“I am a worm”
Psalm 22 is one of the profound Messianic prophecies, fulfilled by Yeshua (Jesus) in so many details, especially while he was being crucified.
Embedded in this breath-taking psalm is verse 6, which is loaded with truth that most of us read right over. Or we misunderstand its true message. A dear friend in WA state – Dean – reminded me of this verse and its deeper meaning -- when he remarked on it in a recent email. What I’m about to write is not unique to me or us, as it has been known for centuries, but I hope it will be so meaningful to you who come to Light on the Rock. Please pass this blog on to others if you find it rich in meaning. And be sure to check our other blogs too.
Psalms 22:6-8 – “But I am a worm, and no man; A reproach of men, and despised by the people. All those who see Me ridicule Me; They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, "He trusted in YHVH, let Him rescue Him; Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!" (NKJV; the KJV is almost identical).
Compare with Matthew 27:42-43.
The last part of that passage is clearly seen in the gospel accounts, but we don’t have a record of Yeshua saying he was but a worm. He must have FELT that way and in any case, we are to learn something from that prophetic statement. But it’s far more than that. This “worm” -- based on the original language – was no ordinary worm.
The typical word for “worm” in Hebrew was rimmah, meaning a maggot. But that’s not the worm mentioned here. This worm was tola’at or tola in Hebrew (to-law’, phonetically), Strong’s# 8438. It was translated 43 times usually as “worm, scarlet, crimson”. Maybe you’re starting to think and realize this is no ordinary worm. It was clearly associated with a bright red color. In fact, the word is often translated simply as scarlet or crimson – yes, the same word that is translated “worm” in other verses. So be sure to learn why.
You are about to be amazed when the fuller picture of this worm is revealed; the “worm” Yeshua said HE was while being crucified on the tree or stake (1 Peter 2:24; Acts 5:30; Acts 10:39; 13:29).
This worm was the Crimson Worm to which Psalm 22:6 refers – common to the area of old Israel. These worms are about the size of a pea, and looked more like a grub than a worm. They were often mistaken to be a part of the plant or stick to which they were attached.
This worm -- Strong’s word #8438 – was the same one that destroyed stale manna in Exodus 16:20. It was the same grub that ate the vine or gourd whose shade Jonah was enjoying for his covering shade (Jonah 4:7). It was known as the crimson grub or worm. Why?
When the female crimson worm was ready to lay its eggs – which she does only once in her lifetime (keep that in mind) – she attaches itself to a tree trunk or large stick or fencepost. Next, she makes a hard crimson shell over her body and strongly attaches herself to the tree. This crimson worm – when seen attached on a tree – had thorn-like edges to it. Think about that too. You cannot remove this worm or the shell it made without ripping her body apart and killing her. This crimson worm now lays its eggs under her body, and protects her future offspring by her firmly attached crimson shell. But that is just half the story. It gets better.
When the larvae hatch, they stay right there – under the mama’s shell for protection and food! The baby larvae feed on the living body of their mother! Over the next few days the larvae grow to where they can independently fare for themselves. The mother crimson worm dies, oozing a bright red or scarlet/crimson dye which permanently stains her baby worms and the tree spot to which it is attached. The larvae are colored a bright scarlet the rest of their lives. But – they lived because their “mother” gave her life for them, covering them in her protective shell and letting them feed on her.
If the mother’s shell is left there, after three days the dead worm’s body loses its red color and now turns into a whitish color that falls to the ground like snow.
Now we put it all together. What did Yeshua mean when he said he was but a worm? Was he just being humble? Yes, but it was more than that.
He was what the Crimson Worm pictured, attached firmly to the tree. We see that when Christ was crucified (1 Peter 2:24) on a tree. How did he look up there? Bright red –badly bleeding all over from the severe scourging beating he had just endured. We’re told how he looked in the end of Isaiah 52 and all of Isaiah 53. And remember, the Romans were not limited to 39 lashes or just to lashing one’s back. And like the mama crimson worm encasing her eggs, Christ is our protective shell, as it were. HE is our covering righteousness and sustaining life. HE is in fact, what each of the pieces of the “armor of God’ ultimately picture – protecting and guarding the children of God.
Blood is a bright red color, or scarlet or crimson. This particular worm – and its shell – were often scraped off the wood and then crushed into powder to make the bright red dyes for clothing – and for the scarlet materials found in the Tabernacle and its furnishings (see Exodus 25:4; Numbers 4-8). The word translated “crimson” or sometimes even “scarlet” is often the very same word as the one used for the crimson worm itself. All of that came from this crimson worm, the specific worm Yeshua said HE was – as he was being crucified, firmly attached, on the tree.
Crimson or scarlet is seen everywhere God is cleansing. A scarlet string is seen in the ritual required for cleansing a leper (Leviticus 14:4,6), or a house (Leviticus 14:49-52) and also in the laws of the red heifer – whose ashes were used in the purification rituals as well (Numbers 19:6). It’s the same Hebrew word being translated “scarlet” or “red” – as it is for the worm!
Just as the crimson worm gives its life for its offspring, Yeshua gave his life for us. He died, that we might live through Him (1 John 4:9). The larvae all fed on the mother before leaving its protective shell and covering. We too, at least symbolically, eat of Him and if we don’t, we have no life in us (John 6:53-55). Remember what Yeshua said at his Passover: “This is my body, which is given for you…” (Luke 22:19). “Take, eat; this is my body” (Mark 14:22).
John 6:48-51—“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world."
The larvae are dyed a bright red the rest of their lives by the protecting scarlet worm soon after they hatch from their eggs. We too are washed – bathed – covered – in the blood of the Lamb, our Savior – washing away ALL our sins. And we are most happy to be seen as someone under the blood of Christ!
“Come now, let us reason together, says YHVH: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18).
It’s the same Hebrew word there for crimson, as for the crimson worm.
So our Savior was telling us, as he was firmly attached to the tree at his vicious crucifixion:
- “I’m doing this for you – once, for all time, for all people who accept it” (just as the crimson worm did it only once – Hebrews 9:28; 10:10).
- “I’ve been nailed to a tree – firmly attached – as I’m about to end my life, for you – just as the Crimson worm attached itself to a tree or wood at the end of its life. I have a crown of thorns around my head, just as this Crimson worm has a thorn-like perimeter around its shell.”
- “I’m your covering and source of life” – just as the Crimson worm gave its life and body to the larvae that it brought into the world.
- “My red blood is what forgives you, washes away every single sin you’ve ever committed, redeems you and reconciles us in the family of God to the Father – just as we’re reminded of that color when any sacrificial animal’s blood was spilled, or when you saw so much RED in the tabernacle, where God and mankind were reconciled.”
When you read Psalm 22:6 – “I am a worm” -- The Word was pointing us to the scarlet worm, to the crucifixion, to the power of his crimson or scarlet blood. God’s word never ceases to amaze. And praise you Yeshua, our Redeemer.
You might benefit from the full sermons
“When I see the Blood” -- Parts 1-2, April 2014 (enter “see the blood” in the search bar)
If you have found this helpful and instructive, please forward on to others and the website – www.LightontheRock.org