"Then he said to them, 'These are my words which I have spoke to you, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.'" ~ Luke 24:44
Before David became the anointed King of Israel, he was a shepherd and psalmist. A psalmist, as one might suppose, is someone who sings psalms. Psalms, by definition, (Greek: psalmoi), are sacred songs used in worship. David would play his harp and sing his Psalms to the Lord.
The Book of Psalms is a book of scripture in the Old Testament consisting of 150 sacred songs, and nearly half of them are ascribed to David. One of these Psalms in particular is rife with prophecy, and should be explored more deeply by anyone who desires to know more about the significance of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament. That is to say, many of the verses in this sacred song of David foreshadow the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in ways too precise to be ignored. There are five prophecies in particular where we should direct our Bible Study focus.
The First Messianic Prophecy of David
Psalm 22 begins with the words “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1). These words of David are the same words uttered by Jesus as he was dying on the cross. For as it is written in the Gospel of Matthew: “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’” (Matthew 27:46). Both David and Jesus are calling on the Lord in their moments of darkness.
We can see in the first prophecy of Psalm 22, that David and Jesus are literally speaking the same language. These words of David foretell the story of Christ nearly a millennium before it was to come to pass.
The Second Messianic Prophecy of David
The second prophecy of Psalm 22 alludes to Christ with an understated, poetic brilliance. David says, “I am a worm and no man, scorned by men and despised by the people. All who see me mock at me. They wag their heads” (Psalms 22:6-7). This verse can be broken down into two parts of messianic fulfillment. The first part has to do with the “worm.” Thanks to research by E.W. Bullinger and H.A. Ironside we get a captivating poetic explanation of the crucifixion of Christ. For you see, the word for worm in the Psalm is “tola,” and a “tola” is a Middle Eastern worm that lives in a tree, and it is crushed to make red dye. In fact, the word scarlet means "the splendor of a worm." But more to the point, it is not difficult to see the poetic allusion here. This metaphor between the worm and Christ is prophetic to say the least. A worm who hangs from a tree and oozes red dye is an apt metaphor for Jesus, bleeding and dying on the cross. As the New Testament tells us, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree that we might die to sin and live in righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24) and “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28). These two lines of New Testament scripture eloquently capture Jesus’s fulfillment of David’s worm metaphor.
The second part of David’s aforementioned line says, “All who see me mock at me. They wag their heads.” These words are also used explicitly in the Gospel, just moments before Jesus was to ask God why he has forsaken him. For as it is written in the Gospel of Mark, “And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads, and saying, ‘Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself, and come down from that cross!’” (Mark 15:29-30). As we can see, the words of David are yet again foretelling the story of Jesus’s crucifixion – David and Jesus are both derided by people “wagging their heads.”
The Third Messianic Prophecy of David
The third prophecy of Christ’s crucifixion in Psalm 22 is found in line 16. It reads, “Yea, dogs are round about me; a company of evildoers encircle me; they have pierced my hands and feet” (Psalm 22:16). This is not only the most obvious of all the prophecies of this Psalm, but it is also the most peculiar. Think about it for a moment, why would “dogs” or “a company of evildoers” pierce David’s “hands and feet.” Other than a possible poetic meaning by David, what could having both hands and feet pierced refer to other than a crucifixion? But oddly enough, this Psalm was written nearly a millennium before Rome ruled the world, so thus, it was centuries before a time when crucifixion was a popular form of punishment. Alexander the Great had people nailed to planks as a form of punishment, but that was still more than 500 years after the time of David. The point that I am making here is that this it is such a bizarre statement for David to make, for it seems to only exist as a prophecy of Christ, and nothing else.
As it says in the Gospel of John, “Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands;’” (John 20:27). This is where we are told that Jesus was nailed to the cross, for, prior to this exchange between Jesus and Thomas, we only assume that he was nailed to the cross and not just tied to the cross like some crucified victims – before this scene in John, the three preceding Gospels only say that Jesus hung on the cross, not that he was nailed to it. It is only through the doubts of Thomas, and the proof of the holes in Jesus’s hands, that we discover the truth – he was nailed to the cross, or as David prophesizes, his hands and feet are “pierced.”
The Fourth Messianic Prophecy of David
The fourth prophecy of Psalm 22 is the subtlest, yet it is the most profound. After David says that his hands and feet have been pierced, he says, “I can count all my bones.” One might assume that if this is referring to Jesus, it is in reference to the physical shape he was in at the time of his death – emaciated and beaten – which is to say, one could “count all [his] bones.” Many of us have a crucifix on our walls at home, which depicts Jesus with his bony, rib-revealing torso on full display. So it’s easy to see why one might jump to this prophetic conclusion from these words. Nevertheless, this is not what this prophecy means. For you see, the Law of Moses has many rules about how one is to sacrifice animals to God to atone for their sins. Different rituals have different requirements. For instance, in the Book of Numbers, while discussing different rules for who can eat the Passover dinner and how they were to eat it, it is written, “They shall leave none of it until the morning, nor break the bone of it” (Number 9:12). So to connect this passage to the Psalm, and then by extension to Jesus, one can see that the words of the Psalm: “I can count all my bones,” are representative of David saying that he is following the Law, which is to say he is pure; but when we see this as a prophecy of Jesus, these words are telling us that, according to the rituals of the nation of Israel, this man Jesus has been prepared as a suitable Passover sacrifice to the Lord. (For Jesus did in fact die at the time of Passover). As Christians we believe that all of the old Jewish rituals of having to make sacrifices to the Lord to atone for sins are obsolete and superfluous because of Jesus – who Christians see as the ritualistic sacrifice that atones for all of the sins of mankind. Moreover, when we look at the subtleties of David’s words, and the culture from whence they came, we see the bigger picture of Jesus’s place in this tradition -- or rather his fulfillment of it.
The Fifth Messianic Prophecy of David
And lastly, the fifth and final prophecy of Psalm 22, (and when I say that it is the fifth and final prophecy of the Psalm, I mean fifth and final for our purposes here in this post, for I am sure that there are many more references to the Messiah in this Psalm, but unfortunately due to my own shortcomings, as well as my limited amount of time, I am only writing about five at the present moment), so as I was saying, the fifth prophecy of Psalm 22, is obvious and self explanatory. After David says his hands and feet have been pierced and he can count all his bones, he says, “They divide my garments among them, and for my raiment they cast lots” (Psalms 22:18). All 4 Gospels make reference to how Jesus fulfilled this prophecy. For instance, in the Gospel of Luke, it is written, “And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.’ And they cast lots to divide up his garments” (Luke 23:34). As you can see, once again the language of the Gospels corresponds directly with this Psalm of David.
Now let us step back from this discussion for a moment, and think about what we just uncovered. In the Book of Psalms there are 150 Psalms, so one could say that Psalm 22 makes up less the one percent of this total book. The Book of Psalms itself is only one of thirty nine books of the Old Testament, using those raw numbers one could roughly say that the entire Book of Psalms represents about 2.6 percent of the Old Testament (I know I am breaking down these percentages based on the number of books as if they are all equal weight, and not into total words of each which would be more accurate – nonetheless, this is just raw, basic math to show you a much larger point that is true regardless of the mathematical approach). So we have a Psalm, which represents less than one percent of the whole Book, which itself is less than three percent of the Old Testament, and yet we found at least five clear prophecies fulfilled by Jesus. This example would suggest that there are seemingly hundreds of ways in which Jesus fulfills thousands of years of scripture. All of these connections, synchronicities, and “coincidences” are just too much for any logical person to ignore. Paradoxically, it all comes to a point where not believing that Jesus is the Messiah -- in spite of all the clear evidence to the contrary -- actually takes more faith than just believing that He is.