(with comments by yours truly)
1 My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
Why are you so far away when I groan for help?
2 Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer.
Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief.
It’s this psalm that Jesus quotes on calvary. The tone of this psalm is just so interesting–it starts off so angry, so resentful, almost like a curse. Who has not wondered where God was when they cried out for help? Who has not looked to their father for solace, for comfort, and wondered when or if it would come?
3 Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
4 Our ancestors trusted in you,
and you rescued them.
5 They cried out to you and were saved.
They trusted in you and were never disgraced.
Hard to reconcile this passage with the preceding one. The psalmist cries out that in spite of…turning a deaf ear to his cries, God is still Holy. The psalmist is desperate now, grasping in the darkness, realizing that his ancestors cried out and were saved. But not him. Not him. Why not him?
6 But I am a worm and not a man.
I am scorned and despised by all!
7 Everyone who sees me mocks me.
They sneer and shake their heads, saying,
8 “Is this the one who relies on the Lord?
Then let the Lord save him!
If the Lord loves him so much,
let the Lord rescue him!”
He’s lamenting his lot, and to me, when I read this, I hear a tone of bitter sarcasm in the psalmists voice. I think he’s starting to believe the voices of those around him and their comments are starting to sound an awful lot like truth. But something happens, and in the midst of his litany of woes, he begins to turn back…he begins to have a realization–a moment of clarity.
9 Yet you brought me safely from my mother’s womb
and led me to trust you at my mother’s breast.
10 I was thrust into your arms at my birth.
You have been my God from the moment I was born.
11 Do not stay so far from me,
for trouble is near,
and no one else can help me.
12 My enemies surround me like a herd of bulls;
fierce bulls of Bashan have hemmed me in!
13 Like lions they open their jaws against me,
roaring and tearing into their prey.
14 My life is poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart is like wax,
melting within me.
15 My strength has dried up like sunbaked clay.
My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.
You have laid me in the dust and left me for dead.
16 My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs;
an evil gang closes in on me.
They have pierced my hands and feet.
17 I can count all my bones.
My enemies stare at me and gloat.
18 They divide my garments among themselves
and throw dice[a] for my clothing.
In the midst of his pain, he sees. In the midst of being scorned and mocked, he sees. So many terrible things are happening to him, and will continue to happen, but he sees. He’s not simply crying out to God now, he’s yelling at him, reaching out for succor, but not getting it. But still he sees…in the midst of his litany of woes, he sees:
19 O Lord, do not stay far away!
You are my strength; come quickly to my aid!
20 Save me from the sword;
spare my precious life from these dogs.
21 Snatch me from the lion’s jaws
and from the horns of these wild oxen.
He turns from lamentation to Joy. Somewhere in his pain, he was reached. His cries were heard, and responded to. And his heart softened.
22 I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters.[b]
I will praise you among your assembled people.
23 Praise the Lord, all you who fear him!
Honor him, all you descendants of Jacob!
Show him reverence, all you descendants of Israel!
24 For he has not ignored or belittled the suffering of the needy.
He has not turned his back on them,
but has listened to their cries for help.
25 I will praise you in the great assembly.
I will fulfill my vows in the presence of those who worship you.
26 The poor will eat and be satisfied.
All who seek the Lord will praise him.
Their hearts will rejoice with everlasting joy.
27 The whole earth will acknowledge the Lord and return to him.
All the families of the nations will bow down before him.
28 For royal power belongs to the Lord.
He rules all the nations.
29 Let the rich of the earth feast and worship.
Bow before him, all who are mortal,
all whose lives will end as dust.
30 Our children will also serve him.
Future generations will hear about the wonders of the Lord.
31 His righteous acts will be told to those not yet born.
They will hear about everything he has done.
I just think it’s interesting. All I ever heard about was reverance for God, and rightly so. God should be revered, and worshipped, and even feared. But I just had no idea it was OK to yell at God, to argue with him, to question him. I had no idea he wanted to hear that stuff.
But not only can he handle it, but wants it desperately. He wants us to cry out to him, however we do it. He wants all of us, all of our hearts. He wants to hear our praises, but also our lamentations, our cries of pain.
He wants to wipe the tears from our cheeks, and stitch up our wounds.
He wants us. Not us perfected. Not later, when we’re ready.
He wants us now, when we’re upset, or angry, or sad.
He wants us, in all our imperfect, messy glory.
He wants us.