Jesus Creed

AbandBoat.jpgAs John Goldingay [Psalms 1]  puts it, Psalm 22 weaves in and out of possibility, the efficacy of prayer, the necessity of praising God and the present needs of the psalmist. This is a famous psalm because Jesus quotes from it on the cross when he says the words that open the psalm: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Because this psalm ends on the note of praise, many have suggested that when Jesus said those words he implied the ending, so the words of Jesus were not despairing but an experience of grief buckled to the knowledge of God’s deliverance. Goldingay doesn’t see the psalm that way. Instead, he sees it as one continuous set of reflections: both grief and praise, not grief then praise.

Alongside this observation of Goldingay’s I make this one: it has become customary, if not almost popular, to say that Jews knew their Bibles so well that they could quote one line or two from something and imply the whole. Which is true, on both accounts: yes, they knew their Bibles and yes they could imply the whole. But that doesn’t mean every time they quote a line they imply the whole. Only the contexts can tell us that. Often this suggestion is overcooked.
The experience of the psalmist is one of abandonment, or at least perceived abandonment. It is important here to think through what this says: this does not say so much that God abandons but that God’s non-answer to the psalmist’s particular request, because that request was not answered as hoped, means God has “abandoned.” So, abandonment doesn’t mean God has somehow become distant or even non-omni-present, but that God has not answered the prayer as the psalmist wanted it.
Many of us experience this at times: What we hoped God would do, what we wanted God would do, what we trusted God to do, God did not do.  Here are words for those who experience such abandonment:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? 
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
and by night, but find no rest.
Abandonment, however, does not stop the psalmist from standing before God in prayer. The question is not philosophical; it is almost a stubborn statement that the psalmist will pray to God anyway.

Psa. 22:0   To the leader: according to The Deer of the Dawn. A Psalm of David. 
1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? 
2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
and by night, but find no rest.
Psa. 22:3   Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel. 
4 In you our ancestors trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them. 
5 To you they cried, and were saved;
in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.
Psa. 22:6   But I am a worm, and not human;
scorned by others, and despised by the people. 
7 All who see me mock at me;
they make mouths at me, they shake their heads; 
8 “Commit your cause to the LORD; let him deliver–
let him rescue the one in whom he delights!”
Psa. 22:9   Yet it was you who took me from the womb;
you kept me safe on my mother’s breast. 
10 On you I was cast from my birth,
and since my mother bore me you have been my God. 
11 Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.
Psa. 22:12   Many bulls encircle me,
strong bulls of Bashan surround me; 
13 they open wide their mouths at me,
like a ravening and roaring lion.
Psa. 22:14   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 mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.
Psa. 22:16   For dogs are all around me;
a company of evildoers encircles me.
My hands and feet have shriveled; 
17 I can count all my bones.
They stare and gloat over me; 
18 they divide my clothes among themselves,
and for my clothing they cast lots.
Psa. 22:19   But you, O LORD, do not be far away!
O my help, come quickly to my aid! 
20 Deliver my soul from the sword,
my life from the power of the dog! 
21 Save me from the mouth of the lion!
 From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me. 
22 I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters;
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;
stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! 
24 For he did not despise or abhor
the affliction of the afflicted;
he did not hide his face from me,
but heard when I cried to him.
Psa. 22:25   From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will pay before those who fear him. 
26 The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the LORD.
May your hearts live forever!
Psa. 22:27   All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the LORD;
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before him. 
28 For dominion belongs to the LORD,
and he rules over the nations.
Psa. 22:29   To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down;
before him shall bow all who
go down to the dust,
and I shall live for him. 
30 Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord, 
31 and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,
saying that he has done it.
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