A Cry for Salvation
July 05, 2020
Prayer for Illumination:
O God, on earth’s first day you caused light to shine out of darkness. Now flood our hearts with light from your Word. O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, you are the light of the world. As we read and speak and listen, shine in and through us, Jesus. Amen
To the choirmaster: according to The Doe of the Dawn. A Psalm of David.
1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.
3 Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.
4 In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them.
5 To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
6 But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
8 “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”
9 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—
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 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 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.
This is the Word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God.
About 15 years ago, the song “Never Alone” set a record for the longest running number 1 song for Christian Rock. The song laments the singer’s feeling of forsakenness by God but still trusting God is near. The singer sings:
I waited for you today
But you didn’t show, no no no
I needed you today
So where did you go?
You told me to call
Said you’d be there
And though I haven’t seen you
Are you still there?
I cried out with no reply
And I can’t feel you by my side
So I’ll hold tight to what I know
You’re here, and I’m never alone.
Last week we looked at Psalm 7 and saw that we will suffer unjustly but God is a just judge who will execute judgment. What if we suffer but don’t feel God’s presence? What if in our sufferings we feel forgotten and forsaken?
Psalm 22 is a lament where David cries out because he feels forsaken and forgotten by God. We don’t know the situation but David is in extreme suffering. And in his sufferings he feels abandoned by God. But yet he still cries out to God. And ultimately he trusts that God has delivered him from all his enemies and praises God.
This psalm gives us language to express our lament when we wonder if God is still there in our sufferings. As we examine this psalm, we’ll see that believers are not forsaken or forgotten by God. Instead, we can trust that God will remember us because on the cross God the Son was forsaken by God the Father so that the nations will praise him for the salvation found in Christ alone.
Feeling of Forsakenness
The psalm begins with one of the most recognizable cries in all of Scripture. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? 2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.”
David feels as though God has left him. He groans but God is far from saving him. The word “groan” is actually the word to depict a lion’s roar. A lion’s roar is loud. It can be heard for miles. We live in the mountains. Maybe you’ve heard the roar of a mountain lion and know just how loud it is. A few months ago I heard the cry of a pack of coyotes from a mile or two away. The image here is that David is roaring out for God but God doesn’t hear him.
Maybe you’ve felt like that. Maybe you’ve felt as though no matter how loud you roar, God doesn’t hear you. Maybe you felt like that when someone you love was sick. Maybe you felt that way when someone you love was dying. Maybe that’s how you feel today.
Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.
4 In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them.
5 To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
David reminds himself that God has saved his people before. He would have heard of God’s Passover from the time he was little until the day he died every year when they celebrated Passover. David would have been told of how God saved Israel during the time of the Judges.
He trusts that God can save his people. Three times in this stanza, David says the word “trust”. “Our fathers trusted”; “they trusted”; “in you they trusted”. He trusts that God can save him as God has saved his people before. “If we trust God, we may indeed cry out to God when we are in despair. If we trust God, we will cry out to him. Trust is the basis, the reason, for crying out to God. If we did not trust God there would be no point in crying out to him. But since we trust that God is a Sovereign God, who can help us, we can, we should cry out to him.”
And yet that trust that God has saved in the past and can save him now causes confusion. God has saved in the past but he hasn’t saved him.
Maybe you’ve heard of how God has saved others from their sickness and disease but not your or your loved one. Maybe you’ve heard of how God has saved others from the brink of death but not the one you love. And that hurts. It causes confusion.
David’s suffering and forsakenness are not private; they’re known to others. “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!’” They know that David has roared out to God and not heard from him. They know David is suffering and hasn’t been delivered from it by God. So they mock him. They revile him.
They surround him. “Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me; they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion.” He compares his torments with wild animals. Bulls were symbols of power and virility; they were dangerous. That is why Baal, the chief god of the Canaanites, was depicted as a bull. They were saying their god is strong and powerful. That’s why when the Israelites fell into idolatry at Mt. Sinai they made an image of a calf, which is better understood as a bull calf. Bashan was on the eastern side of the Jordan River. It was known for lush farmlands and fields. So the bulls raised there were well fed; they were big and strong.
David is saying his tormentors are as dangerous as a big, raging bull. They are like a ravaging lion, ready to bite. This is a ferocious attack. They are closing in for the kill.
This attack is too much for David. He is terrified. “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; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws”. We might say “he’s weak at the knees” or “he is losing heart”. He’s dying.
The last line of verse 15 is a shock. “You lay me in the dust of death.” The “you” he’s speaking of is God. “You (God) lay me in the dust of death.” The dust of death is reminiscent of Genesis 3:19 where God says that man as a result of sin will return to dust. God, the Sovereign King over all of creation, is sovereign over David’s enemies as well.
David returns to his tormentors in verse 16. He says, “For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet – I can count all of my bones”. His enemies are like a pack of wild, ravenous dogs circling their prey nipping at his hands and feet. He’s close to death. His enemies are gloating over their supposed victory, continuing their mockery from earlier.
As they gloat over David, they cast lots for his clothing. David is king. He would have some of the finest clothes in the land; clothes made of fine silk or linen. His tormentors would have wanted them for themselves.
David then does something unexpected. He moves to praise. “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: 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! 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.”
God has heard David’s cry! He has come near. He has saved David from all who would torment him. God has saved David from those who seek to do evil and see him die. David knows he is not forsaken. He knows that God is near.
Maybe this is you. Maybe you feel forsaken and forgotten by God. Maybe there are people tormenting you for having trusted in God when it seems as though he has abandoned you. Maybe they’ve moved from tormenting you for your faith to attacking you, nipping at your hands and feet.
In your sufferings, God has not forsaken you. Even when you feel as though he has forgotten you, he has not.
The One Who was Forsaken
Believers are not the ones who have been forsaken. God the Son is the one who experienced God the Father’s abandonment. All four of the gospel writers go out of their way to apply this psalm to Jesus. The Roman centurions mocked Jesus. “[T]hey clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. And they began to salute him, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him” (Mark 15:17-20).
Once they had nailed Jesus to the cross, piercing his hands and his feet, the centurions cast lots to determine who would get which piece of clothing. The one piece of clothing that was of any value was Jesus’ tunic. It was seamless. And they didn’t want to tear it to pieces so they cast lots to determine who would get it (John 19:23-24).
While he hung there, passersby would wag their tongues at him. “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross! … He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe” (Mark 15:29, 31-32). Even the robbers on either side of Jesus mocked him (Matt. 27:44).
And if that wasn’t bad enough, on the cross God the Father poured out all of his wrath and hatred for the sin his Church has committed or will ever commit on God the Son. There for a brief moment, the loving communion that had existed between all three persons of the Godhead was no more.
That is why Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” There on the cross, Jesus felt forsaken by God the Father because he was bearing the sins of each and every person who would believe – past, present, and future. All four gospel writers make clear the one who was truly forsaken was Christ.
Why? Why did God the Father forsake God the Son on the cross? Why did Jesus die? Because our greatest enemies and tormentors aren’t nations. Iran, China, ISIS, and others are not our great enemies. Communism and fascism are not our great enemies. Our great enemies are sin and death. Sin and death come after each us. Death circles us, nipping at our hands and feet. Sin condemns us and mocks us saying, “You trust in God? You’ve wandered from his ways. You’ve rebelled against him”. Our great enemies are sin and death.
On the cross, God did something about them. There God swallowed up the veil cast over all peoples (Isaiah 25:7). Through his life, death, and resurrection Jesus defeated sin and death. He died in the place of all who believe. There on the cross Jesus was forsaken so that believers wouldn’t be. Jesus who knew no sin was made to be sin on the cross (2 Cor. 5:21). That is why he was forsaken. He was forsaken because he was bearing the judgment each and every believer deserves to bear. He was forsaken so that we could have access to God through him.
In those moments when we feel forgotten and forsaken by God, know that if you are in Christ you have not been. Jesus was forsaken so that you wouldn’t be. You may not feel his presence, but God is there with you in the midst of your sufferings. He is the friend who sticks closer than a brother (Pro. 18:24b). The Holy Spirit, he will comfort you in those moments. He will remind you of your beloved status in Christ. He will remind you that Jesus was forsaken so that you wouldn’t be. That is what he does.
In those moments when you are suffering and feel as though you are forsaken and forgotten by God, remember that Jesus was forsaken so you wouldn’t be and that Holy Spirit will remind you of what Jesus has done. If you feel as though he has forsaken you, pray. Pray that God will comfort you and make himself known to you. Pray that the Holy Spirit will give you the peace that surpasses all understanding.
Praise for God’s Salvation
Knowing that we have not been forsaken or forgotten, we should be like David and praise God. We are to “proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it”. We are to tell of God’s name; we are to praise him for the salvation found in Jesus Christ. That is why we gather on Sundays. We proclaim the gospel message that God has saved his people in Jesus Christ.
In a few minutes we’ll partake in the Lord’s Supper. Before we even take the elements, we say that we are proclaiming our faith as signed and sealed in this sacrament that Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again. We proclaim our faith in Christ Jesus when we come to the table. We say that we trust has died in our place on the cross. And if you can’t make that profession, that’s why we ask you do not come to the table.
We are not just to praise God the salvation found in Christ when we gather for worship. We are to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ all over the earth to all of the nations. “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you” (v. 27). God’s promise to Abraham, a promise that David is repeating here, is that all the families of the earth will be blessed through Abraham. That blessing for all the families of the earth is the good news of Jesus Christ. We are to proclaim the gospel to all nations and ethnicities.
 BarlowGirl, “Never Alone”, track 3, on BarlowGirl (Nashville; Fervent), 2004.
 Sidney Greidanus, Preaching Christ from the Psalms (Michigan: Eerdmans, 2016). 422.
 Tremper Longman III, Psalms (Illinois; InterVarsity Press, 2014), 129.