Last time out we began looking at Jesus’ fourth cry from the cross, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’, traditionally known as Jesus’ cry of dereliction, we began looking at the question as to whether the prevailing teaching surrounding this verse and song writers such as Stuart Townend and Kari Jobe etc are correct in seeing that at this point that the Father turns his face away from Jesus or not.
We began by largely focussing in on Habakkuk 1:13, asking the question as whether or not this verse, which is often quoted in support of the teaching of the Father turning his face away from Jesus, does in fact support this, and we concluded by saying that contextually from Habakkuk 1 that understanding is unlikely, and the verse itself has little to do with the cross anyway.
This time, we shall carry on looking at this focusing this time more on Psalm 22, from which Jesus’ fourth cry is quoted from and seeing what bearing this has on Jesus’ fourth cry from the cross.
Psalm 22 was written by David about 1,000 years before Jesus death, while it may not be clear exactly when David penned this Psalm or what circumstances led to it, many Christian’s for many years have seen the tight links between this Psalm and the cross and as such see it as a messianic Psalm of David that foretells the sufferings of Jesus upon the cross.
The ESV Study Bible notes that
Many Christians have taken it as a straight prediction of Jesus’ sufferings, as if the primary function of the psalm was to foretell the work of the Saviour; others have read it as a lament in its OT context, with a “fuller meaning” revealed by Jesus’ use of it. It is better to see the psalm as providing a lament for the innocent sufferer, and then to see how all the Gospels use this to portray Jesus as the innocent sufferer par excellence.
There is no denying the parallels between this Psalm and the crucifixion of Jesus, many commentators are quick to point these out, and these aren’t just in Jesus’ use of verse 1, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ but also in the mockery and scorn that the Psalm describes in vs.6-8 and the physical sufferings described in vs.14-15.
On the surface of this it’s easy to see why David would ask, and feel that God had abandoned, and to parallel this to the cross to see in Jesus use of this Psalm, why he too would ask that question, but we must ask ourselves if the opening verse of Psalm 22, and the situations around it’s formation, vs.6-8; 14-15, have in fact meant that David, and by extension Jesus were abandoned by God.
Whist the opening verses of Psalm 22 give this impression, the rest of the Psalm doesn’t exactly follow suit, in fact in verse 3 this sense of abandonment, if we call it that, is prefaced if not removed, by a confidence that God will in fact act..
Yet you are hoy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. In you our fathers trusted; they trusted and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
Notice here, that the depths of despair, even though David, feels a sense of abandonment by God he still trusts in God to deliver him, and his trust comes from God’s past actions with Israel. David looks to and takes confidence in the fact that God has a history of delivering his people, and not just delivering them but of them not being put to shame, which is direct contrast to the shame that those mocking David are trying to bring.
And the turning point in the Psalm comes from around verse 21, with for me a key verse being vs.24 where David says of God
He has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him.
This for me paints a different picture, not just of the opening to this psalm but also to the crucifixion. The Psalm opens up with David expressing a cry of anguish, that because of the mockery and misery of others and physical suffering experienced – whether this was a literal thing for him or a just messianic foretelling – he finds himself in a place where it is as though God has forsaken and abandoned him, that he has turned his face from him, he cries to him by day and by night for rest and deliverance but none seem forthcoming, and just like us, just like we would we get to a depth of despair where we feel God has let us down.
But even in the midst of this anguish and despair, the reality is the opposite, God hasn’t abandoned David – a man after his own heart – he has not hidden his face from him, he has heard, just as he did in the past. For an example of this consider the Israelites plight when in slavery in Egypt, in Exodus 2:24-25 we read these words…
And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel – and God knew.
What did God know? God knew their sufferings, he knew the derision that was upon them – the burden of the yoke of slavery that was placed upon them, and whilst for those in that situation I’m sure that there were times when they felt abandoned by God, that God had turned his face away from and that their cries and prayers were going unheard the message is clear – God heard, God knew and God would act.
I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians…
So with that in mind, when we look at this Psalm, we shouldn’t get caught up in and stay in the anguish of verse 1-2, but we should move through to the vindication and deliverance of verses 27-31, which ends with the triumphal phrase He has done it.. Here is the wonderful way God works – the people mock saying “He trusts in the Lord, let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” and the Psalm ends with exactly that – now it may not have happened in the way that they wished or desired, but just as David felt abandoned, even though God was present, the deliverance though seemingly not happening is taking place.
So what does this all mean…. well I don’t feel as though this Psalm can be used to support the teaching that at the cross, as Jesus cries out ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ that because Jesus was bearing the weight and wrath of God for our sin that the Father turned his face away, that in some way at that point because of our sin the eternal relationship between the Father and the Son was broken and that there was separation within the Godhead.
Join us next time when we shall bring this back to Jesus on the cross and look at what this means, and what in fact, if not teaching abandonment by God, what Jesus’ use of Psalm 22 does show.