Psalm 22:1-221NIV New International Version Translations
1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? 2 My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest. 3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises. 4 In you our ancestors put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. 5 To you they cried out and were saved; in you they trusted and were not put to shame. 6 But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people. 7 All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads. 8 “He trusts in the Lord,” they say, “let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.” 9 Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast. 10 From birth I was cast on you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God. 11 Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help. 12 Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. 13 Roaring lions that tear their prey open their mouths wide against me. 14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted within me. 15 My mouth is dried up like a potsherd2a pottery fragment usually unearthed as an archaeological relic, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. 16 Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet. 17 All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me. 18 They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment. 19 But you, Lord, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me. 20 Deliver me from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs. 21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen. 22 I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise you.
We do not know when David wrote this psalm but the first half of the Psalm, the part this study is focused on is definitely sad. Verses 1 and 2 tell us that David was in agony. We do not know where or what the pain was. Perhaps it was all over his body. He asked God for help. God did not answer. David thinks that God has forgotten him! But David remembered in verses 3 – 5 that God always gave help. He gave help to the fathers of Israel. This means that to all the Jews that lived before David, God took care of them. This, again, made David sad. God always gave help to his people so why didn’t God give help to David? So the psalm begins, “Why have you forsaken me?”
The Spirit of Christ, which we find in the prophets, testifies in this psalm, clearly and fully, to the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that would follow. Psalm 22 is sometimes called “the Psalm of the Cross.” Here, we find David making a sorrowful complaint of God’s withdrawing. This ca be applied to any child of God, when pressed down, overwhelmed with grief and terror. Spiritual desertions are our worst afflictions. But even when we complain of our burdens, we are exercising our spiritual life. To cry out, “My God, why am I sick? Why am I poor?” This clearly shows our discontent and worldliness. But to cry out, “Why has God forsaken me?” is the language of a heart bound up in its happiness in God’s favor.
We can apply to Christ. In the first words of this complaint, he poured out his soul before God when he was upon the cross, (Matthew 27:464About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).). Being truly man, Christ felt a natural unwillingness to pass through these great sorrows, yet His zeal and love for His Father prevailed. Christ declared the holiness of God, His heavenly Father, in his sharpest sufferings; this declaration is a proof of it.
In these verses we have Christ suffering, and Christ praying; by which we are directed to look for crosses, and then to look up to God while we are under them. The very manner of Christ’s death is described here too. They pierced his hands and his feet, which were nailed to the accursed tree, and his whole body was left so to hang as to suffer the most severe pain and torture. His natural forces failed while being subjected to human suffering under the watchful eye of God Himself. Who then can stand before God’s anger? Who knows the power or limits of His anger? The life of the sinner is forfeited, and the life of the Sacrifice becomes the ransom for it. Our Lord Jesus was stripped, when he was crucified, that he might clothe us with the robe of his own righteousness.
Christ in his agony prayed, prayed earnestly, prayed that the cup might pass from Him. When we cannot rejoice in God as our song, we still must rely upon him as our strength; and take the comfort of spiritual supports, when we cannot have spiritual delights.
Christ closes these verses speaking as if He is already risen from the dead. The first words of the Psalm were used by Christ himself upon the cross so are the first words of the triumph that we can expressly apply to Christ (Hebrews 2:125He says, “I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters; in the assembly I will sing your praises.”). All our praises should refer to the work of redemption always remembering that the suffering of Christ was graciously accepted as a full payment for our sins. The fact that Christ was offered for sinful men and God, Himself, did not despise or abhor it as our salvation, should always be viewed as our thanksgiving. Every humble, gracious soul should be fully satisfied and happy in Christ.
It is in comfort that all should hunger and thirst after righteousness in and through Christ, not laboring for that which will never satisfy.
Items for Discussion
- What are the kinds of life experiences might a person have that leaves them feeling God has left them, forsaken them?
- Can you think of some positive things that have come from times of lament (times when we feel abandoned by God)?
- Is it OK to complain to God, to ask Him whether He has abandoned you, not heard your prayers?
- How do people overcome the feelings of being forsaken?
- In what ways does suffering, feeling forsaken by God, affect our understanding of God’s relationship to the world?
- How does that same suffering, affect our relationship with our God?
- Do believers in Christ, overcome feelings like these differently than non-believers?
- What could we conclude about David’s Psalm and its foretelling of Christ’s own words while on the Cross? What could we conclude about Christ Himself? (David preceded Christ by a 1,000 years)
- If Christianity cannot exist without suffering then what is our role in this world when we see suffering?
- 1NIV New International Version Translations
- 2a pottery fragment usually unearthed as an archaeological relic
- 4About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
- 5He says, “I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters; in the assembly I will sing your praises.”