It is written:
“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, And from the words of My groaning?” (Psalm 22:1)
One of the most difficult thoughts that I have grappled with throughout my life was based upon this verse.
When Jesus was being crucified, He quoted this passage of Scripture:
Matthew 27:46-And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?”
I cannot even begin to imagine the doubt and pain that Jesus here experienced, but it always left me with this troubling question:
If God forsook His own Son in His darkest moment, then how can I ever trust God to be with me through my deepest troubles?
The answer to this troubling question, it turns out, is found right here in this Psalm 22.
There is a Jewish doctrine known as remez. It is often applied where a Jewish rabbi would quote the first verse of a passage of Scripture, and encourages his students to “dig deeper” into the Word in that particular to find some great treasure hidden there.
“(2) Remez (“ hint”)—wherein a word, phrase or other element in the text hints at a truth not conveyed by the p’shat. The implied presupposition is that God can hint at things of which the Bible writers themselves were unaware.” (David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary, 752 (Kindle Edition); Clarksville, Maryland; JEWISH NEW TESTAMENT PUBLICATIONS, INC.)
Too often, we forget that the Word of God is filled with treasures that are waiting for us to mine them. Remez is a perfect example of this. One Hebrew scholar has noted:
“Let me illustrate: If you look at a drop of water with the naked eye, you see just one drop of water. But if you put that drop of water under a microscope, you see a whole world of life within it, things that you could never see without the magnification. So it is with the Word of God. You may see just one word, but put that word under a spiritual microscope, and you will see a whole world of life within it that you hadn’t even begun to imagine. The Jewish Talmud* teaches that there are “seventy faces” to Torah.* That is, every verse could have seventy different shades of meaning. The Word of God is pictured as a gemstone that is taken out to the sunlight. When the light reflects off the gemstone, it displays many different colors. To be sure, there is a literal meaning to every verse, and the Talmud does warn that we are never to wander away from the pashat, or the literal meaning. Yet the literal interpretation is like the surface of the ocean. It is beautiful and vast, but if you dive beneath that surface—similar to observing that drop of water under a microscope—you will find a brand-new world filled with amazing wonders. This, again, is how it is with the Word of God.” (Chaim Bentorah, Hebrew Word Study: Revealing the Heart of God, 234-240 (Kindle Edition); New Kensington, PA; Whitaker House).
This is all very fascinating, but what does it have to do with the passage under consideration?
Very simply, this:
In Psalm 22:1, the Psalmist expresses his pain and conviction that he has been forsaken by God. Yet later in the text, he acknowledges that he has not been!
Psalm 22:24-For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Nor has He hidden His face from Him; But when He cried to Him, He heard.
There are times when we feel that God has turned away from us, but we can find solace in the knowledge that He will never leave us or forsake us!
“We were there together,” says Papa (98). Mack is shocked: “At the cross? Now wait, I thought you left him—you know—‘ My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ ”… “You misunderstand the mystery there. Regardless of what he felt at that moment, I never left him.” “How can you say that? You abandoned him just like you abandoned me!” “Mackenzie, I never left him, and I have never left you.” “That makes no sense to me,” he snapped. (98) On the cross Jesus bore the Great Sadness of the world; he gave himself into the trauma of our darkness. Immersed in our contempt, he lost touch with his Father’s love and with the comfort of the Holy Spirit. “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” 44 But even this cry of despair was also a cry of solid hope; indeed, a sermon of victory. 45 For the psalm from which Jesus quotes goes on to say: “For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor has He hidden His face from him; but when he cried to Him for help, He heard.” 46 In quoting this psalm, which ends in astonishing triumph, Jesus is interpreting his death, as if to say, “It may look to you, as Isaiah foresaw, 47 that my Father is forsaking me. But nothing could be further from the truth, as you will soon see.” Breathing his last breath in the darkness, Jesus gave himself completely into his Father’s hands in helpless trust. “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” 48 In the words of Papa, “Don’t forget, the story didn’t end in his sense of forsakenness. He found his way through it to put himself completely into my hands. Oh, what a moment that was!” (96). This is how the Father, Son, and Spirit made their way into Adam’s shack—and into Mackenzie’s, and ours. And this is why Papa has nail scars on her wrists, and if Sarayu manifested physically, they would be seen on her wrists as well. For in the oneness of the blessed Trinity, the Father and the Holy Spirit suffered Jesus’ hell with him. They shared fully in his trauma, feeling his abuse, tasting the salt of his tears, and (I should hasten to add) sharing his humble restraint in the teeth of such sickening injustice. They chose the way of submission, of other-centered love, of grief and shared sorrow, and in doing so drew our very hell into the bosom of the Father and into the dwelling of the Holy Spirit. Jesus entered into the den of our iniquity, thereby establishing a real relationship between the blessed Trinity and us in our twisted prejudice. Jesus reached us in our fallen minds, personally closing the abyss between his Father’s dream for our adoption and our insane blindness. The death of Jesus was an act of inclusion: he was including the real us, the fallen, helpless, broken, rebellious us in his fellowship with his Father. In dying, Jesus became the mercy seat, the place where the blessed Trinity personally suffered and endured sinners and their sin in astonishing mercy. It deserves repeating again: the gospel is not the news that we can accept an absent Jesus into our lives. The gospel is the news that the Father’s Son has received us into his.” (C. Baxter Kruger, The Shack Revisited: There Is More Going On Here than You Ever Dared to Dream, 192-195 (Kindle Edition); New York, NY; Faith Words)
Indeed, we find that assurance in the 22 Psalm! David (speaking prophetically of the Messiah cries out:
Psalm 22:21-Save Me from the lion’s mouth And from the horns of the wild oxen! You have answered Me.
Notice those words: “YOU HAVE ANSWERED ME!”
Just as Jesus used the principle of remez to remind His disciples that He was not truly forsaken, it does not change the fact that He FELT forsaken.
And it is in that knowledge that we get a profound glimpse of the God-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit-that was willing to endure such agony to show us that He understands and loves us.
“‘When my heart is most fearful, help me out of my fears, through thy fear and pain’, says a hymn by Paul Gerhardt. This mysticism of the passion has discovered a truth about Christ which ought not to be suppressed by being understood in a superficial way. It can be summed up by saying that suffering is overcome by suffering, and wounds are healed by wounds. For the suffering in suffering is the lack of love, and the wounds in wounds are the abandonment, and the powerlessness in pain is unbelief. And therefore the suffering of abandonment is overcome by the suffering of love, which is not afraid of what is sick and ugly, but accepts it and takes it to itself in order to heal it. Through his own abandonment by God, the crucified Christ brings God to those who are abandoned by God. Through his suffering he brings salvation to those who suffer. Through his death he brings eternal life to those who are dying. And therefore the tempted, rejected, suffering and dying Christ came to be the centre of the religion of the oppressed and the piety of the lost. And it is here, in the theology of the mysticism of the cross in the late Middle Ages, that we first hear the monstrous phrase ‘the crucified God’, which Luther then took up.” (Jürgen Moltmann, The Crucified God, 61 (Kindle Edition); Minneapolis, Minnesota; Fortress Press)
Beloved, when we go through our times of trail and testing in this life, hold fast to the knowledge that God will be with you and guide you. Hold to His hand!
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.