Psalm 22 – Gone God

Bible opened to Psalm 22 with Justin's organic white chocolate peanut butter cups

Today’s passage: Psalm 22

Today’s chocolate: Justin’s White Chocolate Organic Peanut Butter Cups

Look what came in the mail yesterday!

mail from Justin's nut butters   photographed coupon for Justin's peanut butter cups

I reached out to the cool folks at Justin’s nut butters and peanut butter cups, and they hooked me up with a coupon. Thanks, cool folks at Justin’s! I enjoyed your white chocolate peanut butter cups today.

close-up of Justin's organic white chocolate peanut butter cups on snowman plate

 

You likely know today’s passage, Psalm 22, as the psalm whose first line Jesus quoted on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It’s also known for containing several Messianic prophecies. It describes David under pressure, surrounded by enemies, suffering and troubled, a common subject for his psalms. But it’s also a psalm of reorientation, and it comes to a place of hope at the end.

A recurring theme of the psalm is God’s proximity contrasted with his seeming distance. Just look at the opening verses:

My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?
Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning.
O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer;
And by night, but I have no rest. (1-2)

God’s presence is associated with rescue and response to David’s plea. You might take the psalm as questioning whether God is omnipresent: if God is really right there with David, why isn’t he answering his cry, and why isn’t he coming to his rescue like he did with David’s faithful predecessors (v.4-5)? David is not experiencing God as he did previously. He’s disoriented.

David casts his prayers as a plea for God’s presence. He writes, “Be not far from me, for trouble is near; for there is none to help” (11), and he later echoes the petition, “But You, O Lord, be not far off; O You my help, hasten to my assistance” (19). If God is there, he can make a difference, he can do something. And I was going to try to get through this post without quoting X Ambassadors’ “Unsteady,” but David’s “O Lord, be not far off” can’t help but remind me of the first line of “Unsteady’s” first verse: “Mother, come near; approach, appear.” If you want to hear in music how David feels here, I recommend “Unsteady.” The lyrics may not exactly parallel the passage, but it feels anxious, hollow, desperate, much like I expect David felt.

But throughout the psalm, David never despairs, never quits asking God to rescue him, and by the end, he moves into praise, apparently without even having been rescued yet. He promises God, “I will tell of Your name to my brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will praise You” (22), and it’s not a bargain struck with strings attached. David simply jumps into worship, and urges his countrymen to do the same. The reason he gives is simple: “For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, nor has He hidden His face from him; but when he cried to Him for help, He heard” (24). David is still, as far as I can tell, surrounded by enemies and suffering. But God is here now–and maybe he’s been here all along.

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