Psalm 22 - Forsaken, Yet Not Forsaken

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the one Israel praises.
In you our ancestors put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.
To you they cried out and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
“He trusts in the LORD,” they say,
“let the LORD rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
since he delights in him.”
Yet you brought me out of the womb;
you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
From birth I was cast on you;
from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.
Many bulls surround me;
strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
Roaring lions that tear their prey
open their mouths wide against me.
I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted within me.
My mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death.
Dogs surround me,
a pack of villains encircles me;
they pierce my hands and my feet.
All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.
But you, LORD, do not be far from me.
You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
Deliver me from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dogs.
Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
save me from the horns of the wild oxen.
I will declare your name to my people;
in the assembly I will praise you.
You who fear the LORD, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
For he has not despised or scorned
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.
From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows.
The poor will eat and be satisfied;
those who seek the LORD will praise him—
may your hearts live forever!
All the ends of the earth
will remember and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before him,
for dominion belongs to the LORD
and he rules over the nations.
All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
those who cannot keep themselves alive.
Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord.
They will proclaim his righteousness,
declaring to a people yet unborn:
He has done it!

Anyone singing this psalm would instantly recognize its first words. They were words uttered by Jesus as he hung upon the cross. “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) (Matthew 27:46).

Nothing in David’s life suggests he experienced the things written about here in the first person. Therefore, it can only be prophetic because they describe in detail what Jesus experienced two thousand years ago. The first part of the psalm describes what he went through at Calvary, including the division of his clothes; the second part describes the results of his crucifixion.

Why did Jesus feel abandoned in his hour of greatest need? And that too by his Father? Because, as Scripture says, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). And because sin is so loathsome in the sight of God, for a few moments of time God turned his face away. 

It is a terrible thing to bear — this God-forsakenness — especially for someone who had never done anything to displease God. It is why Jesus implored his Father in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me” (Luke 22:42a). It wasn’t so much the fear of his impending Passion that made Jesus make this prayer as it was knowing how repulsive he would appear to God.

But ever obedient, Jesus said, “Yet, not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42b). If we ever wanted proof of God’s love, here it is. To save US from being God-forsaken for all eternity, Jesus took up our sins and paid the price for it in a horrific fashion. Although the scourging at the pillar, the crowning with thorns, the long humiliating walk to Calvary, and the shameful crucifixion were terrible, nothing was as bad as the abandonment he experienced on the cross. 

However, this story has a happy ending. The psalm ends with these words: He has done it! Jesus echoed these words on the cross: “It is finished,” he said, and died (John 19:30). On the third day he would rise again and humankind was saved. 

Praise the Lord.