Originally, Psalm 22, written by King David, was an anguished song of lament by an innocent sufferer. But when He was suffering on the cross, Jesus spoke out the opening words of this psalm as His prayer to God the Father, ‘And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”’ (Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34).
He was experiencing the horrible reality described in Psalm 22, being tortured by rejection, demonic attacks, and physical agony. ‘But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people’ (verse 6), ‘Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me; they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion’ (verse 12-13), ‘I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax’ (verse 14), ‘They have pierced my hands and feet’ (verse 16), ‘They divide my garments among them and for my clothing they cast lots’ (verse 18). Yet, the worst suffering of all must have been the sense of abandonment and loss of closeness to God the Father.
King David went through much suffering and pain, but he knew the true character of his God, ‘Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel’ (verse 3). He recalled the faithfulness of God to his ancestors, ‘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’ (verses 4-5). He also recalled the faithfulness and love of God towards him personally, ‘Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust at my mother’s breasts. On you I was cast from birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God’ (verses 9-10).
He chooses to put his trust in God to help him through the worst of situations. He cries out in prayer for God to come to his help, and to save and deliver him. Despite his feelings of being forsaken, he declares his faith and trust in his Lord, saying that all will be well in the future and that he will praise God publicly in the congregation. The reason is that he knows God hasn’t forsaken him or withdrawn His love, ‘For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him’ (verse 24). Although the psalm starts with that expression of feeling abandoned by God it concludes by saying God hasn’t turned His face away, but has heard the cry for help.
Jesus knew who He was, the Messiah, the suffering servant, who would suffer and die on the cross for the sins of the world. He knew the cross was necessary to win salvation for us all. He knew that it was worth all the pain and agony, as He identified with humankind in all its sinfulness. He knew too that He would rise from the dead and the victory would be complete. He knew His heavenly Father loved Him and would never cease to love Him. Fellowship would be restored forever and there would be everlasting joy.
Can we too find faith to trust our heavenly Father through the worst of situations, knowing that He will hear our cry for help and not hide His face from us?
Prayer: Dear heavenly Father, thank You for all that Jesus willingly did on the cross for me. Sometimes it can feel as though I am abandoned or forsaken, but help me, like David, to put my trust in You, no matter what situations I find myself in. I know You will hear my cry for help and lift me up from the darkness, rescue me from the attack of the enemy, and be with me when others reject me, or when I’m going through physical suffering. Amen.
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