Psalm 22 — Faithful During Despair — Reading the Psalms


For the Chief Musician; set to Aijeleth hash-Shahar. A Psalm of David.

1 My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?
2 O my God, I cry in the day-time, but thou answerest not;
And in the night season, and am not silent.
3 But thou art holy,
O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.
4 Our fathers trusted in thee:
They trusted, and thou didst deliver them.
5 They cried unto thee, and were delivered:
They trusted in thee, and were not ashamed.
6 But I am a worm, and no man;
A reproach of men, and despised of the people.
7 All they that see me laugh me to scorn:
They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,
8 Commit thyself unto the LORD; let him deliver him:
Let him deliver him, seeing he delighteth in him.
9 But thou art he that took me out the womb:
Thou didst make me trust when I was upon my mother’s breasts.
10 I was cast upon thee from the womb:
Thou art my God from my mother’s belly.
11 Be not far from me; for trouble is near;
For there is none to help.
12 Many bulls have compassed me:
Strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round.
13 They gape upon me with their mouth,
As a ravening and a 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 in the midst of my bowels.
15 My Strength is dried up like a potsherd;
And my tongue cleaveth to my jaws;
And thou hast brought me into the dust of death.
16 For dogs have compassed me:
The assembly of evil-doers have enclosed me;
They pierced my hands and my feet.
17 I may tell all my bones;
They look and stare upon me:
18 They part my garments among them,
And upon my vesture do they cast lots.
19 But be not thou far off, O LORD:
O thou my succour, haste thee to help me.
20 Deliver my soul from the sword;
My darling from the power of the dog.
21 Save me from the lion’s mouth;
Yea, from the horns of the wild-oxen thou hast answered me.
22 I will declare thy name unto my brethren:
In the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.
23 Ye that fear the LORD, praise him;
All ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him;
And stand in awe of him, all ye the seed of Israel.
24 For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted;
Neither hath he hid his face from him;
But when he cried unto him, he heard.
25 Of thee cometh my praise in the great congregation:
I will pay my vows before them that fear him.
26 The meek shall eat and be satisfied:
They shall praise the LORD that seek after him:
Let your heart live for ever.
27 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn unto the LORD:
And all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee.
28 For the kingdom is the LORD’s:
And he is the ruler over the nations
29 All the fat ones of the earth shall eat and worship:
All they that go down to the dust shall bow before him,
Even he that cannot keep his soul alive.
30 A seed shall serve him;
It shall be told of the Lord unto the next generation.
31 They shall come and shall declare his righteousness
Unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done it.

One of the most famous of psalms, psalm 22 is a revelation into the heart of the troubled who hope in the face of hopelessness. Indeed, the opening lines of despair, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” are on the lips of our Lord while hanging on the tree. The rest of the lines walk us through the desert wilderness of trials toward a hope, lush and green. The change or development in heart between verses 21-22 is significant, but not strange or outlandish. Let’s consider the journey through the psalm.

The first 21 verses seem to shift from side to side, over and over again. For instance, vs. 1-2 are of personal despair while 3-5 show the dependability of the divine. Vs. 6-8, again, are of the personal complaint while 9-10 show the devotion God has to their cause. This back and forth draws out the frustrated feelings on one faithful to God, but facing unimagined troubles. On the one hand, everything feels awful, yet, on the other hand, God is good. The big question is: how can God be good when all this happens to me? It’s a big question. I’ve heard some simplistic answers which leave a lot to be desired. I think this psalm, if not an answer to the question, is a path forward through the question.

The psalmist is in despair. He is at the dust of death. He’s enclosed about, stared at and scorned by those around him, and losing the very clothes off his back. Where is God? Will God hear and answer? Vs. 21 is both the plea and the resolve.

The psalmist knows that God helped before, whether it be help for him or for others. We ourselves can read through the stories of the Bible and know God’s help. I get the impression that vs. 21-22 is the moment of resolve, the moment where faith in the unseen overcomes the sorrows that are seen. He not only knows God can, but God does and will. it isn’t a moment of magic, nor of the divine changing the brain. It is a moment of personal faith, hard to put into words, but real, nonetheless.

The result is the outward fruits of this faith: confidence and confession. The psalmist speaks, shares and exhorts others. The psalmist knows that he is not despised, even in this low estate. The psalmist is confident with his vows to God. What is there to fear if he knows God and God knows him? In fact, by the end of the psalm, the psalmist is so confident in God’s righteousness, he believes all the nations will see and agree. In fact, isn’t this what happened after the resurrection of Jesus. who cried out the very words of this psalm at his death?


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