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Psalm 22 – My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?


This lament psalm is unique both in its description of the depths of distress and in the expansive praise following the experience of God's help.


The first part of the psalm is a typical lament in form (vv. 1-21a), but hardly typical in the picture it paints of suffering and despair. The poet feels forsaken by God (vv. 1-2), less than human (v. 6), and under attack from all sides (vv. 7-8, 12-13, 16-18). The pray-er's faith (v. 2) and body (vv. 14-15) are both shaken to the breaking point.

The psalm was prayed first by sufferers in ancient Israel, and then it provided words for Jesus' own prayer from the cross (Mark 15:34). In fact, the psalm's description of suffering colors the entire scene of the crucifixion in the Gospels. Jesus is seen to embody fully the innocent suffering described in Psalm 22 and other psalms.

Despite feeling forsaken in the moment, the pray-er has nowhere to turn but to God, remembering God's care for Israel in the past (vv. 3-5) and his or her own personal experiences of God's loving protection (vv. 9-11). Memory serves faith when present terror calls it into question, and memory is supported when God's people pray this and other psalms. The voice of one generation provides words and meaning for another.

Experiencing God's helping hand, the psalmist turns to praise, also typical of the lament psalms, though here the praise section, too, goes beyond that found in other psalms of this type. Typically, the pray-er promises to bear witness in the congregation to God's goodness (vv. 22-26). But this psalm goes farther, announcing that "all the ends of the earth" shall turn to God because of God's saving love--including even those "who sleep in the earth" and "people yet unborn" (vv. 27-31). Only the most amazing gift of God's salvation could engender such response, which makes this psalm particularly appropriate for the New Testament to use in announcing that God "has done it" (v. 31) in the gift of God's Son Jesus.

Psalm 22

Plea for Deliverance from Suffering and Hostility

To the leader: according to The Deer of the Dawn. A Psalm of David.
1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
   Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
   and by night, but find no rest.

3 Yet you are holy,
   enthroned on the praises of Israel.
4 In you our ancestors trusted;
   they trusted, and you delivered them.
5 To you they cried, and were saved;
   in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.

6 But I am a worm, and not human;
   scorned by others, and despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock at me;
   they make mouths at me, they shake their heads;
8 ‘Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver—
   let him rescue the one in whom he delights!’

9 Yet it was you who took me from the womb;
   you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.
10 On you I was cast from my birth,
   and since my mother bore me you have been my God.
11 Do not be far from me,
   for trouble is near
   and there is no one to help.

12 Many bulls encircle me,
   strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
13 they open wide their mouths at me,
   like a ravening and roaring lion.

14 I am poured out like water,
   and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
   it is melted within my breast;
15 my mouth* is dried up like a potsherd,
   and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
   you lay me in the dust of death.

16 For dogs are all around me;
   a company of evildoers encircles me.
My hands and feet have shrivelled;*
17 I can count all my bones.
They stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my clothes among themselves,
   and for my clothing they cast lots.

19 But you, O Lord, do not be far away!
   O my help, come quickly to my aid!
20 Deliver my soul from the sword,
   my life* from the power of the dog!
21   Save me from the mouth of the lion!

From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued* me.
22 I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters;*
   in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
   All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him;
   stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he did not despise or abhor
   the affliction of the afflicted;
he did not hide his face from me,*
   but heard when I* cried to him.

25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
   my vows I will pay before those who fear him.
26 The poor* shall eat and be satisfied;
   those who seek him shall praise the Lord.
   May your hearts live for ever!

27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
   and turn to the Lord;
and all the families of the nations
   shall worship before him.*
28 For dominion belongs to the Lord,
   and he rules over the nations.

29 To him,* indeed, shall all who sleep in* the earth bow down;
   before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
   and I shall live for him.*
30 Posterity will serve him;
   future generations will be told about the Lord,
31 and* proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,
   saying that he has done it.

Psalm 22

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