************ Sermon on Psalm 22:1 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on April 14, 2017
"Why Have You Forsaken Me?"
Good Friday 2017
I A Psalm of David
A The heading to our Bible reading says "A psalm of David." We look at the psalm and it appears to describe an execution. Let me quote some of the verses that lead to this conclusion:
(Ps 22:6-7) But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people. (7) All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads:
(Ps 22:12) Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
(Ps 22:14) 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.
(Ps 22:17) I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me.
Worst of all, David felt forsaken by God. Abandoned. Left on his own.
(Ps 22:1-2) 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? (2) O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.Isn't this terrible? To be forsaken by God?
All of this leads to the question: What event in David's life fits the words of our psalm? When was David forsaken by God? We have to admit there is no known incident in the life of David that fits all the details of this psalm. And, we have to add, no incident in David's life can possibly fit the opening words of our psalm. After all, even if our father and mother forsake us, the LORD will never forsake us (Ps 27:10). So what is really going on in this psalm?
B There is only one answer we can give. David lifts up his eyes, looks down the long corridor of time, and sees in striking detail the crucifixion of the Messiah Who was yet to come. David is speaking prophetically. We have to call this a psalm of prophecy because we do find the cross of Christ answering detail after detail of the psalm.
We have to say, therefore, that this psalm is the result of the Spirit of God taking over the pen of David in a strange and marvellous way. The result was that David was able to write the very words of the Messiah Himself.
II Christ's Sufferings Prophesied
Take note of the many details of Psalm 22 that find their fulfilment at the cross as Jesus suffers at the hands of His enemies:
(Ps 22:6-8) But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people. (7) All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: (8) "He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him."
The chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked Jesus using almost identical words (Mt 27:41-43).
(Ps 22:14-15) 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. (15) 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.
Remember Jesus' fifth word on the cross? "I thirst" (Jn 19:28).
(Ps 22:16) Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.
Isn't this exactly what happened to Christ? They pierced His hands and His feet.
(Ps 22:18) They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.
This is something we see the soldiers doing at the foot of the cross.
We see the humanity of Jesus in these terrible acts. He is fully and completely human. His is a body and a mouth that experiences thirst. He has a body that can be pierced. He is able to suffer and to die. He wears clothing that soldiers gamble over.
III Being Forsaken
A The worst thing I have yet to mention: those awful words found in verse 1. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Word for word this was Jesus' fourth word from the cross. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mt 27:46; Mk 15:34).
As I mentioned, this is the worst of His sufferings. On Good Friday He was "forsaken."
What did Christ undergo? What did He experience? He was forsaken by the Father.
That word "forsake" has a rich history among the people of God. God's promise to Jacob is that God would never leave or forsake him (Gen 28:15). Likewise, God's promise to the children of Israel is that
(Deut 31:8) the LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. (Cf Heb 13:5)Joshua used the same word when he warned the people of God:
(Josh 24:20) If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.Remember the two complaints of the Apostle Paul using similar language?
(2 Tim 4:9-10) Do your best to come to me quickly, (10) for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me [that is, forsaken me] and has gone to Thessalonica.We look at this history, and we see that forsake means to abandon. Forsake means to be unfaithful. Forsake means to desert and leave all alone.
(2 Tim 4:16) At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me [that is, forsaken me]. May it not be held against them.
I know there are some in our church family who have gone through tough times or tense situations. In the midst of those circumstances they have felt forsaken by all. Even in these worst possible moments of life, though, when all seem to have forsaken us, we can usually comfort ourselves with the thought that our parents or our spouse still understand and care. And, if even those closest to us forsake us, we know there is always One -- God -- Who will never leave us or forsake us (Deut 31:6; cf Heb 13:5b).
At the end of His life Jesus didn't even have this comfort. He was totally on His own. The crowds had turned against Him. His disciples had left Him. His family did not believe in Him. And now, now He cries out that even His God has forsaken Him! "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mt 27:46). Of everything He suffered, this was His greatest pain and sorrow.
B "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" What does it mean that Christ was forsaken by the Father? Let's take note of something Psalm 22 does not tell us. Jesus was forsaken during three awful hours of darkness in the middle of the day -- around noon. The darkness cannot be explained as an eclipse or blamed on any other kind of natural cause. Scripture tells us the darkness was sent by God.
Darkness at noon. Darkness sent by God. We turn to the book of Genesis and we read there that in the beginning "darkness was over the surface of the deep" (Gen 1:2). You know what happens next:
(Gen 1:3-5) And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. (4) God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. (5) God called the light "day," and the darkness he called "night." And there was evening, and there was morning – the first day. By God's decree, ever since that first day of creation, light and darkness each have their separate place. But not on Good Friday. On Good Friday the darkness left its appointed place. It invaded the light. The darkness which God separated from the light and joined to the night, was dislocated and moved by God into the middle of the day.
It should not escape our notice that this darkness implies the judgment of God. Recall, for instance, the ninth plague God sent to the Egyptians.
(Ex 10:21-23) Then the LORD said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness will spread over Egypt – darkness that can be felt." (22) So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days. (23) No one could see anyone else or leave his place for three days.Jesus Himself referred to the place of outer darkness that is reserved for those on whom the judgment of God will rest. It is a horrible place, a dark place where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Mt 8:12; 22:13; 25:30).
We also cannot help but notice that on Good Friday, for three awful hours, Jesus was in the midst of darkness. In other words, Jesus had the judgment and curse of God resting upon Him. But we need to say more. We believe and confess that during the three awful hours of darkness Christ experienced the pain and agony of hell. As the Catechism puts it, Christ suffered unspeakable anguish, pain, and terror of soul (Q & A 44). For three hours He experienced what we know as the descent into hell. For three hours He experienced the total absence of God and all that is good. For three hours he experienced all of God's wrath and fury against the sin of the whole human race. For three hours He was made a curse for us (Gal 3:13) and forsaken by God.
C "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Ps 22:1). You need to realize this runs contrary to what Scripture tells us about the character of God. Time after time God is presented on the pages of Scripture as being so faithful. I already mentioned His promise to His people to never leave or forsake them (Deut 31:8; Heb 13:5). Never once did God fail to live up to this. When the people of Israel cried out to God because of the cruel bondage they suffered in Egypt, He heard and delivered them. When the children of Israel stood helpless between the Red Sea and the Egyptian army, God came to their defense and delivered them from their enemies. When the three Hebrews were cast into Nebuchadnezzar's fiery furnace, the Lord was with them. But here, at the Cross, with His only begotten Son hanging there, God has forsaken and abandoned Jesus.
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Ps 22:1). Isn't this amazing and perplexing and strange and confusing? That the eternal Son is crying this out to the eternal Father? Isn't theirs an eternal Father-Son relationship? We confess the Father was never without His Son (Belgic Confession, Art 8). We confess Christ's divine nature remains forever united to His human nature and that His deity never ceases to be in Him (Belgic Confession, Art 19). So we need to ask, "How can this be? How is this even possible? How can the Father forsake the Son?" How can the Triune Godhead be torn apart?
D "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Ps 22:1). This cry, this question, demands an answer. This question demands an answer.
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Ps 22:1). The answer is so wonderful, so amazing, so beautiful: He did this for you and me. He has delivered me from the anguish and torment of hell. He suffered the torments of hell so I don't have to. He did this to set us free, body and soul, from the eternal condemnation we so richly deserve.
It should be you and me upon the cross. It should be you and me suffering the torments of hell but instead He has the stripes, He has the pain and anguish, He has the torment. We should be forsaken, but instead He is. I repeat, isn't this wonderful?
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Ps 22:1). This is how Psalm 22 starts. But this is not how Psalm 22 ends. Look at verse 24:
(Ps 22:24) 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.Do you hear what the psalmist is saying? He is saying "forsaken" does NOT have the last word. He is saying the crucifixion and the burial is not the end. He is pointing forward to Easter's resurrection.
One thousand years before the events at Golgotha, King David knew better than those preachers and churches that mention the cross, the cross, the cross, the blood, the blood, the blood without also mentioning the grave, the grave, the grave. We cannot forget that Good Friday's crucifixion is followed by Easter's resurrection. One of my favorite Bible verses is Romans 4:32:
(Rom 4:25) He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
This is why David ends the Psalm on a note of praise. We will use his words after our celebration of the Lord's Supper. Because we know that He Who died for us also rose for us and gives us new life.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page