God and the Nations -- A Daily Bible Guide. (Day 7)
1My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from the words of my groaning?
by night, but I find no rest.
you are the praise of Israel.
4In you our ancestors put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.
5They cried to you and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not disappointed.
6But I am a worm, not a human being;
I am scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
7All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
8"He trusts in the LORD," they say,
"let the LORD rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
since he delights in him."
9Yet you brought me out of the womb;
you made me feel secure on my mother's breast.
10From birth I was cast on you;
from my mother's womb you have been my God.
11Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.
12Many bulls surround me;
strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
13Roaring lions that tear their prey
open their mouths wide against me.
14I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted within me.
15My 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.
16Dogs surround me,
a pack of villains encircles me;
they pierce my hands and my feet.
17All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
18They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.
19But you, LORD, do not be far from me.
You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
20Deliver me from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dogs.
21Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
save me from the horns of the wild oxen.
22 I will declare your name to my people;
in the assembly I will praise you.
23 You who fear the LORD, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
all you descendants of Israel!
24 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.
25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows.
26 The poor will eat and be satisfied;
those who seek the LORD will praise him—
may your hearts live forever!
27 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,
28 for dominion belongs to the LORD
and he rules over the nations.
29 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.
30 Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord.
31 They will proclaim his righteousness,
declaring to a people yet unborn:
He has done it!
Points of interest:
- Today, we step out of the Old Testament histories and into poetry. For the next week or so, we’ll be reading the psalms, which are the Bible’s prayers and worship songs. Incidentally, about half of these psalms—including the one today—were written by Solomon’s father David.
- ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’—this may sound familiar. It’s Jesus’ cry of agony when he is on the cross. The psalm comes first; David lived about a thousand years before Jesus. So, Jesus is quoting David. In fact, Jesus may very well be referring to the whole psalm, rather than just quoting the first line: it may have been common practice to use a psalm’s first line as its title; and there are indeed remarkable similarities between this psalm and Jesus’ own experience. This psalm seems to operate on two planes at the same time; it’s simultaneously a somewhat hyperbolic complaint about trouble David is facing and a startlingly accurate prophecy of the suffering Jesus will face.
- ‘But I am a worm, not a human being’—if God answer’s people’s prayers, then the subject of the psalm is a lot less than a person, because his prayer is not being answered.
- ‘you made me feel secure on my mother's breast’—the psalmist’s current experience doesn’t match what he has come to know of God. God had cared for his ancestors, and even for him personally in the past. Why, then, is he not answering now?
- ‘strong bulls of Bashan encircle me’—Bashan is near what we now know as the Golan heights. During David’s time, it was Israelite territory. Apparently it was somewhat famous for its livestock. Several biblical poets use Bashan cattle as a symbol of strength and vitality. Here all of that strength is put to the purpose of bullying the psalmist.
- ‘But you, LORD, do not be far from me’—everyone else is abandoning the psalmist. He claims to be trusting in God, but he looks much more like he’s cursed; and people are afraid that the curse is contagious. When everyone else runs away, the psalmist asks God to draw near and to help.
- ‘You who fear the LORD, praise him!‘—in the middle of the song, we shift from complaint and pleading to praise. The psalmist’s prayer has been answered.
- ‘All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD’—this is a message that the psalmist wants everyone, everywhere to hear. The news spreads from those closest to him (‘my people), to a wider community (‘the assembly’), to the ends of the earth. What he wants everyone to know is that even when things look darkest, there’s a God who hears, answers, comforts, and rescues.
- ‘those who cannot keep themselves alive’—this good news applies to rich and to poor, to the present and to the future. That’s because it addresses a problem we all face: we can and will die. David was apparently on the very edge of death. Jesus did, in fact, die; and yet God was able to rescue both of them. God is willing and able to save each and everyone one of us from death as well. That’s a message worth telling everyone who can hear.
Taking it home:
- For you: Are you feeling alone? Disappointed with God? Consider praying this psalm as if it were your own prayer. When it’s applicable, personalize the prayer to your own situation.
- For your six: Are any of your six facing a difficult time? It can be tempting to distance ourselves from the suffering of others, because it’s overwhelming, or frightening, or we don’t know what to do. Pray that God would give you the ability to stick with your friend, offering comfort and support when times are hard. Ask God to sustain you when it gets tiring, and to guide you when you don’t know what to do.
- For America: I love the fact that at the end of this psalm, the rich are feasting, and the poor have more than enough to eat. Pray for the welfare of our nation, that rich and poor alike would experience abundance and joy.