Christ is the first One who is empathetic towards us. He knows our pains, our struggles, our distance from God, because He took them all upon Himself. He was set apart from the world for Him, as He set apart Himself from the Father with us, so that we may be baptized in His death and rise with Him. The work of the resurrection is painful; the word ‘sacrifice’ does not fully encapsulate the task that the Father laid on His Son.
So often we identify with the Christ who swings between two extreme ends of one spectrum: the Jesus who is a strong, muscular, powerful carpenter, the crown of thorns a mere shadow of the crown of glory befitting of a king. Then, there is the Jesus who is portrayed as the lamb led to slaughter; the bloodied Christ; the one trampled upon by the world.
Isn’t the Christ we worship, however, a radical representation of both? The powerful Christ who made Himself nothing by taking the nature of a servant (Philippians 2:7), so that He who had no sin could take on our sin (2 Corinthians 5:21), and that His plea for salvation is a plea made on our behalf?
So Psalm 69 opens, ‘according to the lilies’. Spurgeon says this of the chapter:
“Thus for the second time we have a Psalm entitled “upon the lilies.” In the forty-first they were golden lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh, and blooming in the fair gardens which skirt the ivory palaces: in this we have the lily among thorns, the lily of the valley, fair and beautiful, blooming in the garden of Gethsemane. A Psalm of David. If any enquire, “of whom speaketh the psalmist this? of himself, or of some other man?” we would reply, “of himself, and of some other man.” Who that other is, we need not be long in discovering; it is the Crucified alone who can say, “in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” His footprints all through this sorrowful song have been pointed out by the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, and therefore we believe, and are sure, that the Son of Man is here. Yet is seems to be the intention of the Spirit, while he gives us personal types, and so shows the likeness to the firstborn which exists in the heirs of salvation, to set forth the disparities between the best of the sons of men, and the Son of God, for there are verses here which we dare not apply to our Lord; we almost shudder when we see our brethren attempting to do so, as for instance Ps 69:5. Especially do we note the difference between David and the Son of David in the imprecations of the one against his enemies, and the prayers of the other for them. We commence our exposition of this Psalm with much trembling, for we feel that we are entering with our Great High Priest into the most holy place”
As to the meaning of ‘according to the lilies’, as commented by James William Thirtle (whose Christadelphian views are not adopted in this commentary, but has made extensive research on the meaning of the term ‘lilies’ in Scripture):
As to the word Shoshannim, which stands for the Passover season in the system of psalm titles, its simple meaning is ‘lilies.’ It was, however, used in a general way for flowers of various kinds, as is explained by Dr. G. F. Post, who writes:
‘Susan, in Arabic, is a general term for lily-like flowers, as the lily, iris, pancratium, gladiolus, &c., but more particularly the iris. It is as general as the English term lily, which is applied to flowers of the genera Lilium, Gladiolus, Convallaria, Hemerocallis, of the botanical order Liliaceae, and to Nyrnphaea, Nuphar, Funkia, &c., not of that order. The Hebrew Shushan must be taken in the same general sense.’
The word was used for spring flowers in general, the brightest and most beautiful giving a name to the whole. It is not in the least surprising that the Passover, falling in the month Abib (‘growing green’), should be associated with the flower season and expressed by such a word. For a long period the Israelitish practice was to indicate times and seasons by expressions describing natural phenomena and agricultural operations. Indeed, it was not until after the Babylonish captivity that the month names which at present prevail came into use among the Jews…
(I) SHOSHANNIM—Lilies (Flowers) for the Feast of Passover (in the Spring), which, in a word, meant DELIVERANCE FROM EGYPT, a guarantee or pledge of a thousand deliverances (Exod. 12. 2, 27 ; Deut. 24. i8)…
…an exegetical reason is brought in for our contention that Shoshannim means lilies, and not a melody; that it stands for a season, and not a musical instrument; and that it is used by way of metonymy for the Passover commemoration. Therefore, it is neither the name of a choir-master, nor the catchword of an old song, nor a technical term implying that the musical instruments employed in the worship of Jehovah were ‘made in Shushan,’ or any other land of captivity.
The musical title should read ‘Concerning, or relating to, Shoshannim,’ = ‘Lilies,’ a term recalling the Spring Festival, Passover, which commemorated the goodness and power of God in the redemption of Israel from Egypt, and bringing the tribes into the Land of Promise. The season was a memorial of the making of the nation, and even although (as in this psalm) circumstances might be adverse, yet Jehovah was praised as Deliverer and Redeemer…
The first verse: Save me, O God! Remember, this is the Christ who knew of no need to be saved; the Christ who knew the Father before creation; the Christ who is God Himself in eternal triune communion with the Father and the Spirit. Who does He, our Lord, need salvation from? Is it from the enemy? No – it is from the curse of death; the curse of eternal damnation and separation from the communion with God.
This chapter continues — this is the voice of Jesus, sinking in deep mire, going into deep waters, the feeling of wave after wave consuming Him, His throat parched from shouting and screaming for God’s presence and salvation.
V4 – those who hate Christ are more in number than the hairs of His head. That is indeed true – David Himself may have temporarily experienced that level of persecution, but with every new generation there are those who continue to persecute and ridicule Him from birth. David’s name is but a footnote in history when compared to Jesus, who is constantly challenged; whose very existence is questioned; whose morals are made merely humanistic; whose deity is doubted; whose truths are considered as mere opinions, if not the words of a lunatic or a liar.
What did Jesus do though? Nothing but to simply weep for us; nothing but to simply love us; nothing but to simply save us. What did he steal that he must now restore? He stole away death to take upon Himself! Yet we accuse Him of stealing our livelihood, our lifestyle of sin, the possessions of this world that we treasure more than the gifts of the kingdom of heaven.
Christ continues at v 6 – let not those who hope in the Father be put to shame through Jesus; let not those who seek the Father be brought to dishonour through Jesus. The Anointed and Sent One knows that His role as the mediator, as the eternal intercessor, is crucial. The Father only sees us through the lens of the mediator; He only approves us because the intercessor, our representative, says that we are worthy because Jesus is worthy. If Jesus is not, then we are already eternally damned (John 3:16-18).
It is for your sake that Jesus has borne our reproach. For whose sake? Both the Father’s and ours. For the Father, so that we can be restored to Him; for us, so we know that there is salvation for us. Yet, in setting Himself apart for the Father and with us, He has become a stranger to His brothers; an alien to His mother’s sons (v.8).
For Moses considered the reproach of Christ as greater than the treasures of Egypt (Hebrews 11:26) – and this is the same reproach sung by David in contemplation of Christ’s disgrace. The reproaches of those who reproach the Father has fallen on our Anointed Saviour (v.9); He who knew no sin became our sin and he wept and humbled his own soul with fasting (v.10). He became the very byword, the parable, the thing of horror, that Moses described in Deuteronomy 28:37. How great the cost of His sacrifice to redeem us from our sins! Surely that only magnifies how utterly atrocious sin is in His eyes, that it requires God to cleanse us, and not from our own ability.
So Jesus pleads the steadfast love of the Father to save Him; to deliver Him from his enemies (vv.13-15); this is repeated again at v 16. Yet, we know that Christ died from the despair of not being with the Father any longer – eloi eloi lama sabachtani He cried. Why have You forsaken Me? Why have You hidden Your face from Your Servant? (v.17) When I draw near to You, do You not draw near to Me (James 4:8)? No. Because, on the cross, Jesus bore the weight of the world’s sins – in past, present, and future – and the Father can have no fellowship with sin.
So often we ask for God’s blessing; we ask to partake in His glory; we ask to receive His gifts; in being ‘in Him’ we forget about the pain that He receives from both those who worship Him, as well as those who never knew Him. We forget about the grieving that we continually cause to the Holy Spirit, knowingly or otherwise. V.20 describes the heart of a man so closely knit with God that this may as well as God Himself describing the sin-aches that have troubled Him since Adam’s fall: “Reproaches have broken my heart, so that I am in despair. I looked for pity, but there was none, and for comforter, but I found none.” Like David, the type of Christ, how often do our hearts break because of sin? How often are we in despair? Or do we proceed with lies upon lies, covering ourselves with self-assurance without honestly repenting for our reproaches from the deepest recesses of our hearts?
Yet, the persecutors continue to trample on this Prophet-King, giving him poison for food and sour wine to drink, much like what Jesus received as he hung from the cross (v.21; John 19:30). In exchange for Jesus’ pain, in exchange for the sins He bore on behalf of the world, David pleads that the Father curse those who neither look on Jesus’ pain in pity nor to comfort Him. It is a scathing judgment: vv 27-28 – “may they have no acquittal from you. Let them be blotted out of the book of the living; let them not be enrolled among the righteous.”
By contrast, it is out of the contrite heart of true worshippers, who know of the ramifications of sin on one’s broken heart and state of despair, and who praise the name of God with song, that this is far more pleasing than any other sacrifice (vv.30-31). The LORD does not hear those who are filled to the brim with pleasures and contentment with the present world; He hears the needy (v.33). And He is presently preparing a place for us (John 14:2-3) — if the chapter were to end on v.33, the solace is incomplete. That is why the chapter ends on vv 34-36 — the focus shifts from the dire circumstances to Zion, and the building up of the cities of Judah. Much like the promise to Abraham, here David is prophetically describing the innumerable offspring of God’s servants inheriting the land and cities, and that only those who love His name shall dwell in it. This glorious new creation can only be achieved with the Son’s sacrifice.
As Spurgeon ends this chapter, he focuses on the importance of the word ‘offspring’ / ‘seed’:
Under this image, which, however, we dare not regard as a mere simile, but as having in itself a literal significance, we have set forth to us the enrichment of the saints, consequent upon the sorrow of their Lord. The termination of this Psalm strongly recalls in us that of the twenty-second. The seed lie near the Saviour’s heart, and their enjoyment of all promised good is the great concern of his disinterested soul. Because they are his Father’s servants, therefore he rejoices in their welfare. And they that love his name shall dwell therein. He has an eye to the Father’s glory, for it is to his praise that those who love him should attain, and for ever enjoy, the utmost happiness. Thus a Psalm, which began in the deep waters, ends in the city which hath foundations. How gracious is the change. Hallelujah.