Daily feast: psalm 22

Passage: Psalm 22


Day  1

For the director of music. To the tune of ‘The Doe of the Morning’. A psalm of David.

1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    
Why are you so far from saving me,
    
so far from my cries of anguish?

We don’t know what was going on for David when he wrote this psalm, but we do know that his life was filled with difficulties. He was pursued by King Saul for years; his own son, Absalom, rebelled against him not just personally but politically and took the throne by force; his daughter was raped by one of his sons; he lost a son as consequence of his adultery with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of her husband; he seems to have been surrounded by those out to get him [Ps 57:4]; his best friend was killed in battle; his unauthorised census of the nation led to plague – this psalm could have been written to any of those circumstances. One of the great things about the Bible is that it doesn’t hide from the fact that life, even for the treasured people of God, can be really tough, not does it apologise for the fact. For every passage that promises the good life there are other passages that indicate that pain and suffering are part of this fallen world. It’s holding those two things in tension that enables us to live with faith in our mighty God. 

David feels forsaken by God, and he’s not alone in that experience. Many godly men and women have spoken and written of what is called “the dark night of the soul.”, a period in their lives where there seems to be no hope and no light in life. 

David goes on,

2 My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
    
by night, but I find no rest.

This is from the man described as a man after God’s own heart [1 Sam 13:14; Acts 13:22]! I find great encouragement in this. This great man of God, with feet of clay but still a man after God’s own heart, experienced times of dryness in his spirit. Again, what a great thing that the Bible shows us God’s people in their weaknesses and their strengths, and that it shows us that our relationship with our heavenly Father can have its ups and downs. 

Of course, it is this part of the psalm that Jesus quoted from the cross [Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34]. It is one of the great messianic passages in the Bible. 

Did Jesus feel forsaken on the cross? Well, yes and no! We tread on holy ground here so we tread with care. There was the feeling of abandonment as the Father turned his anger at our sin upon his innocent Son [Rom 3:25; 2 Cor 5:21; Isaiah 53:4-6]. It would seem that at that point Jesus endured  a sense of separation as he experienced for the first time what we deem as normal. However, Jesus was no in fact abandoned. In quoting Psalm 22 Jesus is also aware of verses 23 & 24, David’s cry of faith in the God who will not ultimately abandon him. We know he has the whole psalm in mind because he ends his agony on the cross with a reference to the final words of the psalm, “He has done it!” with his words “It is finished” in the sense of “it is accomplished!” [John 19:30]

At their darkest moments, when they feel abandoned by God, both great King David and his greater descendant, Jesus, turn to God in prayer, knowing that, despite their feelings, God is ever present.1

 

PRAYER

God our fathers and mothers in the faith, keep us ever close and always trusting you. Amen

 

There are many good and helpful books written about the dark night of the soul. A couple I’ve found helpful are: 

  • “Darkness Is My Only Companion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness” by Kathryn Green-McCreight. Kathryn suffers from clinical depression.
  • “Spiritual Depression” by Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones – an oldie but a goodie.

 

 

 Day  2

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

 

The psalmist remembers the great acts of God in the past on behalf of his people. Verses 4 & 5 refer to the Exodus, the beginning of the nation. It was the great act of deliverance and the defining act of God’s love for his people. Generation after generation would look back to Moses and the Exodus to affirm their faith in God. In Psalm 105, for instance, the writer encourages us to “look to the LORD and his strength” and then goes through the Exodus events to drive home the fact that God is a trustworthy deliverer. In Psalm 78 Asaph tells us that the nation rebelled against God when they forgot what he had done for them when he rescued them [v 40-43]. Of course, when we get to the New Testament we are encouraged to look back to the cross to strengthen our faith, the great rescue that the Exodus is a precursor to. So, in John’s first letter we read, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down  his life for us.” [1 John 3:16]. In Ephesians Paul encourages us to remember what Christ accomplished on the cross for us [Eph 2:11 & 12; 2 Tim 2:8]. In effect we are being told to count our blessings to lift our spirits.  Romans 8:32 says, 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” It is a great boost to mental and spiritual well-being to spend just a couple of minutes to start and end each day by remembering our blessings and thanking God for them. Why not make that a habit? 

When Jesus quotes this psalm on the cross he has not lost his faith in his Father, even momentarily. The psalmist  says to God,

9 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.

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

Jesus is not asking God why he has abandoned him because he knows why. Rather Jesus is echoing the heart of the psalmist – he is setting his death in its context of the messianic predictions of the Old Testament. By quoting the psalm he is saying “this is what is going on here.”, and like the psalmist, he is confident that God has it all in hand. 

 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.

 

PRAYER

God our rescuer, thank you for Jesus who came and died for me. Lord Jesus thank you for your perfect obedience that bought my salvation. Holy Spirit, keep reminding me of the faithfulness of the father. Amen 

 

 

 

 

 Day  3

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

The psalmist is in a really bad place: he has enemies without (scorned by everyone, insulted, mocked, treated like a worm, attacked) and bodily afflictions (his heart has turned to wax, his tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth, all his bones are on display and out of joint). There is also the effect all this has upon his mind. 

It’s hard to imagine the situation the psalmist was in. It fits so well with the context of Jesus on the cross that it’s easy to forget that it made sense to the writer in its original context. 

Did you notice however that the psalmist sees God’s hand in all that is happening? “You lay me in the dust of death.” [v 15] That is both a great encouragement and a terrible dilemma. God is sovereign and knows what he is doing and so the writer can trust him, that is encouraging, but why does he allow it to happen in the first place – why put his child through such a tough situation? That dilemma is heightened by the mocking of his enemies:

8 ‘He trusts in the Lord,’ they say,
    
‘let the Lord rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
    
since he delights in him.’

Did God deliver the original writer? We don’t know but the fact that we have this psalm means that the psalmist had the time and head space to write it and that seems to indicate that the situation passed – maybe.

Jesus takes up this psalm and, in the plans of God,  it is obviously was inspired with the cross in mind. So many of the details directly relate to what happened on the cross. We’ll look more closely at that in the next  couple of days,  but today the question is, did God answer the prayer for deliverance in Jesus’ case? 

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.

In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me.” [Luke 22:42]

From a purely physical standpoint, no, God didn’t deliver him. He suffered agony of body and mind and was laid in the dust of death. Yet he was raised and vindicated. God delivered him to his side. He was brought out of the agony into paradise. It is in the cross of Christ that we get an answer to the problem of pain and suffering. It is in the context of eternity that we see God finally delivering his people as he promised. 

Again, the Bible doesn’t shy away from the seeming problem of his people suffering. Hebrews 11 tells of the suffering of so many of God’s people – they were tortured, faced jeers and flogging, stoned, sawn in two, put to death by the sword, wandered about destitute, persecuted and mistreated [Hebrews 11:35-38]. “Instead, they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” [Hebrews 11:16]

The suffering of Christ was part of God’s plan for the deliverance of mankind. Our suffering serves a purpose and we will be delivered. 

 

PRAYER

Lord God, in times strife keep my heart safe in you. Amen 

 

 


Day  4

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[d] 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[e] 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.

 

The extraordinary thing about this psalm is its accurate fulfilment in Christ. As mentioned earlier in this week’s devotions prophesy often has a double application, one to the immediate context and one to future events. Someone has described it like looking at a range of mountains. From a distance you see one range but as you approach you see that in fact there are a number of rows of hills or mountains, one behind the other. So, it is with biblical prophecy. It may have a number of applications. Some of the most striking parallels are:

“18 They divide my clothes among them
    
and cast lots for my garment.”

 

 “ 16 they pierce my hands and my feet.”

 

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

 

Some years ago now Josh McDowell wrote book called “Evidence that Demands a Verdict.” In it he made an extensive examination of fulfilled prophesy in the Bible, both messianic and general as proof of the inspiration of scripture. In chapter 9 he lists all the messianic prophesies in the Bible. He looks specifically at eight prophesies and using the maths of probability he assesses the probability of them being fulfilled in the one person as one in 1017. [pg. 175]

In chapter 11  he looks at a small number of non-messianic prophesies, details their historical fulfilment and concludes that even taking a very conservative the probability of their fulfilment was 5 X 1059. [Pg. 331]

One of the ways that people who deny the inspiration of the Bible get around this is to say that the prophesies were written after the events occurred, but that just doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. 

However, the power of this psalm is not just in its predictions of the cross, but what it says of the meaning behind the suffering, which we’ll look at tomorrow.  

 

PRAYER

Father of all, thank you for the revelation of scripture and its absolute reliability. Amen 

 

 

 

 

Psalm 22; Day  5

 

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, honour 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[f] I will fulfil my vows.
26 The poor will eat and be satisfied;
    
those who seek the Lord will praise him –
    
may your hearts live for ever!

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!

 

 

This psalm is an incredible statement of faith. In the midst of what must have been the most terrible of circumstances and when God seems absent, not answering his prayers for help [v 2], the writer will still offer his praise to God and encourage others to “fear and praise him.” [v 23].  He is convinced that God does hear his call for help, even though there is as yet no answer. [v 24] In fact, his rescue will become a world-wide rescue [v 27] and “all the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord.” It seems clear that the psalmist sees his rescue in cosmic terms,  all who go down to the dust will kneel before him – those who cannot keep themselves alive.” [v 29b]

At this time “The poor will eat and be satisfied” [v 26]

Again, we can see the ultimate application of these words in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Although Jesus dreaded the prospect of the cross [Matt 26:39], and prayed that God not allow him to go through with it, the outcome of his obedience, even to death, would result in “Those who seek the Lord will praise him.” [v 26] “Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: he has done it.” [v 30 & 31]

We don’t know how things worked out for the psalmist, how his faithfulness was rewarded, but we have an advantage over him in that we can see in the death and resurrection of Christ how God uses pain and suffering – even evil – in his plans for good. Furthermore, if God did that in Christ for our benefit, then we can be sure he will act in the same way where we are concerned.  32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” [Rom 8:32] This mighty observation is the conclusion to support Paul’s statement  28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” [Rom 8:28] You might have memorised this verse in the past, but it would be worthwhile committing all of Romans 8:28-32 to memory for recall when life gets on top of you. 

I mentioned a few devotions ago the power of numbering our blessings. Here the psalmist takes it one step further, he will praise his God, and not just privately, but “in the assembly” [v 22]. He will declare God’s name to God’s people. Don’t just remember your blessings, but praise God for them. It is an interesting phenomenon that if we act out an emotion the real emotion itself will follow. 

 

PRAYER

Father, thank you for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and for your word that has explained its significance. By your Spirit give me a firm trust in your goodness in all the circumstances of my life. Make my life one of praise and thanksgiving. Amen

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