“The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD. May your hearts live forever!” ~Psalm 22:26 (NRSV).
There is no more a messianic psalm than this one; apart from Psalms 69 and 31 this one holds the greatest clues regarding Jesus’ actual plight during The Passion.
This is the majestic beauty of Psalm 22: that we may read it liturgically (as a custom of the church), digging deeply into the raw emotion of Jesus during his final hours. We may also draw deeply into the collective depths suffered by David. Likewise, we might see heart-rending similarity between both lives and their examples to us on how we ought to live.
This bitter lament, transformed in praise, finds its structure, twofold:
Prayer in the Depths of Distress
Few may wonder very often about the character of Jesus’ actual suffering; to comprehend in a level of detail what may have characterised the Saviour’s emotional state in that position.
It comes as no surprise that empathy is borne in our own suffering. Suddenly, the loneliness, sorrow, depression, oppression, and anxiety we feel is translatable: “This is how Jesus must have felt!”
We need only one profound revelation like this and life perspective is transformed immediately and forever.
That is why meditating over the first 21 verses, in the cast of The Passion, propounds our concepts of salvation in the midst of suffering, for that is where God meets us all the more to save and deliver.
We might go further, recognising the nature of God to save is requisite in distress; that without affliction we cannot experience true salvation. It’s not that God precludes it; we just don’t appear to have vision of it when life goes swimmingly.
Most of all these first 21 verses speak to the fundamental truth: in the deepest difficulty we are destined to seek the Lord. Only via prayer can the context of abyss-like lament be harmonised, where the Spirit of God would minister upon the disciple within.
The Faithfulness of God to Answer Prayer
Perhaps there is no other psalm that begins so negatively that ends so positively strong. From accusing God of forsaking us (verse 1)—a thing the Lord has promised never to do (Hebrews 13:5-6)—to the visitation of salvation, the heights are ascended from the context of unremitting desolation.
How wonderful to be saved from such torment. Verses 22-31 speak of the experience of Divine rescue.
This is why the faithful are so faithful to the Faithful One. There is an intrinsic willingness on the part of the saved to speak of their salvation, as the psalmist shows here (verses 22, 25 and 31).
The ascended heights of salvation have their meaning reminiscent of the depths. We hasten to never forget where it began; where the cross and our lives intersected: the message of a necessary death to ourselves and life eternal beyond it.
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.