To the chief Musician upon Aijeleth Shahar, A Psalm of David. My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?
(with Matthew 27:46)
I. What an argument of fleshly reasoning might be wrought out of the fact that through all history nothing is commoner than for the soul of man to be intensely suffering and praying agonizingly without relief, without answer, all day and all night lifting anxious eyes to the heavens, and God and heaven in apparent indifference! Think of your observing silence towards a son or a daughter when overwhelmed with distress, and of your maintaining silence, not through one midnight, but years of midnights. And yet the lesson comes down from heaven to us, "Whatsoever ye would that others should do to you, do ye even so to them." We are compelled to answer, "O Heaven, do to us as we would desire to do to you if we were up there and you were down here."
II. The cry of the race is the cry of Jesus, and the cry of Jesus is the cry of the race. It is the cry of the best men. Only in the best of the best does the soul sufficiently recover itself to become at all aware of its situation. A few tender men in each generation, men of pure desire and loftiest aspiration, attain to the Divine distress. In the Lord Jesus the Divine-human distress reached its height, and in Him we see that the distress is a condition of the Divine-human victory.
III. If in extremity the cry of Christ was as if unheeded, shall we despair when left to suffer on and pray on without deliverance for an answer? What did Christ say? "Into Thy hands I commend My spirit." There is the example for us. I give myself up to Him that begat me. What then? The last breath of the material form. What then? Resurrection in a higher form: humanity through its wildest, blackest night, fresh from the hands of God, in the new morning of immortal hope.
IV. As soon as any member of our race perceives that the world-form of his nature is his humiliation, and the soul within him begins to suffer, because God is so far from his consciousness—these are the best evidences that we can have that his soul is advancing in regeneration and being rapidly prepared for uniting with God. God's nearness makes him feel that the world-form of his nature is too dark, too painful, a house for him to inherit. He is on the eve therefore of exchanging houses, his earthly house for the new house which is from heaven.
J. Pulsford, Our Deathless Hope, p. 92.
I. There are feelings and instincts in human nature the very antiquity of which is a proof of their universal reality. Foremost among such instincts is the aching sense of severance between man and the Infinite Being outside and above himself. Long before the Hebrew Psalmist, Indians, and Egyptians, and savage races beyond the pale of even primitive civilisation had been, with varying accents, uttering the same lament; and Greek tragedians, and Roman Stoics, and mediaeval monks and mystics, and all the voices of modern poets and philosophers have been echoing incessantly, with however strange a dissonance, the eternal cry of humanity, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?"
II. It is upon this universal sense of severance that the spiritual life of Christianity depends. You may never have dreamed of saying to yourself, "My soul is athirst for God, yea, even for the living God;" but you are athirst for finite objects, with a thirst which upon analysis will turn out to be infinite, both in quality and kind, and which therefore nothing short of an infinite object can ever satisfy. (1) Take, for instance, your desire for communion with the natural world. You desire infinite possession of, and infinite communion with, the grandeur, and the beauty, and the wonder of the world; and failing, you feel bitterly that it is your prison, and not your home. (2) It is the same with your human relations. Man will not be satisfied with family, or friendship, or acquaintance. Fresh vistas of humanity are ever opening before him, and each new friend becomes a new point of departure for the extension of his influence to a wider circle still. His motive may vary, but the instinct remains the same, and is simply the instinct to wider, deeper, more intense communion with his fellow-men. And yet, as before, its very unrest is but the measure of its failure. We are more severed from humanity than ever we were from external nature, and if the world is our prison, our fellow-men are our gaolers. (3) And so in our loneliness we look within and try to find refuge in an ideal world, but only to find schism and severance in the recesses of our inmost being. We are farther off from our ideals than even from nature and mankind.
III. All this is a fact, and a fact as universal as human experience; and Christianity, beyond other creeds, has faced and interpreted the fact. Nature, and society, and the thoughts of our hearts were created by a Person, and created for Himself; and our feelings of separation from the world and its inhabitants, and even from the inner vision of our own ideal self, are but symptoms of alienation from the Person in whom they exist.
IV. Because God is a Person, He cannot be contented with the abstract allegiance of one part of our nature. He claims our being in its wholeness, and says, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God." This command is, on the face of it, a paradox. But obey, give God your love, and the paradox will pass into a truism, for you will find that you possess Him in whom all things lovely have their being.
J. R. Illingworth, Sermons Preached in a College Chapel, p. 77.
References: Psalm 22:1.—Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 106; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. x., p. 149; T. Birkett Dover, A Lent Manual, p. 128. Psalm 22:7.—Ibid., p. 145; Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 105. Psalm 22:8.—Ibid., Sermons, vol. xxx., No. 1767. Psalm 22:9, Psalm 22:10.—J. Keble, Sermons for the Christian Year: Christmas to Epiphany, p. 139. Psalm 22:11.—H. P. Liddon, Old Testament Outlines, p. 104. Psalm 22:13.—J. Baines, Sermons, p. 60. Psalm 22:14.—Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 103. Psalm 22:15.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. vii., p. 378. Psalm 22:20.—H. J. Wilmot Buxton, The Children's Bread, p. 26. Psalm 22:22, Psalm 22:23.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiv., No. 799.
Psalm 22:26I. In general this verse teaches that there is one thing even in this fleeting world which is immortal. Man wears on his forehead the crown of his regnant majesty, for his nature is undying. A soul's state can be changed, but its nature is unalterable.
II. It is helpful to learn here that the text draws a distinction between life and mere existence. We are informed that these hearts of ours may have one of two moral states. Whichever of these is possessed as a permanent character decides destiny. The heart that seeks God enters immediately into the nearness of God's presence, where there is fulness of joy. The heart that wilfully refuses to seek God is forced into the darkness of utter banishment from God for the unending future. To the first of these conditions the Scriptures have given the name of life, to the second death.
III. The text evidences its authority by language peremptory and plain. There are three fixed laws of human nature which, fairly working together, render it absolutely certain that our affections will survive the shock of death and reassert themselves hereafter. (1) One is the law of habit. (2) Another is that of exercise. (3) A third is the law of association.
IV. The text teaches that human immortality is quite independent of all accidents and surroundings. Human affections will exist for ever in the line of their "seeking." Whatever your heart is, it will never die.
V. Our text fixes all its force by an immediate application of the doctrine to such as are meek enough to receive it. If your heart is to live for ever, then (1) much consideration ought to be given to your aims in this life, for they are fashioning the heart that is immortal. (2) Our companionships should be chosen with a view to the far future which is coming. (3) Some care should be had concerning the processes of education by which our affections are trained. (4) If our hearts are to live for ever, it is time some hearts were changed by the Spirit of Divine grace.
C. S. Robinson, Sermons on Neglected Texts, p. 21.
References: Psalm 22:26.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxii., No. 1312; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 134. Psalm 22:27.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xviii., No. 1047. Psalm 22:29.—Ibid., vol. xxii., No. 1300. Psalm 22—A. Maclaren, Life of David, p. 141; J. Keble, Sermons for Holy Week, pp. 373, 380, 387, 394; E. Johnson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xv., p. 62; J. G. Murphy, The Book of Daniel, p. 42; I. Williams, The Psalms Interpreted of Christ, p. 389.
O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.
But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.
Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them.
They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.
But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.
All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,
He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.
But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother's breasts.
I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother's belly.
Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.
Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round.
They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion.
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.
My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.
For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.
I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me.
They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.
But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me.
Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog.
Save me from the lion's mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.
I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.
Ye that fear the LORD, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel.
For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.
My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him.
The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever.
All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee.
For the kingdom is the LORD'S: and he is the governor among the nations.
All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul.
A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.
They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.