25. Triumph

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.

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24. Save me

Meditations in David’s Psalms : 24 : Save Me!  – Psa 22:19-21

Psa 22:19-21    come quickly …..Deliver my life …Rescue me….save me

Sometimes, getting so caught up with the wonder or the strength of Scripture we can miss the incredible nature of just what is being said. In the previous meditation we scrabbled to grasp something of the awfulness of what the psalmist was experiencing,  seeing it as the experience of Jesus on the Cross. But, we said, we struggled to contemplate what circumstances David was struggling with that could have caused him to write in the manner he did. Putting it very simply, he was in the pits, he was at the bottom of his resources, totally consumed, it seems, with the terrible things happening to him. Now in such circumstances it might be reasonable to expect such a person to give up, shut down and go silent, or at least moan! Job in the early stages was in such a desperate plight that he gave up and wished he was dead. It would not be surprising if David felt the same thing, but instead we find something very different.

This is so strange that we might miss this, for we do take scripture for granted sometimes. What we have here is what marks off David from so many other people. Others would give up at this point, but David has a relationship with God and even at the worst moments that comes through. In his total anguish he cries out for God’s help. Now I have laboured this point because on one hand it is so obvious but on the other, it is the thing so many people fail to do. If you cry to God, yes, you are probably so desperate that you will grasp at any straw, but actually it means that for that moment at least you believe there is someone there to whom you can appeal – and that someone, you feel in your desperation, might come through for you.

Thus he prays: But you, O LORD, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me.” (v.19)  In the midst of the battle it had seemed that God had left him, so intense was the burden on him, but now we have passed that stage. If this is Jesus, these would be the closing thoughts before death comes, and in that case what follows are words of triumph, but for the moment they are words that pass through the mind as he emerges out the other side of the battle. In the few words Jesus spoke we know he triumphed. Jesus’ last words recorded by Luke are: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Lk 23:46) They are controlled words, words of a son to his Father. John, who was standing nearby, heard Jesus say, “It is finished.” (Jn 19:30) Again, controlled words, words accepting that the task planned from before the foundation of the word has been completed. The Son has carried the sin of the world through death.

This is triumph, but before he reaches those words recorded in the Gospels, he comes out of the despair of the battle and almost like a drowning man reaches up a single hand for a rescuer, as he prays for the Father to see him through the last minutes so that he will not fail Him.

Yes, he is still aware of those around him: “Deliver my life from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs.” (v.20)  Their ultimate goal is to destroy him and as he gazes into the face of death, he knows that only God can deliver. He is aware of the value and wonder of life – ‘precious life’ and he knows it is a gift of God and whatever will follow has also to be a gift of God, so again he cries out from within, “Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen.” (v.21) Lions and wild oxen – both animals on the rampage, out to kill. There is no doubting their intentions. For Jesus, hanging on the Cross, it is quite clear: they want him dead. It almost sounds too simple to say, but that was what it was all about, getting rid of this meddlesome preacher who dared challenge the man-orientated religion of that day. Kill him, destroy him, get rid of him. In their anger and jealousy rational, caring humanity is out the door! No one is going to turn round in the middle of the crucifixion and have second thoughts and say, “Hold on, this is a mistake, take him down, tend him, care for him, revive him.”  It is also true for David. Those around him are out to get him and that doesn’t leave any room for doubt – his death is the only thing on their agenda!

In the face of these certainties, the man after God’s own heart and the one who was the even more perfect expression of that, the Son, both cry to the Father in their desperate plight for Him to come. This is the ultimate sign of commitment to the Lord. A measure, if you like, of our maturity or commitment to the Lord, is how fast we turn to the Father for help when the going gets rough. Learn it, and respond quickly, but to do that we have to unlearn the idea that just perhaps I may be able to solve it myself, or maybe we, the human race, can do it. No, He can do it!

23. Devastated

Meditations in David’s Psalms : 23 : Devastated  – Psa 22:12-18

Psa 22:14    I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me.

And so the psalm swings back again to the harsh reality of what was facing David. Remember the order had been Pleading – negative (v.1,2), Trust in history – positive (v.3-5), Insulted – negative (v.6-8), Relationship from childhood – positive (v.9-11). Now the following verses fall clearly into the negative category.

We might first note characteristics of these particular verses that appear clearly expressed at the Cross. “All my bones are out of joint” (v.14). The very process of hanging on the cross meant severe strain was put on all the joints. “My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth” (v.15). John records, Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips.” (Jn 19:28,29) John saw that Jesus was specifically fulfilling prophetic scripture. “They have pierced my hands and my feet.” (v.16) Peter declared on the day of Pentecost, “you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross,” (Acts 2:23) which was probably done through his hands and feet. Then “They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” (v.19) Matthew records, “When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots.” (Mt 27:35) plus the footnote – “A few late manuscripts: lots that the word spoken by the prophet might be fulfilled: “They divided my  garments among themselves and cast lots for my clothing”

These things are very clear and obvious things, but then we may ask ourselves, do the contents of the other verses in this passage tell us things about Jesus experience on the Cross? Most of the time in the Gospels we are not shown the things going on in the background, the things pertaining to powers and principalities and to Satan. But is it clear from the Gospel accounts that Satan was lurking in the background (in the foreground at Jesus’ temptation). In this time of Jesus immense vulnerability, is it not reasonable to suppose that that when David refers to bulls and lions seeking to tear him to shreds that was also the very thing that Satan and his demonic followers were doing to Jesus when he hung on the Cross?

Prophetic Scriptures indicate that in accordance with the laws of sacrifice passed down from Moses, the lamb to be offered had to be spotless – and remain spotless. The battle on the cross would surely be to get Jesus to curse God and cease to be spotless. That the divine side of Jesus could not do that is probably true, but the human side of him that made up the Son of God in human form, could easily have done that. Thus the battle, as Jesus takes the sin of the world on himself, would be brought by the powers of darkness to rail against him and abuse and chide him until he snapped – but he never did.

The writer to the Hebrews was thus able to say, “we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin.” (Heb 4:15) He never gave way, he never sinned. If what we have said about these verses is true they give a slight sense of something of the awful battle that was waged on the Cross, unseen by the watchers but experienced by Jesus. So let’s just note those verses in their awfulness, written by David but apply to Jesus on the Cross:

12Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.

13Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me.

16Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me,

The consequence of the physical, emotional and spiritual effects on Jesus then follow: “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.” (v.14a) Emotional and spiritual and then physical. “My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.” (v.14b,15) All of his natural resources are expended. “I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me.” Physical anguish and social rejection.  The other verses we have referred to already.

Now we come to the difficult part. With most of David’s writings it is relatively easy to speculate what must have been happening to him, but when we come to these verses it is impossible to envisage the awfulness of what he must have been going through. Enemies out to get him? Yes, certainly, but that doesn’t account for the vividness of the writing which speaks of such physical torment as well as the other forms of torment. This is what makes this writing remarkable and adds to our conclusion that here it is truly prophetic lifting David out of himself to feel something of the awfulness that the messiah, the Coming One would experience. In no other way can these words be understood. They are truly remarkable and if they are as we describe, they must surely leave us gasping in awe at the picture of the battle that took place as Jesus hung on the Cross. Incredible!

22. Reflective Hope

Meditations in David’s Psalms : 22 : Reflective Hope  – Psa 22:9-11

Psa 22:10    From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

I am a worm….yet….”  Do you see that? He took a dive but then comes that word, “Yet”. It’s like David pondering on all that he feels, feels such a lowly character (we used to have a children’s book with a character in it – ‘Lowly Worm’ – I wonder if the writer was a Christian?), but then realises some other things about his life.

This is such a simple but profound revelation! I wonder how many of us think about God being on our case from the moment of birth, because that is what we find here. In Psa 139 David goes a stage further: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psa 139:13)  In our all-knowing materialistic age, I wonder how many of us think of the Lord being involved from the moment of conception, but that is what David sees. In this part of our present psalm he’s not so much concerned with his time in the womb as with his time from the moment of birth. This is the confidence he has.

Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you even at my mother’s breast” (v.9). He sees the Lord instrumental even in his birth and then, from that moment on, the Lord gave him cause to trust Him. What is he saying? He’s saying that from the moment of birth the Lord was working to build a relationship with him.

He reiterates it in the way that so much Hebrew poetry repeats but in a slightly different form to create that emphasis: “From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.” (v.10) We know nothing of David’s younger life. What does this mean, that he was cast upon the Lord?  Had his mother died at childbirth? Was life in a large family one big competition? What were the circumstances that caused this to come about? We don’t know, we can only speculate.  But there is a lesson here and it is that sometimes, when we can look back and see what circumstances were, we can realise that it was those difficult circumstances that helped bring about the depth of relationship that we have with the Lord today.

So what is David saying in these two verses? He is saying that although at the present time he feels a lowly worm, although he feels a nobody, although everyone seems against him, there is one thing he can cling on to, and that is the fact that from birth he has known the Lord being there for him.

The strength of this relationship is seen when David hears about Goliath: “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Sam 17:26) and then in what he says to Saul: “Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Sam 17:36,37) The reference to Goliath being “an uncircumcised Philistine” says, ‘this man has no relationship with the living God like we in Israel do. These are words of a man who is jealous for the name of the Lord but that jealousy is based on a clear relationship he has with the Lord, and that is what we come back to in this part of the psalm: everything may be going pear-shaped in my life at the moment, but I remember that the relationship I have with the Lord is one that He instigated and which I have known from the earliest days of my life.

The Lord’s words to Jeremiah come to play here as well: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (Jer 1:5) It is that same sense of God having been on his case, even from before birth. We too have Paul’s words: “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons.” (Eph 1:4,5) The unsure say that this simply refers to the nature of what God calls us to be; the more confident say, that God knew us even before He created the world, because that conforms with what other Scriptures say: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” (Rom 8:29,30)

That is the confidence we have, that we are God’s children, despite whatever might be going wrong! Thus we can pray, “Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.” (v.11) When trouble is near, we want to know that the Lord is nearer still. We, of course, are in a different place to David and know that we are temples of the Holy Spirit. God is living within; you can’t get any nearer than that! That is our confidence today: Jesus has died for us, the Father has called us to experience the fruits of that, and now His Holy Spirit dwells within us. How wonderful!  Troubles? Go away!

21. And Yet….

Meditations in David’s Psalms : 21 : And Yet…  – Psa 22:3-5

Psa 22:6-8    But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people.

To catch the back and forth drift of this psalm, when focusing on a few verses, it is necessary to go back and scan over the structure so far. You remember he starts out in the first two verses anguishing over his sense of having been abandoned by the Lord: why have you forsaken me? …I cry out by day, but you do not answer.” But then in the next three verses he appears to rally, declaring the Lord’s greatness and how He had blessed their fathers: “you are the praise of Israel. In you our fathers put their trust.”  Gloom followed by an uplifting – but then the reality of the situation presses in again and that is what we find in the next three verses. There is a switch-back element here.

But isn’t that exactly what life is like. Yes, there are good days, but there are also bad days. There are times when the Lord seems very close and other days when He feels a million miles away (but isn’t!) There are days that feel purposeful and fruitful, and days that feel pointless and a waste of time. For the watcher of life, days go up and down. For the unobservant, it is one long even passing.

So, although praising the Lord, David now comes back down the mountain and faces what is happening to him: “But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people.” (v.6) We don’t know what it is happening in David’s life at this point, but possibly it is the time when he flees Jerusalem before Absalom. Whatever it is, he is scorned and despised. It is public, and people are looking down on him. Isn’t it a strange thing but when we incur the wrath of people’s words, it makes us feel small. David doesn’t even feel he’s getting the recognition as a human being. He is being treated as less than a human being by those onlookers who are deriding him. ‘I am a worm’ means I am a nothing; I am a nobody. Worms, for the most part, are hidden from us and we give them little thought. David feels he has fallen from the position that he had as king, and soon people will hardly remember him.

This feeling continues to be expressed: “All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads.” (v.7) As we said, this is in the public realm – all who see me. And he is seen and those who see him mock him. He is held up to scorn and they laugh at him sneeringly. How cruel people can be, so quickly forgetting the good that you have brought them previously. Yes, if this is the Absalom incident, David had brought this on himself by his actions with Bathsheba and her husband. The Lord said this would happen, this public humility. But that doesn’t make the people any better. Such times reveal people’s hearts. We all have feet of clay and we all get it wrong sometimes. At such times we don’t need mockery and insults, we need gentle forgiveness and restoration, but so often, even in the Christian community it is not forthcoming. Shame on us!

When Jesus was being crucified, mockery was part of his burden: “Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, `I am the Son of God.'” In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.” (Mt 27:39-44)  The general passers by – some, no doubt, who had welcomed him a week before hand – now derided him and threw his words back in his face. The authorities utterly failed to realise what was going on and also derided him.  Even the robbers, hanging either side of him, joined in, and they certainly had no room to shout!

How terrible and how hypocritical we human beings can be sometimes! And there are those words that almost appear exactly (well at least in meaning) in the Gospel accounts: “He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.” (v.8)  There is the ungodly logic: if God loves him, He would come to His aid. No, you silly people, this is all part of God’s plan, but that doesn’t let you off the hook for your shortcomings.

Be careful that you don’t look down on those who fall. As Paul wrote, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.” (1 Cor 10:12,13)  We are all vulnerable to temptation. Yes, God will provide a way of overcoming but we don’t always take it. How easy it is to slide into a place of vulnerability and then to fall!  And then we reveal people’s hearts and the chattering begins, the criticisms behind closed doors, and often it may not even be true what is said. Yes, David might have been deserving of God’s chastising but we should be sorrowful for his fall. He anguished over the deaths of Saul, Jonathan, Abner and even, later, Absalom. David did not rejoice in anyone’s downfall, and the Lord doesn’t either: “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?” (Ezek 18:23)  David, of course, was a man after God’s own heart. May we be as well!

20. Bounce Back

Meditations in David’s Psalms : 20 : Bounce Back  – Psa 22:3-5

Psa 22:3-5    Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel. In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed.

David’s opening cry was one of desolation, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (v.1b) That was how it felt to him at that point in time. There is a whole school of Christianity that majors on ‘victory’ and as good and right as that is, it so often fails to recognize that however strong you are as a Christian, there will be days when it seems a struggle, and that is when victory needs to claimed. But those times do come and you are not a failure if you are going through such a time. It may be physical, it may be mental, and it is surely because there is a battle and we live in a fallen world. There are times when we identify with David and cry out, “O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.” (v.2)  If that’s where we stayed, that would be disastrous.

In those times James’ words come to mind: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (Jas 4:7) How do we submit ourselves to God?  We do what David now does. He turns to the Lord, addressing Him, and declares the truth: “You are enthroned.”  God is a king, The King, and He sits on a throne in heaven (see Ex 17:15, 1 Kings 22:19, Psa 11:4, Psa 47:8, Isa 6:1, Lam 5:19, Ezek 1:26, Dan 7:9,  Mt 19:28, Heb 1:8, 8:1, 12:2, Rev 4:2 etc.)  Throughout Scripture there are these many (and more) references to God reigning from heaven.

But even more, “You are enthroned as the Holy One.” The One on the throne of heaven is Holy God, unique, unfathomable, and unknowable unless He reveals Himself. He is all-powerful, all-knowing and all-wise. He is love and He is utterly good and everything He thinks, says or does is good. That is what makes Him unique and that is what Holy really means – uniquely perfect. This is the One to whom we turn in crisis. But that is a challenge, to be able to converse with such a One who knows everything about us, and who looks for worship (acknowledgement of His wonder) in us.

He is “the praise of Israel.” He has revealed Himself to Israel, revealing both His character and His ways, and in so many ways He has blessed them.  Israel has history and so David can look back, declaring, “In you our fathers put their trust.”  The history of the Old Testament is a history of dealings of God with this people who so often turned away from the Lord, and yet His primary purpose with them was that they would come to trust Him, be blessed by Him, and thus be a light to the rest of the world, revealing Him. Each of the patriarchs started out in a place of human weakness but ended up in a place of trusting the Lord.

Ultimately Israel in Egypt had to trust the Lord and were delivered. Eventually they came to a place of trusting God to take them into the Promised Land and there, time and time again, He blessed them. Time and time again they turned away from Him but time and time again they came to see that without Him they were helpless and nothing. David knows all this: “they trusted and you delivered them.” Yes, so often they didn’t, but when they did come to a place of trust in the Lord, He was always there for them, delivering them from their enemies (and there were a lot of those!)

“They cried to you and were saved. That is the confidence that David has. When Israel were ever in trouble and called out to the Lord, He stepped in and they were saved. That is the history of the book of Judges. The Lord always answered with salvation whenever they cried out to Him. This is a confidence he has as he looks back on their history. Indeed he is able to say, “in you they trusted and were not disappointed.” It was a case of WHENEVER they cried to the Lord He answered; they were never disappointed. He was always there for them as soon as they turned back.

Now these are the issues of confidence that David now declares. Why? Well, he may feel that he is alone but he knows his history and that history testifies that the Lord will come when he cries out. Now of course this is only part of the picture of what is going on in David at this time. We’ll see in the next study that he takes a further dive in confidence. This is a battle that goes on and on sometimes and merely because we make an initial declaration of the truth, often that doesn’t immediately change the circumstances and so they press back in on us. The key to the battle is holding the ground that has been taken, even if the enemy comes back in waves again.

19. Abandoned by God?

Meditations in David’s Psalms : 19 : Abandoned by God?  – Psa 22:1,2

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?

When we come to psalm 22 we come to a psalm which has the most amazing prophetic overtones to it. Because of this and because it is quite long, we will have a number of bites at it. For those of us who have been Christians a long time, there is a trap we fall into (at least I do!). We see the incredible prophetic overtones which are specifically laid out in the New Testament and we forget that this was first and foremost the anguish of David. David was NOT bringing it as prophecy; he was not saying, “Thus says the Lord, this is how it will be for my Son,” and yet the words have that significance as the New Testament testifies. In some cases Jesus takes and uses the very words of this psalm and in other cases the Gospel writers take them and apply them.

This first verse, to prove our point, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” is found on Jesus’ lips on the Cross: “About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”–which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46) Other similarities are too great to be coincidence, and we need to bear that in mind when we consider other not so specifically New-Testament-defined verses. In each case let’s consider what David was saying and feeling and then see how it fits in the New Testament narrative.

David is clearly in a time of extreme anguish where he feels utterly alone, so alone that it feels like God has left him. He continues, Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?” (v.1b). As so often, we will see later, it is because he has got people around him who are out to get him. Now please don’t fall into the trap of thinking that God made this happen so David would essentially prophesy what was happening to Jesus on the Cross. David, like us, lives in a fallen world and in this fallen world, people are nasty! Within that context we find David, and he expresses what will later, many centuries later, fit and shed light on what happened to Jesus. At this moment in his life there are those coming against him and he feels so weak that he cries out for God – and apparently gets no answer. The conclusion? The human conclusion is that God must have left him.

Now on a good day no ‘good’ Christian will acknowledge that God leaves people, but on a bad day it feels like that. Be honest, there ARE times when it feels that God is at the opposite end of the universe. This is a time to distinguish between feelings and facts.

Facts: The writer to the Hebrews wrote of God saying, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you,” (Heb 13:5) which is a quote of Moses’ words: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”  (Deut 31:6)  Now Moses was being very specific – God IS with you and will NOT leave you. That same promise is transferred to us.  It doesn’t matter what you FEEL today, the truth is that the Lord IS with you. So even if with David you cry out, “O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent,” (v.2), it is not that the Lord has left you. He is still there with you. Possibly it is a case that He is waiting to see how you will respond in such circumstances and with such feelings.

So what was happening when Jesus uttered these same words?  He was hanging on the Cross carrying our sin. Now the New Testament teaching is that the sin of the world was put upon him. For example, Peter wrote, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.” (1 Pet 2:24) Now this is difficult to both imagine and understand. Imagine Jesus putting on clothes that were Sin; such awfulness on the perfect, spotless Son of God. Imagine you being forced to put of clothes saturated with vomit say. The smell is revolting and it fills your entire being. But if, in some way beyond our understanding Jesus actually took sin into himself so it was as if he was a sinner, we have this terrible experience of perfection struggling against evil in the most awful of experiences. From the side aspect of the Cross, it must have been THE most terrible experience of the Son of God in eternity. Add to that, what we will see later in the psalm, the attacks being made on him from outside, and Jesus is being consumed by awfulness. For the human side of Jesus at least, at that moment at least, it filled his entire awareness and he was aware of nothing but nothing else – including his Father.  For him at that moment it seemed like he was utterly alone.

Was he alone?  There is a (wrong) teaching that says the Father turned His back on His Son at that moment. I don’t believe that is so for two reasons. First, the Godhead cannot be split and so Father cannot be separated from the Son and the Son not separated from the Spirit.  Second God is love and love does not abandon a loved one whatever is happening. Observe the human response of Jesus’ mother who refused to abandon her Son at the Cross and stood there and watched him die. Would the Father do anything less? No! Never! The Father NEVER abandons us His children!

That is sufficient for the moment; we’ll see the response that follows in the next meditation.