Commented Bible Passages

These Bible meditations are meant as a way of seeking God in silence and prayer in the midst of our daily life. During the course of a day, take a moment to read the Bible passage with the short commentary and to reflect on the questions which follow. Afterwards, a small group of 3 to 10 people can meet to share what they have discovered and perhaps for a time of prayer.

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Psalm 22: From Distress to Praise
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
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.
Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the one Israel praises.
In you our ancestors put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.
To you they cried out and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
“He trusts in the Lord,” they say,
“let the Lord rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
since he delights in him.”
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 on you;
from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.
Many bulls surround me;
strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
Roaring lions that tear their prey
open their mouths wide against me.
I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted within me.
My mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death.
Dogs surround me,
a pack of villains encircles me;
they pierce my hands and my feet.
All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.
But you, Lord, do not be far from me.
You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
Deliver me from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dogs.
Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
save me from the horns of the wild oxen.
I will declare your name to my people;
in the assembly I will praise you.
You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
For 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.
From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows.
The poor will eat and be satisfied;
those who seek the Lord will praise him—
may your hearts live forever!
All the ends of the earth
will remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before him,
for dominion belongs to the Lord
and he rules over the nations.
All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
those who cannot keep themselves alive.
Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord.
They will proclaim his righteousness,
declaring to a people yet unborn:
He has done it!
(Psalm 22)

“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” It is difficult to imagine a more wrenching prayer than these very first words of psalm 22. The psalmist prays saying not just “God,” but “my God, my God.” The contrast is nearly unbearable. God, so close before, is now entirely absent. The silence could not be more complete: day and night, cries go unanswered. The entire first half of the psalm moves back and forth from past to present, from descriptions of earlier confidence to the anguish of attending circumstances. Will the psalmist finally give up on God? He is brought as low as one can imagine. “I am a worm and not a man,” he says in verse 7, having lost even any sense of his own humanity. Others treat him not with indifference but, worse, with contempt. Let God rescue him now, they scoff. At death’s door, the psalmist sees his own body wasting away before him: “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax... All my bones are on display.”

The entire tension, and the very mystery, of psalm 22 lies between a plain assertion—“you are far”—and a lowly request—“be not far.” The psalmist tells of his desolation and, at the same time, does not cease remembering and invoking God.

Then, amazingly, a turnaround occurs. What happens exactly and what God has done remains as unclear as the original cause of the psalmist’s suffering. The psalmist invites others to join him now in the great assembly to praise God, and to praise God precisely because of what has happened to him. There is no hint of lingering resentment. God’s answer seems to have wiped away any possibility of turning on his persecutors. They too are sufferers, the psalm seems to imply. God’s gift is so immense that all are invited to sing to God with him.

As the text advances, the circle of those invited grows, with intimations of feasting to come. First there are the poor and those who search for God, with whom the psalmist must identify closely. Then in turn the ends of the earth and the peoples of all nations are invited. Finally the psalmist speaks of those not yet born who will also praise God. All generations are drawn into an expanding celebration. What has happened to this single person in his agony is of significance for all human beings at all times. No one can be excluded. Having passed through suffering and received God’s answer, the psalmist radiates joy and unlimited concern, his gaze embracing all the living.

- What does psalm 22 say to me about the suffering of other human beings, either those I know or those who are different from me? Does it help me in some way to pay attention to them?

- What does psalm 22 say to me about my own difficulties, and the hard times I sometimes go through?

- What does this prayer tell us about God, about Jesus?

Other bible meditations:

Last updated: 1 January 2023