WHEN GOD SEEMS DISTANT…
God in heaven, today I join my heart with all creation to praise your loving and wise lordship over all.
Read PSALM 22
For the director of music. To the tune of “The Doe of the Morning.” A psalm of David.
1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
2 My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.[b]
3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the one Israel praises.[c]
4 In you our ancestors put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.
5 To you they cried out and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
6 But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
8 “He trusts in the Lord,” they say,
“let the Lord rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
since he delights in him.”
9 Yet you brought me out of the womb;
you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
10 From birth I was cast on you;
from my mother’s womb 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 surround me;
strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
13 Roaring lions that tear their prey
open their mouths wide against me.
14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted within me.
15 My mouth[d] is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death.
16 Dogs surround me,
a pack of villains encircles me;
they pierce[e] my hands and my feet.
17 All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.
19 But you, Lord, do not be far from me.
You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
20 Deliver me from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dogs.
21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
save me from the horns of the wild oxen.
22 I will declare your name to my people;
in the assembly I will praise you.
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or scorned
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.
25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
before those who fear you[f] I will fulfill my vows.
26 The poor will eat and be satisfied;
those who seek the Lord will praise him—
may your hearts live forever!
27 All the ends of the earth
will remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before him,
28 for dominion belongs to the Lord
and he rules over the nations.
29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
those who cannot keep themselves alive.
30 Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord.
31 They will proclaim his righteousness,
declaring to a people yet unborn:
He has done it!
- Psalm 22:1 In Hebrew texts 22:1-31 is numbered 22:2-32.
- Psalm 22:2 Or night, and am not silent
- Psalm 22:3 Or Yet you are holy, / enthroned on the praises of Israel
- Psalm 22:15 Probable reading of the original Hebrew text; Masoretic Text strength
- Psalm 22:16 Dead Sea Scrolls and some manuscripts of the Masoretic Text, Septuagint and Syriac; most manuscripts of the Masoretic Text me, / like a lion
- Psalm 22:25 Hebrew him
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘Lord, I long for you, but you seem so far away while I am suffering and struggling.’ Has that ever been your experience?
Have you ever felt deserted by God? Perhaps you have gone through a tragedy or have suffered with depression or anxiety and have found it nigh on impossible to pray. Your thinking about God has been negative, and at best he seems to be standing at a distance. Where is God when it hurts?
If you have ever felt like this, then this psalm is for you. David is at rock bottom (v 1). He is up and down in his reflections – having started by agonizing about God’s distance from him (vs 1,2), he steadies himself by reminding himself of God’s faithfulness (vs 4,5). Then the next wave of depressive thoughts hit him and he feels his life is worth nothing (vs 6–8). Again he finds some relief in God’s faithfulness (vs 9–11) and he starts to turn the past into prayer: ‘Please, Lord, be with me, because if you won’t, no one else will’ (vs 11, free translation). It seems he is also unwell (vs 14–17) and he feels his prospects for recovery are not good; and he has human enemies. ‘Lord, please intervene’ (see vs 19–21); ‘then I will speak of your greatness and goodness’ (see vs 22–28). Even as he was hanging on by his fingertips, he cried out to God for rescue and relief.
This psalm reminds us of Jesus’ anguished cry of desertion on the cross. It is full of similarities between what David experienced and what Jesus endured at his crucifixion. Verses 1, 7, 8 and 17, in particular, are recalled in the gospel accounts. Jesus’ separation from the Father brought about our salvation, as the resurrection shows. There is always hope, even when it is hard to see…
This psalm progresses ‘from the grim facts of the present which have the first word, to the glorious facts about the future as the last word’.1 Be encouraged!
Father God, I thank you for this psalm, for the disclosure of what Jesus went through for my salvation. Hallelujah, what a Savior.
1 John Goldingay, Psalms for Everyone; Part 1, Psalms 1–72, SPCK, 2013, p73
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