This week I will take a break from my thoughts about the fall and plan to continue those next week due to my desire to communicate some Easter thoughts this time:
This past week one of my favorite teachers talked about the fact that the psalms are songs, and that as Christ suffered on the cross He possibly was singing or reciting some of the psalms, most particularly Psalm 22. She read that entire psalm and showed how throughout the psalm it refers to Christ’s experience on the cross.
Psalm 22 is also a wonderful example of the richness and depth of meaning that can be derived from every word, even those that do not seem to fit, and in this way for me this psalm has gone from scripture that refers to Christ only in certain verses to scripture that refers and gives profound insight to Christ throughout, and indeed to His suffering on the cross. As one example, verse seven begins with But I am a worm, and no man, and from a superficial reading of that phrase it certainly makes no sense. Why compare Christ to a worm?
A more in depth examination of the language employed here uncovers beautiful symbolism and profound meaning: There are three Hebrew words that are translated into worm in the English KJV, and the two occurring most frequently refer to entirely different creatures and carry completely opposite symbolic meanings. Both of these Hebrew words are found in Job 25:6 and are translated as worm in the English:
How much less man, that is a worm? And the son of man, which is a worm?
Again, in the English finding meaning is difficult, but turning to the Hebrew provides tremendous meaning. The first worm in this verse, which is associated with imperfect man, in Hebrew refers to a typical worm, which is involved in the process of decomposing and returning living matter into the earth. The second worm, which is associated with God in this verse, in Hebrew is a different creature altogether and is associated with life and new life in a wonderful way both in reality and symbolically.
This second worm is the crimson worm (coccus ilicis). When the female crimson worm gives birth she attaches herself to a tree or other form of wood and makes a hard shell. She attaches so securely to the wood that the shell cannot be removed without tearing her flesh completely apart and killing her. She then lays her eggs under her body, which is under the protective shell. When the baby worms hatch they remain there where the mother worm provides protection, and where they feed on the still living body of the mother worm. After a few days the young worms are able to live on their own, and at that point the mother worm dies, oozing in her death a crimson dye, which stains the wood to which she is attached as well as staining the baby worms so that they are colored crimson for the remainder of their lives. Finally, three days after her death the mother crimson worm loses her crimson color, turns into a white wax, and falls to the ground.
This entire process is richly symbolic of the sacrifice of Christ, as He died for us on the cross, and in that process made us His children; as He provided protection from evil and became for us the bread of life; as He bled for us from every pore, and we are washed clean and transformed through His blood; and finally as He voluntarily lay down His life on the cross and three days later took His body up again in His resurrection, transformed and perfected.
Returning to Psalm 22:7, Christ is well typified by the female crimson worm who gives life to her children through her total sacrifice and death, and just as that creature is wholly different from a typical worm who is associated with decay and the earth, Christ is no man, in that He is completely different from fallen man in His sinless nature and matchless character.
One characteristic of the crimson worm and its symbolism of Christ that is particularly meaningful to me is the securely fixed attachment the crimson worm makes to the wood. There is nothing that can dissuade and prevent the crimson worm from making her sacrifice for her children except external force beyond her own strength, leading to her death.
Similarly, the atoning sacrifice of Christ was firmly secured from before the creation due to His completely pure and infinite love for God’s children. One crucial and comforting difference between the crimson worm and Christ here is that in the case of Christ there was no opposing power able to overcome His love and power and by force prevent Him from accomplishing His mission. Death did not overcome Him; He overcame death. Hell did not overcome Him; He overcame hell. He overcame all things and truly is the resurrection and the life. I am so grateful for His infinite love and for His power of redemption that is available because of that love.