My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
A seemingly blasphemous prayer. How dare David accuse God of forsaking him? How dare I pray this Psalm to the God who sustains each individual cell of my physical body? The God who upholds my existence? And how dare Christ pray this Psalm on the cross (matt 27:46)? He’s meant to be Word of God enfleshed! Of anyone, He should know better!
A perfectly reasonable train of thought this is, I guess. But we miss one thing. That implanted in this sentence is the key to its validity. My.
This is no anonymous god who Christ, David, you and I cry out to. We are not shouting our frustration and weakness at the wind; at the hidden God. He is my God. He is known. He is revealed. In that tiny, two-letter word is the key to the entirety of this Psalm and the entirety of the Scriptures.
Pagan deities did not speak and continue to not speak. The anonymous god of “there’s someone out there watching over me” is no God at all. And when someone screams out “WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?” to an unknown god, there is no faith at all. There is only anger. But with the beautiful little word my we have the entire gamut of God’s revelation of Himself. The garden of Genesis, the deliverance of Exodus, the promises of Deuteronomy.
But more than that. The promise of Christ. His birth. His life. His promise. His death. His resurrection. He who died on the cross is my God.
And because my God is known, I know that there is nowhere I can take my trouble but to Him. In the word my is the knowledge that God is for you. He is not against you, because with me and with Christ you can say He is my God.
God has given Himself to us in Christ. So much so that Christ identifies purely with our pain that He knew the extreme disconnect that this world can bring from God. As true God, He endured the weight of our sin. As true Man, He did it in such a way that we can be assured He took no easy way out. So Christ cried out David’s words that had been prepared for Him to say in the Psalms 22, as one of us. There on the cross is my God. Christ calls out in faith, because He calls to the God He knows.
And this is why I call this Psalm the second safe state. The pure joy in humility of Psalm 21 was the first. This is the second. It may seem unsafe to be so dissatisfied with God. To be so angry and accusatory. But hidden in the words my God is a confession of faith. Regardless of the externals of life, you inwardly cling to God when you call Him yours. There is no safer place to be, than distressed and putting yourself in the hands of my God. It doesn’t feel safe. Neither did the cross feel safe. Yet the cross was where love was revealed to its extreme in the self-donation of God in Christ. Take your struggle to God, do not sanitise your words. You don’t sanitise so you can come to your God. You come to God to be sanitised. Unload all you have to Him, just do it with the constant refrain of “my God” and you can’t go wrong. There is nothing you feel that He has not felt and your lack of trust in Him was nailed to the cross with Him 2000 years ago.
Nothing in my hands I bring
Simply to thy cross, I cling
– rock of ages
My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
Why are you so far from my deliverance
and from my words of groaning?
My God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
by night, yet I have no rest.
But you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
Our ancestors trusted in you;
they trusted, and you rescued them.
They cried to you and were set free;
they trusted in you and were not disgraced.
But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by mankind and despised by people.
Everyone who sees me mocks me;
they sneer and shake their heads:
“He relies on the Lord;
let him save him;
let the Lord rescue him,
since he takes pleasure in him.”
psalm xxii (csb)
It was you who brought me out of the womb,
making me secure at my mother’s breast.
I was given over to you at birth;
you have been my God from my mother’s womb.
Don’t be far from me, because distress is near and there’s no one to help.
Many bulls surround me;
strong ones of Bashan encircle me.
They open their mouths against me—
lions, mauling and roaring.
I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are disjointed;
my heart is like wax,
melting within me.
My strength is dried up like baked clay;
my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.
You put me into the dust of death.
For dogs have surrounded me;
a gang of evildoers has closed in on me;
they pierced my hands and my feet.
I can count all my bones;
people look and stare at me.
They divided my garments among themselves,
and they cast lots for my clothing.
But you, Lord, don’t be far away.
My strength, come quickly to help me.
Rescue my life from the sword,
my only life from the power of these dogs.
Save me from the lion’s mouth,
from the horns of wild oxen.
You answered me!
I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters;
I will praise you in the assembly.
You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
All you descendants of Israel, revere him!
For he has not despised or abhorred
the torment of the oppressed.
He did not hide his face from him
but listened when he cried to him for help.
I will give praise in the great assembly
because of you;
I will fulfill my vows
before those who fear you.
The humble 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.
All the families of the nations
will bow down before you,
for kingship belongs to the Lord;
he rules the nations.
All who prosper on earth will eat and bow down;
all those who go down to the dust
will kneel before him—
even the one who cannot preserve his life.
Their descendants will serve him;
the next generation will be told about the Lord.
They will come and declare his righteousness;
to a people yet to be born
they will declare what he has done.