Psalm 22

(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.

Us.

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Clearing the temple

I grew up with this picture of Jesus in my head.  It was probably the same as many people have–the tall guy in the white robe with the flowing, honey-colored hair and the kind brown eyes.  Sometimes he’s doing things like patting kids on the head and carrying lambs across his shoulders.  The kind of pictures you see on tracts and velvet paintings all over the place. 

But not always.

Occasionally you would get an almost bloodless representation of the crucifixion–with Jesus, arms spread,  staring up at the sky, with a beatific expression plastered on his unbloodied face.

Things like that.

But there was so much more to Jesus.  He walked everywhere.  He built things.  He worked with his hands.  He made over a hundred gallons of wine from clay jars of water for the wedding in Cana–and  I imagine he probably sang and danced a little, too, though the scripture doesn’t tell us about that.  He had a large group of friends, and they probably laughed together, and ate together, and cried together.

Jesus was Lord, and Savior, and El Shaddai, but He was also a man.

And he did not just walk around smiling at people.  Not that he did not do the things you see represented everywhere, but that was not all he did, certainly.  And not all He was meant to do.

Look at Matthew 10:34:

 34“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

A sword.

And while it’s true he came to die for us, that we might live, he also came to fight for us, to intercede on our behalf.  He did everything He could to give us an opportunity to choose Him–and to live.  His passion for us was without measure.  His passion for His father was without measure. 

From John 2:

 13When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!”

It must have really been something to see–this Rabbi, this teacher, who prior to that incident, had been simply that–a teacher.  But this man was also a warrior.  This man, upon seeing his Father’s house not just disrespected, but commercialized and filled with….things not of Heaven, but earth, was incensed to such a degree that he made a whip, and used it.

He came to the temple to observe the passover, and found a flea market instead.  His disciples hadn’t seen this side of him before.  It had to have been a little disconcerting.  But then: 

 17His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

 It was written. 

I had not read that verse before, had not even heard of it.  My NIV tells me it was from Psalm 69–which was a psalm I’d skimmed over, but not spent any real time on. 

 9 for zeal for your house consumes me,
       and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.

It was insulting that the…vendors in the temple had no respect or understanding of not really the temple itself, but the purpose of it.  On its own, the temple was just a building, an object.  It was not holy.  But the presence of God made it Holy.  And the people that came with the intent of worshipping in earnest, with all their hearts, should have been able to do it, to be in communion with the one true God, without navigating a crowded marketplace.

They made it worldly.

And that made Jesus angry.  The moneychangers and other sellers of things were taking away from the worshippers time with God.  And even then, even before Calvary, Jesus knew that none of the things being sold in the temple were necessary (or would not soon be necessary) to enter into relationship with God.

Here is psalm 69, in its entirety. NIV translation.

1 Save me, O God,
       for the waters have come up to my neck.

 2 I sink in the miry depths,
       where there is no foothold.
       I have come into the deep waters;
       the floods engulf me.

 3 I am worn out calling for help;
       my throat is parched.
       My eyes fail,
       looking for my God.

 4 Those who hate me without reason
       outnumber the hairs of my head;
       many are my enemies without cause,
       those who seek to destroy me.
       I am forced to restore
       what I did not steal.

 5 You know my folly, O God;
       my guilt is not hidden from you.

 6 May those who hope in you
       not be disgraced because of me,
       O Lord, the LORD Almighty;
       may those who seek you
       not be put to shame because of me,
       O God of Israel.

 7 For I endure scorn for your sake,
       and shame covers my face.

 8 I am a stranger to my brothers,
       an alien to my own mother’s sons;

 9 for zeal for your house consumes me,
       and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.

 10 When I weep and fast,
       I must endure scorn;

 11 when I put on sackcloth,
       people make sport of me.

 12 Those who sit at the gate mock me,
       and I am the song of the drunkards.

 13 But I pray to you, O LORD,
       in the time of your favor;
       in your great love, O God,
       answer me with your sure salvation.

 14 Rescue me from the mire,
       do not let me sink;
       deliver me from those who hate me,
       from the deep waters.

 15 Do not let the floodwaters engulf me
       or the depths swallow me up
       or the pit close its mouth over me.

 16 Answer me, O LORD, out of the goodness of your love;
       in your great mercy turn to me.

 17 Do not hide your face from your servant;
       answer me quickly, for I am in trouble.

 18 Come near and rescue me;
       redeem me because of my foes.

 19 You know how I am scorned, disgraced and shamed;
       all my enemies are before you.

 20 Scorn has broken my heart
       and has left me helpless;
       I looked for sympathy, but there was none,
       for comforters, but I found none.

 21 They put gall in my food
       and gave me vinegar for my thirst.

 22 May the table set before them become a snare;
       may it become retribution and [a] a trap.

 23 May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see,
       and their backs be bent forever.

 24 Pour out your wrath on them;
       let your fierce anger overtake them.

 25 May their place be deserted;
       let there be no one to dwell in their tents.

 26 For they persecute those you wound
       and talk about the pain of those you hurt.

 27 Charge them with crime upon crime;
       do not let them share in your salvation.

 28 May they be blotted out of the book of life
       and not be listed with the righteous.

 29 I am in pain and distress;
       may your salvation, O God, protect me.

 30 I will praise God’s name in song
       and glorify him with thanksgiving.

 31 This will please the LORD more than an ox,
       more than a bull with its horns and hoofs.

 32 The poor will see and be glad—
       you who seek God, may your hearts live!

 33 The LORD hears the needy
       and does not despise his captive people.

 34 Let heaven and earth praise him,
       the seas and all that move in them,

 35 for God will save Zion
       and rebuild the cities of Judah.
       Then people will settle there and possess it;

 36 the children of his servants will inherit it,
       and those who love his name will dwell there.

Hard to follow that with any comments, so I won’t.  Just read it, and think about it.  I still am.  Man, nothing like psalms to practice prayer.