Psalm 22: The Cry of Abandonment

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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 #7 | Outside Elgin, TX | January 2023

Sometimes I feel like a motherless child. Sometimes I feel like a motherless child. There is some painful history behind this Negro Spiritual from the mid 19th century. It’s the cry of a child being sold at a slave auction; being taken from her mother to become the property of another owner. That is a powerful image. Deeply distressing. That would be a time to cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Or imagine discovering a newborn baby left in the woods by his mother. What about a man who has sinned, repented, asked for forgiveness, and is seeking to rebuild his life but whose friends will have nothing to do with him. He is left utterly alone. Sure he’s done wrong. But in light of God’s promise of forgiveness, he may wonder whether God has forsaken him.

Sadly, not every response to this sense of abandonment is healthy or salutary. The feeling of abandonment may be legitimate. We all experience a sense of loss or disconnectedness from time to time. And sometimes we may experience a severe sense of loss and loneliness. A spouse dies. A child runs away. A friend moves away. A relationship changes. A co-worker turns on you. A neighbor shuns you. You might feel abandoned by God.

In those situations you might be tempted to resent God, become bitter, and refuse to forgive those who have wronged you. You may decide to abandon the faith and give in to despair. You might give up hope.

But you must remember that God has not abandoned you. Jesus endured that for you and all mankind. He suffered God’s abandonment so we would never have to. I say, “have to,” because we may stubbornly and sinfully refuse God’s presence. We can abandon him. The ultimate experience of that would be eternal abandonment from God in hell. But it need never be!

The good news, also, is that when we feel abandoned by God, and call out to him, we are in good company. And God hears the prayers of his people. He loves us all, and pours on us the balm of Gilead. That may come through the kind word of a brother or sister in Christ. A neighbor may sense your loneliness and visit you or invite you to be with her. Sometimes we must simply continue in prayer and seek God’s comfort from his word.

That’s where the Psalms are so very precious. We can pray the psalms and express our earnest needs and woes through psalms such as this one. But even in this one, we see words of hope-filled faith. That’s the other blessing of praying the psalms: They don’t leave us in the doldrums of grief and sadness. They also express great faith in God. He is good. He will act. He has acted in Jesus. Our ultimate future has been secured. And as lift our cry of abandonment to God, we must also hold to the hope that is secured in Jesus.

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