Synopsis of the Books of the Bible, by John Nelson Darby, [1857-62], at sacred-texts.com
Here the sufferings of Christ have another and deeper character. We have before us that great work which is the foundation of all the blessing developed in the other psalms, and of every blessing and eternal glory, making the interest He takes in the saints possible, because it makes it righteous, and the very way of glorifying God. This psalm, as it has been already observed to be a common principle of their structure, gives us the theme in Verse 1 (Psa 22:1). Christ had suffered from man from men alike heartless and violent: dogs had compassed Him, fat bulls of Bashan closed Him in.
But if the measure of this was extreme, and felt more and otherwise than ordinary sufferings from men because it was wholly unrighteous and for Jehovah's sake, for whose name He suffered reproach; yet others had in some measure born the suffering of violence and reproach from heartless men too, and for Jehovah's sake. If He in grace was the leader and finisher of faith, others through grace had trodden it was their granted privilege, but His willing grace some steps of that divinely marked-out path. But they trusted in Jehovah and they were delivered. Jehovah never left or forsook them. He had promised He would not. They knew in their consciences that He had never failed in one good or gracious thing He had promised.
But here was a suffering out of the reach of promise, yea, which was to lay the ground of its righteous accomplishment. It was a new scene, which none had been ever like, nor ever will be, in the history of eternity; which stands alone, The Righteous One forsaken of God. It cannot be repeated a second time; it would have lost its character and the repetition destroy or deny the witness of the first God perfectly glorified, morally glorified, about evil; He has not been, if it has to be repeated. It is once for all, complete and perfect. The nature of God has been made good in testimony, morally, in the universe. How should that be repeated? I say again, if it had to be, neither had done it; but it is done. The divine glory is perfectly, eternally, made good. But for this in respect of good and evil that righteousness and grace, or love, where feebleness and evil are, should be made good all that God is against evil must be verified and made good. Against whom? Who should endure it? Against the sinner it were everlasting misery, nor was love then displayed; what God is, not manifested. But the Lord gives Himself for this; He who was able to bear it, and, in the lowest humiliation of those He took up, to accomplish it in their nature, He bears in His soul all that God is against evil. Tremendous moment!
It is this alone which makes us in any way apprehend what righteousness and judgment are. This is what is shown to us here. It is shown in the utterance of Christ, showing the fact and His sense of it. What it was in its depths no human heart can fathom. It is the fact which is given here, but as felt by Him. Yet we see the consciously righteous One, but the perfectly submissive One; the sense of His own nothingness as to His position, of the certain and immutable perfectness of Jehovah. He is righteous; He can say, "why?" submissive: "yet thou holy"; no working of will, calling God's ways into question; the clear and perfect state thus, which sees God's perfectness, come what will. For it was the one righteous One who had glorified God in all His ways, an exception from all God's ways in righteous grace with such. He is forsaken, cries, and is not heard. He is a worm and no man. But this could not last for ever, no more than He could be holden of death, having perfectly glorified God in going to the close of trial and awaiting His time. He who was the very delight of Jehovah all through could not be heard till all was accomplished; though more gloriously, and deservedly more gloriously, Jehovah's delight than any living righteousness, though ever so perfect, could claim to be. In that living righteousness He had glorified God about good, perfect in His obedience as man, and perfect in manifesting His Father's name of grace, declaring what God was, cost what it might. The reproaches of those that reproached God fell on Him. But now He glorified God in the place of evil as made sin. This, as we have seen, stands alone. "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life that I may take it again." (Joh 10:17) There in the place of sin before God, that is, as made sin, yet in that wherein obedience was absolute and perfect in entire self-devotedness to God the contrary of sin where God's righteousness found a motive for love, yet where it was made good in forsaking Him; there the foundation was laid of everlasting righteousness and everlasting blessing; there God perfectly glorified, the foundation laid for the accomplishment of all His counsels in glory. [See Note #1]
Then, when the work is complete, the moral work of glorifying God, He is heard from the horns of the unicorn. Man and all around was hidden, by a darkened heaven, from view, when all of God, and of the power, and powerlessness, of evil as against the sovereign goodness and righteousness of God, was brought to this divine issue, and God glorified about it. And all is between the soul of Him who is an offering for sin and the righteous Jehovah. And it was closed. He was perfect, had secured the glory of God, had glorified Him when He could not be heard, and was heard and it was finished. He goes down indeed into the grave, that trusty and irrefutable witness that all was closed of this great question of which death was the appointed witness, but only to rise without one element wanting that the work of propitiation and of glorifying God in respect of sin was completed, and the victory over every and the last enemy fully won. He was heard. Who could call it in question who knew that He was risen? And now what remained? Not sin; it was as regards the work to be accomplished for that purpose wholly and for ever put away as in God's sight though not in full result yet, but perfectly for those who had a part with Him. [See Note #2] Wrath for such? The cup had been drunk. Judgment against the sin, or of the sinner for it, where faith is? He had undergone it. The power of death upon the soul? It was overcome. Of Satan who wielded it? It was destroyed. But there was the full light of the Father's countenance and love, the delight of God in divine righteousness, and for us. Into this relationship Jesus now entered as established there in righteousness on the ground of what He had accomplished to glorify His Father; not merely in the everlasting delight which God had in His Person. Hence it was immutable for those who had a part with Him in this place, and for eternal blessedness in the new heavens and the new earth. The place was won for sinners in the putting away of their sin, and founded on the righteousness of God Himself. Into the full blessedness of this name (that is, true relationship with God revealed according to it) He now entered as man. [See Note #3]
But He had His brethren those at least, with whom He associated Himself and whom He had at heart first of all after His Father's glory. He was entered into this cloudless place of delight. What remained for His heart was to declare the name which expressed it, and to know which was the being brought into it, to His brethren. "I will declare thy name unto my brethren." (Heb 2:12) And this most precious witness of His love was exactly what He did after His resurrection: "Go, tell my brethren, I ascend to my Father and your Father, my God and your God." (Joh 20:17) Remark, He was heard from the horns of the unicorn. It was on the completing the work, or His subjection of soul to death as divine judgment, that He was heard. When the obedience unto death was complete, hearing became righteous and necessary. The resurrection was the proof to man. But He could say, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit," (Luk 23:46) and deliver it up to Him, and assure the thief he should be that day with Him in paradise.
I have already remarked an infinitely important characteristic of this psalm, so opposed to those which speak of Christ's suffering from man: I mean that all is grace no word of judgment. Who was to be judged, when God had been the One to inflict the suffering the hiding of whose face rather was the suffering and the men who had a part in it, believing, had their sins put away by it? It was as to them the judgment, and the judgment executed and passed. Hence what follows is the wide out-spreading of wave beyond wave of blessing and nought else. We may remark, however, that the blessing here is all on earth: so much does the Lord confine Himself to Israel and the Jews in the Psalms. And though we have seen His own resurrection, and we shall see His ascension brought in, and the path of life thus opened up to faith into the presence of God Himself, yet the heavenly place for the saints is not unfolded. We know well that the truths on which the blessing is based carry us farther; but the psalm does not speak of them.
"In the midst of the congregation will I sing to thee." The remnant then gathered is the first circle gathered into the place of praise; then millennial blessing all Israel. Those that fear Jehovah are to praise Him. Men fear Jehovah, and only fear; but this work makes those that fear praise. Those that feared Jehovah in that day and suffered might take courage, for Christ was their warrant for deliverance and confidence (and could be, having made atonement), but for positive deliverance also; for Jehovah had not turned a deaf ear to the affliction of the afflicted, nor hid His face from him. When He cried, Jehovah heard. He had been for a time there: that had only wrought atonement. And now, heard when that was accomplished, He could assure others of deliverance also. The meek of the earth should now eat and be satisfied, and be at peace. But the blessing would not limit itself to Israel. All the ends of the world would remember themselves, and turn to Jehovah, and worship before Him; for the kingdom will then be Jehovah's. All should bow before Him. Nor was it confined to that generation: to the people that should be born those should declare that Jehovah had done this.
I cannot, in explaining the Psalms, meditate on the wonderful work on which this psalm is founded. I say founded, because the psalm speaks directly of the feelings of Christ under it, rather than of the work itself. I can only desire that this constant and exhaust less theme of the saint may have all the power on my reader's soul, as upon my own, that poor, but renewed, human beings, even by the power of the Holy Ghost, can be capable of. Our comfort as to peace is that God (as indeed His love gave it) estimates it fully; and, while He has glorified Jesus, has Himself accepted that work for our peace. My part here is to unfold, as well as I can, the structure of the psalm itself.
As to the outward sufferings the reader will remark how deep they were. But Christ alone, of all the righteous, must undergo forsaking of God; and, having often declared His confidence in, and intimacy with Jehovah, and taught His disciples to trust in Him, as ever hearing prayer, has publicly now to proclaim that He is not heard, but forsaken. What a tale it tells of what that hour was! But what is important is, as has been already remarked, that His sufferings from man bring judgment on His enemies; His forsaking of God, being expiatory, is a bearing of the judgment, and all that flows from it is unmingled grace. This work being expiatory, once He is heard from the horns of the unicorns, all is grace. A stream of grace flows out for the remnant, then for Israel, for the world, for the generation to come all from the sure and divinely perfect work of atonement in the death of Christ. In the work, in the suffering, He was alone. Once that was finished, He takes His place in the congregation with which He surrounds Himself. Remark how perfect must Christ's knowledge of, and consequent joy be in, the name of God and Father, into the enjoyment of which He entered as man, consequent upon having put away sin, and the delight of God in Him and His work: all that God was against Him then, for Him, according to the virtue of this work, now. How well He must know what the deliverance out of His sufferings on the cross into this light is! Now this is the source of His praise. Such must be the character of ours, founded on the blessed certainty of being come out of the place of sin, death, and judgment, into the perfectness of divine favor. All that is not thus in the spirit of it is out of tune with Him who leads our praises.
The more we study the cross, the more we shall see that every question of good and evil was brought to an issue, and the immutable basis laid for perfect blessing according to what God is in righteousness and grace and majesty too, for the new heavens and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. We come by the blessed testimony that it meets all our wants; but in contemplating it at peace, we see man in absolute sin, hating and rejecting God in grace and goodness; Satan's full power the disciples fled in fear, and all the world else in his power against Christ; man in absolute goodness loving the Father and obedient, glorifying God in the very place of sin where it was needed, and at all cost; we see God in perfect righteousness against sin as nowhere else, and perfect love to the sinner. Innocence was conditional blessing. This is completed in perfectness, and its value can never change. It is everlasting righteousness. Hence the blessing of the new heavens and new earth is immutable. We have had an innocent Eden; a sinful world; and shall have, besides the reign of righteousness, new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness.
And this is known by the Holy Ghost sent down when He had ascended on high. The new heavens and new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness will be the full result, while it is the manifestation of the just ground of unbelieving man's final condemnation.
Christ in His lifetime uses naturally the term Father; on the cross, at the close of the hours of darkness, "my God, my God" (in dying, Father, and so before in Gethsemane); after His resurrection, Father and God: one, in His personal relationship and the Father's delight; the other; in divine righteousness, bringing us into it.