My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? (v.1)
It was a somber day. The air chilling; death inevitable; hate abounding. Christ is hanging on the cross. He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:8) He is seeking the Father’s face, but for a brief moment in time, heaven has turned away. Jesus feels the despair of being separated from the Father. He is nailed to the tree to bridge that gap for all mankind. In His suffering, Jesus reaches back almost one-thousand years to the prophetic Psalm of David:
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”. (Matt 27:46 ESV)
Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning. (v.1)
Jesus felt the separation from the Father when He took the sin of the world on His shoulders. It felt as though God was far away. It feels like that for us, too, sometimes in the midst of our anguish.
O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer;
And by night, but I have no rest.
Yet You are holy,
O You who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel. (vv. 2-3)
Many times we suffer through trials and the heavens seem as brass. Sleep is lost to the tossing and turning, the writhing of the hands, the swirling of the thoughts. But we, like David, must remind ourselves of who God is. He is always faithful.
In You our fathers trusted;
They trusted and You delivered them.
To You they cried out and were delivered;
In You they trusted and were not disappointed. (vv.4-5)
David begins by declaring His trust in the faithfulness of the Lord, but then in the same breath exempts himself:
But I am a worm and not a man,
A reproach of men and despised by the people.
All who see me sneer at me;
They separate with the lip, they wag the head, saying,
“Commit yourself to the Lord; let Him deliver him;
Let Him rescue him, because He delights in him” (vv. 6-8).
These words are prophetic and evoke the events at the cross that day. These words ring familiar from Matthew’s gospel:
He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him… (27:43 ESV).
Don’t buy the lie that God delivered the patriarchs but ignores your cries. When God seems silent, it does not mean He is far away. He is calling you into fellowship with Him. Do you trust Him? Is He faithful? Is He far away? Do you believe in Him? He is deep calling to deep…
David in the midst of his despair, remembers yet again the God of his fathers. He remembers the journey in which God has brought him. Yes, God is faithful even when He seems silent. I may not be able to trace Him in the silence, but I can trust Him. I can trust Him by remembering how far He has already brought me…
Yet You are He who brought me forth from the womb;
You made me trust when upon my mother’s breasts.
Upon You I was cast from birth;
You have been my God from my mother’s womb. (vv.9-10)
Before you were born, He was your God. He has a plan and a purpose for you. He did not bring you this far only to fail you now. He will not let you drown:
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you. (Isaiah 43:2 NASB)
Believers are not immune to trouble. Jesus promised that trouble should be expected. But He also promised that He has already overcome it. (John 16:33) He made that promise so that we will have peace. The Lord is only a prayer away. He may not calm the storm, but He may calm you in the midst of it. He wants us to know that He is our anchor. He is our strong tower. He is a refuge for all that come to Him.
Be not far from me, for trouble is near;
For there is none to help.
Many bulls have surrounded me;
Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled me.
They open wide their mouth at me,
As a ravening and a roaring lion.
I am poured out like water,
And all my bones are out of joint;
My heart is like wax;
It is melted within me.
My strength is dried up like a potsherd,
And my tongue cleaves to my jaws;
And You lay me in the dust of death.
For dogs have surrounded me;
A band of evildoers has encompassed me;
They pierced my hands and my feet.
I can count all my bones.
They look, they stare at me;
They divide my garments among them,
And for my clothing they cast lots.
But You, O Lord, be not far off;
O You my help, hasten to my assistance.
Deliver my soul from the sword,
My only life from the power of the dog.
Save me from the lion’s mouth;
From the horns of the wild oxen
You answer me. (vv. 11-21)
These words of misery and anguish are attributed to the Messiah, and though they seem hopeless, they are far from it. This prose paints a vivid picture of what Jesus endured on that cross, and it would seem that He felt that God had forsaken Him. We feel that way when we are enduring a trial or a hard season. The loneliness is unbearable at times. It must have been for Christ as well:
For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)
Christ in all His anguish still trusted in God, even in the moment that He turned away. He still in the end, committed His spirit into the hands of the Father. He knew the dark and the loneliness would be only a moment in time.
Though this poetry has Messianic implications, don’t overlook the poet that penned these words ~ David. He, too, is in anguish, surrounded by many who seek to harm him, and their mocking is unrelenting. But like Christ our ultimate example, David reaches past the darkness and anguish and finds words of praise and worship. He recalls the faithfulness of God through the ages. He reminds Israel to stand in awe of Him.
Read the remaining verses with awe and meditate on His magnificence. He is worthy of all glory honor and power. Cast all your cares on Him. Give Him all your trouble. Praise Him for His deliverance past, present, and future. He is faithful. He is trustworthy. He is glorious and mighty. He is beautiful. He is spectacular.
I will tell of Your name to my brethren;
In the midst of the assembly I will praise You.
You who fear the Lord, praise Him;
All you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him,
And stand in awe of Him, all you descendants of Israel.
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.
From You comes my praise in the great assembly;
I shall pay my vows before those who fear Him.
The afflicted will eat and be satisfied;
Those who seek Him will praise the Lord.
Let your heart live forever!
All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord,
And all the families of the nations will worship before You.
For the kingdom is the Lord’s
And He rules over the nations.
All the prosperous of the earth will eat and worship,
All those who go down to the dust will bow before Him,
Even he who cannot keep his soul alive.
Posterity will serve Him;
It will be told of the Lord to the coming generation.
They will come and will declare His righteousness
To a people who will be born, that He has performed it.
(vv. 22-31 NASB)
He does not despise the afflicted, but when we cried unto Him for help, He heard.
May we never lose our wonder.