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A Heart for God in a Place of Affliction

May 8, 2022

Teacher: Daniel Baker
Series: A Heart for God
Scripture: Psalm 22

A Heart for God in the Place of Affliction

Psalm 22 – A Heart for God: Sermon Series from the Psalms – May 8, 2022

Introduction

A reading of Psalm 22:1–18.

“Lament” and “praise” “are the two poles of our lives.”[1] The two poles of motherhood. Lament and motherhood go together. E.g., in Julie Rowe’s book on mothering, Child Proof, the last chapter is called, “When Your Child Breaks Your Heart.” She walks readers from heartbreak to hope. Ps 22 does that, too! Lament to praise.

“Lament” can be uncomfortable for us—especially someone else’s. Ps 22 helps.

Psalm is a lament Psalm. Certain characteristics common.

  • Opening cry
  • Some details about the crisis—Psalmist, his enemies, struggling with God.
  • Petition
  • Confidence, Praise

Wasn’t like David had a formula. Simply had ways he often expressed lament.

No surprise there. Poets and songwriters and authors have familiar patterns.

We don’t know when in David’s life he wrote this, but it would seem to fit the time his son Absalom betrayed him. A bitter and personal agony.

Something else about this Psalm is the way it gets fulfilled in the crucifixion of Christ. Only Isaiah 53 is more vivid in depicting the suffering of the Son of God.

Series: A Heart for God. This Psalm helps us understand a heart for God in the place of affliction.

Sermon: (1) Lament, (2) Petition, (3) Praise.

Prayer

I.     Lament (22:1–18)

First part of the Psalm is given to lament. Bitter and personal lament.

A.   Let’s look more closely at David’s Lament.

One is the bitterness of his suffering:

  • The opening two verses are as desperate as any passage in the OT.
  • Rejected by people (v. 6) and living among enemies (vv. 12–13, 16)—“bulls of Bashan” (v. 12), “like a ravening and roaring lion” (v. 13), “dogs encompass me” (v. 16), “company of evildoers encircles me” (v. 16).
  • A physical torment like starving to death (vv. 14–15).
  • Remove his last ounce of dignity—“for my clothing they cast lots” (v. 18).

Second is the faith displayed.

Look at this just in v. 1 and the opening question. The first part of the sentence is the context for the second part of the sentence. John Calvin expresses this well:

In calling God twice his own God, and depositing his groanings into his bosom, he makes a very distinct confession of his faith…. We see that he has given the first place to faith. Before he allows himself to utter his complaint, in order to give faith the chief place, he first declares that he still claimed God as his own God, and betook himself to him for refuge.
John Calvin, Commentary on Psalms[2]

Third is the dialogue, the conversation, the internal debate: “I…Yet you…I…Yet you” (vv. 1, 3, 6, 9). In our most bitter suffering, that’s how it is. Especially when we are suffering in faith.

  • It’s a bitter cry (v. 1)… followed by a statement of true faith (v. 3).
  • Followed by a bitter cry (v. 6)… followed by a statement of true faith (v. 9).
  • And then a prayer (v. 11).

This is how true lament is, an internal conversation, an internal debate.

B.   But David’s Lament is also Christ’s Lament

The bitter personal suffering described by David was experienced by Jesus. The difference with Jesus is that it was all to accomplish our salvation. Jesus’ suffering had the dimensions David describes. But so you and I could be saved.

We see this most clearly at the cross. When the four gospels describe the actual crucifixion of Jesus this Psalm looms large for them.

The whole Psalm speaks to the crucifixion but three verses in particular get cited by the gospel writers. I’ll take them in the order that they occur at Jesus’ crucifixion.

Psalm 22:18 = John 19:24.

The Roman soldiers at the crucifixion did what they always do at a crucifixion. But doing what they always do they fulfilled the words of Psalm 22:

 23   When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, 24 so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” So the soldiers did these things. (John 19:23–24)

Psalm 22:8 = Matthew 27:43.

When Jesus is dying on the cross, many of those present added to the suffering by openly mocking him. The Jewish mockers used the words of Psalm 22:

“He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” (Matt 27:43)

Psalm 22:1 = Matthew 27:46.

After three hours of darkness from noon till 3pm, Jesus releases his cry of abandonment using the words of Psalm 22:

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt 27:46)

As Jesus was bearing our sins and receiving God’s wrath in those 3 hours of darkness, he experienced in his human nature a true abandonment by the Father, what theologians call a true “God-forsakenness.”[3]

Where David felt forsaken by his God, Christ in his human nature was actually forsaken by his God.

But for Christ, that God-forsakenness wasn’t the last word. For Christ, Bearing God’s wrath wasn’t an unending punishment. It was for a specific amount of time to accomplish our redemption.

That’s why in John’s gospel we hear him say right before his death: “It is finished” (John 19:30). “It is finished!” And then he dies. Bearing God’s wrath and bearing our sins is finished. There’s no more wrath for us to receive. Christ took it all! “It is finished!”

C.   Once we see Psalm 22 as Christ’s lament, then we can pray it as our lament.

We see our own agony in light of the greater redemptive agony of Christ.

Then we can know that we might FEEL forsaken, but Christ WAS forsaken.

And because Christ WAS forsaken, we never will be.

Romans 5:9–10:

 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (Rom 5:9–10)

II.   Petition (22:11, 19–21a)

A.   David’s Petition

In the Psalms of Lament, the agony being experienced finds vivid expression. But they also model for us what it is to ask for specific things from God. Usually DELIVERANCE.

First petition is in v. 11. This answers the agony of v. 1.

Then the petitions of vv. 19–21a—a response to the enemies surrounding and oppressing him. He had lamented about “bulls,” “lion,” “dogs,” “evildoers” (vv. 12, 13, 16). And now he prays for God’s specific and timely help.

The petitions:

  • “Come quickly to my aid!” (v. 19b).
  • “Deliver my soul!” (v. 20a)—from the sword, the power of the dog (vulture-like jackals).
  • “Save me from the mouth of the lion, from the horns of the wild oxen!” (v. 21a).

Real opposition. Real enemies. Real hardships caused by other people. Not just accidentally but maliciously.

And so…he prays, “Come quickly!” “Deliver me!” “Save me!”

B.   Our Petition

Even in our most bitter places, the Bible invites us to pray boldly—and honestly.

Another way to say it, let yourself pray with exclamation points. See them in vv. 19–21a. “Come quickly!” “Deliver me!” “Save me!”

God invites us to do this—Hebrews 4:16:

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb 4:16)

C.   The Transition

But then something happens suddenly in this Psalm. Right there at the very end of in v. 21. There’s a turn. Right in the middle of asking for “aid,” deliverance, salvation, his asking turns to a statement of fact: “You answered me.”

You can see how the Hebrew works in the Christian Standard Bible:

Save me from the lion’s mouth, from the horns of wild oxen.  You answered me! (Ps 22:21, CSB)

One commentator speculated that this is David recording in real-time what happened to him. He was crying out for help, and then all of a sudden he got news that his help had come. He had been saved. The “sword,” “dog,” “lion,” and “wild oxen” would not prevail! God answered him!

And that deliverance inspires a lengthy word of praise—vv. 22–31. Uninterrupted praise—without any mention of his trials, without any petitions.

III. Praise (22:21b–31)

Read Psalm 22:21–31.

Now we see the real movement in this Psalm. David begins in v. 1 in private agony. He ends “in the great congregation” (v. 25) with “all the families of the nations” (v. 27) “proclaiming his righteousness to a people yet unborn that he has done it” (v. 31).

I don’t think there’s another Psalm of lament that leads to such an outburst of praise.

A.   Let’s think about David’s praise.

First, hear the vocabulary of “praise.” He gets out the whole “Praise Dictionary”!

  • “Praise” (vv. 22, 23, 25). Verb is halal.
  • “Glorify” (v. 23). Related to noun for “glory.”
  • “Stand in awe of him” (v. 23).
  • “Vows I will perform,” which leads to, “the afflicted shall eat” (vv. 25, 26).
  • Idea here is that with certain offerings they weren’t just burned up to nothing. They became a meal for those present.
  • David’s vows that he committed and then offered became provision for “the afflicted.”
  • “Turn to the LORD” (v. 27).
  • “Worship” (v. 27), “Worship” (v. 29) = proskuneō in LXX. Chavah in Hebrew (Hishtaphel form). Most common word for “worship” in OT (and NT). At times it means physical, “bow down” but often it’s “worship” (both Hebrew and Greek word).
  • “Serve him” (v. 30).
  • “Proclaim his righteousness” (v. 31).

Second, see the people of praise.

  • He’s not alone anymore! No more private agony!
  • “In the midst of the congregation” (v. 22)
  • “In the great congregation” (v. 25).
  • “Congregation” in the LXX is ekklēsia, the word translated “church” in the NT.
  • Yes, “in the midst of the CHURCH,” “in the great CHURCH,” we will indeed “praise him.”
  • “You who fear the LORD” (v. 23)
  • “Offspring of Jacob” (v. 23), “offspring of Israel” (v. 23)
  • “The afflicted” (v. 26), “those who seek him” (v. 26).
  • But even greater: “All the ends of the earth” (v. 27)
  • “All the families of the nations” (v. 27).
  • “The prosperous” AND “all who go down to the dust” (v. 29).
  • “Posterity” (v. 30), “the coming generation,” “a people yet unborn” (v. 31).

Third, understand the logic of praise.

  • Praises are not random emotional acts, but he tell us WHY God is worthy of such praise.
  • “For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted” (v. 24).
  • “He has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him” (v. 24).
  • “For kingship belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations” (v. 28).
  • “Proclaim his righteousness” (v. 31).
  • “He has done it!” Kidner connects this word, “He has done it!” to Jesus’ word, “It is finished!” (John 19:30).

B.   Christ’s Praise

Yet another specific prophecy in this Psalm. This time it has to do with Christ’s praise:

Psalm 22:22 = Hebrews 2:12

For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, 12 saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” (Heb 2:11–12)

That’s wonderful and fascinating. Wonderful that Christ says, “my brothers.”

And it’s fascinating that in our praises, Christ himself is praising the Father. To belong to Christ is to be in Christ. And to be in Christ is to be in him as he praises the Father.

C.   Our Praise

Psalm 22 presents a great agony and great praise. In some ways the praise doesn’t quite fit the deliverance. David being delivered from his enemies is a great thing, but the praise here is so huge. It doesn’t quite fit.

But when we read Psalm 22 in light of the cross of Christ, then we see the greater deliverance. The greater praise is right when we see that greater deliverance.

The reality of salvation in Jesus Christ is why God’s people must and will be a praising people.

  • How can you be silent when you understand what God has done for us?
  • How can you not praise the one who has brought us from death to life?
  • How can you not praise the One who has delivered us from the domain of darkness and brought us to the kingdom of God’s beloved Son?
  • How can you not join with the saints in heaven and the angels around God’s throne—even every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Rev 5:13)
  • How can you not join the “great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (Rev 7:9–10)

Conclusion

Two groups of people when it comes to Psalm 22, probably two groups in this room.

  • One group: “the great congregation” (ekklēsia).
  • Second group: “a company of evildoers” (v. 16)—those who “do evil.”
  • Second group: The salvation and praises described aren’t for you.
  • The agony described is, but not the salvation.
  • The salvation described and the praises that result, these are for those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • The Philippian jailer asked, “What must I do to be saved?” The answer was, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”
  • When you “believe,” you know the greater deliverance that leads to the greater praise.

The journey from lament to praise is not a straight path. It’s not a straight line.

  • The agony that leads us to lament varies enormously.
  • Be gracious to those traveling the path of lament.
  • One day they will get to the praise, but how and when isn’t easy to predict.

If you’re in the place of lament now, let Psalm 22 help you:

  • Help you know you’re not alone.
  • Kind David was there.
  • The greater King, Jesus Christ himself, was there.
  • What is happening and has happened is not a sign God has forsaken you.
  • He has not! He will not!
  • Pray 22:1. Then remember Jesus prayed 22:1.
  • Then hear the promise of God: “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

Prayer and closing song

 

[1] C. Hassell Bullock, Psalms, Vol 1:163.

[2] John Calvin, Commentary on Psalms, Vol 1, 352, 353.

[3] E.g., Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics; Berkhof, Systematic Theology. See also Calvin’s commentary on the gospels. For reference, here is Bavinck: “The suffering and death of Christ bear an exceptional character…. This comes out with special acuteness in Jesus’ cry of dereliction on the cross (Matt 27:46). Some have interpreted this word from the cross as a cry of despair that his cause was lost and God had abandoned him or have understood it merely subjectively of his purely human sense of being momentarily overcome by the deepest pain in the extremity of death or compared it, be it from a remote distance, with the cry of a mother whose heart breaks over the shame of her child but in her great love still takes the child’s disgrace on herself and bows her head under the judgment of God. But none of these interpretations does justice to the words, and all are at variance with the consistent description of Jesus’ death in Scripture. In the cry of Jesus we are dealing not with a subjective but with an objective God-forsakenness: He did not feel alone but had in fact been forsaken by God. His feeling was not an illusion, not based on a false view of his situation, but corresponds with reality. On the other hand, this must not be understood in the sense that the Father was personally angry with Christ…. ‘This is what we are saying: he bore the weight of divine severity, since he was ‘stricken and afflicted’ by God’s hand, and experienced all the signs of a wrathful and avenging God’ (Calvin)” (Bavinck, RD, III:389).

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