April 25 – Devotion Sharing (Psalm 22)

Submitted by Jackie H. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Psalm 22

Key verses:

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

Why are you so far from saving me,

so far from the words of my groaning?

10 From birth I was cast upon you;

from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

11 Do not be far from me

“My God my God why have you forsaken me?” These are the very words Jesus quoted from the Scripture as he hung crucified on the cross. The sentiment expressed by David’s psalm, echoed by our Lord Jesus, is that intense sense of agony for being separated from God. These words reveal the level of honesty and openness and vulnerability David comes to God with, even words of blaming, his most honest raw emotions of bitterness and doubts toward God. Through this prayer David shows me that I don’t need to come to God always feeling like I need to have “the right words” to say, but that I can be fully honest before God in prayer, crying out to God my anger, frustration, anxieties, fears, worries and confusion.

Also, the cry to God “do not be far from me” is repeated throughout the psalm. It also demonstrates the intimate relationship shared between the psalmist and God and the psalmist’s total dependency on God to the degree that being apart from God or God’s turning away from him would be such an emotionally agonizing experience. This intense sentiment of “do not be far from me” strikes me in two ways. First, I can relate to and also need to always have this cry in my heart for God to be near me during times of spiritual crisis, confusion, numbness, trouble, difficulties, facing temptations and struggles. When I am tempted by the world’s allures to achieve more, to seek pleasure and comfort, to exalt and enlarge myself, to pursue my selfish ambition and vanity, to save myself, I need to cry out with desperation for God’s truth to guard me against temptation and to help me stand firm against the natural pull of my sinful nature and the shouts of the world. When I am blinded by my own pride and sinful desires and cannot see my sins clearly, I need to cry out for God’s wisdom to provide clarity in my thinking and to pierce through the layers of callousness in my heart. When I fail to honor God in my fight against persistent sins, I need to cry out for God’s mercy and forgiveness to cleanse me and for God’s gracious nth chances. When I feel weak, weary, and burdened with the sins and troubles of others, I need to turn to God to cast my burdens upon Him, and to cry out for His comfort and for strength. When the future is uncertain and I am full of fears and anxieties, I need to cry out for God’s strength and for God to help me cling onto his promises, character and unfailing love. Oh Lord, please do not be far from me! Secondly, I see that this kind of intimate relationship between the psalmist and God is what I desire and what I need to strive for. I need to grow in my dependency on God that the presence of God and the word of God is absolutely indispensible in my life.

6 But I am a worm and not a man,

The psalmist describes his feeling of being like a worm as he was surrounded and mocked by his enemies. This sense of being “a worm and not a man” may represent what sin, which is the enemy, does to people; sin dehumanizes, causes people to become beasts deprived of humanity, and robs people of their dignity. Sin enslaves us and causes us to rebel against God; sin controls our bodies and behavior. Sin beats us up and leaves us feeling powerless, hopeless and worthless. Sin prevents us from seeking God; sin keeps us earth-bound and tied to the temporary pleasures and things of this world.

God is …

·       V. 3 “enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel”

·       VV.4-5 trustworthy, dependable, faithful, compassionate and mighty to save “in you our fathers put their trust; you trusted and you delivered them. They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed”

·       V.24 The compassionate and mighty deliverer who is near us “for he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help”.

·       VV. 27-31 Deserving of praises and worship of all the earth.

Lessons for me …

I can be fully honest in my prayers to God. In my prayers, I can cry out to God and tell God exactly what’s in my heart without feeling like I need to embellish my words and say the “right things”. In my prayers, I can have honest dialogues with God and grow in intimacy in my relationship with Him and grow in child-like trust and dependency on Him. And God will listen to my prayers and he will not condemn or reject me.

My sins can beat me up and ruin the blessings that God wants to pour into my life. My sins can rob me of any senses and turn me from God’s image-bearer into a base creature without humanity. My sins can harden my heart against God and blind me to see my desperate need for Him. My sins are real and ever-present and I stand no chance facing my sins on my own. Therefore, I must learn to rely on God to defend me in the face of Satan and my sins. I need to always draw ever closer to God and his truth and always cry out to Him and turn to Him. I need to remain near God, which means to remain near His word and his people. Though I fall prey to temptation and sin over and over, though I am weak and let my sinful nature overtake me, though I am full of pride and fears, God is merciful and compassionate and he will not leave me beaten up by sin. God is my defender and deliverer. He knows my sins and weaknesses and he will hear me when I call. This is the unchanging trustworthy nature of God that I can always cling onto even during times when I feel like God is silent and not there. I need to keep turning to God, cry out to him, trust that He is for me and He is sovereign.

Prayer

Father, thank you for your everlasting love and unending mercy for me. Lord, forgive me for the times when I keep my feelings and problems to myself, trying to resolve them on my own instead of turning to you. Lord, forgive me for the times when I compartmentalize my emotional world and my prayers. Lord, I commit to coming before you honestly unloading what’s on my heart and my mind. Lord, there are times when I cry out injustices to you, when I cry out, “Don’t you see how hard this is God? Why did you let this happen to me?” and when I pour out my bitterness and resentment to you accusing you for not caring about my desires and needs. But Lord, now I see that so often the truth is that I cannot blame anyone but myself for where I end up. Lord, the truth is that it’s not that you are abandoning me and being far away from me, but it’s that I had chosen to rebel against your word and your boundaries, I had gotten myself into those miseries. Father, help me to remain near you because the truth is that I desperately need your protection against temptations and my sins. Lord, help me stay near you for your word is my safeguard, for you Lord can rescue me from the mouth of the lions and save me from the horns of the wild oxen. “I will declare your name to my brothers; in the congregation I will praise you. For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.” In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen

Submitted by Tim S. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Psalm 22

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Words which shock, which should almost offend the outward piety I might otherwise want to display, if these had not been taken up by Jesus himself on the cross.  Of course, God is a loving God, and a loving God doesn’t forsake his children, right?  Of course God wishes me well, wishes me health, wealth, good fortunes in my career, good fortunes in my life in general, easy parking spots, no car accidents, good cholesterol, high pay, low stress, and the attention of the opposite gender, right?  But these truer words in this Psalm, recalled by Jesus, are words that I know and identify with, though simultaneously understanding that my situation isn’t even all that bad and yet these words are still heard by God with compassion.  This world, and the attempt to be faithful living within it is such that this kind of cry is what will emerge if we are closely following Jesus.  “They will treat you this way because of my name, because they do not know the One who sent me.”  What does it mean to take up the cross and follow?  Here in this psalm, the crucifixion was foreseen–it was part of your plan, it was what you set your face resolutely toward: here, in this place, are pierced hands and feet, shame, insult, mockery, starvation, exposure, forsakenness–this is what Jesus invites the faithful to.  Maybe I’ve listened to too many Christian pop songs that sound more romantic than devotional, but I still do find these words so troubling, Lord.  Why do you want to invite me to this kind of place–a place where there is so much suffering and shame such that I might believe I am even forsaken by you, Lord?

“Yet…” There is a “yet” to consider still: “you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel.  In you our fathers put their trust…”  For whatever complaint I have, I know God is faithful– he was faithful to those before me, who was faithful in my own life while I was still a vulnerable child, faithful through the majority of my life when I was hostile towards him, and faithful now, even in whatever trouble might seem more real to my eyes right now.  God’s faithfulness is not of the sort that would isolate me from trouble–his faithfulness is a delivering faithfulness.  That, of course, means he will not spare me from those situations where I would cry out for deliverance– rather, he works according to his wisdom–a cross shaped wisdom.  His wisdom prays, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” in the midst of being mocked, “He trusts in the Lord, let the Lord rescue him.”  It’s to this fellowship that you are inviting me, Lord: that after Jesus, nailed to the cross, mocked and humiliated, with the last of his meager earthly possessions wagered upon while he hung there, gave himself up to obedience to death, yet you exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name.  “For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one.”

Father, I know that you delight in this: in making streams in the wasteland, in making pines and myrtles spring from briers and thorns, in choosing the things that are not to humble the things that are!  And remembering that these things are true, help me to boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, help me to take up my cross and follow understanding fully what “cross” actually means, help me to be ready to bear the particular shame of being a Christian in a post-Christian society, of not living up to worldly expectations, both internal and external.  And even as I am too weak to commit to these things, even knowing that this is how you work in the world and this is what kind of life you told me I would have, “O Lord, be not far off; O my strength, come quickly to help me.”  I do not need to listen to the calls of save yourself, because you are the one who will save me.  And as much as my heart complains and groans, I will worship you and remember you; I will praise you because you are my God who listens.  Though I do not see it with my eyes, I know that you are the LORD of all–dominion belongs to you alone, and all the seeming defeat and hopelessness can be redeemed by you.  And let me understand your joy and the beauty of the works of your hands in this way: who will know you are at work for seeing streams flowing through streams?  How will I know your strength is helping me if I am never weak to the point of needing it?  How will I see your deliverance if never needing to be delivered?  But gain glory for yourself Lord, and invite me closer into the fellowship of becoming like your son in his death.

Submitted by Richard T. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Psalm 22

24    For he has not despised or disdained

the suffering of the afflicted one;

he has not hidden his face from him

but has listened to his cry for help.

25    From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;

before those who fear you will I fulfill my vows.

God has a history of saving man that the psalmist notes. God was faithful to his forefathers when they put their trust in him. This reminds me that God has been faithful to the people who have trusted him. This makes me think of the many people who have gone before me that have put their trust in God in practical measure and received much more than they thought they would. I need to remember God’s faithfulness to his people, appreciate the sacrifice people have made out of their trust in God’s ultimate goodness, and be inspired by those who have exercised greater faith. These are those who comprise the great cloud of witnesses in my life. I think of David Landsborough, the Scottish missionary who came to Taiwan in the late 19th century and converted my great-grandfather to the faith. This faith was passed down to my grandfather who became a moral objector to the political situation in Taiwan, to my father, and now to me. This man came to Taiwan because of his faith in God and his conviction that Taiwan was where God wanted him to be. He suffered years of tropical illness, the loss of his child and a lower standard of living to bring the gospel to the Taiwanese people, including my grandfather. I think also about Chuck Colson, who recently passed away. His contribution to Christiandom involved sacrifice and commitment as he poured his heart out and worked so hard to bolster and build the kingdom of God through his various ministries. And I think of the many people who helped build this church. This church was built on the sacrifices of many who gave their time, energy, money and resources that could have been used building their own lives and strengthening their own families, but instead, they built this church of which I have become such an immense beneficiary. As I think about all the people who have gone before me trusting in the gospel and to whom God had been faithful, I can put my present situation with all its difficulties and uncertainties in proper perspective. Certainly, it doesn’t change my situation.  It doesn’t soften people whose hearts are hardened to the gospel.  It doesn’t make life any more certain or under control, and it certainly doesn’t ease the spiritual battle that is happening over the people in this ministry.  It gives me the encouragement to keep trusting in God and doing what I need to do to respond to the gospel and God’s love that has come to me in my specific time, place and situation. I can trust God in my particular situation considering the many people who have trusted God before and found him faithful.

God has been faithful to me in my life.  He has taken me and protected me from living a selfish life committed only to my desires and my ambitions, and given me a full life with people to love and the opportunity to be part of genuine community. Thinking about what my life would have been like, I realize that I would have lived a narrow, small life focused on my career and all the empty pursuits of significance and pleasure that the world had to offer. But God took me out of a life of empty pursuits and saved me from my sins, giving me the opportunity to live with an eternal perspective, giving and serving for the sake of people’s eternal lives. Over the years, God has proved his trustworthiness and been my God. Through college, serving as a missionary in a foreign country, law school, unemployment and marriage, God has proved faithful and his word has come alive to me. As I think about this psalm, I think also about this past Sunday’s message. The psalmist describes the power of one’s testimony in times of difficulty and despair. As the psalmist suffers from those around him, he is led to remember God’s enduring faithfulness in his life from the very beginning. He recalls how God has protected and saved him, and I realize how remembering my testimony is able to bring me back to the joy of salvation, which prevents me from despair in any situation. In many ways, my life is out of my control, and so, I need to come back to my testimony again and again and stay close to the gospel in my life to prevent despair from taking root in my heart when it comes to my struggle against sin or whatever difficult situation I find myself in.

God is always for my good, which is a truth I can hold to and in which I can always place my trust. There may be times in my life in which I feel perplexed and deserted by the people around me. As the psalmist describes, there are times that ministry can be draining–when people don’t respond, or respond negatively to your words, or hold on stubbornly to their own views and question your heart and motivations. When people who I’ve invested in still reserve themselves out of mistrust and regress in their relationship with me, the church and/or God, I can feel like the psalmist– poured out without any energy left to give, lacking heart and desire to give to others, dry and brittle as clay and unwilling to speak for fear of the recourse. Yet, I can take comfort from the fact that God is not far off and will supply the strength that I need. With this in mind, I can continue to give and love others because I know that I do not minister out of my own strength, but have the resources God gives to love others.

In the end, God is worthy of all my praise and it is his name that I will proclaim in light of his love, goodness and faithfulness. God will prove faithful, if not in this life, than in the eternity that I will experience after this life is through. In life and after, God hears the cry of the afflicted and does not love his people from a distance. His heart is fully engaged in the suffering of his people, and I can trust in his faithfulness for my life just as he has been faithful to me in the past and many others before me. My response is to fulfill my vows in the presence of those who worship God. This means persevering in my faith and loving the people God places in my life regardless of their response. It means working hard to build God’s kingdom and serving the people around me, just as many of those in the cloud of witnesses who have gone before me have done in their own lives. I look forward to that day when we will all be able to worship God together in heaven, and I pray that I can live such a life so as to not be ashamed to stand in their presence after having faithfully served God for the time God has given me here. Regardless of how my life turns, I have committed to living a life of love, and I pray that I can fulfill this vow to the very end and be faithful to the God who has and always will be faithful to me.

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