Meditations in David’s Psalms : 25 : Triumph – Psa 22:22-24
Psa 22:24 he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one;
If what we read in the latter part of this psalm was indeed the experience of Jesus, it must have occurred in a matter of seconds or at the most, it would appear, in his last couple of minutes. After the awful anguish of earlier in the psalm we come now to what can only be described as triumph, where all the anguish has been taken and turned to praise. We have noted a number of times that in David’s psalms, he starts out pouring out his heart in anguish over his circumstances but as he goes on, it appears that he senses the Lord’s presence and in that awareness a new assurance breaks through, even followed by a strong confidence. This is often the experience of those who commit their lives – and their problems especially – to the Lord.
Thus David is now able to declare, “I will declare your name to my brothers; in the congregation I will praise you.” (v.22) Gone is any self-pity, gone is any sense of anguish or defeat. Instead it is replaced by determination, that he will testify to the Lord to his fellow people and with them, in the Lord’s presence, praise the Lord. How often we come across believers who, for one reason or another, have lost their way, becoming jaded or cynical and the last thing they feel like doing is testifying to the Lord’s goodness and praising Him in the midst of the Lord’s people. They need to pour their heart out to their Lord in honesty in the David manner, and surely there they will find a fresh sense of His presence and His love and goodness. The church may not have changed and still be in need of reformation and revival, but their experience of the Lord can be renewed.
Indeed David now calls on the people of God to make sure they have a right attitude towards the Lord – and he wouldn’t be able to call for this unless he himself had come into this very place: “You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!” (v.23) There are three calls in this verse. It is first for those who do fear the Lord to praise Him. We are not to have a subservient, downcast attitude to the Lord; it is to be a vibrant experience that turns the respect into outgoing praise. Second, it was a call to all of God’s people to honour Him. It is so easy just to go through religious ritual but that does not bring honour to the Lord, only a vibrant relationship with Him will. Praise, honour and now revere. Revere here goes beyond ‘fear’; it means acknowledge openly His greatness, bowing in worship, giving Him the glory that is owed to Him alone. All of these three calls are similar, about responding rightly to the Lord, but behind them is the requirement to face and acknowledge the truth about the Lord’s greatness and to let your relationship with Him and your experience of Him bring forth naturally that which should be there where there is that reality – praise (acknowledging the wonders of his greatness), honour (giving glory for that wonder) and reverence (worship to express that in more than just words, but a bowing down of the life before Him).
But as always, these things flow from what the Lord has done first. John was able to write, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 Jn 4:10) It is always because God has done something first; God always takes the initiative and because of that, we see it and experience it and our hearts are released in praise, honour and reverence. David declares what has happened: “For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.” (v.24) That was how David had seen himself – despised and disdained by all around him as he anguished in pain, and so he had cried out to the Lord and the Lord had not simply stood back and watched, but had responded and drawn near.
Now for Jesus, hanging on the Cross, nothing appeared to change as far as the onlookers were concerned. All they saw was a man in total physical anguish whose life was rapidly ebbing away. They could see nothing else. Yet, as we noted in the previous meditation, two of his last words were words in complete control, words indicating an awareness of the Father. Sometimes we have to pass through the most terrible of circumstances in this fallen world and if we do, the best that can happen is that the sense of the presence of the Lord comes to us, we sense Him drawing near while we go through it. Even if death faces us, we have the confidence that what follows in eternity will be glorious for us. The apostle Paul knew this reality: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.” (Phil 1:21-23) That is an amazing testimony of faith. May we each be able to say the same in the face of life-threatening times.