open wide their mouths at me,
like a ravening and roaring lion.
I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.
For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.
But you, O Lord, do not be far off!
O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
Deliver my soul from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dog!
Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!
I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
For he has not despised or abhorred
the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
but has heard, when he cried to him.
From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the Lord!
May your hearts live forever!
All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before you.
For kingship belongs to the Lord,
and he rules over the nations.
All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
even the one who could not keep himself alive.
Posterity shall serve him;
it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
that he has done it.