The Full Range of the Psalms (Psalm​ 22)

“O LORD, in your strength the king rejoices, and in your salvation how greatly he exults!” —Psalm 21:1 (ESV)

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?” —Psalm 22:1 (ESV)

What a contrast between the opening of the 21st and 22nd psalms! In the 21st Psalm we see the king rejoicing in his salvation; a salvation that came in answer to his prayers for deliverance from his enemies. In the 22nd Psalm we step back in time to hear the king’s prayer for salvation as his enemies encircle him.

In David these two psalms very could have been written of two separate attacks and two separate prayers, but for the Son of David, David’s Lord, these two psalms speak of the same prayers, the same enemies, and the same salvation.

The 22nd is a most solemn psalm. Spurgeon comments, “This is above all others the Psalm of the Cross.” We should come to all of Scripture with the highest reverence, but do we not sense that especially here it is as though we should take off our shoes for we approach holy ground?

Upon hearing some songs, sublime in their sorrow, if one doesn’t cry, you might wonder if they are human. One is tempted to say, that if one can hear this song and shed no tear, you might wonder if they are Christ’s. Sure, just because your eyes are wet doesn’t mean your soul is cleansed. Tears themselves are no proof of regeneration, but surely the saints understand.

And yet, our tears of sorrow are turned to tears of joy as this cry of dereliction gives way to a swelling chorus of praise led by the delivered King (22:22–31). This song takes us as high as it begins low, and it cannot begin any lower. The 22nd Psalm ends preparing the choir of God to sing the 21st.

“The rejoicing of our risen Lord must, like his agony, be unutterable. If the mountains of his joy rise in proportion to the depth of the valleys of his grief, then his sacred bliss is high as the seventh heaven.” —C.H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David

Making Vodka Look Like Toddler Juice (Matthew 26:36-46)

With composure, Jesus speaks to Judas of his betrayal, to the disciples of their abandonment, and to Peter of his denial, but when He speaks to His Father of this cup, He falls on His face. What was in this cup? This cup contained far more than Jesus’ physical sufferings and social abandonment and rejection. It wasn’t the Priests’ fists and spit, the soldiers’ whips and mockery, nor the Roman’s cross that Jesus trembled at, but the Father’s cup. What was in this cup? In a word—hell. Listen to how the Old Testament speaks of this cup.

Thus says the Lord YHWH: “You shall drink your sister’s cup that is deep and large; you shall be laughed at and held in derision, for it contains much; you will be filled with drunkenness and sorrow. A cup of horror and desolation, the cup of your sister Samaria; you shall drink it and drain it out, and gnaw its shards, and tear your breasts; for I have spoken, declares the Lord YHWH. Therefore thus says the Lord YHWH: Because you have forgotten me and cast me behind your back, you yourself must bear the consequences of your lewdness and whoring. — Ezekiel 23:32-35

Thus YHWH, the God of Israel, said to me: ‘Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. They shall drink and stagger and be crazed because of the sword that I am sending among them.’ So I took the cup from the YHWH’s hand, and made all the nations to whom the YHWH sent me drink it: … ‘Then you shall say to them, “Thus says YHWH of hosts, the God of Israel: Drink, be drunk and vomit, fall and rise no more, because of the sword that I am sending among you.” And if they refuse to accept the cup from your hand to drink, then you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the YHWH of hosts: You must drink!’ —Jeremiah 25:15-28

This was the cup we deserved to drink. This is a cup that makes vodka comparatively like Capri Sun. It is a cup no mere man can stomach. Infinite hell was bottled and poured full into this cup, dregs and all. This cup is full of the wrath of God, 100 proof. This is a drink, only God could live through, but only sinful man should drink.

In hell, souls suffer the righteous wrath of a God they hate. On the cross, Jesus bore the wrath of the Father He loves. How much did Jesus love the Father? So much that He took this cup saying, “your will be done.” The cross indeed shouts God’s love for sinners, but more loudly it screams the Son’s love for the Father. But the pain of the cross was deep to Jesus not just because of His love for the Father, but also because of the Father’s love for Him. When you look at the cross with the resurrection, as you always should, then you see that the cross was part of The Father’s plan to glorify the name of Jesus above all names. It is true that God so loved the world that He gave His Son; it is more true that God so loved His Son that He gave Him the world. One of the glorious mysteries of the cross is that while Jesus was bearing the Father’s wrath for our sins He was simultaneously rendering up an obedience that perfectly pleased the Father. How pleased is the Father by Jesus’ obedience? Your saved! The presence of all us unworthies in heaven eternally enjoying the love of God is the evidence of how much the Father loves the Son. The throngs of heaven from every tribe, people, tongue, and nation are the Father telling the son, “I love you this much.”

But  while on the cross the Son tasted only bitter wrath, so that we might taste sweet salvation. Jesus turns a cup of wrath into a cup of salvation, but He must first drink it and let it come to us through His own veins.

Now He gives to His people ‘the cup of salvation’ (Psalm 116:13) these two cups, one so bitter, the other so sweet, stand side by side: the one cup necessitated the other. One cup was emptied that the other might be filled to overflowing. The first cup guaranteed the second. Both cups are precious and bear the hallmark of sovereign grace. ‘what shall I render to the LORD for all His bounty to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD…’ (Psalm 116:12,13).—Frederick Leahy

According to Script (Matthew 26:1-16)

“When Jesus had finished…”

When Jesus finishes speaking of returning in glory, He then says it is time for Him to be humiliated. After speaking of a judgment He will bring, He reminds the disciples that He is off to be judged. Jesus is saying that everything is going according to plan.

Jesus was no sailor adjusting for wind. He is the God of the wind and the sea. The cross isn’t some improvised plan B during an intense field operation. Jesus didn’t just recently have an epiphany with a sudden courageous resolve. The cross wasn’t just en route to the throne, it was the road. And it was the only road. Jesus here is saying, “I’ve got them where I want them.” Imagine a quarterback readying for the Super Bowl turning to his teammates saying, “Well, it’s victory time, so I’m off to their locker room to let them break my arm.” The King turns to His knights saying, “Victory is certain. Here is the plan: I’m going to let the dragon eat me.”

Christ never so effectually bruised Satan’s head, as when Satan bruised his heel. The weapon with which Christ warred against the devil, and obtained a most complete victory and glorious triumph over him, was the cross, the instrument and weapon with which he thought he had overthrown Christ, and brought on him shameful destruction. Col. 2:14,15. ‘Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances,—nailing it to his cross: and having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.’ In his last sufferings, Christ sapped the very foundations of Satan’s kingdom, he conquered his enemies in their own territories, and beat them with their own weapons as David cut off Goliath’s head with his own sword. The devil had, as it were, swallowed up Christ, as the whale did Jonah—but it was deadly poison to him, he gave him a mortal wound in his own bowels. He was soon sick of his morsel, and was forced to do by him as the whale did by Jonah. To this day he is heart-sick of what he then swallowed as his prey. —Jonathan Edwards

Jesus is no improv actor. Everything is going according to Script.

In a good story, the villain’s plotting cannot outdo the author’s plot. All of man’s rebellion can do nothing but accomplish God’s plan. Efforts to rebel against God are more futile than a character in a book trying to rebel against the author. The villain wants to kill the hero, so does the Author, but whereas one means to take life, the other means to unleash it. A good story is being told, the very best one, and no evil can ruin it.

Matthew 17:1-13 & No Gory, No Glory

We want the figure of a god, without the diet and exercise. When it comes to our salvation, to being godlike, we want to do it on our own, and we don’t want to do that much. We want glory, with none of the pain. We are spiritually health conscious in a way, but we want a quick, easy, and cheap fix. Gives us a pill, give us a surgery. What we will not do is really sweat or really work. We will not sacrifice our diet of sin. The diet of religion is both lazy and sinful seeking less than perfection. It is lazy because it seeks less than perfection. It is sinful because it seeks less than perfection. Its seeks to enjoy sin with minimal consequence. It does not truly seek to be holy as God is holy.

Physically, in our age of dieting, many try to delude themselves. Its funny how many articles are written as if it is some secret that diet and exercise are the key to health. There is only one way for health to get deep into your bones. It takes work. Our spiritual health likewise involves work. Paul tells us to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).” But be careful. Our salvation is something we work out, it is not something we work for. No drug we manufacture can bring about our salvation, and all our work, even our best work is also futile. We’re not simply spiritually flabby. We’re dead. We couldn’t sweat enough “good,” we couldn’t bleed enough “payment” even if we wanted to. Any sweat is already only our due, and all our blood is the debt we already owe. We need unequaled and unobligated sweat and blood.

Our salvation is no sweat-less labor; no bloodless surgery. A laparoscopic procedure won’t suffice. Flesh must be rent wide open. Blood must be spilt. To give the dead life, The Life must die. Then, and only then, do our eating habits change, for we have an appetite for the Bread of life. Then, and only then, do our work habits change, for we love to do good works unto God’s glory through the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. Because of the fall there is only one way to glory, and that is through the gory. For us to go up, God must descend, further down than any.

The transfiguration is framed by a lot of cross talk (Matthew 16:21-28; 17:9, 12, 22-23). Jesus tells the disciples not to tell anyone this vision until after He is resurrected. The glory light they have seen will only be properly understood when illuminated by a dark cross. The transfiguration is not so much a flashback to Jesus’ eternal glory, as it is a flash-forward to his resurrection glory, and the cross comes first. No gory, no glory. He takes our part, that we may take His.

“And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” -Philippians 2:8-11

Matthew 16:21-28 & Satanic Vandalism

The disciples have received a canvas and they recognize the silhouette. “That’s the king,” they confess. Now Jesus wants to make the silhouette a portrait; He wants to fill in the lines. Peter has received revelation from the Father that Jesus is the Christ, now He is receiving further revelation as to what that means from the Christ. Jesus tells them, “You see a crown, but do you notice its thorns? You see a throne, but do you see that a cross undergirds it?”

Peter is ready to receive the canvas and its silhouette, but he wants to paint a mustache over God’s Mona Lisa. He thinks he can improve upon God’s masterpiece. Peter has the right picture. He has been given a paint by numbers sheet. Number 2 is royal blue, and number 1 is supposed to be blood red. Peter wants to improvise. No longer content to be the disciple he wants to be the rabbi. He decides everything should be royal blue. But Jesus says red is a “must.” The masterpiece of God’s kingdom has a lot of blood red in it, and Jesus tells His disciples that no one else can paint it. He must bleed to paint this glory.

Trying to paint over the cross and keep the Christ is satanic vandalism. In the wilderness Satan tried to offer Jesus the world without the cross. Peter is acting here as Satan’s disciple, not Jesus’. Many have tried to keep the glory without the gory, but the paint won’t stick. Blood red is the primer for Jesus’ work of new creation.

Now let me fill in some lines. Some act like they keep the cross, but they hollow it out, and then cover it with precious metal. No more blood. Many that deny that Jesus was paying the penalty for sins in the place of sinners to reconcile them to God will affirm many other truths about the cross, but the paint wont stick. Deny ransom, deny propitiation, deny substitution, and whatever cross you may embrace, it ain’t Jesus’. The cross is the crux, and the crux of the cross is penal substitutionary atonement. This is crucial to God’s masterpiece.

If a child were to paint over a revered piece of artwork in a museum with their crayons, this is one time when daddy and mommy would’t praise their creativity. When an aspiring adult artist does this, it isn’t ignorant creativity, its damnable vandalism. Don’t expect the Father’s accolades when you try to paint by different numbers. This is an instance where creativity is best termed heresy.

Tolle Lege: King’s Cross

King's CrossReadability: 1

Length: 230 pp

Author: Tim Keller

King’s Cross is classic Keller. That means this is a good book. King’s Cross is adapted well from a sermon series through the Mark. The book doesn’t read like a collection of sermons, and picks up only on keys texts. This is a great book for a believer or an unbeliever; both can profit from it. It is an even better book for a believer to go through with an unbeliever. The story of the gospel is clearly, faithfully, freshly, and insightfully told. If that is not an enticing book recommendation, then it should be.

Something happened in the garden—Jesus saw, felt, sensed something—and it shocked the unshockable Son of God. What was it? He was facing something beyond physical torment, even beyond physical death—something so much worse that these were like flea bites by comparison. He was smothered by a mere whiff of what he would go through on the cross. Didn’t he know he was going to die? Yes, but we’re not talking about information here. Of course he knew that; he had told the disciples so repeatedly. But now he is beginning to taste what he will experience on the cross, and it goes far beyond physical torture and death. What is this terrible thing? It’s at the very heart of Jesus’ prayer here. He says, “Take this cup from me.”

WTS Books: $14.53               Amazon:$17.30

Matthew 14:1-13a & The Heralded and Herod

Here we have a king who looks like one but isn’t, and another King who doesn’t look like one but is. Herein lies the truer contrast of this text. The primary contrast you are meant to make isn’t between John and Herod, but between the King John heralds, and Herod.

Herod technically isn’t a king and Matthew wants to remind you of this; that is why though he calls Herod a king later (v. 9), he begins by telling us he is a “tetrarch”. Technically this means a ruler of a forth part of a kingdom, but it came to mean simply a lesser ruler. Herod Antipas’ father, Herod the Great, received the title “king” from Rome, but not Antipas. Still in both cases they were vassal rulers, subject to the authority of Rome. So here we have a pretend king, who hears word of the fame of the real King and fails to recognize Him. This is the setting for the flashback that makes up the majority of the text.

But it isn’t just the beginning of the text that informs us where the true contrast lies, it’s also the end. At the beginning, Herod hears about Jesus. At the end, Jesus hears about John. In both instances a king receives news; one responds with speculation, the other with preparation.

Upon hearing about John, Jesus wishes to get away by himself to a desolate place.  We see Jesus doing this often, and he often does it to pray. Why does Jesus wish to be alone? What is He thinking about? What is so heavy upon him that He desires to be alone in a desolate place? I think its simple – John’s death is a foreshadowing of His future. If this is how they treat the herald, it’s because of how they think of the King. Jesus’ future is determining the past. Jesus is thinking of the much more violent death He will face on the cross, not facing merely the limited frustration of any earthly potentate, but in addition the wrath of His Father against the sins of men.

So here we have a wicked king, who out of fear and in pride takes the life of his enemy, contrasted with the righteous King, who out of love and in humility prepares to give His life for His enemies.

May we now herald Him too, even unto death.