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God’s Word for You

Psalm 22:6 A worm and not a man

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, March 29, 2023

6 But I am a worm and not a man.
  I am scorned by men and despised by people.

The cross that David bore was the scorn of people in his time, especially King Saul who hated and envied him (1 Samuel 18:9). David compares himself with a worm, toleygah. The worm or grub was most often regarded as a useless parasite (Jonah 4:8), and one of Job’s friends compared the meekness of man with the worm (Job 25:6). In ancient times the tiny Kermes worm (kermes echinatus) was harvested for its excellent red dye, and so the word toleygah also refers to red dye throughout the Old Testament (Leviticus 14:4; Numbers 4:8). Here it is the humble insignificance of man that is meant.

At this point of the Psalm, David is speaking prophetically about the suffering of the Messiah as well as his own terrible experiences during his hard soldier’s life. The words fit the state of humiliation and suffering of Jesus flawlessly. An early Christian pastor said: “Our Lord Jesus Christ did not come in the pomp of arrogance or pride, although he might have done so, but rather in lowliness of mind” (1 Clement 16:2). This was his entry into the fallen and sinful world, but David is carrying us into the days of Christ’s greatest suffering, especially the day of his death.

So here was Jesus, in one individual both God and man. He possessed the divine majesty but did not constantly use it. In fact, he set it aside more and more throughout his time on earth. He had the right to use it (as Clement properly says) but he gave it up. He did not give up the possession of the divine majesty and power, but the use of it. In a sense, he acted the way a wealthy man might by setting aside his credit card and check book and saying, “I have just so much cash in my wallet. I will live only on the cash that I have. I will spend it as wisely as I can, but I know that at some point, it will run out.” Christ relinquished his power and majesty, and we understand this because in just a few instances he made an exception and we have a flash of his power and glory, such as when he was transfigured (Matthew 17:2), and in the performance of his miracles (Luke 8:54; John 2:8-9), knowing people’s hearts (Mark 2:8), and so on. He humbled himself so that he became obedient to death, “even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).

Who is it, then, who says, “I am a worm and not a man?” Can it be Jesus according to his human nature alone, or does he speak also according to his divine nature? Shall we toss this verse aside and say, “It is only David speaking, we don’t have to answer about which nature in Christ we should speak, human or divine”? No. It must be Christ (for David is indeed speaking prophetically about our Savior’s suffering), and it must be Christ speaking according to both his human nature and his divine nature. We cannot separate the two natures. The one, the human, is taken up into the other, the divine. Quenstedt says: “The obedience of Christ is an action not only of his human nature but of Christ the God-man, who, just as he was born and given for us, so also was made under the law for us, and is the end, that is, the fulfilling, of the law not for himself but for righteousness to every believer.”

Therefore there is no doubt but that Christ, truly God and man, is the one scorned by men and despised by people. The Creator is the one who is like a worm, a thing to be disregarded. “Why do you now cry aloud,” the prophet asked, “have you no king?” (Micah 4:9). The king was rejected for the sins of the people. The Lord of Glory set aside his glory to remove the guilt of mankind. Man prays in repentant terror: “For the sake of your Name, do not give us up utterly.” And the response? “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2).

The Lord of peace gave us peace. He humbled himself utterly “to give you peace at all times and in every way.”

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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