# 99 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 22. Hold firmly – approach – receive!

Reaching out by Liv Vardy

“Reaching Out” (livvardyart.com.au)

Psalm 22 is an amazing Lament Psalm, or, as Brueggemann calls them, Psalms of Disorientation, and it typically moves through a number of different “moods”, so to speak. Consider the following:

 

The Lament (or complaint) that God seems distant, in fact, He seems to have abandoned the psalmist completely, as he remains silent to the speaker’s cries:

 

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?     Why are you so far from saving me,     so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,     by night, but I find no rest.

 

A recalling of who God is, starting with “Yet you”, and how He has intervened in the past when his people Israel put their faith in Him. A fact that only heightens the strangeness of God’s silence:

 

Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;     you are the one Israel praises. In you our ancestors put their trust;     they trusted and you delivered them. To you they cried out and were saved;     in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

 

Back to the present reality of the psalmist, describing his horrible suffering at the hands of evil people, who are almost daring God to act on the psalmist’s behalf:

 

But I am a worm and not a man,     scorned by everyone, despised by the people. All who see me mock me;     they hurl insults, shaking their heads. “He trusts in the Lord,” they say,     “let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him,     since he delights in him.”

 

A recalling then of God’s very personal intervention in the psalmist’s life, again starting with “Yet you”, and again heightening the anomaly of what is happening in his life:

 

Yet you brought me out of the womb;     you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast. 10 From birth I was cast on you;     from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

 

A prayer for God’s deliverance because “there is no one [else] to help”, in the light of such ferocious enemies (likened to wild animals) attacking him:

11 Do not be far from me,     for trouble is near     and there is no one to help.

12 Many bulls surround me;     strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. 13 Roaring lions that tear their prey     open their mouths wide against me. 14 I am poured out like water,     and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax;     it has melted within me. 15 My mouth is dried up like a potsherd,     and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;     you lay me in the dust of death.

16 Dogs surround me,     a pack of villains encircles me;     they pierce my hands and my feet. 17 All my bones are on display;     people stare and gloat over me. 18 They divide my clothes among them     and cast lots for my garment.

19 But you, Lord, do not be far from me.     You are my strength; come quickly to help me. 20 Deliver me from the sword,     my precious life from the power of the dogs. 21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;     save me from the horns of the wild oxen.

 

A promise by the psalmist that he will give God “praise in the assembly” because of Him answering prayer and delivering the psalmist, revealing the reality that God indeed had not forsaken him and did hear his cry:

 

22 I will declare your name to my people;     in the assembly I will praise you. 23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!     All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!     Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! 24 For he has not despised or scorned     the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him     but has listened to his cry for help.

25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;     before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows.

 

A promise that as a result, all “families of the nations” will acknowledge the Lord, speaking in universal proportions in both geography and time, declaring that “He has done it!”

 

26 The poor will eat and be satisfied;     those who seek the Lord will praise him—     may your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth     will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations     will bow down before him, 28 for dominion belongs to the Lord     and he rules over the nations.

29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;     all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—     those who cannot keep themselves alive. 30 Posterity will serve him;     future generations will be told about the Lord. 31 They will proclaim his righteousness,     declaring to a people yet unborn:     He has done it!

 

Think about your own life. Was there a time when your life’s story was similar, even in some small way, to the psalmists? How did you react?

 

I have discovered in life that people can choose between two paths during such times. We can work our way through the difficulties with God (even if he seems distant at first) and come through stronger, all the more convinced of His faithfulness and goodness and sovereignty, as did the psalmist. Or we can become bitter and give up on God totally. I have seen both situations and the former reaction has produced some amazing people who it is great to be around. Whereas the latter reaction has produced some very sad and bitter people, who lives often have become meaningless. Presently I am meeting with one such person and it is so sad to listen to him as he shares his life with me. May we learn from the psalmist how to respond in a positive way to life’s ups and downs, enhancing our relationship with God.

 

So, let me summarize this remarkable psalm and its application to our own lives in the words of Tremper Longman:

 

“Psalm 22 is a psalm of lament by a person who does not feel the presence of God in the midst of suffering, but rather experiences fear in the face of persecution by enemies. The well-known Christological sense of the psalm [see my 2 previous posts] should not distract us from the fact that…[this is] a lament which may be a model prayer for worshippers today who can use this psalm to call on God to make himself present in the midst of pain. The confidence and joy expressed at the end can impart hope, as the psalmist moves toward God rather than staying mired in disappointment.”    (see references # 30)

 

And of course, this psalm was fulfilled in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, who understands totally when we are going through tough times, because he has experienced them himself.

 

Next time things are difficult, remember these words:

 

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us HOLD FIRMLY to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then APPROACH God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may RECEIVE mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  (Hebrews 4:14-16)

 

Father, thanks you that we have such a “great high priest…Jesus the Son of God” who totally understands our situations in life from his own experience. Teach us to trust you, to even use the psalms as our prayers to you, no matter what comes our way. And your promise is that we will receive your mercy and grace. Amen.

 

 

# 98 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 22. “godforsaken!”

SYRIA-CONFLICT

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1)

Forsaken! Abandoned! Deserted!

We talk about places that appear devoid of any life and hope as “godforsaken”! Maybe some dry desert place or even a city after a battle when all that remains is rubble. But I don’t recall ever using that phrase for a human being. Yet, I guess, it has been the feeling of many, this sense of abandonment, for example, in the Bible, there is that unique character named Job, who went from being “the greatest man among all the peoples of the East” (Job 1:3) to losing everything – family, livestock, servants, health and status. We read that when his friends “heard about all the troubles that had come upon him…they went to sympathize with him and comfort him”, and, “When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him and they began to weep aloud…and sat on the ground with him…and no one said a word to him because they saw how great his suffering was.” (Job 2:11-13)

As you read the 42 chapters of this unique book, simply called Job, then the sense of despair often comes across from Job and it wouldn’t be hard to imagine that it could have been him who wrote Psalm 22. Although we know it wasn’t.

So, as we consider the first verse of Psalm 22, I want us to consider a big question. How could it be possible for these words (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me”) to have come from the mouth of Jesus, the Son of God? Why would he feel as if God had forsaken him, right when, it seems to us, he needed him the most? Now, I realize that a lot of books have been written on this topic by much more scholarly people than me, so don’t expect this to be anything like their works. These are just some thoughts from my own study. If you would like to join in the discussion, then please do so by commenting on Facebook or on this Blog page.

As far as I understand the Scriptures, the answer, in one sense, is quite simple and that is, it was because of “sin”! Well, that sounds shocking doesn’t it! Wait a minute, you might say, we are talking here about Jesus, and the words “sin” and “Son of God” used together is an oxymoron, i.e. a complete contradiction in terms. And, of course, it is. That’s very true!

Paul, in speaking of Jesus says that he “had no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Peter, quoting Isaiah’s prophesy in Isaiah 53:9 of the coming Messiah spoke of him with the words, “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” (1 Peter 2:22). The author of the book of Hebrews, speaking of Jesus, says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” (Hebrews 4:15). And John, again writing concerning Jesus, says, “in him is no sin.” (1 John 3:5)

 

But, it is still the answer. Simply because it is not His sin I am talking about. It was not his sin (because he was sinless) that caused this seeming rift between Him and the Father, but our sin! Yours and mine! Let’s see what the Bible teaches.

First there is that incredible prophesy of Christ’s suffering in the Book of Isaiah 53:4-6.

“Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.”

Peter quotes from this passage and says of Jesus,

“He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”
When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:22-24)

Then Pauls words in 2 Corinthians 5:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here!  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:  that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them…  God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-19, 21))

Then there are the words of John the Baptist to his disciples when he saw Jesus passing by:

“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

So on that historical day around 2000 years ago, when Jesus, the Son of God was crucified on a Roman cross of execution, he was not there paying for his own rebellion. He was not being punished because he was guilty of breaking any law. It was not his own sin that caused him to be nailed to that cruel cross. It was mine. It was yours.

As the Apostle John said: “But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin.” (1 John 3:5)

But, you are saying, I understand that, but still I am wondering why Jesus felt forsaken by God, the Father? As I understand it, it is because of Who we are talking about here. We are talking about God, the Father, the Creator of the universe, the awesome, holy and righteous God, the One of whom the prophet Habakkuk says:

“Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong.” (Habakkuk 1:13)

A commentary on God’s moral perfection, his righteousness and holiness.

Other verses describing God’s holiness are:

“Who among the gods
is like you, Lord?
Who is like you—
majestic in holiness,
awesome in glory,
working wonders?” (Exodus 15:11)

“There is no one holy like the Lord;
there is no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.” (1 Samuel 2:2)

So, our God is uniquely holy, with no rivals or competition.

But, as we know, prior to the cross, we read of a unique intimate relationship between the Father and the Son.

Consider these words of the Father concerning Jesus at his baptism:

“You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22)

And then consider these words of Jesus to his disciples:

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you…I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” (John 15:9-10)

Although it is really beyond our deepest human understanding, it appears that when Jesus himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, he had to do it alone, in a sense, because His Father’s eyes are too pure to look on evil. The painful separation from God that we experience due to our sin, was somehow experienced by Jesus on the cross. No wonder, in the garden of Gethsemane, the night before his crucifixion, he said to his disciples, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” And then,
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:38-39)

And yet, did the Father really forsake his beloved Son, even for a moment? I think not! Kidner is helpful here. He comments:

“Our Lord’s cry of dereliction…told, it would seem, of an objective reality, namely the punitive separation He accepted in our place, ‘having become a curse for us’ (Galatians 3:13)…It is not a lapse of faith, nor a broken relationship, but a cry of disorientation as God’s familiar presence is withdrawn (as it was from, e.g. the blameless Job) and the enemy closes in.” (see references # 29)

But, as we know from the Gospels, that was not the end of the story. Jesus rose again from the dead and when Mary Magdalene visited the tomb only to find it empty she met the risen Christ, who said to her to “Go…to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” (John 20:17).

Good news! And as we read through this Psalm 22 we discover that the mood also changes from one of despair to:

“I will declare your name to my people;
in the assembly I will praise you…
For he [God the Father) has not despised or scorned
the suffering of the afflicted one [Jesus];
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.” (Psalm 22:22, 24)

Thus, reflecting what Peter calls both “the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.” (1 Peter 1:11)

So, what amazing and life transforming truths this psalm reveals. And just think, that “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)

Whoever you are today reading this, let me say, if you aren’t already, “Be reconciled to God [because] God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5)

Father, we can’t really take it all in, the truths that we have been considering today, but we are thankful that Jesus, despite his “soul [being] overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death”, was willing to go all the way to the cross for us, even to the point of feeling forsaken by You. May we live in such a way that reveals our gratefulness. Amen.

 

# 97 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 22. David’s mortal words became immortal.

reading on a bus

Psalm 22

For the director of music. To the tune of “The Doe of the Morning.” A psalm of David.

 

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.

 

What an amazing, extraordinary psalm!

 

I remember well, sitting on a bus travelling home after work, reading my Bible. I was only 19, and a very new believer in Jesus, having put my faith in Him as my Lord and my God only a month or so earlier. At that time, the majority of the Bible was new to me, including the Psalms, which on that particular day I was reading through. Then, for the first time in my life I came across Psalm 22. I was amazed as I read it, thinking, ‘wait a minute, this is talking about Jesus!’ I didn’t need a commentary for that insight. It seemed so obvious to me.

 

And I was right of course. When read in the light of the story of the crucifixion of the Son of God, it is as if the writer was the Lord himself, impaled upon that terrible cross, suffering and dying for my sin and yours.

 

And yet, remarkedly, we know that it was actually written some 1000 years before the birth of Christ, most probably by David.

 

Kidner, commenting on this psalm says: “No Christian can read this without being vividly confronted with the crucifixion. It is not only a matter of prophesy minutely fulfilled, but of the sufferer’s humility – there is no plea for vengeance [like other psalms we have looked at] – and his vision of a worldwide ingathering of the gentiles.” (see references # 29)

 

As well as verse 1, quoted above, which is fulfilled in the gospels [See Matthew 27:45-46],

consider other verses in this psalm which were fulfilled at Calvary:

 

All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
“He trusts in the Lord,” they say,
“let the Lord rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
since he delights in him.”

 

[See Matthew 27:39-44]

 

14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted within me…
they pierce my hands and my feet.
17 All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.

 

[See Mark 15:24, and John 19:23-24]

 

 22 I will declare your name to my people;
in the assembly I will praise you.
[This verse was quoted in Hebrews 2:12 as the words of Jesus, when the writer says:

10 In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. 11 Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. 12 He says,

“I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters;
in the assembly I will sing your praises
.”]

 

27 All the ends of the earth
will remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before him,
[consider the words of Paul in Philippians 2:9-11

“…at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth…”]

 

In summary, let me quote the words of E M Blaiklock concerning this psalm:

 

“While accepting the traditional authorship, it is impossible to identify the occasion. Nor is it necessary. No choice is demanded between the historical and the predictive interpretations. They fuse, and in their fusing reveal how prophesy is inspired…the temporal [is] merged with the eternal, the human with the divine, and the theme broke the boundaries of the present and touched that which was yet to come. This cannot be other than a preview of the Crucifixion, a passionate and fearful picture of Calvary. It was seen by the Crucified Himself and accepted as the expression of his own desolation…[David’s] mortal words became immortal.” (See references # 37)

 

Father, your Word continues to amaze us, and particularly the many prophesies in the OT (not the least this Psalm) predicting the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of your Son, Jesus. Help me to keep ever learning new things from your Word and empower me by your Holy Spirit to apply the truths I learn in my everyday life. Amen.

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

IMG_0471

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.