‘WHY?’ QUESTIONS No.17
Psa 22:1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?
Rejection is one of the most horrible of human experiences. Rejection occurs when someone you love and who has professed love to you, turns away from you and leaves you. In human terms it is usually linked with them turning to someone else, but it can simply be a giving up by the other on our relationship. It leaves a horrible feeling of loneliness, isolation and inner hurt. At the heart of rejection is the cry of “Why have you done this? What have I done to you that has made you treat me like this?”
Before we look at this verse, I want to take the unusual step in these meditations of stating from the outset my conclusion: God never abandons us! I have the feeling that I need to say that from early on for some who might read this. God has NOT abandoned you. As many of these meditations show, there are many times in life when God seems at a distance and the reasons behind that feeling vary. Your sense of being alone may not have anything to do with what I am just about to share. It is right and proper to ask the Lord why you are feeling as you are and seek answers and solutions.
This cry in today’s verse is probably the most significant prophetic cry in the Old Testament, which is literally heard in the New when Jesus cried out to God on the Cross. (Mt 27:46, Mk 15:34). The whole of Psalm 22 is littered with prophetic utterances in respect of Jesus and his redeeming work on the Cross. This, being the most significant of his words on the Cross, starts the psalm off, which then reflects other aspects of it.
Let’s take it at face value first of all, as how it appears in the human sense. It is the cry of one who feels rejected and abandoned. In the psalm he cries, “O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.” (v.2) He cries to God day and night and seems to get no answer. It seems like God has abandoned him. God has rejected and left him. For a moment, at least, that is how it seems. It is the worst of feelings. It is a real heart cry, this cry of anguish. There is no pretence about it; it is utterly genuine, this cry of anguish.
And of course that is exactly how it was with Jesus on the Cross. Throughout the sacrificial law of Moses, is the picture of the one sacrificing the innocent creature placing their hands on its head in identification, with the idea of their sins being transferred to it. In 2 Cor 5:21 Paul said, “God made him who had no sin to be sin.” Even if we take the alternative here, “to be a sin offering,” the sense is the same: Jesus had your sin and my sin put on him! The writer to the Hebrews (Heb 9:28) wrote, “so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” If you bear something, you carry it. The picture is of Jesus carrying the sins of the world as he hung there on the Cross. Imagine every individual sin as a little bit of blackness, and then imagine every sin that is every committed in the entire history of the world coming on Jesus in that three hours. It says that in that time, he was enveloped in the most horrible blackness imaginable.
Imagine this utter darkness of sin coming down upon Jesus, imagine him utterly surrounded by the hoards of hell. The Father has not moved; He is still there, nothing has changed, but for the man-God hanging on the Cross enveloped in this blackness, surrounded by the demonic world, it is impossible to see or sense anything else. All he can sense is blackness and evil. At that point the fullness of Sin put upon him means that his awareness of the Father’s presence (which was still there) was denied to the man so that he cries out, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” because that is exactly what it feels like.
That’s why there was this terrible cry piercing history. It was the Son of God himself sensing the awful separation that sin causes. Sometimes it is like that for us. God hasn’t moved, God hasn’t abandoned us, He hasn’t left us – but it feels like that because we are more conscious of other things. It may be our own failure; it may be the pain of attack by the enemy through others. All we know is that it feels, from our perspective, like God has gone away. He hasn’t, He’s still there for you with arms open wide to you.
Do you have a sense of failure and feel like the enemy is crucifying you? Don’t let him! There is no sin, no failure that is too great to be able to be dealt with by Jesus’ work on the Cross. Confession, the acknowledgement of it and the cry out to God for forgiveness, is the prayer that will always reach the Father’s heart, and He responds instantly with words of love. Jesus was the perfect sacrifice for sin so, as Paul said, nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God (Rom 8:38,39). Know that as a truth and experience it.