Psalm 22: The Cry of Faith

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Psalm 22

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
    and by night, but I find no rest.

Yet you are holy,
    enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted;
    they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
    in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm and not a man,
    scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
    they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
“He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him;
    let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”

Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
    you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
10 On you was I cast from my birth,
    and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
11 Be not far from me,
    for trouble is near,
    and there is none to help.

12 Many bulls encompass me;
    strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
13 they open wide their mouths at me,
    like a ravening and roaring lion.

14 I am poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
    it is melted within my breast;
15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
    and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
    you lay me in the dust of death.

16 For dogs encompass me;
    a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
17 I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my garments among them,
    and for my clothing they cast lots.

19 But you, O Lord, do not be far off!
    O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
20 Deliver my soul from the sword,
    my precious life from the power of the dog!
21     Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!

22 I will tell of your name to my brothers;
    in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
    All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
    and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or abhorred
    the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
    but has heard, when he cried to him.

25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
    my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
26 The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek him shall praise the Lord!
    May your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
    and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
    shall worship before you.
28 For kingship belongs to the Lord,
    and he rules over the nations.

29 All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;
    before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
    even the one who could not keep himself alive.
30 Posterity shall serve him;
    it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
31 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
    that he has done it.

Still Standing – A Study of a Roadside Tree #6 | Outside Elgin, TX | January 2023

Songs or psalms of lament are not very popular. We would rather lean toward happy, hopeful, and helpful Bible passages. “Rejoice in the Lord…” (Philippians 4) “O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good and his mercy endures forever.” (Psalm 107) Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding…” (Proverbs 3) “All things work together for good for those who love God…” (Romans 8)

We’re not too keen on passages like “My God, my God, why have you forsake me?” That sounds like a cry of faithlessness. We don’t find much comfort in phrases like, “I can count all my bones…” (v. 17) But here they are. And in that same psalm as joyful and faith-filled exclamations:

25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
    my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
26 The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek him shall praise the Lord!

This is exactly what makes faith true faith and not just wishful thinking. Faith doesn’t pretend things are good when they are obviously not. Faith looks beyond the troubles of this world. But faith doesn’t deny their existence. Faith trusts in God’s ultimate deliverance in the face of real and present dangers and distress. Jesus (and David) was in real distress. He of perfect faith was enduring unimaginable physical, emotional, and spiritual pain. Crucifixion is an extremely cruel and painful means of torturous execution. His friends and disciples had all fled. Peter had denied him. And worst of all, based on this cry, we must conclude that God Himself turned his back on his Son. Unimaginable! Difficult to believe.

Yet Jesus cries, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Though God had forsaken him, he kept faith in God. Please don’t try to comprehend the mysteries of the triune nature of God in regard to this. Entire seminary classes are given to Christology including things like the Genus Apostelismaticum, Genus Majestaticum, and Genus Idiomaticum, (the communication of human and divine attributes within the person of Christ). We study how opera ad extra indivisa sunt, and opera ad intra divisa sunt. I’ve studied all these things, can maybe satisfy a systematics professor that I understand it. But it would be more accurate to say, I believe it. I take it all by faith.

But even there, my faith is imperfect. Perhaps I’m too dismissive of the apparent contradictions and impossibilities of Jesus’ divine nature and his human nature as he suffers so and calls out to God in agony. But what I believe is precious to me. For me of little and faltering faith I look to the pioneer of faith (cf. Hebrews 12:2). Jesus never turned away from his Father – even when his Father forsook him. This is the cry of perfect faith. When my faith fails me, I have a Savior who is perfectly righteous and faithful. He is my righteousness. He is my salvation.

Jesus also looks with confidence to his ultimate delivery. That is expressed in this psalm as well. His is the ultimate cry of faith.

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