“You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!” Psalm 22:23
(Psalm 22 is fairly famous because Jesus quoted from it while he was being killed, so it’s worth reading the part leading up to verse 23 today.)
For the second time, we hear from David’s deep heart as he lays everything out there to God. What’s the scenario? Well, remember, this is a David who spent so much of his early life on a razor’s edge. The youngest brother from humble beginnings, a care-giver and shepherd, one fearless before any enemy for the sake of the LORD’s honor, David was beloved by God as totally righteous and bold, just awesome. His devotion, and his desire to run after God’s call, made David a man who was celebrated in heaven and honored by the Almighty. But not so much on earth or by Israel’s first king.
It’s this vast difference between the workings of the kingdom of God, and the realm of humans, that I reckon caused such conflict for David and later Jesus, and still causes ruckus for those who would follow suit. In David’s case, look at the two sides of his story: over and over again, God delivers him, and speaks intimately to him, and reminds him occasionally just how beloved he is; but over and over again, David also finds himself an outlaw among outlaws, banished to live among enemies, hiding in caves, starving half to death, and repeatedly close to being annihilated.
A wild ride, and it sounds like a terribly mixed bag, but we learn that sometimes that’s exactly what happens when God’s ways are being carried out in an earth where sin and death and evil have a firm grasp. When we are at our best, being faithful and pursuing rightness, the world will not guarantee any kind of justice/reward. Our culture and our own people may or may not want to have anything to do with what God desires; they may be totally indifferent or even openly hostile (as we ourselves are sometimes). We will probably share feelings like the extreme ups and downs that David names in Psalm 22.
But I think what’s most important for us is that we give those feelings a voice before God, humbly. Take note of this: by uttering these words, David (and later Jesus) proves that he had not yet forsaken God. It could’ve gone differently. In the moment of feeling abandoned by this invisible God, he could’ve chosen to believe that God was indeed gone or nonexistent. And David could have chosen tonot even bother opening his mouth. He could’ve chosen in his heart to strike back at God by totally withdrawing his own love and faith. He could’ve clammed up, shut God out, and been done with it. It could’ve been time for the “silent treatment” (watch the video below):
Instead, David started by crying out with how he was feeling, laying himself bare hoping the LORD would hear. He reminds me of the girl in the AT&T commercial because while it’s clear she has beef with this guy-friend of hers, and intends to show him so with her silent treatment, she can’t help but call him over and over. That’s better than not calling at all; it shows signs of not giving up on the relationship. And David clearly hasn’t given up on God. By keeping the conversation going, in the process of Psalm 22 we see him start to remember God’s goodness, and reaffirm God’s faithfulness to the people, all the way up until he reaches a moment of rejoicing in verse 23. By hanging on, David moves from that first outcry to a powerful declaration, as if saying, “In the face of my struggle and fight, even though I’m scared you’re not there, I STILL choose to rejoice over you, my God, and proclaim your majesty to all!” KABOOM.
Today, for the ways we are ready to forsake God, or already have, can we put off clamming up and giving God the silent treatment? Just for a minute. Can we start instead by telling God how we feel, as if we actually still hope God might respond? Can we work back through our own history with God, and remember the moments of grace/power when it was so clear God loved us and was there? And can we take steps towards choosing, in the face of all suffering, to STILL declare to all ears that we put our hope in the grace, might, justice, and glory of the LORD of heaven and earth? Not easy, no, but worth it.