“‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'”
JULY 6, 2022
Justin Holcomb: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ Let’s talk about it, on Key Life.
This is Key Life. We’re here to communicate the freeing truth that God’s not mad at his children. Steve invited our friend Justin Holcomb to teach us all this week. Justin is a priest, seminary professor, and he’s written, co-authored or edited more than 20 books.
Justin Holcomb: Thank you Matthew. My name is Justin Holcomb. And I have the privilege this week of teaching through some of the most powerful and poignant Psalms we have in the Scriptures. I’m convinced that the deepest message of the Bible is God’s mercy and patience toward those who sin and those who suffer and sin and suffering usually go together. And so the Psalms where we’ve been looking at are addressing the suffering of threat and pain and wondering about God’s faithfulness and crying out for deliverance. And these are important because we have a tendency to theologically edit our suffering and find a way to call it certain things, like well it’s my cross to bear and I really must deserve it, as if God is just looking for a reason to do some karma on us. Or we’re worried that we’re somehow a bother that God’s got more important things to do than deal with, you know, my negative emotions that don’t look like faith and seem more like doubt. And the Psalms provoke us out of that way of thinking cause the Psalms, there’s 150 of them, but they are filled with songs of confusion and doubt and heartache. And there is some joy, but we’re looking at the Psalms of complaint, the Psalms of accusation because our natural impulse is to deny those painful emotions. And the Psalms expose them to us, to others and to the safest place, god. So, today we’re looking at Psalm 22, both because of its intensity, its clarity, but because this is one that Jesus applied to himself when he was on the cross. And that just stands out as something that we might want to give our attention to. Have you ever wondered or even demanded to know that God is really there, that he truly sees you in your distress? You probably have. And if so, you’re in good company, Psalm 22 contain some of the most heart wrenching cries to God recorded and all of the Psalms and they come from the man, God himself said is the one that, you know, is a man after my own heart, I Samuel 13, verse 14. A man after my own heart is writing this Psalm. In Psalm 22, God himself is perceived as if he is on trial. And David asks will God remain faithful? This is the plea of a believer who wonders where God is. It is a Psalm in which the Psalmist in the throws of injustice wonders if God himself will be faithful to his promises. This Psalm is a Psalm and three movements, and we’ll look briefly at each one. The first movement is asking the question is God faithful? Is verses one through 18, and this is a point of conflict. It has dark notes of pain, bewilderment and betrayal, David, most likely compose this Psalm while on the run from Saul who was after him. So the Psalm begins in a very dark place.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, I find no rest.
David had been promised the throne of Israel and the protection of God, yet he spent the last few years of his life on the run as a fugitive. So David expressing the very cry of Jesus on the cross addresses god, why have you forsaken me? To David, it seemed like God had forsaken him and forgotten his promise. David’s trouble never seemed to end. And it seemed that God had stopped paying attention. David basically says this situation I’m in is out of character with what I know about you, God. Over the next few verses David compares his situation and character to that of Israel in verses four through six.
In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame. But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
So, David’s next question is why, if you redeemed Israel out of Egypt in her slavery, have you forgotten me? And his frustration mounts in verses nine through eleven.
Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust in you at my mother’s breasts. On you I was cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God. But be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help.
The Psalm then relays David’s resignation and vivid imagery. He says.
I am poured out like water, starving to death.
David has nothing left to hold out. His enemies surround him like lions and dogs. And this movement concludes with a final cry of a dying man pleading for God to deliver. David has made his argument and can do no more. He must now wait on God’s answer. And this movement should be the heart cry of every believer in the pit of suffering. There’s nothing wrong with the tension of asking, God, will you be faithful? Because often this question will drive us to worship and anticipate the future action of God. It’s a part of worship. However, worshipers find hope when they remember the past actions of God, just like David did. The second movement is the resolution to the conflict that God in fact is faithful, verses 19 through 26. This has bright major chords of rejoicing and freedom. Just when it seems that God has truly gone silent, David’s tone changes. There’s no comment as to whether or not David received the redemption for which he longed, but he does hear express confidence that God will be faithful to his word. The deliverance found here in verse 20 forms the foundation of David’s praise.
Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog!
In the conclusion of this movement verses 24 through 26 is rather simple, despite the terror of the previous 18 verses, verses one through 18, the afflicted can trust God for deliverance. And his deliverance should prompt obedience. Just as God was faithful to his promise, David promises faithfulness to his own promise. Worship then is the beginning of obedience, verses 24 through 26 say this.
For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but he has heard when he cried to him. From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will perform before you who fear him. The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord! May your hearts live forever!
And this moves us to the third movement of the Psalm, where it concludes with a thunderous crescendo, is composed of both the deep sundering base notes of God’s power and the high ring of celestial praise. It says this, verses 27 through 31.
All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations. 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. Posterity shall serve him; it should be told of the Lord to the coming generation; they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it.
The Psalm concludes with a movement so profound, it makes the suffering recounted and the previous verses seem so far away and long ago. In this last third, David envisions the worshiping of God to expand all the nations of the world. These nations will remember the actions of God demonstrated in the lives of the people of Israel and her king, and then turn to him and worship. God is truly king over the whole earth and rightly deserves the worship of all people, everyone prosperous and otherwise we’ll serve him. The people of God stand as a powerful witness to the world when worshiping him for his faithfulness and redemption and mercy and grace. Just as Jesus suffered and felt abandoned of God, yet experienced deliverance to the heights of glory, so Christians can praise God and trust him for deliverance as they face suffering. Christians who suffer frequently, face the question and ask the question, why do I suffer in this way? Where has God in my suffering? And these questions can’t be answered simply with platitudes and then dismissed. Human suffering in the midst of a world created by a compassionate and loving God is a dimension of human experience that is disturbing. Easy answers and platitudes cannot speak to the answer for the why, but perhaps the cross can, because whatever pain and suffering your experiencing right now, Jesus has also faced. He knows intimately the depth of desperation you are feeling, but his suffering was not the last word on him, resurrection is. God brings life from death. The same is for you, if you are in Christ. Those suffering are free to name sin for what it is without having to spiritualize their own suffering. If you are suffering from others, name it for what it truly is. The Psalmist tells the truth about his own betrayal and abuse and so can you, because deliverance, life, and resurrection are and will be the final word on you. Let’s pray a portion of this Psalm. Lord, all the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to you, and all the families of the nations shall worship for you. Amen.
Thanks Justin. That was our good friend, Justin Holcomb, continuing to teach us from the Psalms. And today our text was Psalm 22. Powerful passage that is echoed in part in the New Testament. We still have one more day of this teaching to go. So, do be sure to join us again tomorrow. And just as a reminder, if you have missed any of this week’s broadcast with Justin, be sure to catch those at keylife.org. So much great stuff there. We have a station finder tool. So, say you’re taking a summer road trip. The station finder tool will let you know which radio stations near you will be playing Key Life and Steve Brown Etc. We also have transcripts for Key Life. So everything you hear Steve or Pete or Matt or Justin teaching, you can get that word for word. Also at keylife.org you’ll find our digital magazine, sermons, video versions of Steve Brown Etc, a sign up for our weekly e-mail and even a link to our Key Life app. And all of it is still free, thanks to the generous support of listeners just like you. If you’d like to donate, just call 1-800-KEY-LIFE. That’s 1-800-539-5433. Or you can mail your donation to
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