Other sermons in this series
I wonder how long is it since you’ve felt you were treated really unfairly? I guess for some of us we make a habit of feeling that way, and you’re always thinking nothing’s fair.
But I mean more in the sense of a genuine injustice.
My son in law was driving the other day and someone ran straight into the side of the back of his car. Totally the other driver’s fault, and the other driver admitted it and they exchanged details and went on.
And a few days later when all the insurance claims were going in, at that point the other driver totally denied responsibility.
And so for a few days there was genuine nervousness about who’d have to pay the bill.
I was in the school playground. It’s my first week at school. David Hughes says to me, let’s have a competition. See who can throw a stone the furthest. He said to me, you go first. And so I did.
Not a bad throw.
At which point David Hughes runs over to the teacher and reported me for throwing stones.
Five days in to my school career and I already had a criminal record.
And let me tell you, it wasn’t fair. The fact I still remember David Hughes after all these years is that I just never got over the sense that what he did to me just wasn’t fair.
And so because of that I was unfairly accused. And unfairly punished. And he was just standing there laughing.
Look, there are plenty of times life leaves you feeling like that. For me David Hughes was just one of the first. The first loss of innocence. It just. Isn’t. Fair. Why me? What did I do to deserve this?
Now that’s the kind of sentiment that lies behind 57% of all country music songs. It’s also the kind of sentiment that lies behind a bunch of the Psalms of David, king of ancient Israel. They’re songs of despair. And disappointment. They’re cries ofdesolation. Most especially Psalm 22, where David famously asks why he’s been abandoned by God.
Take a look at his opening words. Psalm 22 verse 1.
My God, My God, why have you forsaken me.
Why have you dumped me. And left me in such a mess?
Why? What have I done… to deserve getting dumped like this?
Why are you so far from saving me?
So far from my cries of anguish.
My God I cry out by day but you do not answer,
by night but I find no rest.
I toss and turn at night. And I just can’t sleep.
Gee, I dunno, but if you’re one of those bright and breezy Christians who says you always feel so close to God, if you’re always acting like everything’s fantastic, I wonder if you’re being honest about that? I’ve opened this morning with a bunch oftrivial examples of the way life can unfairly trip you up.
But what about that devastating diagnosis from the doctor? What about that family sadness that just won’t go away?
What about the way you were treated as a kid that stays with you? Every day. Every day.
King David says, I’m king of Israel. Anointed by God. And I’m calling out to Israel’s God day and night… so where is he?” Why has he let me down?
And look, as your eye runs down through the Psalm there’s a string of vivid word pictures of his pain.
You know, I’d never apply for a job at a crocodile sanctuary. Some people do. And then you see video of that ranger in Townsville last Monday, just a routine afternoon feeding. And she was nearly the meal.
Whatever kind of animal makes up your nightmares, David says he’s surrounded by them. And they’re out to get him.
Verse 12. Many bulls surround me; strong ones.
Verse 13. Roaring lions that tear their prey open their mouths wide against me.
Not literal lions. He’s talking about enemy nations.
Verse 16. Now they’re dogs. That surround him. A pack of villains. Who he says pierce my hands and my feet.
More animals. Verse 21. Rescue me from the mouth of the lions, save me from the horns of the wild oxen.
Which leaves him, if you go back to verse 6, feeling like a worm in comparison. The lowliest. Most harmless. Creature of the garden.
Read his words. Verse 6: But I am a worm and not a man; scorned by everyone. Despised. By the people.
In 1999 Benjamin B Brown from the band Wheatus wrote the song “I’m just a teenage dirtbag baby”; it went straight to number 1 in the Australian charts. Sad little song about the nerdy kid that the pretty girl didn’t even look at, and the sport guyswould just spit on. With a hugely catchy tune. Psychologists were saying it was bad for kids to sing along to because it developed low self esteem.
Well, at this point David would have been singing along… same sentiment. I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone.
Amidst all the wild animals around him. David’s a worm.
And in verses 7 and 8, they mock him without mercy.
All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
Vs. 8, “He trusts in the Lord,” they say, “let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.”
And still, David says, my God, my God, why have you forsaken me.
He says in verse 11,
Do not be far from me
for trouble is near and there is no one to help.
And look, in verses 14 to 17 it’s sounding like his body is just falling to bits. Physical disintegration. And again, full of vivid word pictures you can almost feel, being poured out like water. His heart melting like a wax candle. His mouth. So dry. Verse 15. Like a shard of dry broken pottery.
He says, They pierce my hands and feet,
My bones are on display. People staring and gloating over me.
They divide my clothes among them, verse 18, and cast lots for my garment. And I’m not even dead yet.
And yet, in verse 9 to 11, somehow, suddenly, the same voice that questions where God is when he’s not turning up in a crisis; the same voice that says I cry out day and night and you’re not answering. That same voice. Stops. And says, and yetmaybe I won’t give up hope.
For two reasons.
First up, here’s God’s track record with Israel. Sure it’s all been with other people; and now David’s in the firing line himself. But he says, when I look back at our national history, I can see why you’re the one Israel praises. I look back and I can see you’re the one our ancestors put their trust in.
They trusted you. And you delivered them.
They cried out to you. And they were saved.
In you they trusted. And were not put to shame.
Now look, he straight away goes dark again after he says that. Does the worm thing; but then in verse 9, he’s back with another yet you.
Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you even at my mother’s breast. From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
So why give up now? Maybe you can look back at that same kind of heritage. Maybe the only reason to keep going sometimes is to look back at how long you’ve been going already. Why stop now just because it’s a bit tougher?
See it’s interesting. Do you reckon you’re trusting God to somehow stop bad things happening to you?
Or do you reckon you’re trusting God for the times bad things will happen to you?
So this is David’s prayer. Verse 11. Please. Please. You’ve been my God since the very beginning. So don’t be far from me now.
Don’t you be far from me when trouble is so near to me.
Because there is no-one else to help. Verse 11.
And they pierce me.
And they gloat over me.
And I’m thirsty.
And they’re dividing up my clothes.
So again in verse 19. The same words. But you O Lord, do not be far from me.
You are my strength. So come quickly to help me.
And the bottom line is, in the midst his despair, after oscillating backwards and forward between fear and faith, look where he finishes. In verses 22 to 31.
You know, some people read this Psalm and they read the negative bits and then the positive bits and they say, how can this all be written by the same guy? So there are scholars who say it’s kind of stitched together like a patchwork quilt of darkbits and light bits that weren’t originally connected.
Or some people say maybe, well, David’s a bit bipolar and he has his good days and his bad days.
But the fact is, faith and fear aren’t necessarily opposites.
And maybe real faith, maybe genuine faith, is to grapple with fear and despair; and yet still keep trusting God on the way through it. Hanging on by your fingernails. No matter how distant he feels on the way.
Job says, “even though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.”
And David’s the same.
And so from verse 22 onwards, there’s this dramatic turnaround, where the King with no future in the first section is now suddenly full of future tense plans and promises. And a sudden surge of confidence.
Pick up in verse 22, and look out for the words I will.
I will declare your name to my people.
In the assembly I will praise you.
And he calls on everyone else who fears the
Lord to do the same.
Honour him. Revere him all you descendants of Israel.
Here’s why. For in spite of appearances, David says,
… he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him, but has listened to his cry for help.
And so then this string of confident future tenses right through to the end. All these things that will happen. Verse 26 and 27. The poor will eat and be satisfied and those who seek the Lord will find him, and all the families of the nations will bowdown to him. When they see the way God’s suffering anointed one is restored.
Astonishing. That from a Psalm that starts with the words my God my God why are you forsaking me; God’s anointed, abandoned. You can somehow end up with the picture in verses 27 and 28. That all the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord. That all the families of the nations. Will bow down before him.
Whether they’re bowing the knee to him at his point or not; they will, says David in verse 29. All who go down to the dust will kneel before him.
And future generations will one day say, “he has done it.”
Now our series, as I’ve reminded you each week now, is called Sing with Jesus. And it’s all about reading the Old Testament Psalms with New Testament eyes.
I wonder if you’ve noticed already if you’ve ever read the accounts of the crucifixion of Jesus. The way Jesus fills out exactly the picture of Psalm 22. The way the gospel writers like Matthew so much want us to notice the connections.
The way Jesus himself in his cry from the cross so consciously quotes the opening words of Psalm 22.
But look, there’s way more. I’m not going to track through all the connections, but if you kind of squint and look at Matthew chapter 27 on the screen, you’ll see all the red bits come straight from Psalm 22.
Jesus, insulted. Jesus. Pierced through his hands and his feet.
And look, right on cue, exactly like the Psalm, dividing up his clothes by casting lots. It’s like they’re lifting the script for the scene straight out of Psalm 22.
David says all who see me mock me. They say “let God save him if he wants him.”
The enemies of Jesus. Who as it turns out shockingly are the priests and leaders of Israel… in Matthew 27 verse 43 they’re saying virtually the same.
He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’
And he’s so thirsty. Like a mouth full of broken pottery.
And the cry. “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” My God, My God, why have you forsaken me. Psalm 22 verse 1.
And then gives up his spirit. Dead.
None of it fair. None of it deserved. He. Of all men. Totally innocent.
And yet of course we know in retrospect that the reason God’s forsaking him is that in his innocence, he’s taking the place of the wicked.
And the consequence for every injustice ever… is being consumed in the fireball of that final magnificent injustice being poured out on him.
And yet he himself. Even through death. Is not extinguished. And the darkness doesn’t win.
Do you reckon… As they’re piercing his hands and feet. As they’re calling out their scripted jibes not knowing they’re playing out Psalm 22; as he hangs there thirsty… as he quotes the first verse of Psalm 22… do you reckon he’s got in his mind where the Psalm finishes?
And he’s drawing confidence from that?
I reckon it’s right at the top of his mind. That when he struggles for breath and says those words, my God, my God, why have you forsaken me… he knows where the Psalm ends.
And that David said one day, there’ll be a people who celebrate, who say he has done it! That one day all the ends of the earth and all the families of the nations… will bow down.
Because David says God has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one.
And Jesus is holding on to the fact that God is listening to his cry for help. And on the Sunday morning, he’s going to answer it. And when he does answer it, there’s going to be a gospel that goes out to all the world. And there’ll be people even in the suburbs of a faraway city called Brisbane who’ll join in proclaiming his righteousness. He has done it.
How unlikely that would have seemed in the mind of Jesus. As he hung there on the cross. But here we are.
Because the upbeat ending to Psalm 22 isn’t just wishful thinking.
I want to ask you this morning, how are you going to face hard times? Because they’ll come, won’t they? When you’re mocked for trusting God and yet God seems so far away.
The answer is not just to pretend it doesn’t hurt. When your plans and your hopes seem to be turning to dust. When you’re sick and you’re frail. Let me tell you, if you find yourself oscillating back and forth between fear and faith, that’s okay. You’rein good company. David felt the same. And Jesus sang along.
So sing with Jesus. Because he knows. Exactly how it feels. Unfairly treated. Incredible pain. And he knows. Exactly how distant God can feel when things aren’t going well for you. And he knows. Exactly how much you might just want to give up.
Is that a comfort? That in Psalm 22 Jesus knows exactly what it’s like to be you in your worst times.
So you don’t have to pretend any more.
He knows what it’s like.
But it also means the way things panned out for Jesus has got to be… our main encouragement.
So when enemies are surrounding you, when life’s all just too much for you… you might be in despair. And you might be crying out. But keep on making it the cry of faith. With that note of hope at the end, that will ultimately be met with the sameresurrection. The same great deliverance. The same salvation.
Because at every point you’ll know… that at every step along the way, he’s been there before.