Psalm 22: Why Have You Forsaken Me?

The note on this one is:

“To the choirmaster: according to The Doe of the Dawn. A Psalm of David.”

To figure out The Doe of the Dawn, I ended up on the Wikipedia page for Psalm 22 here. As has been frustratingly consistent so far, the best they have is a guess that it could either be a song that they use the tune of or an instrument that is no longer in existence. It’s not nearly as helpful in that regard as I had hoped it might be.

On the other hand, it did offer a new insight into the consistent theme of “A Psalm of David” that I hadn’t seen elsewhere. Previously, I’d heard that it could either denote a tune of some sort or that David himself wrote it. Wikipedia also offers that these are psalms written about David’s kingship in generally, the way we still have songs that reference the past in remembrance or celebration or really any emotion at all depending on the topic for the time frame. I found the idea interesting.

Psalm 22

1My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
2O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest.

3Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praisesa of Israel.
4In you our fathers trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
5To you they cried and were rescued;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

6But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
7All who see me mock me;
they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
8“He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him;
let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”

9Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
10On you was I cast from my birth,
and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
11Be not far from me,
for trouble is near,
and there is none to help.

12Many bulls encompass me;
strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
13they open wide their mouths at me,
like a ravening and roaring lion.

14I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
15my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.

16For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feetb
17I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
18they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.

19But you, O LORD, do not be far off!
O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
20Deliver my soul from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dog!
21Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescuedc me from the horns of the wild oxen!

22I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23You who fear the LORD, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24For he has not despised or abhorred
the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
but has heard, when he cried to him.

25From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
26The afflictedd shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the LORD!
May your hearts live forever!

27All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before you.
28For kingship belongs to the LORD,
and he rules over the nations.

29All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
even the one who could not keep himself alive.
30Posterity shall serve him;
it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
31they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
that he has done it.

This is another time when I feel like the psalm itself is not consistent with the title. The title is about being forsaken, which is essentially abandoned, but the psalm ends on a high note. It begins with the feeling of having been abandoned by God after He had saved so many before but then moves into a feeling that God would come and rescue the writer in verse 21. Was that a prior rescue or something happening in the middle of the song?

I do love the way it starts out sad and lifts up. There are other songs that I’ve enjoyed that are written that way like Wicked’s Defying Gravity or even Taylor Swift’s White Horse. Like these, it begins with the writer feeling forsaken but the situation changes. Of course, the way it changes is different. In the other two songs, the women involved decide that they are more than capable of rescuing themselves and do so, while the writer of this psalm is beyond his ability to rescue himself and waiting for God. God not only comes to his rescue but the psalm persists into some praise and worship for the rescue and celebrates a relationship with God that the writer promises to be ongoing. Given the context, the change is appropriate and even beautiful.

Not everyone will be rescued, but with the note that it’s a Davidic psalm and that perhaps it is simply written about David’s life, it’s easy to see how the story begins and plays out. David had some years of struggle before becoming king but he was eventually king and lived a long life with a great relationship with God that absolutely did persist into the next generation, to people yet unborn.

Whether or not the promise of verses 27 and 28 have come to pass or are on their way would be an interesting argument to have some day too. But not today and not online.

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