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Powerful Psalm of Pain and Promise
From Psalm 22: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest. Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. In you our ancestors trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried, and were saved; in you they trusted, and were not put to shame. But I am a worm, and not human; scorned by others, and despised by the people. All who see me mock at me; they make mouths at me, they shake their heads; "Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver— let him rescue the one in whom he delights!" Yet it was you who took me from the womb; you kept me safe on my mother's breast. On you I was cast from my birth, and since my mother bore me you have been my God. Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help. Many bulls encircle me, strong bulls of Bashan surround me; they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion. 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; my mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. For dogs are all around me; a company of evildoers encircles me. My hands and feet have shriveled; I can count all my bones. They stare and gloat over me; they divide my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots. But you, O Lord, do not be far away! O my help, come quickly to my aid! Deliver my soul from the sword, my life from the power of the dog! Save me from the mouth of the lion! From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me. I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him. From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will pay before those who fear him. The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord. May your hearts live forever! All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him. For dominion belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations. To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, and I shall live for him. Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord, and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it.
The list of animals in the psalm is long. Let's start with worm, and how the psalmist feels like a worm. You've been there, haven't you? How about bulls encircling you? Yep. Yet, these are bulls which remind him of hungry lions. Dogs are all around him. Wild oxen are in there. So are lions. That's why I thought about a carousel; for some, it's a fun ride; some are afraid to get on it because of the animals. I have always loved carousels, and I have enjoyed them recently with my little ones. But imagine your life being like a carousel of real live symbolic animals because of your situation. You believe you've come to the end, an end with no hope. Haven't we heard this psalm somewhere else before? Think about it... Weren't these words uttered by a man hanging on a cross? Yes, Jesus shared these words as part of what we now call the Seven Last Words of Christ. (Mt. 27:26) And verse 18 of this same psalm appears in the crucifixion in John 19: 24.
The Lenten Journey may be like this for you or for people around you. Your search for hope takes you through dark valleys of loved ones or close friends. It is our job to take those hands of sorrow and lead them to the hands of salvation; the hands of Jesus. The psalmist ends this psalm on a positive, hopeful note. The fear and despair of the first part is replaced by praise to God, a God who will deliver His people.
PRAYER: Deliverer God, help me be delivered from sorrow and sadness, so that I may join those who seek to praise You to those still hurting and sad. This I pray in Jesus' name, amen.
Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!