Read Psalm 22.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Have you ever uttered these words? Similar ones? Or perhaps you’ve simply felt them? I have. And often do. Be it for a moment, day, month, year, or even years, surely the opening cry of Psalm 22 has at some point wrung through the hearts of all who name Jesus as their Lord. Nor should it surprise those who seek to follow in their Master’s footsteps.
Of all psalms, Psalm 22 probably contains the most obvious references to Christ’s crucifixion. Many of its verses are utilized in gospel passion narratives. While there is much to gain from outlining such references, I believe our devotional purposes this week will be best served by viewing this psalm as it would have originally functioned: as poetry and song that would have met the needs of the people of Israel in various moments as they sought to worship their God, our God.
In Psalm 22, we encounter a righteous sufferer who feels completely and utterly abandoned by God in the midst of oppression by those who seek to end his life. He opens his prayer in a moment of cognitive dissonance (v.1). He feels abandoned by God, or perhaps worse: that God is indifferent towards him (v.2). BUT, in verses 3-5, he reminds both God and himself of God’s true identity and past faithfulness. He reminds himself that his God is one who is holy and has shown himself to be faithful. The psalmist reminds himself of God’s faithfulness to combat the doubt and confusion he feels. It is as if he is admitting his indictment of God in verse 1 cannot be so, regardless of how visceral his abandonment feels.
Much of Psalm 22 vacillates between the psalmist expressing woes he believes to be true of his present abysmal state and reminders of his true identity and/or God’s. While it may not seem clear, it is not apparent that the psalmist is rescued from his present calamity by the end of the psalm. However, in rehearsing and proclaiming the truth of who God has revealed himself to be, the psalmist becomes so overwhelmingly confident in God’s righteousness and deliverance that the psalm ends in God’s praise and renown made manifest throughout the earth – not only from the psalmist and Israel, but by all nations.
I believe the real turning point for the suffering psalmist comes with the truth he proclaims in verse 24,
“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.”
Does such truth not meet the needs of our deepest woes? In my own greatest moments of despair, it is not deliverance from the moment I most desire, but rather that I can know the Lord hears my cries and cares. As our Savior hung on his cross, abandoned by God (so that we wouldn’t have to be), he surely clung to the hope that even in this moment where God’s goodness and love could not be seen, his God would ultimately not abandon him and cared deeply, deeply for him. He believed this not only for himself, but for our sake too – so that when we meet the moments/days/months/years where we feel abandoned by God, we can remind ourselves of the truth that escapes us in the moment, traversing whatever rocky ground we meet with the knowledge that our Savior has already walked it. And through his Spirit, he walks it with us today.
My brothers and sisters, as we pray this week, may we all be reminded of the truth about God. May we declare both to the Lord and to our own hearts the truth of the gospel, of the character of our God, and of the trustworthiness he has proven throughout history. Such prayers are important both for those in seasons where the gospel shines brightly and those in seasons where it seems so very distant. May we all follow in the footsteps of our Master this week, not only offering the honest pains and fears of our hearts to the Lord, but also proclaiming the Gospel to him and our hearts alike. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with each of you.
-- Travis Pry