“Eli, Eli, lemasabachthani?” Translation: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”. (Matthew 27:46 The Complete Jewish Bible) For believers, these are some of the most famous words in scripture, and represent the last words of Yeshua (depending upon which Gospel is read) as He hung on the cross and gave up His spirit. They are also words that have confused me for years.
As believers we are taught that God does not forsake His people, and yet here is a scripture that says that God has forsaken His own Son. True, I have heard the explanation many times that Yeshua, in essence, became the sacrificial lamb, taking the sin of the world upon Himself thus atoning for all sin for all time for all who would believe. God cannot look upon sin, the Bible tells us, and since Yeshua became sin to bring salvation to a lost and hurting world, God had no choice; He had to turn His back on His Son.
I get that, still that explanation did not fully resonate with me. The search began, and as always I dig into the meaning of the words and the message the words convey. In my mind, “forsaken” was the most powerful of the words spoken by Yeshua as He hung on the cross about to draw His last breath; we begin there.
In Biblical Hebrew many of the words have dual meanings, and the word “forsake” does not disappoint. The Hebrew word for “forsake” is comprised of two words; one with the familiar meaning which is “to abandon”, and one with the meaning “to restore or repair”. Interesting, wouldn’t you agree? These words have opposite meaning, and yet, because of the nature of Biblical Hebrew, we must consider both meanings in order to fully understand. The meaning behind the words point to a well known psalm that any Orthodox Jew standing at the foot of the cross would recognize; Psalm 22.
Yeshua was known to have taught in the Synagogue throughout His time on the earth. Synagogue teachings usually included reading from the Torah or Book of the Law, and either the singing or recitation of the psalms. Yeshua spent much of His time teaching and training His disciples, and I have no doubt, recited Psalm 22 as part of the preparation of His faithful. The opening statement in this psalm is, “My God! My God! Why have you abandoned me? Why so far from helping me, so far from my anguished cries?” (The Complete Jewish Bible), and according to the Bible, was set to music. Psalm 22 is a lightly veiled description of the crucifixion of Yeshua, while at the same time, is a well known passage that speaks to Israel’s past, present, and future. Do you see where this is going?? The message here is yes, Yeshua is the Messiah for the Jew, first, in speaking to Israel’s past, present, and future, and in going forward, to the world at large as the inclusive “all” is used over and over in relation to all of humanity knowing Him as Lord.
I am always awestruck when I research and learn while uncovering the deeper meanings of scriptures. Many believe, and have been convinced that Yeshua was, and is, the promised Messiah by reading the scriptures and accepting them at face value. I am more of a hard sell. I need to know and understand as much as I can, as much as God has chosen to reveal to humanity in our limited ability to understand. When we take the time to dig deeper, the scriptures are rich with gold and precious gems of wisdom and understanding.
The significance of Yeshua’s recitation of the first words of Psalm 22 was to validate His Messiahship to Israel, and as a prophetic message for the future; to verify to those in attendance, who He was, those who heard and witnessed the epic event that split time, and then would retell their stories to others as the dawn of a new era and restored relationship with God began. Any Jew versed in the Psalms would recognize Psalm 22, and many would be able to recite the remainder of the Psalm from the final words spoken by Yeshua to the end of the passage. It is interesting to note that at the time Psalm 22 was written, crucifixion had not yet been invented, so the author of the Psalm spoke of things that were to come, not as a description of his current circumstances. Some experts in Biblical Hebrew argue that the words do not necessarily point to crucifixion however, taken as a whole the scriptures clearly describe an epic event that ended with the afflicted One being persecuted to the point of death and the subsequent outcome would be that all would turn back to God (Adonai); not only in the present, but into the future as well.
When Yeshua uttered the words, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” the message was clear to those in attendance, and down through the centuries; this event was foretold in the Psalms, and going forward, the result would be restoration to God for all generations for as many as would accept the gift.
The relationship with God that Adam and Eve lost in the Garden, Yeshua restored to all, Jew and Gentile alike, during a time we have deemed Holy Week, ending with resurrection on the first day of the week we know as Easter Sunday. There is nothing left to be done; God is calling to each of us to journey with Him. We have been restored. It is finished…..(John 19:30)