CoffeeBreak today bring you words written by Rev. Stephen Lewis, Pastor of Knowlton Presbyterian Church. He carries us to the foot of Jesus’ cross where we hear our Lord singing a lament of David. These words moved me deeply as I remembered the awful and awesome sacrifice that brought me peace with God. Be sure to read the entire Psalm at the end of the thought.
OMG- Why have you forsaken me?
Think that only spontaneous self-composed prayers are legitimate? Praying in the Spirit includes praying prayers the Spirit inspired. In Mark 15:34 we hear Jesus singing Psalm 22 while being crucified. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – Mark 15:34 Listen to Jesus pray David’s prayer hundreds of years after David prayed it. Psalm 21 praises God for his power and protection. Psalm 23 sings the praises of the shepherd – “I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” But, the singer of Psalm 22 stares evil in the face and wonders why: why is God not with me, why has God abandoned me behind enemy lines? The hyenas and wolves are closing in on the singer – soldiers with professional torture training, and tenured theologians skilled in the art of rationalizing torture, both stare up at Jesus as if they are merely looking at tissue.
Dehumanizing death techniques fail every time, for the humanity of the victim remains intact; only the humanity of the perpetrators (us) comes into question. Tacked up like an insect on a cork board, Jesus cannot be robbed of his humanity any more than he can be robbed of his deity.
Psalm 22 ends with a vision of all the ends of the earth turning to the LORD and worshiping him forever. But in the meantime the why question just hangs there, unanswered. Golgotha’s theological elevation is lower than that of Death Valley, CA. So here is Jesus, at the lowest possible place on the planet, finding his life in the written Word of God. Here is his descent into hell, his drinking the cup of God’s wrath down to its dregs at the place of the skull.
Forsaken by the Father, the Son yet has the Spirit’s breathed-out words on his tongue. Singing lament to God while being crucified, Jesus sanctifies the question your mother grew weary of but which his Father has no problem receiving: the question of why. Without the question mark, without much emotion or rise in pitch: why. Jesus knew why. All through his life his questions have been rhetorical. Omniscience will do that. But he asks the question anyway. We would hastily answer it for him: you’re abandoned so we can be accepted; you are taking hell for us; my sin from five minutes ago and the accumulated sin of millennia of sinners from every nation under heaven has just been downloaded on your shoulders.
Propitiation – that’s why. Jesus well knew about holy anger and substitutionary atonement. But he asks why. Good thing too, because when we ask why, his voice joins ours. Rejected, discarded, dropped, and betrayed, we cry OMG! The cry need not be the blasphemous abbreviation it usually is. It can be sincere lament: my God (the real God who created me and who ordains everything that happens), my God (the one I worship, serve, and trust), I’m asking You – why?
“For the director of music. To the tune of “The Doe of the Morning.” A psalm of David.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.
Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel.
In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them.
They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed.
But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads:
“He trusts in the Lord; 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 upon 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 tearing 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 away within me.
My strength 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 have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.
But you, O Lord, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me.
Deliver my life 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 brothers; in the congregation 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 disdained 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 will I fulfill my vows. The poor will eat and be satisfied; they 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 to a people yet unborn— for he has done it.”
(Psalm 22, NIV)