I had the opportunity recently to spend 26 hours with our Middle School Youth at the Great Escape. One of the speakers at that conference talked about how some Bible verses can become the anthem for a phase in our lives. Most often, we pick the triumphant songs, but every once in a while, it is appropriate to sing a sad song. Jesus turned to one of the somber psalms as he was facing death on the cross reciting “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
The gospels record these as some of the last words spoken by Jesus. He was quoting Psalm 22.
Plea for Deliverance from Suffering and Hostility
To the leader: according to The Deer of the Dawn. A Psalm of David.
1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
and by night, but find no rest.
3 Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
4 In you our ancestors trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
5 To you they cried, and were saved;
in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.
6 But I am a worm, and not human;
scorned by others, and despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock at me;
they make mouths at me, they shake their heads;
8 “Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver—
let him rescue the one in whom he delights!”
9 Yet it was you who took me from the womb;
you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.
10 On you I was cast from my birth,
and since my mother bore me you have been my God.
11 Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.
12 Many bulls encircle 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 mouth[a] is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.
16 For dogs are all around me;
a company of evildoers encircles me.
My hands and feet have shriveled;[b]
17 I can count all my bones.
They stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my clothes among themselves,
and for my clothing they cast lots.
19 But you, O Lord, do not be far away!
O my help, come quickly to my aid!
20 Deliver my soul from the sword,
my life[c] from the power of the dog!
21 Save me from the mouth of the lion!
From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued[d] me.
22 I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters;[e]
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;
stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he did not despise or abhor
the affliction of the afflicted;
he did not hide his face from me,[f]
but heard when I[g] cried to him.
25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will pay before those who fear him.
26 The poor[h] 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 him.[i]
28 For dominion belongs to the Lord,
and he rules over the nations.
29 To him,[j] indeed, shall all who sleep in[k] the earth bow down;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
and I shall live for him.[l]
30 Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord,
31 and[m] proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,
saying that he has done it.
Many of us may know the feeling of being forsaken, even by God. Jesus did for a moment. But the Psalmist didn’t write just a song of despair. Jesus may have only uttered a few words form this psalm in his agony (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”, but we can assume that even when his breath failed him, he knew the words and sentiment that followed. “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.”
When the song of life hits a troubling note, let’s also wait for the hopeful refrain.
God, as I cry out to You in the down times in my life, let me remember and trust that You save and sustain me, through my Lord and Savior, Jesus, in whose name I pray. Amen.