Have you ever felt forsaken by God? Did you know that David – the shepherd boy, king of Israel and man after God’s own heart – felt forsaken by God and wrote down his thoughts and feelings for us to read? Did you also know that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, cried out the first words of the Psalm that David wrote as he died on the cross for our sins?
I have read through this Psalm several times since last April. I am comforted knowing that both David and Jesus experienced the awful feeling of being forsaken by God the Father. Jesus of course experienced this separation from the Father as he took on our sin. As we share in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings, we are further transformed into his image if we submit to the process.
Let us walk through the words of this Psalm together:
To the chief Musician upon Aijeleth Shahar, A Psalm of David.
(1) My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?
According to Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34, these first words were uttered by Jesus Christ, as he died on the cross for our sins. Can you imagine being the Son of God, having spent eternity past with both the Father and the Holy Spirit, coming to earth as a man and being crucified for our sins, experiencing the judgment of God that we deserve? Just as the lyrics to that great hymn How Great Thou Art proclaim, I echo that “I scarce can take it in.”
(2) O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.
Have you ever cried out to God and seemingly received no reply? Again, David experienced the same loneliness.
(3) But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.
(4) Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them.
(5) They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.
Notice how David recounts God’s past faithfulness to his ancestors. In the same way, when we experience despair and abandonment, we should meditate on God’s faithfulness to us and others through history and also on His mercy extended to redeem our souls.
(6) But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.
(7) All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,
(8) He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.
Again, these words were fulfilled as the religious leaders mocked Jesus as he hung on the cross (see the similar words recorded in Matthew 27:43 and Luke 23:35).
(9) But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother’s breasts.
(10) I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother’s belly.
(11) Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.
(12) Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round.
(13) They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion.
Have you ever felt surrounded by the armies of darkness? I have – and we can take comfort in knowing that we are not the only saints to experience persecution from the enemies of our souls.
(14) I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.
(15) My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.
(16) For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.
(17) I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me.
(18) They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.
Again, we can picture Christ hanging on the cross, his flesh beaten and broken and his hands (or wrists) and feet pierced with nails. We know that the Roman soldiers cast lots for his garments (see Mark 15:24 and John 19:24).
(19) But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me.
(20) Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog.
(21) Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.
(22) I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.
If we are sanctified by him, Jesus is not ashamed to call us his brethren (see Hebrews 2:11-12). How amazing to think that the King of the Universe considers us his brothers and sisters!
(23) Ye that fear the LORD, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel.
(24) For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.
God does hear the cry of the afflicted, even if it does not seem as if He does.
(25) My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him.
(26) The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever.
(27) All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee.
(28) For the kingdom is the LORD’S: and he is the governor among the nations.
(29) All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul.
(30) A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.
(31) They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.
I appreciate how David ends this Psalm by declaring the majesty and power of the Lord. From despair and dejection, he proceeds to exclaim the faithfulness of our God. May we, in our weakest and darkest moments, always remember that God loves and shepherds his children. Perhaps, this reflection led David to write the next Psalm in our Bible:
A Psalm of David.
(1) The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
(2) He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
(3) He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
(4) Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
(5) Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
(6) Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.