Psalm 22 (ESV)

Why Have You Forsaken Me?

22 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

    Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
    and by night, but I find no rest.

Yet you are holy,
    enthroned on the praises[a] of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted;
    they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
    in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm and not a man,
    scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
    they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
“He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him;
    let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”

Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
    you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
10 On you was I cast from my birth,
    and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
11 Be not far from me,
    for trouble is near,
    and there is none to help.

12 Many bulls encompass me;
    strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
13 they open wide their mouths at me,
    like a ravening and roaring lion.

14 I am poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
    it is melted within my breast;
15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
    and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
    you lay me in the dust of death.

16 For dogs encompass me;
    a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet[b]
17 I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my garments among them,
    and for my clothing they cast lots.

19 But you, O Lord, do not be far off!
    O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
20 Deliver my soul from the sword,
    my precious life from the power of the dog!
21     Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued[c] me from the horns of the wild oxen!

22 I will tell of your name to my brothers;
    in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
    All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
    and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
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.

25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
    my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
26 The afflicted[d] shall eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek him shall praise the Lord!
    May your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
    and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
    shall worship before you.
28 For kingship belongs to the Lord,
    and he rules over the nations.

29 All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;
    before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
    even the one who could not keep himself alive.
30 Posterity shall serve him;
    it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
31 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
    that he has done it.

 

I know, right?  That’s one crazy Psalm written by David.  I find it intriguing that this speaks to my heart even though life isn’t a shambles and I’m not being sought out to be killed.  But there is so much meat to this psalm I couldn’t help but to appreciate David’s acknowledgement of his utter depravity, and, not only acknowledged it but did not get lost within the confines of his own mind.  He starts out inquiring of God’s distance from him even though he has prayed or, as he says, my groanings”  in verse 1.  I find so much in common with this man.  We are all so impatient.  We crave a quick fix to the problem on hand.  We’re in it for the immediate gratification that the world offers because we’re so used to finding an answer elsewhere (even if it’s not the right one) that we go back to the reckless old habit.

David continues by addressing Israel’s history with God and as a result he mentions in verse 5 were not put to shame.”  What’s he doing this for?  Why go backwards?  I think the approach is quite humbly addressed here.  He’s not saying…”well, look what you did for us before…why wouldn’t you help me now.”  No.  He’s stating the grace that was showed those before Him to remind himself that there is hope.  He’s mentioning God’s glory and His power.  He’s giving credit to God and NOT his ancestors.  To say David is whining would be silly.  His lead up to this prayer is a beautiful way to begin a prayer.  Think about the times you’ve been scared or angry about something before you prayed.  How do we usually address God?  Like He was pulled out thin air for the emergency, right? He’s treated like a genie on demand.  Very rarely will you hear anyone who is under stress immediately humbling themselves by addressing God’s faithfulness to His promises in the past.  This is the true mark of a leader and disciple of God’s will.  I found this simple observation incredibly helpful and eye-opening for my prayer life.  Breathe, slow down, and observe God’s goodness past and present to give hope towards the future.  

But I am a worm and not a man,
    scorned by mankind and despised by the people.

Verse 6 is the part that made me do a double-take on Psalm 22.  After I read this I knew I had to write what is going on here.  When someone calls themselves a WORM, a word that usually doesn’t describe a king, you have to wonder.  David was a mighty king and conquered many of Israel’s enemies, but is now referring to himself as a WORM, people!  He even goes further in what appears to be self-flagellation by discounting his status as a man.  THINK ABOUT THIS…I mean REALLY THINK about this.  After he cried out to God for Him to intervene because of His distance from him, David describes God’s goodness in dealing with his ancestors, which is humbling in it’s own right.  Now, David proceeds to defame his own creation?  Not at all.  He is not saying he should have never been born, nor is he saying that God screwed up in his design of him as a man.  Dig deeper.  Grind for these queues in order to garnish the plethora of cognitive realities that David is pouring from his heart.  David is showing to God his willingness to trust God.  He humbles his being by describing himself to be less than God.  I believe C.S. Lewis defined humility the best when he said,

Humble

David is not merely engaging in a defeatist mentality, but rather David is leading up to his admission of his utter dependence that he knows he must have if he is to address the most powerful force in the universe.  What better way to describe yourself humbly and not in a demoralizing way.  He’s NOT beating himself up here.  If he was beating on his character he wouldn’t be a man after God’s own heart.  Far too often we as men we think we have to beat our characters up for God to even consider our prayer, when in reality all He wants is our hearts to realize where they need to fully reside.  Not riding high on the merits of our own accomplishments or our reputation, but crawling low through the soil of life as a worm who keeps chugging along even if he is underground.  I find the use of the word WORM incredibly moving.  In ever version of the Bible I could find the word WORM is not substituted for another similar word.  It’s a very strong character trait of David, a king, to stoop low in subservience to the Creator of the universe yet not defame his creation as a man or his character.  He doesn’t say, “Woe is me, I’m no good because ______fill in the blank.”  That’s not a true prayer.  To further add to his woes it would seem he tells God that the world is against him which would be another affront to God and his Creation. He says “scorned by mankind and despised by the people.” I believe David is feeling the immense pressure of being a leader…of being a king over a nation.  He is scorned and despised.  That is nothing to scoff at in a prayer.  It is actually a good thing to pray for.  Why not cry out to God with a humble spirit and describe what’s hurting you the most?  Isn’t that why we do it?  We cry out our agonies, our fears, our insufficiency, and all of the other things that emasculate our hearts to the God who does not place shame on us for asking for help.  It is not an emasculating thing to humbly say I cannot do this without you.  I believe that is strength, and not just any strength but a God-given strength we must continually pray to receive.  

10 On you was I cast from my birth,
    and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

David acknowledges that God has known him from the beginning.  He tells God he understands that God has made everything he is from the BEGINNING.  What a thing to say to the Creator as a king of a nation.  From the days I couldn’t speak, or provide for myself, YOU, Oh, Lord, have made me for you and your glory.  WOW.  Strong stuff David!

11 Be not far from me,
    for trouble is near,
    and there is none to help.

12 Many bulls encompass me;
    strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
13 they open wide their mouths at me,
    like a ravening and roaring lion.

14 I am poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
    it is melted within my breast;
15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
    and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
    you lay me in the dust of death.

16 For dogs encompass me;
    a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet[b]
17 I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my garments among them,
    and for my clothing they cast lots.

19 But you, O Lord, do not be far off!
    O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
20 Deliver my soul from the sword,
    my precious life from the power of the dog!
21     Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued[c] me from the horns of the wild oxen!

 

Again, I’m not taking anything for surface value in this rugged psalm.  I don’t believe he’s saying there are no armies or soldiers he can conjure up to war against the enemies who seek to destroy him. Nor do I think he’s saying there are no bodyguards to protect him from assassination.  Even further still do I take a gander to believe that he means there is no family around to hear his every issue.  Nope!  Not at all.  He is again admitting that in the fights that no one else can help by listening or giving advice to, David must call on the one and only God of his fathers in order to have an honest conversation of help.  The feeling of helplessness is stemming from the world’s desire to tear him away from his faith and hope in his Creator.  He cries out, “from my mother’s womb you have been my God.”  Reinforcement that he’s been loved by God from DAY 1.  Reinforcement to his prayer for help when NO ONE else can help.  No one can help him the way God can help him, and no one can admit or humble himself to God for David, except DAVID!  I think when we find ourselves in difficult situations it is very easy to reach out to anyone we think can help.  Our wife, our parents, our children, even our pastors, deacons, and elders are targeted for the quick fix or the immediate gratification for the pain to subside.  A kiss from your wife, a hug from your children, a good conversation with your mom or dad, a deep topic discussion with your pastor…all fantastic avenues of help!  But whom do all of these blessings of help come from?  We obtain true help when we realize the One who knew us in the Beginning and will always know our hearts, is the one we rely upon when we feel surrounded and outmaneuvered by the principalities of darkness of this world.

22 I will tell of your name to my brothers;
    in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:

23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
    All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
    and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
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.

25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
    my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
26 The afflicted[d] shall eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek him shall praise the Lord!
    May your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
    and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
    shall worship before you.
28 For kingship belongs to the Lord,
    and he rules over the nations.

29 All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;
    before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
    even the one who could not keep himself alive.

Now David continues by explaining to God that he will not take God’s gifts for himself alone.  What another amazing trait.  Unselfish to the point that he understands he can’t keep God all to himself.  How petty or vindictive would that picture be if he never praised God to other people.  What a greedy king he could have been.  Granted, God probably would not have blessed him, but to think of not thanking someone who loves to help you without telling others so they can experience the same amount of love and affection you’ve been able to experience.  

28 For kingship belongs to the Lord,
    and he rules over the nations.

David knew where the credit was due and didn’t need to address himself as king at all throughout the psalm.  Remember the whole WORM thing…yeah, me too!

29 All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;
    before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
    even the one who could not keep himself alive.

Even the one who could not keep himself alive.  Interesting point to make.  No matter how much we try to show God how good we can take care of ourselves we will never be able to keep ourselves alive.  It’s serves as another reason validation through works without Christ is “filthy rags.”  The death rate since the fall is 100%.

30 Posterity shall serve him;
    it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
31 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
    that he has done it.

David, my friend, you have no idea how very true your words were and how right you are that He has DONE IT.  I would like to claim my life as living proof to David’s ending verse of Psalm 22.  The amount of people the message of salvation and grace has reached since David wrote these verses is more than I think he had in mind when he wrote them.  Even crazier still is the fact that Benjamin Dobert is one of them “…since the very beginning in my mother’s womb.”

 

Blessings

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