Use these to launch your thinking and praying to do own work.
Meditations on Psalms of the Day
Psalms 16, 17, and 22
Take what you will and then do your own work.
How can these prayer songs inform and refine your own honest and raw prayers today?
Psalm 16:1 - Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge.
Never separate the two parts of this prayer or you will diffuse its power. The first part is a request made in faith. The second is a declaration of faith upon which every request is made and in which our confidence resides. Safety, in and of itself, is of limited value. We are safe from what and for what? The end and the means are the same here. We are made safe by abiding that we might safely abide in Christ. If God is our refuge, that is enough to say. It is an end in itself. To be in Christ is the end that brings every new beginning. Where is your principal residence in this life? Every anxiety and discomfort is addressed by the answer of faith. If you reside in God and take refuge in Him, then rest in Him and abandon all concern for safety from that which you cannot control. God is in charge.
Psalm 16:2 - I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”
This is so very important! First, we must recognize that to say “Lord” is not just to utter a religious word or to speak with respect toward our chosen deity. In the naming of God as Lord is a relinquishment of every other value, treasure, and prize. It is to acknowledge Him as Supreme Master and to render everything else in our lives as valueless apart from Him. It is in acknowledging Him as the source of every good gift that those gifts have worth. It is in knowing Him that every other vision fades in importance and takes its place in His court as subservient to His will.
Psalm 16:3 - As for the saints who are in the land, they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight.
One of the great privileges of the new birth is that we are born into a family of saint with whom we can associate and in whose fellowship we can delight. To be a saint is to be separate, holy, and dedicated to a particular function. That function, for the Christian, is the praise and glory of God. In one sense, it is not a mysterious or otherworldly thing to be a saint. In another sense, it is to profoundly embrace a mystery that we can never fully understand and be apprehended by a world far beyond our reach in these mortal bodies. If one is a saint indeed, one loves other saints because, in them, we see God’s face as clearly as possible in this life –even among those who dwell in the land.
Psalm 16:4 - The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods. I will not pour out their libations of blood or take up their names on my lips.
Today, we join the eternal chorus of welcome as the Lord Jesus Christ enters into our consciousness as the King who comes in the Name of the Lord. He is the Prince of Peace and righteousness. His Kingdom comes with glory and praise, but also with a cross of pain and disgrace. Yet, He willing enters into the sphere of time, space, and judgment to face whatever stands between Him and His mission to bring all who welcome Him into eternal fellowship with the Father. Let us lift our voices in worship as we worship Him.
Psalm 16:5 - Lord, you have assigned my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure.
God is righteous. That means that everything about Him is fully integrated into His holy character – He is 100% pure truth, love, goodness, and holiness. There are no contradictions in God – except those that we contrive in our own misunderstanding of Him. He loves justice. His heart delights in seeing things set aright. He loves consistency in our lives. He takes joy when His truth is integrated into the loose dimensions of our lives and we come into right relationship with Him. There is a promise in this verse, that the upright will see His face. What a glorious affirmation! The more we seek Him, the more our hearts are changed by His power within us and the clearer our vision of Who He is becomes. We can see God. His grace in Jesus Christ removes the scales from our eyes so that we may have a glimpse in this life and the hope of full disclosure in the life to come. Let that truth sink into the pores of your being today and celebrate it as you walk through the maze of confusing messages and distorted truth. You can see God.
Psalm 16:6 - The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.
Do you feel alone in your spiritual journey? Do you imagine that you are the only person in your school, workplace, or neighborhood that desires the things of God or seeks after His will? Do you wonder if there is even one other person who will stand with you for truth and righteousness? Are you overwhelmed by the loneliness of solitary seeking? Do you even wonder if the psalmist was somehow transported out of his time to speak of ours? Things have not changed that much have they? We all look back on better times when we were sure that there were more righteous and earnest people living among us and compare those times with our “todays.” We conclude that we are alone and that no one else is godly or faithful. While that is not true in every sense, it is in one. “There is none that is righteous, no not one.” We are indicted by that statement and must include ourselves among the number of the “no more” who have “vanished from the earth.” From God’s perspective and standard of perfect holiness, no one measures up. Then Jesus Christ enters the picture and He alone stands for truth. Our only hope is in Him and in Him we are not alone. Consciously align yourself with Him today and allow God to flush away that sense of “aloneness.”
Psalm 16:7 - I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.
If you can’t trust a compliment, what can you trust? The psalmist has had it with flattery. He is discouraged over the tendency of his neighbors to use speech only to manipulate and deceive. We ought to develop that same level of disgust with untruth because all lying and falsehood are at odds with a God who is truth. Pretty lies are no better than ugly lies. Lies are lies and they are dark and dismal. Ask God to fill your heart with truth today and with a love for that truth so that whenever you would tell yourself a lie, you would immediately appeal to the God of truth and be rescued. Whatever urge you may have to be hard on your neighbors, start first with yourself and let God’s grace fill you and change you.
Psalm 16:8 - I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
First, consider this: On Maundy Thursday – praise and flattery met Jesus upon His entry into the Holy City. “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord,” they cried and most likely meant what they said. Is it possible that some of those who praised Him on Sunday cursed Him on Thursday evening when He was arrested and brought to trial? Could it be that some who praised Him were seeking to manipulate Him for their own ends and to triumph with their tongues, even to co-opt Him for their own causes? Is it even possible that some that welcomed Him with their lips retained no sense of responsibility for their words beyond themselves? We see ourselves as masters of our words whenever we refuse to submit ourselves, body, soul, and spirit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Jesus went to the upper room and took the role of a servant. With His words and deeds, He offered His body and blood for the redemption of lost men and women. He emptied Himself and held nothing back. His words are truth and love. Let us bring ourselves and our words to Him in that same spirit. If possible, find a place this day to partake of communion with other believers and remember the sacrifice of Jesus and be reminded of His gracious words.
Psalm 16:9 – Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure,
God saw the oppression of the weak and heard the groaning of the needy, bound in the chains of sin and wickedness. Thus, He came to us as a man among men. He arose and took upon Himself of a lowly servant, He emptied Himself and became obedient unto the death of the cross. (Philippians 2) He identified with us completely, yet without sin and became our protector and deliverer from sin. God has always been the champion of the weak and needy. The Christ-event and the passion of the cross make it clear that every man, woman, and child is in need of a savior. We are all oppressed – even if we are oppressors. We each writhe in agony for someone to intervene in our darkness and bring us into the light. Friend, the cross, was, is, and always will be for you. Spend some time today meditating on it. Seek out other believers with whom you can worship in wake of Calvary. Get alone with God and thank Him for remembering you on the cross. Do not let this day pass as any other.
Psalm 16:10 - because you will not abandon my to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
Oh, precious words, flawless, pure, beautiful in their refined glory. God’s words stir the soul, comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable, and pierce the heart with divine truth and brilliant light. On that dark Saturday between the cross and the resurrection, the disciples had only the remembrance of His words. What would they have meant to you in such an hour? What have they meant to you in your darkest hours. After the resurrection, Jesus would meet men on the road to Emmaus and remind them of His words and those that the Father had spoken over the centuries through the scriptures. He would bring them new meaning and their hearts would burn within them. Let Jesus apply all of God’s words to your heart in the darkness of death from the place of resurrection. We can never fully visit the despair of that bleak Saturday, but we can enter into our own darkness with the flawless Word of God to comfort our souls.
Psalm 16:11 - you have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
What a pointless prayer this would be divorced from resurrection truth! Without the resurrection we are exposed, vulnerable, and unprotected. If Christ were not raised, we would be as Paul said, “still in our sins (I Cor. 15).” We could not expect help in the onslaughts of wicked and violent people or non-human forces from a dead and powerless God. Prayers would be futile attempts to feel better about our miserable circumstances. Compliance with ethics would be fruitless acts of legalistic compulsion if not overwhelmed by a dynamic conviction that God can raise the dead and thus, protect, deliver, and save. God raised Jesus from the dead and pronounced the death sentence on death. He is alive and brings to life all who trust in Him. Celebrate! The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed!
"Start by doing what's necessary, then do what's possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible." - Saint Francis of Assisi
Psalm 17:1 - Hear, O Lord, my righteous plea; listen to my cry. Give ear to my prayer-it does not rise from deceitful lips.
One might think that the psalmist had stepped out of his time and looked upon ours to offer his commentary. The repulsive sight of the wicked strutting about in impunity is and always will be a source of grief to those who love God and His truth.
The deeper indignity and affront to God is that what is vile is honored among men as noble, good, true, artistic, or benevolent.
Little has changed. The values of society, left to its own devices, have always been at odds with God. We must carefully examine all that we place upon our cultural pedestals and pay homage to. God’s standards are different than those of the larger world.
We value what may contain a grain of truth, but it is so often distorted and ignoble.
The numerology of apocalyptic literature takes the number 6 and repeats it three times in contrast to the holiness of the complete Trinity. Thus, 666 represents the fullness of evil. The curious thing is that the number 6 is only one whole number shy of 7 – the number of perfection.
The lesson is almost hidden, but clear: That which is repugnant may be something that is very close to the truth (for instance, the devil quotes scripture and believes in God), but veers off the path of truth in a small way that is significant enough to altar everything.
It should be easy for the Christian to detect the blatant and flagrant abuses of truth, but be cautious that you are not caught up in the frenzy of honoring that which is popular just because it has an outer veneer of righteousness.
Psalm 17:2 - May my vindication come from you; may your eyes see what is right.
In the first place, we must note that he is wrong about being abandoned and forgotten by God.
That is how he feels, but not the truth of the situation – and he most likely knows it in the depths of his being.
In the second place, it is OK for him to express this feeling to God because it is about emotional disclosure – not about theological accuracy.
Do not allow your desire to be theologically sound inhibit your honest prayers to God in the secrecy of your heart before Him.
Trust Him to correct any misconceptions you have.
He can do that as you address Him. You are not praying before an audience – not even an audience comprised of yourself and God.
Get out of the way of your prayers and pour out your soul before God.
He can hear you whenever you earnestly seek Him. He knows your heart, your frailties, and your strengths. He loves you and has not left you alone. If you feel He has hidden His face from you – tell Him. He loves the fact that you long for Him and desire to know Him, see Him, and experience Him at a deeper level. Get real in your prayers and God will transform your life through them.
Psalm 17:3 - Though you probe my heart and examine me at night, though you test me, you will find nothing; I have resolved that my mouth will not sin.
Unfortunately, we sometimes have to wrestle with our thoughts and we are not exempt from sorrow of heart. Sometimes, for the moment, our enemies triumph over us and the pain of it seems open-ended.
“God,” we pray,” how long will this go on? I have nearly reached the end of my rope.”
And God either gives us more rope or extends our patience, or, in some cases, gives us a glimpse of an end in sight. Our defeats are temporal and transient. Our victory is eternal.
Our wrestling thoughts and deep sorrows do not overwhelm us for we have rest in Jesus. He is our comfort. The psalmist is not lecturing us about how to deal with eternal pain, doubt, and conflict; he is modeling it. He shows us the way out by living it out.
He prays – honestly and frankly to a God he trusts and knows. The author is identified as David, so we know that these are his sentiments, and this is his prayer. He was called a man after God’s own heart. Imagine that - God loves to hear from His children even when they are bringing Him their deepest conflicts. Pray.
Psalm 17:4 – As for the deeds of men-by the word of your lips I have kept myself from the ways of the violent.
This is the desperate plea of a man who knows that His only hope is in God. It may be true that our prayers will never be highly effective until we come to terms with this reality in our lives. The submission to God’s will is present in the mode of address, “O Lord, my God.”
The relationship is personal and vital. The prayer is for light. Eyes never see without light. David goes further – no light, no life.
“I cannot live without you,” he implies.
“If I cannot see from your perspective, I will simply die.”
He longs deeply for truth and for God. We cannot learn to pray like that from outside instruction; we begin with that part of our soul that knows it is weak and desperate and begin – and God teaches us to dig in and cry out to Him. Ask Him to be your teacher: “Lord, I don’t know where to begin with You, so begin with me where I am. Teach me to pray, O Lord, my God. Teach me to pray.”
Psalm 17:5 - My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not slipped.
We need to get used to the fact that our enemy does not have our best interest at heart. Satan knows that we do not always believe this and capitalizes on our naiveté. He suggests thoughts and deeds that seem pleasant and alluring and, when we fall for the temptation, shouts with glee, “Ha! I’ve got him (or her)”
And then he throws a party to rejoice in our fall.
Enemies cannot be trusted. Evil cannot be trusted. If we flirt with sin, we will find ourselves entrapped. People may look at us and watch for an opportunity to ridicule us in our weakness because our stand for righteousness is so strong and open.
Do not be afraid of their laughter for our defeat is not final and their approval is not necessary. Only God is necessary for our lives. Affirm that in prayer today and notice with indifference the scorn of the wicked.
Psalm 17:6 – I call on you, O God, for you will answer me; give ear to me and hear my prayer.
Yes! This is the resolution.
Whatever the trouble, doubt, or scorn of enemies, God’s love does not fail, and His salvation is sure.
From the same lips that cry out with impatient agony before God, the psalmist reaffirms his joyful faith in God. As a response to this joy, we are reminded to REJOICE.
Philippians 4:4 calls us to “Rejoice in the Lord always.”
And then, Paul emphatically repeats himself, “I will say it again: Rejoice!”
God, all that He is and all that He does, is enough for us. His salvation lifts us out of the doldrums of defeat and translates us into the kingdom of His dear Son.
There is not enough we can say about the wonder of this level of comfort and assurance. To rejoice in the midst of persecution is the greatest statement of defiance we can make in the face of evil. It declares, “You have no power over me!”
Take some time to rejoice today.
Psalm 17:7 - Show the wonder of your great love, you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes.
Go ahead and sing.
So, you think you have no voice. Very few people – whose larynxes have been removed for instance – have no voice. You most likely do – and the voice was made for singing. Everyone can sing. Everyone is called upon to sing to the Lord.
Worship through singing is not an optional exercise for trained soloists; it is a mandate for every believer. If you feel that your singing is offensive, learn to sing naturally without offense, but do not withhold your praise from God.
This business is intrinsic. God’s goodness brings a song to our hearts. If you have a song in your heart, simply release it. Do it without fanfare or expectation of praise. Do it without a motive to be accepted or admired – sing unto the Lord and unto Him only. Begin in your devotional time alone with Him. He has been good to you. Sing to Him.
Psalm 17:8 - Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings…
There are many reasons why this statement is so obviously true.
Denial is not a river in Egypt. Denying God will not make God go away. Whether or not you believe in God or confess Him as God will not change who He is and that He is the sole determiner of what is wrong or right, corrupt, or authentic, pure or vile.
The fool, according to the psalmist, is not a theoretical atheist or philosophical agnostic. It is not someone who is struggling with the existence of God on the intellectual level, but the man or woman who has, in his or her heart, determined to be a practical atheist – to live as if there were no God or as if His existence did not matter.
He is concerned with how this statement of the heart manifests itself in our lives. Now the question: Is there some area of your own life, where in your heart, you are declaring, “There is no God?”
Have you pushed Him to the side in your deliberations and decision-making? Have you excluded His influence in areas where there is conflict with your own desires and lusts? God calls that foolishness and identifies the results as corrupt and vile- rotten and degraded to the core. Do business with God today in this area of your life and allow Him to scrutinize you and bring you healing grace.
Psalm 17:9 – from the wicked who assail me, from my mortal enemies who surround me.
Well, what does He find in me?
That is the question I must answer. That is the question you must ask yourself. When he looks down upon me, does He find understanding and seeking?
Some do not understand and don’t know that they don’t understand. Some understand and have locked their understanding into a formula and have stopped seeking. Others know that they don’t understand but have acquiesced to a position of irrational hopelessness and have given up seeking.
None of these responses pleases God when He looks down upon the sons of men. There are others who both understand and seek. They understand enough to know that there is much that they do not understand and so they seek in those areas.
When God gives some understanding, they do not stop seeking and become self-satisfied with their limited knowledge, but they keep seeking – even more earnestly. That pleases God so very much. Examine your heart today using this criterion and keep seeking God – more and more.
Psalm 17:10 - They close up their callous hearts, and their mouths speak with arrogance.
It is the universality of the fall and of sin that the psalmist is struggling with here. We were not designed to be corrupt. We were created in the image of God. But sin corrupts us to the very core. The rottenness of perverted intentions stains our lives beyond repair.
We cannot fix ourselves.
Our attempts at doing good to win some favor with God are also corrupt and drive us deeper into separation from God. Not even one person does good. That is amazing. But it is the reason why Jesus came and died, rose again, and returned to the Father to send His Spirit to indwell us.
We need the righteousness of Christ to be imparted and imputed to us. And we need His presence within us to work His goodness out through us.
These words are a reminder to long-term believers not to become proud, boastful, or self-righteous. If our salvation and acceptance by God depended upon our own goodness, we would be hopeless. But God sees us not looking down from above. He looks upon us directly through the face of His Son. Thank God today, as you pray, for His mercy.
Psalm 17:11 - They have tracked me down, they now surround me, with eyes alert, to throw me to the ground.
We are flabbergasted at the inability of some to learn the futility of their ways. We are surrounded by masses who do not call upon the Lord and who devour believers in many ways The temptation is to bulge out our chests and lift our noses in pride proclaiming, “I’m glad I’m not like that”
That’s the wrong approach. The response of faith would be to look within with the searchlight of God’s truth and pray, “Lord, is there an area of coldness and rebellion in my heart where I am refusing to learn? Am I devouring the person you made me to be?”
What distinguishes and delivers the believer is that he or she calls upon the Lord.
Psalm 17:12 – They are like a lion hungry for prey, like a great lion crouching in cover.
Sooner or later, even the wicked come to their senses, sometimes too late, and realize that God is present in the company of the righteous. That realization brings dread unless the message of God’s love and forgiveness intervenes.
Some will fight it. Others will flee from it.
But there will be some who, out of the fear and dread of judgment, will come into the flow of grace through repentance and faith.
The plight of the oppressor is far worse than that of the oppressed. Therefore, we must pray for sinners to come to a knowledge of truth and live out the credibility of the gospel so that we never bring discredit to Name of Jesus. Pray today for someone who is overwhelmed with dread and examine your own life as well.
Psalm 17:13 – Rise up, O Lord, confront them, bring them down; rescue me from the wicked by your sword.
The complaint of the poor man is often that, as hard as he tries, he just can’t get ahead. Something or someone is always thwarting and frustrating his efforts. So, it is with anyone who tries to “get ahead” spiritually on the clout of his or her own spiritual reserves.
Our plans come to naught because they are wrought in the flesh and human effort. God is our refuge. That is a constant. In Him we have hope and a future. In Him, we are rich beyond our dreams. His resources cannot be depleted. Jesus said, “blessed are the poor.”
The poor in Christ know where the riches lie and rely upon God’s storehouse to supply all that they need. They trust all their plans to Him and rely on Him for every breath.
Psalm 17:14 - O Lord, by your hand save me from such men, from men of this world whose reward is in this life. You still the hunger of those you cherish; their sons have plenty, and they store up wealth for their children.
The psalmist prays for His people and, perhaps unwittingly, all who will be blessed by them.
Indeed, the salvation of Israel and all people has come out of Zion and David’s longing prayer is answered in Jesus Christ.
Today is a day of worship and praise. We pray for the day when Jesus comes again to set all things right. May the words of this psalm evoke deep praise and anticipatory joy in our hearts, and we lay ourselves bare before God.
What fortunes of spiritual treasure would you have Him restore for you today?
What is the longing for His presence in you that is most personal for you as you pray?
Psalm 17:15 - And I-in righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.
The grand question introduces the next set of lessons from the psalms and sparks the imagination of all earnest seekers.
As believers in Christ, we have the answer in the gospel, but the very asking of the question is a matter of opening to God for all that He desires to teach us. Do not take truth for granted or treat it as if it were not ever new and renewing.
Allow the question to move you to the next level of seeking as you go before the Father in prayer today.
In its own context, this psalm has a history, but poetry and prayer is timeless and the Jesus and the gospel reflect on these sentiments and prayers in light of his experience of the Passion.
Psalm 22:1 - My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?
We have the retrospective luxury of knowing the messianic significance of this psalm in. It is messianic because the Messiah took these words to the cross as He identified with the sinfulness and despair that were already resident in humanity. He expressed the root of our hopelessness: abandonment - the awful sense that the God whom we ourselves have forsaken has forsaken us. To be separate from God is to be isolated and alone. It is the very terror of the night and it is the chief horror of the cross, which Jesus bore for us that this statement might never need to be ours again.
Psalm 22:2 - O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.
It is the hallmark of persistent prayer that it perseveres in silence. It is neither required nor assured that the believer will always “sense” the presence of God. What is called for is that we will remain faithful and not be silent when God is silent. In fact, God is not quieted. He is merely speaking on a frequency that we are not, at some given point in time, receiving. Keep praying – even amidst despair and doubt. Faith is found in the persistence and assurance and awareness emerge from the process. No matter how you feel about life, yourself, God, or others today, pray on!
Psalm 22:3 - Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel.
Immediately, out of dark despair, the worship leader of the psalms teaches us what drives persistent pray: It is the knowledge of the Holy One who is Other than us, enthroned, exalted, and worthy of praise. God does not need to earn our faithfulness in prayer and praise by making regular payments of blessings to our accounts. The starting point is that praise is due Him because He is the praise of Israel and the United States, the world, and the universe. If we can but come to some understanding that God is God no matter what we think or feel, we will begin to become messianic people.
Psalm 22:4 - In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them.
History is an anchor that stabilizes faith by reminding us that God can and does act to deliver His people. He, who never changes, takes a personal interest in those who trust in Him. He is a faithful God. We can count on Him to do again what He has done before. The heritage we receive from our believing fathers and mothers is a legacy we must pass on to our own children. It is an intergenerational gift that passes through our hands. Take courage from the experience of others, but never let that experience substitute for one of your own relationship with God. Build on their stories.
Psalm 22:5 - They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed.
What was it that our fathers did that brought them into the experience of God’s deliverance? It was very little and very much. It was very little of human effort or initiative. However, it was a great expression of faith in two parts. First, their attitude was one of trust – that resolute act of resting on God’s grace. Second, the volitional action was crying out for mercy, help, and salvation in desperate resignation. We who scatter ourselves about in frantic frenzies of futile flailing exclaim, “Is that all? It can’t be!” It is. Unless it becomes that alone, nothing we DO matters. Only God saves.
Psalm 22:6 - But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people.
Maybe today is your worm day. You have adopted the vision of yourself that you perceive others to have of you. You have resigned to the world, the rather than to God. It has become vitally important to you what others think of you and you are devastated. If, at any time, you allow yourself to be defined by others or even yourself, you will be depressed. Jesus identified with our struggles to understand self but overcame the temptation through a strong sense of who He was in relationship with His Father. We have the same mirror to our souls available, filtered by grace and the love of God.
Psalm 22:7 - All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads:
Consider Jesus today as you evaluate the evaluations of others and deflect their insults. Rather than lash out in reactionary anger or retreat in despondent silence, look to Him who endured. He was never shaken within by the opinions of people. He never lost His sense of standing with the Father or His assurance of His mission. He did not come down off the cross, nor can we. Our lives are nailed there, and our identity is securely fastened to His. Bathe in His love and acceptance when friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers mock your motives. You are cherished by Him.
Psalm 22:8 – "He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him."
You can expect to be attacked in that area where you are most vulnerable – your faith. The world will taunt you with that which troubles you most within – the nagging suspicion that God will not come through for you. This is the real test of faith whether the taunts come from within or without: Can you withstand them and find your trust deepened? Your lips may declare firm belief that God can deliver you from and through any trial, but do you believe it for this current trial? The answer is that faith is, also, a gift delivered amidst fire. Receive it today in your present circumstances.
Psalm 22:9 - Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you even at my mother's breast.
We started with a capacity to trust God because we had no other choice. As we experienced autonomy and choice, we chose to go our own ways as did our first father and mother. But the starting place was childlike trust. It is our first and greatest capacity and our one and only connector to God within our souls. It is the essence of the image of God within us - the plug through which He reconnects us in relationship within by His mercy, grace, and love. When we first chose to sin, we pulled the plug by trusting ourselves. Let God revive your trust today and choose to trust Him.
Psalm 22:10 - From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother's womb you have been my God.
This is the psalm of the cross, which our Master chose to identify with us as He bore our sins. There were three great acts of emptying in His earthly life. The first was His birth. He divested Himself of all His self-sufficiency as God and became dependent upon God –even in Mary’s womb. The second was His baptism-temptation where He conspicuously stood in the place of sinners to face every life temptation and overcome only by the power of the Spirit and the Word. Finally, the cross – and there, He remembered who He was and who He trusted. We must trust God also.
Psalm 22:11 - Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.
You will find yourself in circumstances, as did our Lord, where there are no solutions, alternatives, or assistance. There is no one and nothing to help. You are empty and alone. You cannot even depend upon yourself because your resources are depleted, and your energy is sapped. You can presume nothing in that moment. No one hears your plea, but God and your only non-negotiable request is that He remains near you. That is a powerful place in our lives. We cannot go on spiritually until we have been there. Embrace it and from that place, call upon God. You will find Him all-sufficient.
Psalm 22:12 - Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
The imagery may not be familiar, but it takes little imagination to see the precarious nature of these circumstances. What are yours? The idea of bulls surrounding you does not bring to mind the thought of a passive environment with benign enemies. These are angry bulls, poised for attack. They are frightening and intimidating, and they can do you great physical harm. But they cannot touch your soul. Only you and God know the depths of the battle you are in but know this: Jesus was there on the cross and He is with you now.
Psalm 22:13 - Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me.
You can see the lions devouring their prey and their eyes are now on you. You envision yourself being eaten alive by the forces within you and outside you that attack without mercy. It is a helpless feeling. Jesus experienced it fully on the cross. He placed Himself in that position willingly. He emptied Himself and “became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” We cannot choose our end, nor can we know if this crisis is our end, but we can know God in the midst of it and trust in Him. There is no lion, no problem, no weapon of Satan that can defeat God or destroy His child.
Psalm 22:14 – I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me.
What do you trust in a practical way to make it through the day? Do you count on your human resources, talents, ingenuity, or personality? You can be poured out like water. Do you trust your physical strength and fitness? Every bone can be dislocated from the others. Do you trust the strength of your character, perseverance, courage, and inner strength? Your heart can melt like wax and you will be left with nothing but God. This is the cross and Jesus has gone before us to show us that we can bear through His resurrection. Do not despair. You may be empty, but you are not alone.
Psalm 22:15 - My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.
The cross is not a position of personal strength. It was not for Jesus and is not for us. We come to the cross and are emptied as Christ Jesus emptied Himself. Speechless and helpless, we lie in the dust of death and somehow realize that a God of love has allowed this experience in our lives and brought us to this place that, out of death, we might find life. If you will know resurrection, you must be laid out as dead before God. There is no other way. Any attempt to circumvent this process renders the cross as useless in your life. Trust God in the dry places and you will live.
Psalm 22:16 – Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.
Onlookers, men and beasts, are waiting for your last breath. They are convinced that you are defeated. Around the cross, they all gathered, certain that they were about to hear the last of Jesus. Your enemies assume that personal failure and death will overcome you as well. Pain, it is felt, will conquer the spirit of any person. Not so with you. You are dead already and your life is hidden in Christ. In Him, you live. Whatever the enemy could throw at Christ was thrown, but He “arose a victor from the dark domain” and so will you in Him. Cast off despair and celebrate life!
Psalm 22:17 - I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me.
Have you ever counted your bones? How emaciated from the struggles of life, temptation, and sin have you been? Have you ever felt like such an oddity that people would stare? Have you ever been so humiliated that your enemies – especially those within, would gloat over your seeming defeat? When God made the choice to incarnate Himself into human flesh, He knew that He would be casting aside His glory for the lowest state of all. Hebrews 12 reminds us to consider Jesus who despised the shame but pressed on for the glory set before Him. Let us press on as well.
Psalm 22:18 - They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.
We like to think that we will have death with dignity. We must redefine dignity then, for what Jesus experienced can only be described in human terms, as humiliation. Nevertheless, human definitions do not rule the spiritual realm, nor can they rule our lives. If we must face such a cross where even our clothes are bartered among our enemies, then so be it. Either we can scream and protest for our rights and “dignity” or we can enter into a deeper experience of trust and obedience. It is a crossroads that we face. If we are to die to self that we might live, we cannot set the terms.
Psalm 22:19 – But you, O LORD, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me.
We are moving from first to second to third person intentionally in these thoughts – keeping the focus on God. That is where Jesus kept His focus in His lifetime identification with humanity. He asked only that His Father be near and trusted only in His strength. When we are empty and helpless, that is all we have and that is a very fine position for our lives. All other strength is an illusion and the sooner we understand that, the better. We have only God – He is all we ever have had, and we did not realize it. Perhaps now, we are coming to understand. Perhaps, we are coming into real life.
Psalm 22:20 - Deliver my life from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs.
Did you know that your life was precious to God? Grace yourself with the thought that God cares more for you than you care for yourself. Why then, do you exercise the exhausting effort of worry? God knows all about the sword. He sees and hears the dogs. He is not removed from your suffering and He intimately acquainted with your struggles. He has never abandoned you and He has a plan for your deliverance that He has already set into motion. Call upon Him. He is ready to take your hand and walk with you through this present fire.
Psalm 22:21 - Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen.
Once we have come to terms with the reality of our circumstances and ceased our fruitless debates over the fairness of our surroundings, we can get down to the relevant business of petition. God does not keep us out of the lion’s den or the path of wild oxen; but He delivers us. Deliverance is far better than avoidance because God gets the glory and we get the victory. Beside that, the world gets to see a demonstration of the power of God that exceeds the expectations of limited minds. Daniel’s victory did not rest in avoiding the conflict, but in God’s salvation in the midst. Resurrection!
Psalm 22:22 – I will declare your name to my brothers; in the congregation I will praise you.
We glory in the cross. We glory far more in the resurrection. Jesus came forth from the trial of the cross and the resurrection with a message of victory, redemption, and praise. We also emerge from our spiritual battles and, more importantly, the process of dying to self and rising to new life, with a message of hope. The faith-act of identifying with Jesus is what makes us evangelists. Good news permeates our beings so that our very lives are transformed into the gospel message. Like St. Francis, we preach everywhere and, when necessary, use words.
Psalm 22:23 – You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
Praise, honor, and reverence are the responses of all who know God as God. This fear of God is recognition of His utter divinity and absolute sovereignty. It is an awareness that is burned into our life through struggles and seared onto our hearts in crisis. It does not come easily. Do not associate praise with giddiness or shallow emotionalism. When it is refined, it flows from the very deepest places in our lives and transcend the moment, rises above circumstances, and soars to the heights of Heaven. It is a gem of great joy forged in the furnace of trial.
Psalm 22:24 - For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.
The God we praise is a God of loving compassion. He knows. He cares. He heals. He listens intently to His people and He is near the broken. Jesus identified with our pain intensely and passionately. His participation in our suffering and affliction goes far beyond empathy. He entered in and continues to enter in. You can trust Him because He already understands and have your very best interest in His heart. When we back off from God., we do so in irrational ignorance. To really know Him is to trust Him profoundly.
Psalm 22:25 - From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you will I fulfill my vows.
It all originates with God. If we think that we might like to organize our praise of God around ideas that intrigue us, we have missed the point. The very theme of praise comes directly from Him. It is about Him, from Him, and to Him that we praise. And, as we gather among those who know Him, this is understood. There are always personal and corporate dimensions to faith. There are individual vows that you make and fulfill to the Lord, but you do so in community among those who share a common vision of the God who is worthy of our praise.
Psalm 22:26 - The poor will eat and be satisfied; they who seek the LORD will praise him-- may your hearts live forever!
This is the grand turn-around. God feeds the poor. He fills the hearts of those who seek Him with praise. He brings life out of death and joy out of pain. He infuses our lives with such abundance that we cannot fully receive it. He lifts our spirits to heights we have never known. He fills our lips with praise and grants us eternal life. The present darkness is never absolutely dark because the light has already come to fill every crevice. We live now and always in the present reality of the resurrection and the future hope of Christ’s second coming. Seek Him and know this reality for yourself!