Although David wrote this Psalm as an expression of the experiences he was facing, it has a much bigger application than he ever could have conceived. It was on the cross that Jesus uttered the opening words to this great Psalm.
“And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ which is translated, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’” Mark 15:34
In order to speak from the cross, Jesus would have to endure unimaginable pain. He would have to straighten Himself up by pressing against the nail driven through His feet, and breathe in deeply to force any words out. When His silence was broken by these words, His followers would have been immediately drawn to the words of Psalm 22. After watching the crucifixion, there could be no other conclusion; David was speaking prophetically of Christ.
This Psalm, written almost one thousand years before Christ, gives a vivid picture of the events of that dark Friday. David speaks in advance of the ridicule that Jesus would endure. We know that the religious leaders, the crowd, the soldiers and even the thieves all mocked Jesus; calling for Him to prove that He was God and break free from the cross. David also describes the way Christ died with amazing detail. He speaks of His tongue clinging to His mouth in thirst, His hands and feet being pierced, His bones being unbroken, yet out of joint, and his heart melting like water within Him. This Psalm gives undeniable proof of the inspiration of the Word of God, and of the claims of Christ.
That being true, the cry of Christ from the cross does more than draw our attention to the prophetic words of David. It also reveals something of the suffering Jesus endured on the cross. While on the cross, Jesus was giving His life as a substitute for ours. He was bearing the penalty of our sin, so we would not have to. Paul put it like this;
“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21
The penalty for sin is separation from God. While on the cross, bearing our sin, Jesus experienced sin’s penalty. His cry was not mere poetry, but the expression of what He must endure to save us. Our experiences allow us to understand the weight of sin to a small degree. We have all felt the heavy burden of committing sin, and knowing what it has done to our relationship with God, and with others. We can never imagine the weight of all the sin of humanity. Every vile thought, word, and action ever committed by every man,woman, and child who ever lived, bore down upon our Savior as He hung upon the cross, paying for our sin. And we read that the Father forsook His Son.
All this was done, Christ was forsaken, so that we would never be forsaken. Because of His substitutionary death, the writer of Hebrews was able to declare,
“For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” Hebrews 13:5