Part 4 of a five part series based on Psalm 22
(New King James Version (NKJV) unless otherwise specified.)
Many bulls have surrounded Me; Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled Me.
C H Spurgeon comments:
The mighty ones in the crowd are here marked by the tearful eye of their victim. The priests, elders, scribes, Pharisees, rulers, and captains bellowed round the cross like wild cattle, fed in the fat and solitary pastures of Bashan, full of strength and fury; they stamped and foamed around the innocent One, and longed to gore him to death with their cruelties. Conceive of the Lord Jesus as a helpless, unarmed, naked man, cast into the midst of a herd of infuriated wild bulls. They were brutal as bulls, many, and strong, and the Rejected One was all alone, and bound naked to the tree.
They gape at Me with their mouths, as a raging and roaring lion.
C H Spurgeon:
Like hungry cannibals they opened their blasphemous mouths as if they were about to swallow the man whom they abhorred. They could not vomit forth their anger fast enough through the ordinary aperture of their mouths, and therefore set the doors of their lips wide open like those who gape. Like roaring lions they howled out their fury, and longed to tear the Saviour in pieces, as wild beasts raven over their prey. Our Lord's faith must have passed through a most severe conflict while he found himself abandoned to the tender mercies of the wicked, but he came off victorious by prayer; the very dangers to which he was exposed being used to add prevalence to his entreaties.
For dogs have surrounded Me;
C H Spurgeon:
Here he marks the more ignoble crowd, who, while less strong than their brutal leaders, were not less ferocious, for there they were howling and barking like unclean and hungry dogs. Hunters frequently surround their game with a circle, and gradually encompass them with an ever-narrowing ring of dogs and men. Such a picture is before us. In the centre stands, not a panting stag, but a bleeding, fainting man, and around him are the enraged and unpitying wretches who have hounded him to his doom. Here we have the "hind of the morning" of whom the psalm so plaintively sings, hunted by bloodhounds, all thirsting to devour him.
Psalm 22 not only provides us with the sublimest insights of the suffering Saviour viewed prophetically, but it also shows us how we should act and react in our deepest distresses.
- LOOKING UP HE EMBRACED GOD ON HIS THRONE–verses 1-3;
- LOOKING BACK HE ENCOUNTERED GODIN HISTORY–verses 4-5;
- LOOKING DOWN HE DETAILS HIS SUFFERINGS – verses 6, 14, 15, 17; and now
- LOOKING OUT HE DESCRIBES HIS ENEMIES – verses 12, 13, 16.
Not until we have embraced God in His sovereignty, and encountered Him in His faithfulness in history—both general and personal—can we have a right view of our own sufferings and of the enemies who cause them.
Bulls of Bashan Encircle Me
The imagery of the 12th verse of the Psalm of the Cross, together with Ezekiel 39:18—“of goats and bulls, all of them fatlings of Bashan”—plus the meaning of the country “Bashan” (= “fruitful” cf. Strong 01316) and its major city “Endrei” (= “goodly pasture” cf. Strong 0154), together with the known habitat of the region, being luxurious green pasture, paints a picture of prosperity and wealth. Spurgeon's point that bulls and a lion refer to the leaders, and that dogs represent the ordinary people, is interesting and probably correct, but is there something more here? Why “bulls” in the plural and a singular lion?
The first Bible reference to “Bashan” is Numbers 21:33:
And they turned and went up by the way to Bashan. So Og king of Bashan went out against them, he and all his people, to battle at Edrei.
This is the penultimate battle that Israel fought and won in the wilderness before Moses died and they entered the promised land. In line with the biblical principle cited by Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:11: “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” we may reasonably conclude that something of typical significance occurred with ancient Israel on the plains of Bashan that was to be fulfilled in the scene at the Cross and will be replayed throughout time in the conflicts of individual Christians and especially in the end times.
In so far as Christ and His work are concerned He faced the “bulls of Bashan” and the “raging and roaring lion” alone and alone triumphed over them and defeated him. BUT, and here is the practical application, His victory becomes the basis of ours. We must therefore grasp the significance of what our Lord faced and how He viewed the conflict against His enemies:
For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls - Hebrews 12:3
Like A Ranging & Roaring Lion
Ultimately all conflict against the godly is Satanically inspired. Unless and until this truth is grasped we will all err by seeing the battle in which we are engaged as being humanly based. However, in contrast to such an idea we are assured:
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places - Ephesians 6:12
And are advised:
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour - 1 Peter 5:8.
I have suggested that Christ, as He was doing His great “cross work”, in the expression “bulls of Bashan” describes the wealth and prosperity of the leaders who opposed Him and the authority that had Him nailed to the cross. Their prosperity in life contrasts grotesquely with His abject poverty in death. Religiously and politically they were the faith prosperity crowd of their day. James warns us about those who are rich:
Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonoured the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? - James 2:5-6.
It’s not that there is anything wrong with wealth and prosperity per se, but rather with what it is inclined to—the despising and persecution of the godly. Of course wealth in godly hands is not so directed. Some extremely wealthy people have impacted this world for good and for God. At times it has meant their forfeiting their status in order to achieve their godly destiny—C. T. Studd springs to mind. At other times some have put their wealth to godly purpose and have remained rich, having wisely decided not to give it all away. At still other times some, who have the potential through their work or station in life, to become enormously wealthy, have chosen to live modestly and to serve the Kingdom of God in such a way that they do not accumulate wealth.
It is selfish and immoral men and women who are the “bulls of Bashan”—those who make themselves fat on their provender and turn upon the godly in the time of their greatest need. Such is by the intrigue and design of Satan. Christ knew it and that we must recognise that the power behind every attack on the truly godly, whether within or outside Christendom is essentially satanic. What is going on in the so called Purpose Driven Church, with the blatant persecution of godly men and women who stand in the way, springs to mind. Bulls of Bashan they are—driving their cause by the evil that they have chewed.
And yet so much of Christendom endorses such activity:
The conspiracy of her prophets in her midst is like a roaring lion tearing the prey; they have devoured people; they have taken treasure and precious things; they have made many widows in her midst - Ezekiel 22:25.
Dogs Surround Me
The Hebrew keleb” here translated “dogs” has the connotation of “male prostitutes” as well as literal dogs. The word is used in a symbolic sense in Deuteronomy 23:18:
You shall not bring the wages of a harlot or the price of a dog [“keleb” STRONG 0361] to the house of the LORD your God for any vowed offering, for both of these are an abomination to the LORD your God.
The Gospel narrators tell us:
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium [the soldiers common hall] and gathered the whole garrison around Him. (28) And they stripped Him…. Matthew 27: 27-28;And Herod with his men of war set him at nought… Luke 23:11 (KJV).
We can only imagine what those evil vile men may have done to the spotless, sinless Son of God. Undoubtedly some of them would have been around the cross to watch the end. While we do not want to stretch the point or in any way go beyond what is written, sadly it is not outside the realm of possibility and certainly in line with the principle cited by the writer of Hebrews that our great High Priest suffered enormous indignities at the hands of evil men. How else could He sympathise with those who have thus suffered and others who will undoubtedly suffer in this increasingly evil world where Christians are being despised and persecuted?
Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
C H Spurgeon continues his commentary on this Psalm
The assembly of the wicked have enclosed me:
Thus the Jewish people were unchurched, and that which called itself an assembly of the righteous is justly for its sins marked upon the forehead as an assembly of the wicked. This is not the only occasion when professed churches of God have become synagogues of Satan, and have persecuted the Holy One and the Just.
They pierced my hands and my feet.
This can by no means refer to David, or to any one but Jesus of Nazareth, the once crucified but now exalted Son of God. Pause, dear reader, and view the wounds of thy Redeemer.
During my series of lectures on The Messianic Psalms in the late 1970s (mentioned in part one of this series) one of the students at the Commonwealth Bible College gave me a copy of a most moving piece of prose which I have quoted occasionally over the years. Here it is:
The Long Silence
At the end of time, billions of people were scattered on a great plain before God's throne. Most shrank back from the brilliant light before them. But some groups near the throne talked heatedly—not with crying shame, but with belligerence.
"Can God judge us? What can he know about suffering?" snapped a pert young brunette. She ripped open her sleeve to reveal a tattooed number from a Nazi concentration camp. “We endured terror...... beatings.... torture.... death".
In another group a Negro boy lowered his collar. "What about this?" he demanded, showing an ugly rope burn. "Lynched for no crime but being black".
In another crowd, a pregnant schoolgirl with sullen eyes. "Why should I suffer?" she murmured. "It wasn't my fault." Far across the plain were hundreds of such groups. Each had a complaint against God for the suffering and evil he had permitted in His world.
How lucky God was to live in heaven where all was sweetness and light; where there was no weeping or fear, or hunger or hatred. What did God know of all that man had been forced to endure in this world? "For God leads a pretty sheltered life", they said.
So each of these groups sent forth their leader, chosen because he had suffered the most.AJew, a Negro, a person from Hiroshima, a horribly deformed arthritic, a thalidomide child. At last they were ready to present their case. It was rather clever.
Before God could be qualified to be their judge, he must endure what they had endured. The decision was that God should be sentenced to live on earth - as a man.
Let him be born a Jew. Let the legitimacy of his birth be doubted. Give him a work so difficult that even his own family will think him out of his mind when he tries to do it. Let him be betrayed by his closest friends. Let him face false charges, be tried by a prejudiced jury and convicted by a cowardly judge. Let him be tortured.
At the last let him see what it means to be terribly alone. Then let him die! Let him die so there can be no doubt that he died. Let there be a great host of witnesses to verify it.
As each leader announced his portion of the sentence, loud murmurs of approval went up from the throng of people assembled.
When the last had finished pronouncing sentence, there was a long silence. No one uttered another word... no one moved.
For suddenly all knew that God had already served His sentence. [Author unknown]