Psalm 22 For-Heaven-Saked

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Questions: Why do we feel forsaken? Whom do we blame? Does God still hear? Will he deliver? Is there anything we can do that makes a difference? Really?

“Read More” to pursue answers in the Psalms.

Lord, speak to me through your Spirit and your Word, your Body and your Blood;
that I might know you as you are, and manifest the image of Christ in this world,
and the world to come. Amen.

Psalms 22

My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? [why art thou so] far from helping me, [and from] the words of my roaring*

This is one of the most plaintive verses in the Bible; it’s twin in Matthew is arguably the saddest cry in history! That’s one reason why I’ve procrastinated this devotional so long (the other being busyness preparing for our realtor) — I was feeling too happy to enter into the spirit of this passage. 🙂 Things have quieted down a bit, plus I figured I’d better learn the lesson of this Psalm before I’m feeling forsaken!

So, why does David feel forsaken?

O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.

That certain seems to match the definition of forsake; certainly, I’d often considered myself forsaken with much less justification!

What’s interesting is that David doesn’t curse God for this, but praises Him:

But thou [art] holy, [O thou] that inhabitest the praises of Israel.

He recounts God’s great deliverance of the past:

Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.

Which is contrasted with his own sorry state:

But I [am] a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, [saying], He trusted on the LORD [that] he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.

It is intriguing that the word used here for ‘trust’ (galal) means ‘roll’, perhaps as in placing a bet or sealing a deal. In that sense, David is perhaps looking back to his roots to justify that bet:

But thou [art] he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope [when I was] upon my mother’s breasts. I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou [art] my God from my mother’s belly.

I wonder whether he is trying to remind himself that God is trustworthy, or remind God of His obligation to help:

Be not far from me; for trouble [is] near; for [there is] none to help… For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet… But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee
to help me. Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog. Save me from the lion’s mouth…

Even the faint echoes of his desperation send shivers to my hard heart, these three millennia later. Yet, despite all that, I am astonished to see him praising God even now:

I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee. Ye that fear the LORD, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel.

Why? Because despite how things seemed in verse 1:

For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard…

Loyalty is a strange thing, a recurring puzzle for philosophers: it implies being faithful to someone even when we have no rational reason to do so! I think David would argue that loyalty is rather being faithful to the unseen reality — which is enduring — even when the transient “seen” reality implies such faithfulness is foolish. And that ultimately, we all should submit to that same transcendent reality:

All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the
nations shall worship before thee. For the kingdom [is] the LORD’S: and he [is] the governor among the nations.

Unlike the passing reality of those who would oppose God:

All [they that be] fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul.

In fact, only those who ultimately submit to God shall endure:

A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation. They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done [this].

Prayer

God, it is so easy to look and moralize about those who trusted in your faithfulness in the past — for we know the outcome! Yet, it is difficult to trust you — or our knowledge of you — when our present seems so different, and so lonely. Father, teach me the discipline of gratitude and praise; not just during the good times, but especially during the times when I am tempted to feel forsaken. Help me be brutally honest with you about my feelings, yet also brutally honest with myself about your transcendent reality. For I know That reality is the only thing that will endure. I ask this in Jesus name, Amen.

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