Along about now, trading firms and banking concerns send out their tax documents that include those carefully worded disclaimers. What happened then doesn’t tell us much about what will happen soon–they want to make sure we get this. The Psalmists, however, have a radically different perspective.
So much honesty is on display in the Psalms, sometimes painfully so. You hear the wrestling with present circumstances, the longing for a bright future, the recollection of a difficult past–and some of this leaves us squirming. But some simply, boldly, baldly challenges our faith. Psalm 22 is one of those, where the writer describes an absolutely wrenching experience that includes personal discomfort coupled with abandonment by those who should have known better.
The opening question–My God, why have You forsaken me?–seems to set the tone, with what sounds like a shot across the bow of the Almighty, taking Him to task for being like everyone else. Yet as we read on, we hear the speaker settle into the confidence of knowing God has not walked away. As God has been faithful in the past, so may He be counted upon for both now and later.
The Psalm ends on two triumphant notes. First, because the writer decides, in the face of having to play with a really crummy hand, that he will commend and not blame God. Second, there is this triumphant exclamation: He has done it! as the last word–another statement of faith that looks around, detects God and gives Him praise.
The first words of this Psalm are on Jesus’ lips while He expires on the cross, and at times, interpreters say this tells us that the Father has turned away from the Son. It seems to me, however, that this misses the point of a Psalm that offers an honest appraisal of a situation (this hurts!) and still goes on to affirm God’s presence, interest and even aid. I prefer to see Jesus’ words as opening a dialog with others who might find themselves also in grievous circumstances, quoting a well-known Psalm to affirm that despite all one might see, God is still very much in the mix. For me, His final word–it is finished–sounds quite similar to the way Psalm 22 closes, suggesting a ‘bookending’ that recalls the entirety of the Psalm.
Seen on these terms, the faithfulness God consistently shown in the past is exactly the guarantee (though not the only assurance) of His faithfulness for what lies ahead–which is where I want to plant my feet today.