“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Exodus 31:6
Jesus’s famous words on the cross have been so misunderstood. The separation from the Jewish believers in Jesus and the Gentile ones was a split that took away much of the early church’s understanding of the scripture. To look at these famous last words of our Messiah and NOT understand that He was a Jewish Rabbi using a very “Jewish” teaching technique called “remez” is to be totally confused. Have you ever wondered how God could “forsake” His own Son when He said in His Word, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”? It is said in Deuteronomy 31:6 and 8, in Joshua 1:5 and 9,and in Hebrews 13:5. It is in 1 Chronicles 28:20, and it is in the verse above in Exodus 31:6. God is clear that He will not leave us or forsake us. And really, Jesus WAS God, so how can you separate from yourself?
Now where else are Jesus’ words “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”Besides the gospel account in Matthew 27:46:
“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Try Psalm 22.This is a Messianic Psalm of David. It is called this because it foretold of the Messiah and what would happen to Him when He came. Read Psalm 22 and you will be amazed! Every detail of Jesus’s death on the cross is there! Jesus, being a devout Jew, knew this. He was a Rabbi, so He had this memorized. He was using a teaching technique called “remez” to call his disciples attention to the fact that He was indeed the Messiah, and these events were in motion. It was happening right then!
Scripture was written on scrolls and memorized by much oral teaching. They didn’t have many copies floating around due to the fact that scripture had to be copied by hand. So Jews memorized scripture in songs and in cadences. That’s what psalm means, it means “songs”.
An example of remez would be me saying “Mary had a little …” and you saying “lamb”. Then once I got you started you could go on and finish it. when you get to verse 14 it should all start to sound familiar.
Verse 14-“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast;” describes death by crucifixion and v. 15 the dehydration that comes with it:“my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death”.
Verse 16- the taunting onlookers and the location of the crucifixion nails: “For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet”.
Verse 17& 18- foretoldJesus’s physical condition andthem casting lots for his clothing:”I can count all my bones— they stare and gloat over me;they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.
Are you surprised? Amazed? How could my pastor or priest NOT know this? Because we don’t understand and know our Lord as a Jew. Many of our Bible teachers were mad at the Jews for rejecting Jesus as the Messiah, so they did not learn from them. There is so much good teaching on this that I have included a paper that I know you will enjoy at the end of this devotional. Please read it yourself and test it. Please feel free to share it with your teachers. But be humble and please pray first. It is not about being right, it is about knowing our Lord and that He truly does NOT leave us or forsake us!
Prayer: My God, my God, You have never forsaken me! I praise you for being the One who is always there for me. No human can be with me in my depths or heights of life truly knowing me the way you can. Thank You for recording Your Word so carefully and preserving it for me so that I can know you better. Thank You for telling us through the Prophets about how Jesus would come. Thank You that Jesus fulfilled these prophesies! Thank you that He came just like you said He would. Thank you for telling us you would never leave us nor forsake us, no matter what! And thank you for allowing us to know that you did not leave nor forsake Your Son . After all, You are One with Him; and how can one leave oneself? Thank You for allowing me to be joined to You. What a grace! What an amazing grace! This resurrection power You’re giving me, I receive! Now, knowing Your Truth, I will rejoice in an extra measure. You are always with me…may I always be with You. Amen.
Teaching notes rom Dr. L. Mintz, Messianic Prophecies in the Old Testament ,Part 5: Psalm 22
Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
Psalm 22:1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
According to Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34, this was one of Jesus’ statements on the cross. Jesus spoke them in Aramaic, not Hebrew, perhaps so that everyone would be able to understand him, even those less educated who were present at the cross. At first glance, this verse appears to be a powerful emotional expression of a feeling of abandonment. But did you know that later in the same psalm, the writer, David, declares that the exact opposite is actually true:
Psalm 22: 24 For he has not despised or abhorred
the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
but has heard, when he cried to him
When we come to Psalm 22, we face, I believe, one of the most serious theological errors of the church because of its distancing itself from its first century Jewish roots –
Have you ever listened to a sermon about Good Friday and the Cross and heard something like this? The Father turned his back on His Son because He cannot look on sin and the fellowship was broken. This was the worst part of the suffering – that the Son experienced separation from His Father.
Here are some similar things you might hear at a Good Friday/Easter Sunday service:
“The Father rejected the Son.
As he exhausted his wrath upon the Son, the Father completely abandoned the Son.
The Father hid his face from the Son.
Jesus ‘became sin’. Therefore the Father’s wrath was poured out on Jesus.
The Father turned away from the Son.
The physical pain Christ suffered in his passion was nothng in comparison to the spiritual and relational pain that Christ endured as he was separated from his Father.
The eternal communion between the Father and the Son was ruptured on that fateful day.
The Trinity was broken.” (List from McCall)
The Trinity was broken?
- How can God turn his back on himself?
- What does it mean about the nature of the Trinity, if it can be severed?
- When Jesus said “I and the Father are one”(John 10:30) – did he mean that as a temporary state or an eternal one?
- What does it mean to say God turned away from the Son because He can’t look upon sin. Doesn’t God look at sin every day? (In fact, wasn’t Satan himself in God’s very presence when they discussed Job’s righteousness?)
- What does it mean for usif God can turn His back on His own Son in whom He is well pleased? Could He remove His presence from us too?
- What about God’s promise that He will never leave us or forsake us? (Dt 31:6,8; Jos 1:5, Ps 94:14, Heb 13:5)?
- Was Jesus mistaken when he said: “Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.” (John 16:32)
1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest.
3 Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
4 In you our fathers trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
5 To you they cried and were rescued;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
6 But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock me;
they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
8 “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him;
let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”
9 Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
10 On you was I cast from my birth,
and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
11 Be not far from me,
for trouble is near,
and there is none to help.
12 Many bulls encompass me;
strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
13 they open wide their mouths at me,
like a ravening and roaring lion.
14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.
16 For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet —
17 I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.
19 But you, O Lord, do not be far off!
O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
20 Deliver my soul from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dog!
21 Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!
22 I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or abhorred
the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
but has heard, when he cried to him.
25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
26 The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the Lord!
May your hearts live forever!
27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before you.
28 For kingship belongs to the Lord,
and he rules over the nations.
29 All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
even the one who could not keep himself alive.
30 Posterity shall serve him;
it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
31 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
that he has done it.
- Understanding the 1stCentury Jewish use of Scripture: Jesus’ last words as a ‘remez’ to Psalm 22
`Remez is a Hebrew term which means a ‘hint’ or an ‘allusion’. When the teachers and rabbis were discussing Scripture, they only needed to ‘hint’ at a passage with a few words, and they knew their listeners would be able to figure out for themselves the fuller meaning. For example, if I were to say to you “mary had a little lamb”, you would most likely immediately bring to mind the entire nursery rhyme – “it’s fleece was white as snow and everywhere that Mary went the lamb was sure to go”. Or if I said “Oh say can you see” hopefully you would immediately bring to mind the words of the Star Spangled Banner.
Similarly, Jesus and the New Testament writers used remez hundreds of times. It was a ‘shorthand’ way to communicate because the rabbis and their students had memorized the whole of Scripture. When they mentioned or quoted an Old Testament scripture it may have been just a few words, but the listener would have known the larger context and story within which the quote originally appeared.
One example of remez is the one we have talked about before, when Jesus referred to himself as the ‘son of man’ – a remez back to Daniel 7 and the whole context of the ‘son of man’ being presented to the ancient of days and coming on the clouds. “Daily bread” in the Lord’s Prayer is a remez back to God’s provision of manna in the wilderness. Words can be remez, but so can actions. Jesus’ riding on a donkey is a remez back to Zechariah 9:9. A less known remez may be when Jesus wrote in the dirt when the adulterous woman was brought to him for judgment. His actions might have pointed to Jeremiah 17:13 which says
13 O Lord, the hope of Israel,
all who forsake you shall be put to shame;
those who turn away from you shall be written in the earth,
for they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living water. (Greenwold)
We may not always ‘get’ these ‘hints’ because of our lack of knowledge. There are literally hundreds of allusions to Old Testament Scripture in the New Testament writings.
When Jesus cries out in Aramaic, ‘’Eloi, eloi, lama sabachtani” my God, my God, why have you forsaken me, it is a remez to Psalm 22. His listeners would immediately recollect the entirepsalm. Jesus was pointing to Psalm 22 and saying, “look, see, today this Psalm is being fulfilled before your eyes.” Indeed, at least 7 separate prophecies from Psalm 22 were fulfilled on the cross: the cry from the cross (v.1), the mocking of the crowd (v. 7), the bones out of joint (v. 14), the thirst from suffering (v.15), the piercing of hands and feet (v. 16), the staring crowd (v. 17), and the casting of lots for the clothing (v. 18). (list from Ross)
John records Jesus’ last words as “It is finished” (John 19:30). Is this another remez to the last line of Psalm 22 which is translated “for he has done (accomplished) it!”? God has done what He intended to do.
When we look at Jesus cry in the context of the entire Psalm, we see that “the focus of Psalm 22 is NOT abandonment, despair and rejection by the Lord but rather the Psalm reflects hope and trust in God’s ultimate deliverance and victory in the midst of the suffering of the afflicted one.” (Martin)
- Jesus’ cry is a Scriptural quote, not a personal appeal.
Jesus never personally addressed Yahweh as “El” – On every other occasion, and there are over 170 references in the Gospels, Jesus says “Father” or “my Father, ” never “God” or “my God”. Luke 23:46 records Jesus’ last words as “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
- On what Scripture is this interpretation based?
There is ONE verse that is used to support the interpretation that Jesus “became sin” on the cross.
2 Corinthians 5:18-21
21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Let’s take a careful look at this verse.
חַטָּאת = Hamartia (Greek) =Sin= Sin offering
The same word can mean both sin and sin offering. It is used to mean Sin offering 52 times in Leviticus and 36 times in Numbers. It can actually mean both things in the same sentence – for example this would be the reading in the Greek New Testament, the Septuagint from which Paul frequently quotes:
when thesin(hamartia) which they have committed becomes known, the assembly shall offer a bull from the herd for a sinoffering (hamartia)
he shall bring to the Lord as his compensation for the sin(hamartia) that he has committed, a female from the flock, a lamb or a goat, for a sinoffering(hamartia).
Did Paul mean that Jesus became ‘sin’ or that Jesus became a ‘sin offering?’ The Hebrew and the Greek words are exactly the same!
Paul was a Jew who studied under Gamaliel, the great Rabbi Hillel’s student. He certainly would have understood the sacrificial system, and what it means. Coming from a Jewish understanding, it seems unlikely that he could have meant that Jesus literally ‘became sin’. When animals were sacrificed for the sins of the people, the animals did not “become sin” – they were a sacrifice forsin. Just as last week we saw Isaiah (53:10) wrote that the Lord’s servant would make his soul (nephesh – body and soul) “an offering for guilt”.
When Paul wrote 2 Cor 5:21, it is likely that he was referring to Isaiah 53:9-11 (a remez, a hint, a hearkening back to Isaiah 53). Let’s look at the parallels between this verse and Isaiah 53:
21 For our sake he made him who knew no sin to be (a) sin (offering) , so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
- he made him who knew no sin: Isa. 53:9: “he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth”
- made him… to be (a) sin (offering) Isa. 53:10: “When you [Yahweh] make his life an offering for guilt …”
- so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Isa. 53:11: The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous”
What then would be a better translation of 2 Cor 5:21?
“God made him who knew no sin (hamartia) to be a sin offering (hamartia) for us so that we might become the righteousness of God.”
This interpretation harmonizes with other Scripture in the New Testament which says that Jesus became a sacrificial offering for sin, not sin itself. For example:
Ephesians 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Hebrews 10:10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
We have to ask, where else in Scripture does it speak of the Trinity being broken or ruptured? or of God turning His back on His Son because He can’t look at sin? Answer: Nowhere.
- What does the Hebrew word ‘forsake’ mean in context?
The word ‘forsake’ is mostly used in two ways – God’s people will ‘forsake’ Yahweh – meaning turn away from Him and turn to idol worship; or Yahweh will ‘forsake’ his people – meaning He will withdraw his protection and allow enemies to overrun them; he will discipline them for a time. By the way, the only reason God ‘forsakes’ his people in the Old Testament is because they have turned away from him to serve other gods. (as C.S. Lewis said, “pain is God’s megaphone to a deaf world”). Forsake on God’s part NEVER means that He withdraws His presence, or turns His back. It does mean He allows certain things to happen for a specific reason. He ‘forsakes’ them in order to bring them back to Him. There are dozens of examples in the Bible. Here is one from Judges that clarifies the Biblical meaning of forsake: Judges 6:13 And Gideon said to him, “Please, sir, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.”
Why is this important?
Misunderstandings about this verse rob us of an assurance that God wants us to have – the assurance of his continual presence in ALL circumstances – Romans 8:38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Fruchtenbaum, A. G. (1998). Messianic Christology: a study of Old Testament prophecy concerning the first coming of the Messiah. Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries.
Greenwold, D. (2010). The Rest of the Story: A Closer Look at Familiar Passages. Gaithersburg, MD: Doug Greenwold.
Harris, M. J. (2005). The Second Epistle to the Corinthians. Grand Rapids, MI; Milton Keynes, UK: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.; Paternoster Press.
Martin, J.C. (2003). Exploring Bible Times: The Gospels in Context. Bible World Seminars, Amarillo Tx.
McCall, Thomas H. (2012) Forsaken: The Trinity and the Cross, and Why It Matters, IVP Academic, Downers, Grove, Illinois.
Ross, Allen. (2012) Backgrounds to the New Testament. Course Handout: Part III: Biblical and Theological Studies(Beeson Divinity School, Fall Semester.