# 96 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 22. “O my God.” (Psalm 22:2 KJV)

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I don’t know about you, but I am a getting tired of “OMG!” being bandied about every time someone is taken by surprise. Such a meaningless exclamation!

 

But did you know that the phrase “my God” (“O my God” appears mainly in the KJV) occurs over 500 times in the Bible, with over 100 of these in the Psalms.  And in Psalm 22, it appears 4 times. The most well-known being in verse 1: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”, having been prayed by Jesus on the Cross. The others being verse 2, My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.”, and verse 10, “From birth I was cast on you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.”

 

And in the Bible, the phrase, “my God” is far from some meaningless exclamation. In fact, it is usually used in prayer.

 

So, before we get into this amazing Psalm 22, and there is much to discover here, we will consider some truths concerning this often used phrase, “my God”.

 

Firstly, consider just a few examples of the times these words are used in the Psalms:

 

In affirmation:

 

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.  (Psalm 18:2)

 

In you, Lord my God, I put my trust. (Psalm 25:1)

 

With desire:

 

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.  (Psalm 42:1)

 

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.  (Psalm 63:1)

 

In prayer:

 

Be merciful to me, my God, for my enemies are in hot pursuit; all day long they press their attack.  (Psalm 56:1)

 

Do not be far from me, my God; come quickly, God, to help me.  (Psalm 71:12)

 

Basically, this is the language of a very unique relationship, and, as Broyles says, “the theology of this relationship may be encapsulated in the title ‘my God’. He continues that the individual prayer psalms “reflect the conviction that Yahweh answers when called upon. Their common divine title is ‘my God’, in which the worshipper is making a claim to a special relationship with the deity. In these psalms…the worshiper’s obligations are to trust (e.g. 31:14), to call upon God when in distress (e.g. 71:12), and to praise God once delivered (e.g. 30:11-12)…The obligations implicit upon Yahweh are to delight in the individual (22:8)…to hear his cries for help (22:24)…and to deliver him (22:4-5, 8)…The personal guardian God of the worshiper is none other than Yahweh, the God of Israel, the Most High, the one incomparable to all other spiritual beings…[and in Psalm 22 we see that] the intimacy of this relationship is most poignantly illustrated in the speaker’s birth story [“From birth I was cast on you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.” 22:9-10].”  (see references # 4)

 

We often talk about “my mother”, or “my brother” or “my child”, and that’s exactly what we mean. We are in a very intimate family relationship with that other person which doesn’t change even if the distance between us is far (either geographically or even emotionally).  They will always be mine!

 

But what about God? Is it a bit presumptuous to use this possessive pronoun “my” for the Creator of the universe, for the God and Father of Jesus? Well, if we believe what we read in the Bible, it seems the answer is ‘no’, because, firstly, God has no problem using it concerning us!

 

Listen to what he says:

 

In the OT:

 

But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.  (Isaiah 43:1)

 

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.  (2 Chronicles 7:14)

 

“Listen, my people, and I will speak; I will testify against you, Israel: I am God, your God.   (Psalm 50:7)

 

In the NT:

 

As he says in Hosea: “I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,” and, “In the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘children of the living God.’”  (Romans 9:25-26)

 

As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”  (2 Corinthians 6:16)

 

This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.   (Hebrews 8:10)

 

And then secondly, we see Jesus referring to God the Father as “my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”  (John 20:17)

 

And Thomas, having doubted the resurrection, on seeing Jesus alive said to him, “My Lord and my God!”  (John 20:28)

 

By faith in Jesus as our Saviour and Lord, we can know that we belong to God, we are his beloved children and therefore we can speak of him and to him intimately as “my God”.

 

So, next time you hear someone use the exclamation “OMG!”, what about asking them to explain who they are referring to, and, if possible, ask them if you can tell them about the One who you have discovered to be “my Lord and my God”.

 

My Father, how incredible that you call us your people and we can refer to you as my God. Teach us to walk in your presence in such a way that you will be able to truly delight in us as your true sons and daughters. Amen.

 

# 95 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 20 & 21. The weary repetitions of man’s history.

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What do we do with all this talk of enemies and battle and wrath and destroy in the latter verses of Psalm 21 as follows:

 

Your hand will lay hold on all your enemies;
your right hand will seize your foes.
When you appear for battle,
you will burn them up as in a blazing furnace.
The Lord will swallow them up in his wrath,
and his fire will consume them.
10 You will destroy their descendants from the earth,
their posterity from mankind.
11 Though they plot evil against you
and devise wicked schemes, they cannot succeed.
12 You will make them turn their backs
when you aim at them with drawn bow.

13 Be exalted in your strength, Lord;
we will sing and praise your might.

 

Don’t we have enough of this distressing stuff on the 7 o’clock news without having to deal with it in the Psalms? Or maybe, for some of you reading this, it is not just about images on TV, but it actually exists outside your front door? Every day you can hear it, see it, smell it! Your life is never free of the terrible consequences of ‘the weary repetitions of man’s history’ (as Blaiklock puts it).

 

But even if you don’t live in a war zone literally, then certainly spiritually we all do. As those of who trust in the Name of the Lord God Almighty, we daily face some sort of opposition to our faith and the truths that God has revealed to us in His Word, the Bible. As I quoted last time from Longman, “It is in the context of spiritual warfare that Psalm 20 [and 21] retains its relevance in the life of God’s people today.” (see references # 30)

 

I am presently reading “Gunning for God – Why the New Atheists are Missing the Target” by John C Lennox (Lion Books 2011) and he says:

 

“The New Atheists…are more aggressive…they are no longer content simply to deny God’s existence. For instance, Christopher Hitchens says: ‘I’m not even an atheist so much as I am an antitheist…I hold that the influence of churches, and the effect of religious belief is positively harmful…I think religion should be treated with ridicule, hatred, and contempt, and I claim that right’… The agenda of the New Atheists has widened, therefore, to include attack on the existence of belief itself…Sam Harris’s intention is ‘to destroy the intellectual and moral pretensions of Christianity in its most committed forms.’” (pages 16-17)

 

Remember that the initial context of these two psalms was when Israel was surrounded by enemies such as the Philistines and others and the usual reason the king had to lead his armies out to battle was (though not always) because of the nature of an aggressive enemy. As Blaiklock says, responding to the tough language of verses 7-13:

 

“Victory won is a token and foretaste of triumphs yet to be. The words take flame in envisaging victory, aggressors driven like chaff and treachery recoiling on its inventors (verse 11)…It is hot language, from which a war-ridden world [like today’s] may shrink, but see it in the context of an embattled land, with enemies…[with] an appalling tradition of evil…[and so] verse 10 must be read in that context of ever-breeding agony…[and] a beleaguered people’s fears…”  (see references # 37)

 

I have not lived under oppressive regimes of infamous people such as Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin (who by the way, were driven by an atheistic philosophy!), but I have read their history of atrocities against Jews, Gypsies, the disabled, their own people who stood against them and many others and wondered how would I pray, how would I react.

 

 

But, in our day, I personally don’t have any trouble understanding, to a degree, the language of this psalm and other Imprecatory Psalms (such as Psalm 109) known for calling out to God for justice against those who act out their evil schemes upon the vulnerable, the poor, children, widows and others. Those who act as if there is no God!  Especially when one considers atrocities that occur in our world today such as human trafficking and slavery, abduction of children and young people to be sold as sex-slaves or child soldiers, terrorism such as the very recent senseless killings of innocent victims in the UK and in Australia, even the corporate greed of some organizations, and the list sadly goes on and on. Surely we all desire for such perpetrators of these crimes against humanity to repent, turn from their evil ways and discover the grace and love that is in Jesus, but if not, to at the very least be stopped and called to account for their evil activities, one way or another.

 

Paul in Galatians 6:7-8 reminds us:

 

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

 

So Father, I pray concerning those who in our day seem to love sin and injustice for their own profit, with little consideration, it seems, for the terrible impact it all has upon their victims and ignoring the truth that one day there will be a judgement day.  In your mercy, bring them to repentance. May Your hand lay hold on all such enemies of yours; may your right hand seize your foes. When they plot evil against you and devise wicked schemes against vulnerable people, may they not succeed. And Father, deliver those who are the victims of such wicked activities. May they experience freedom in Jesus, the One who came to seek and to save the lost, to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, to set the oppressed free.  Be exalted in your strength, Lord and we will sing and praise your might. Amen. 

 

 

# 94 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 20 & 21. The desires of your heart.

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Using his imagination, Blaiklock moves from Psalm 20 to 21 as follows:

 

Psalm 20 – “The king is about to go to battle…the people invoke God’s blessing…The royal leader has drawn strength from the loyalty and loving regard of those who have prayed for him…The people round off…in a loud cry of affirmation. An anthem closes the prayer, ‘God save the king’…

 

The place of worship empties, and…the army marches out of Jerusalem. Will the weary repetitions of man’s history never cease? Darkness fell and the long wait began. In small homes hearts were heavy, women lonely and children large-eyed with apprehension.”

 

Psalm 21 – “Was it weeks, was it months, before the army marched back? It seemed years to some, but they came back, those who came back, with victory, and those who still could sing were gathered to render thanks for vast deliverance…the king [has] returned in triumph, the nation [is] saved [from the enemy], prayer [has been] answered [and] the outcome is ascribed to God.”   (see references # 37)

 

They knew it in their minds, they proclaimed it with their mouths, that Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God, but now it is confirmed again in their hearts! Their faith was not displaced, it was not just ‘wishful optimism but realistic faith’. It was real because God is real and powerful and faithful to his people, as promised in His Word.
Note the connection again between these two psalms:

 

May he [God] give you [king] the desire of your heart
and make all your plans succeed.                (Psalm 20:4)

 

You [God] have granted him [king] his heart’s desire
and have not withheld the request of his lips.     (Psalm 21:2)

 

And so, the follow up psalm is composed and recited with great joy:

 

Psalm 21

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

The king rejoices in your strength, Lord.
How great is his joy in the victories you give!

You have granted him his heart’s desire
and have not withheld the request of his lips.
You came to greet him with rich blessings
and placed a crown of pure gold on his head.
He asked you for life, and you gave it to him—
length of days, for ever and ever.
Through the victories you gave, his glory is great;
you have bestowed on him splendour and majesty.
Surely you have granted him unending blessings
and made him glad with the joy of your presence.
For the king trusts in the Lord;
through the unfailing love of the Most High
he will not be shaken.

 

What a delight it is to work under leadership that has some of the qualities of this king described here. Listen again to the description given:

 

  • The king rejoices in your strength, Lord. How great is his joy in the victories you give! (verse 1)
  • [you] made him glad with the joy of your presence (verse 6)
  • the king trusts in the Lord, through the unfailing love of the Most High he will not be shaken. (verse 7)

 

What a difference it would make to our churches, ministries, countries to first of all just pray regularly for our leaders and then to pray for these qualities (and more) in our leaders – our pastors, ministry leaders, politicians and others.

 

So, Father, I pray right now for pastors that they will rejoice in the strength that you give them and find joy in the good things that you accomplish through them. Make them glad with the joy of your presence day by day. May they continue to put their trust in you, no matter what comes their way, being aware daily of your unfailing love towards them, enabling them to stand firm. And, knowing their love for you, grant them the desires of their hearts as they seek to glorify you and serve others with the good news of Jesus.  Amen