March 26, 2017 :: Psalm 22
At this time of year, I like to take at least a few Sunday sermons to contemplate more deeply the Cross of Jesus Christ.
This season leading up to Passion Week and finally Resurrection Sunday is a very appropriate time to consider together what our Lord suffered in our place.
And several months ago I felt led to study Psalm 22 for this year’s Cross series.
Because more than any other Psalm in the Old Testament, Psalm 22 captures the experience of our Lord at His crucifixion.
This is the psalm that was on His lips as He bled and died for us and our salvation.
“‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Matthew 27:46).
That’s the first line of Psalm 22.
And it’s not the last one that was fulfilled at the Cross.
Isaiah 53 is probably the only passage stronger, more vivid, in the Old Testament to depict the coming suffering of the Messiah.
Psalm 22 is either tied with Isaiah 53 or a very close second.
Today, I want to do something a little different and little difficult.
I want us to go back in time and read Psalm 22 like an Old Testament believer would.
Because before Jesus fulfilled this psalm, King David lived it.
This is psalm was written by King David, I believe, about his own experience in the first place.
He wrote it to be sung by other believers. It is a psalm set to the tune of “Doe of the Morning.”
We don’t know how that song sounded, but it was probably a sad tune in a minor key.
Because the lyrics are incredibly sad.
Any song that begins with “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” is going to at least start out low and slow.
So, what I want to do is to consider this psalm from David’s perspective first, as the author and first singer.
And then next time, we’ll consider it more closely from Jesus’ perspective as the ultimate singer of Psalm 22.
Next time, we’ll turn to Matthew 27 and see how this song played out in the crucifixion of our Lord.
But this time, I want us to see it as a template for our own prayers during times when we feel abandoned and alone. Like David did.
It’s almost impossible for a Christian to not hear Jesus and not see Jesus in every line of this song.
And that’s right! Because He is.
This is a prophetic psalm. Few are more prophetic!
But I think that it was first off about how David felt before it was about how Jesus felt.
There are a lot of things like that in the Old Testament, aren’t there?
The Old Testament is full of shadows. But Christ is the substance.
The Old Testament is full of lesser things. And Christ is the greater.
The Old Testament is full of figures and metaphors and types and analogies.
And Christ is the Big Reality that all of those smaller things were pointing towards.
So it is with this psalm.
David was feeling “Godforsaken.”
And Jesus truly was.
You and I don’t like to talk like this psalm does.
We don’t like to use words like these to talk to God.
One reason for that is that we don’t like to feel bad. And these words are all about feeling bad!
We’d all rather sing Psalm 23 than the psalm that comes before it.
Psalm 23 is so comforting, and Psalm 22 is so not.
But we need both.
Because there are times when we need to lament.
We need biblical language of lament for those times when we are experiencing suffering.
I’m so glad that our God has given us language like this to use to express our true feelings.
Because there are times when you need to pull out songs like Psalm 22.
If you have never felt like Psalm 22, just wait.
You haven’t lived long enough.
Psalm 22 is for times of trouble when it feels like God is far far away.
And you feel awful and alone.
When you feel like that, you need words to pray.
You need a pattern to pray.
And it’s as good as Psalm 23 is, it’s not enough. If it was enough then God would have skipped 22 and gone right to 23.
God is greater than that and wiser. He gave us all of the Psalms to learn how to talk to God.
This morning, I only have two points that I’m going to make because I don’t want to get in the way of the words of the psalm. But there are two big applications that I want to get across as we read it together. Here’s the first one:
#1. TALK TO YOUR GOD WHEN YOU FEEL FORSAKEN.
I think that’s really big.
Because you won’t necessarily feel like it.
You will feel alone and you won’t feel like talking to God.
But these psalms of lament like Psalm 22 show us what a believer does when he or she is hurting badly.
They take that pain to their Lord.
Whenever I read verse 1, I almost miss one of the most important words in verse 1.
I hear the word, “Why” and I hear the word “forsaken.”
And those are important words. But what word do I often miss?
“My.” “My God, my God.”
He says it again in verse 2. “My God.”
David doesn’t stop relating to God just because he’s bewildered and confused and in pain.
He goes to God with his bewilderment, confusion, and pain!
He takes his agony and anguish directly to His God. Let’s read.
“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 the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.”
Are there more painful words?
That word “groaning” in verse 1 is the same word as “roaring” in verse 13.
He is hurting so bad that it’s like a primal yell.
He feels abandoned and alone and in pain and ... forsaken.
Like God is no longer answering His calls.
“I call you day and night, but you keep swiping left. I think my number is blocked. I think you’ve unfriended me.
All I get is blank wall.
My prayers go nowhere. They hit the ceiling and bounce back!
... I am all alone.”
He knows that God exists, but God is so silent and is allowing him to go through so much pain and suffering. V.3
“Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel. In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed.”
“I know you exist. I know what you have done for Israel. I’ve read Exodus. Our ancestors were not disappointed....But that’s how I feel.” v.6
“But I am a worm and not a man [I feel like I’ve lost my humanity!], scorned by men and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: ‘He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.’”
You see Jesus in there, don’t you? I do, too.
We don’t know exactly when in David’s life he felt like this.
Remember when we studied David’s life a few years ago? In first and second Samuel?
David was constantly on the run, a fugitive. And people were out to get him. And sometimes he was in shame.
Here, he didn’t just feel forsaken by God but by men, as well.
Maybe it was one of those times when he was sick and everybody thought he was about to die. And his enemies were gloating over him.
Whatever it was, it was HARD.
And he felt forsaken.
David knows that he had never been forsaken before. That God had always been with him. V.9
“Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you even at my mother's breast. From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother's womb you have been my God.”
There it is again–“My God.”
All of his life, Yahweh has been David’s God.
God has been so faithful.
“But I just don’t understand. That’s not how it seems now.
Right now, I feel so alone.” v.11
“Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.”
See, he’s asking God to change it.
He hasn’t given up on God. Even when he doesn’t understand Him.
And he pleads for God to come near because that’s where the trouble is.
Do you need to pray verse 11 right now in your life?
It doesn’t say what the trouble is. We know what was for Jesus, but we don’t know what it was for David, so we can fill in our own blank there for us.
Maybe it’s sickness, cancer, heart-disease, arthritis, m-s.
Maybe it’s grief and the death of a loved-one.
Maybe it’s a conflict, a break-up, a divorce.
Maybe it’s abuse. Maybe it’s trauma.
Maybe it’s just plain old loneliness or unanswered prayer.
You feel scared, alone, abandoned, afraid, ashamed.
Don’t run away from God with those feelings. Take them straight to Him and don’t stop.
Remember Zeke last week? “Pray and don’t lose heart.”
But you don’t have to pretend that’s it’s all hunky-dory.
You don’t to have grin and bear it and fake it until you make it.
Run to the God of Psalm 23, yes.
But run to the God of Psalm 22, as well. He’s the same one!
Lament. Talk to God when you feel forsaken.
Don’t just say, “I know He’s near. He’s omniscient, so that means that He’s here. He’ll never leave me nor forsake me.”
Say to Him, “Help me to feel it! Help me to know it! Help me to see! Help me to experience it!” “My God, do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.”
Go ahead and tell Him just how bad it is. V.12
“Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me.”
This is figurative language. It’s possible that he’s actually being attacked by bulls and lions, but I doubt that here.
I think these are bad guys who want to take David down. And this is the way they make him feel.
Have you ever been scared?
I remember the night before my big surgery, being scared. And I called Heather and laid out my fears about what might happen when I was on the table.
“Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me.” V.14
“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.”
“I’m falling apart here....and where are You?”
“Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.”
I know. I see Jesus there, too.
We’ll glory in that next time. How perfectly He filled up these words.
But you see how David felt back then?
Like he was surrounded and trapped and wounded.
Like dogs had bit into his hands and feet.
What Marilynn experienced last Summer.
And it seems from this wording that his enemies expect David to die so that they will walk away with the clothes off of his back.
He feels like Jew in a concentration camp. Just a bag of bones.
And worst of all, he feels alone! So he cries out to God. V.19
“But you, O LORD, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me. Deliver my life from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs. Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen.”
“Undo all of this, Lord!
The dogs, the lions, the bulls of Bashan, the wild oxen.
I’ve only got this one life. Please save it.”
We need to learn to talk like that to God.
It’s not the only way that we talk to God, but it is a good way, a wise way, an authorized way. A Jesus way.
Now, the psalm turns a major corner between verse 21 and verse 22.
Some of you have versions where they make it really clear that God has answered the psalmist’s prayer in verse 21. It says something like, “You have answered me!”
And that’s a very possible translation of the Hebrew.
But I tend to think NIV is right that David just anticipates that answer. And that he just expects God to show up and deliver him as requested.
He hasn’t actually seen that deliverance yet, but he believes that it’s on the way.
And so point #2. He plans to praise Him.
#2. PLAN TO PRAISE YOUR LORD WHEN HE ANSWERS YOUR PRAYER. V.22
“I will declare your name to my brothers; in the congregation I will praise you. You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.”
Sounds different all of a sudden, doesn’t it?
I wonder if “The Doe of the Morning” transposes into a major key at this point and becomes a faster song or a bold anthem instead of a sad ballad.
David, in faith, expects God to answer his prayers.
He expects God to save him.
He declares what he knows (even if he doesn’t feel it yet) that God has not despised or disdained or scorned or ignored him in his afflictions.
No matter how it feels, God has not hidden his face from David, but has listened to his cry for help.
This is not pretending that all is well.
This is not faking it.
This is believing the good news after singing how bad things feel.
This is taking heart because Jesus has overcome the world even though in this world you will have trouble.
David plans to praise God some day soon because He believes in God’s promises.
Even the ones that he cannot yet feel.
V.25 “From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you will I fulfill my vows. [I promise to praise you!] The poor will eat and be satisfied; they who seek the LORD will praise him–may your hearts live forever!”
[And not just me. Not just in Israel.]
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, for dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations. [Everybody!] 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. [From the smallest to the greatest, every knee will bow.] Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn–for he has done it.”
David goes big there at the end, doesn’t he?
David expects God to win his present case and in every case and to be worthy of all of our praise. All of the praise of the world forever and ever.
David believes that God will solve every problem and right every wrong.
And answer every prayer of His people.
And we’re back to Jesus, aren’t we?
You can’t get away from Him in this Psalm.
Did Jesus expect to praise God in this way?
Did Jesus expect God to answer His prayer.
Yes, He did.
But the answer, the vindication, the accomplishment, was on the other side of His death.
He didn’t get a last second reprieve like David did here.
He had to actually go through death to get to see this glory.
It was for the joy set before Him that He endured the Cross, despising its shame.
But He fully expected God to answer His prayer and planned in advance to thank Him before the whole world when He did.
You and I need to do that, too.
Whatever you’re going through right now, talk to God to about it. Take Him your whole self including all of your true feelings, no matter how ragged they are.
He can handle it.
He invites it.
He wants all of you, just as you are.
Bring Him the whole blistering mess.
And, also, in decide in advance to bring Him big praise when He gets you through it to the other side.
Tell God that you plan to tell everyone and their brother’s bestfriend’s cousin’s dog what the Lord has done.
“Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn–for he has done it.”