First Off…read Psalm 22
This psalm is one of the most popular psalms out there…and the reason is not only because we typically think of it as a Lenten/Good Friday text, not only because there are at least 8 different pieces of scripture that quote this psalm, but I think many of us have felt “forsaken” at one time or another. As with any relationship we’ve had our ups and our downs with God and just like David here our “downs” are pretty low. Feeling of God being far, or that we have been forsaken, or that God simply is not answering our pleas and cries – those are simply the tips of the iceberg of emotions that have befallen almost all of us at some point in our lives.
When we look at this text there is a beautiful (ok, maybe “beautiful” is a little odd – but it’s beautiful to me) weaving of feelings and emotions. Verses 1 and 2 are full of anguish then 3 through 5 are hopeful…6 through 8 have David ripping into himself but then 9 and 10 are declarative and “good” feeling but then 11 through 18 are back to fear. To me, I see a wave of emotions, a roller-coaster of emotional life – all twizzled together.
I see me…and you…and our life and prayers with God.
I came across an author who said that he can easily imagine a 21st Century psychologist reading this psalm for the first time and calling it, “The bi-polar psalm” because of all the mood swings…almost as if there were two different people sounding off! Well…guess what…there is. There isn’t, in the sense that it really is all one voice and person – but this bi-polar emotional rollercoaster we weave is the type of relationship we have with God. And it’s not his fault – it’s 100% completely ours.
We’re the ones that choose sin over goodness. We’re the ones that dig the hole so deep it appears that we cannot see God from the pit of it. We’re the ones that wait so long to come to God seeking his help. We’re the ones that want help a specific way – so much so that when God IS helping us we fail to see it or simply do not WANT to see it. Looking to the right for God to come and save us when he’s clearly helping us but we refuse to look to the left.
But I relent – this psalm isn’t about our inabilities to see God…this is a psalm about God’s response. I think we’ve taken Psalm 22 for where we know it most well (the cross) and we fail to see what else happens in this psalm. Almost as if we read the first verse then simply stop. I’m just as guilty. Those first 9 words speak of anguish and death and a feeling of abandonment and we immediately think of Christ’s crying out upon the cross (Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34) but we cannot stop at the first verse and feel we understand and know what is happening. If we did stop then we’d fail to see that verses 19 through 31 all the sudden have a shift. David all the sudden steps away from the roller coaster lament and praise and simply moves to praise and adoration. What’s interesting is that there are some that feel that this psalm is actually 2 separate psalms DUE TO THIS change…but I would argue against that. What we get in verse 19 and beyond is a peace amongst the storms of life. An understanding and declaration that regardless of what is happening – God is in control. It’s like David was in the dark with a flickering flashlight but then all the sudden a blaze of light came through and stayed on. No more swaying, no more roller coaster of waves and emotions…only hope.
To me, psalm 22 is a psalm of hope and grace. Hope and grace as seen and experienced through life. It’s the realization that at your lowest low God is still your high. And at your highest high God still is high. That when you’re in the tank and there is no way out God is the hand that reaches down to rescue you. But Psalm 22 ALSO is the reminder that what Christ did upon the cross was so that my lows would not stay low…for they eventually will be lifted. I will be lifted. Through his willing sacrifice of his life the grip of death has been released from my throat.
But here’s the thing…David is on to something here. David, in his crying out THEN makes this response that he will praise God. Not only to himself…but in the “assemblies” he will praise him (vs 22).
THAT is our challenge.
We know what God has done…we easily declare it to our friends and neighbors and even in church – but how about at school? How about at work? Verse 27 says, “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.” I very easily can sit here and tell you that when Christ comes again ALL people will bow before him (Rom 14:11)…that’s an easy one…and that puts everything on God. And while everything IS on God…there is work for us too. The problem with only looking at Paul’s text in Romans 14:11 is that Christ clearly tells us that WE have work to do. WE must tell the ends of the earth about God and His work. WE must allow the earth to “feast and worship” in this truth (vs 29). In short…we have some God-sharing disciple-making to do! (Matthew 28:16-20) But I want to remind us that IN that discipleship making we must be honest about our relationship. We cannot lie and deceive people that life with God is easy and all burdens and troubles will be cast away (if it were only that easy).
Just as Psalm 22 shows us what life looks like in an honest and truthful way – so too our words must be as we share our hope. For “hope” is only realized when one realizes that you constantly need hope AND have been given it.