What we believe about God has everything to do with how we relate to him. What we believe about God has everything to do with how we relate to one another. What we believe about God has everything to do with how we live our lives, how we work, what we say, even what we feel. It’s an important question—what do you believe about God? I wonder how you would answer that question. If I supplied you with the subject God, what verb would you follow him with? Maybe you would say, “God loves—that’s what I believe about God, he cares for others.” Or maybe you would say, “God reigns—I believe God is powerful and he rules over the affairs of mankind.” Perhaps you are here and if you were to speak honestly you would say, “God neglects, God ignores—the truth is that I don’t believe that God is all that concerned about me.” You may be here and you just don’t like my question. You may think that I’ve stacked the deck by supplying the subject. And if you had to respond you’d say, “God is not—I simply do not believe he exists.” No matter what verb you would, or would not, supply—God loves, God reigns, God neglects, God is not—it has immediate effects upon us. It shapes how we go about our lives.
The passage of Scripture that we are going to look at this morning supplies its own answer to this question. This Scripture reveals truth to be believed about God and it is: God delivers. Please take a Bible and turn with me to Psalm 22. If you are using the Bible provided in the chairs you will find it on page 457. We know from the inscription that David, the King of Israel, wrote this Psalm. We also see that it was written to be given to the choirmaster or the chief musician. So this Psalm would have been distributed to the temple musicians and used in the gathered worship of God’s people—even the tune of the song, “Doe of the Dawn”, is included in the inscription. This particular Psalm is highly prophetic as David looks forward to the coming of Christ, who would suffer on the cross. In fact, certain writers refer it to as “the Psalm of the Cross.” Charles Spurgeon said of this Psalm, “We should read reverently, putting off our shoes from off our feet, as Moses did at the burning bush, for if there be holy ground anywhere in Scripture it is in this Psalm.” Please follow along as I read God’s holy word.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises[a] of Israel. In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame. But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts. On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God. Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help. Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me; they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet. I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. But you, O Lord, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid! Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog! Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued[c] me from the horns of the wild oxen! I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! For 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. From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will perform before those who fear him. The afflicted[d] shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord! May your hearts live forever! All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations. All 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. Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it.
This Psalm teaches us that God delivers the afflicted so he is to be praised to the ends of the earth. This Psalm vividly depicts God’s deliverance of one who is severely afflicted. Certainly as this Psalm was sung by God’s Old Testament people, they were testifying to God’s deliverance. If we were to ask them, “What’s the meaning of this song you sing?” They would have said, “It is about our God who delivers.” Our God rescues the afflicted. He is a saving God and being so, he is worthy of praise.
In this Psalm we will see the necessity of deliverance, the cost of deliverance, and the praise of deliverance.
The Need of God’s Deliverance
In the first eleven verses of this Psalm we see that mankind stands in need of God’s deliverance. It doesn’t take long to realize as you read this Psalm that somebody is in trouble. The Psalm speaks of one who groans and cries out by day and night to no avail. He is despised by mankind in verse 6, mocked and shamed in verse 7, and encircled by bulls, dogs, and lions that want to tear him apart. Verse 11 is a fitting summary, which says, “trouble is near, and there is none to help.” This is a theme that David knew well and spoke of often. He was the youngest of his many brothers—so insignificant that when Samuel went to anoint a king among the sons of Jesse, Jesse did not even call in David from keeping the sheep. When David faced the giant Goliath on the field of battle he said, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts.” From where we are in Psalm 22 simply turn one page back to Psalm 18 and see verse 1, “I love you, O LORD, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer.” Again in Psalm 20, verse 1, “May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble! May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!” Once again in Psalm 21, verse 1, “O LORD, in your strength the king rejoices.” David knew that he needed to be delivered by God and that theme runs strong through the first section of Psalm 22.
The trouble that the afflicted one faces in these verses is not a trouble that he can overcome on his own. He is helpless to save himself. The Bible repeatedly speaks of the debilitating power of sin that has come upon us so that we cannot save ourselves. Our deliverance must come from God. Mankind is dead in trespasses and sins and 1 John 5:19 says, “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” On April 8th, 2009, an American cargo ship was sailing towards Kenya when it was attacked by Somali pirates. Through a series of events, Captain Richard Phillips was taken hostage on a lifeboat by four of the pirates. All alone, away from his crew and any chance of escape, Captain Phillips spent four long days as a hostage on the lifeboat. The pirates tried to get to land, which would have been devastating for the Captain. Phillips tried to escape once, but the pirates fired shots leaving him unable to get free. A team of Navy Seal marksmen were called in and after one of the pirates was spotted pointing an AK-47 at the back of Captain Phillips, the Seals fired killing all pirates on board and saving the Captain. Captain Phillips stood in need of deliverance; there was nothing that he could do for himself.
Do you know yourself to need this kind of deliverance? Have you considered that your sins have left you utterly unable to save yourself? It is far too easy to buy into the lie that we can fix our problems on our own. But we can’t. This Psalm depicts a universal reality—that we are all in need of God’s deliverance. Yet we need not despair—rather we must fight to hope in the one who can deliver.
This Psalm teaches us how to hope in God’s deliverance. As David pens the first section of verses in this Psalm, he shifts back and forth between despair and hope. He begins by crying out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?” We can relate to this lament can’t we? Often we look at the horrible tragedies that occur in the world and stand perplexed as to why God does not appear to answer. So many times it doesn’t even take a big event—the milk spills, the lettuce goes bad, I have to wait for one car in front of me to finish up pumping gas—and I’m crying, “why have you forsaken me?” God certainly wants to hear the cries of our hearts. The beautiful hymn we sang Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul says, “Hast Thou not bid me seek Thy face, and shall I seek in vain? And can the ear of sovereign grace be deaf when I complain? No still the ear of sovereign grace, attends the mourner’s prayer. Oh may I ever find access to breathe my sorrows there.” Praise God that we can bring all of our sorrows and complaints to the Lord. Mark this though, as we bring our pleas to the Lord, let us remember that: God does not forsake his children. This cry of lament in the first verse ultimately belongs to Christ. He utters these words from the cross in Matthew 27:46 as the one who was truly forsaken when he bore our sin in his body on the tree. And we are guaranteed that because he was forsaken, we will never be forsaken. There is a type of complaining that ignores the cross of Christ and claims that God should do things for me because of who I am directly. We must never complain like that. Then, there is a type of crying out to God in clear view of the cross of Christ. This is the kind of crying out where a humble Christian asks for God to draw near in light of all that Christ has accomplished for them. Oh how ready is God to answer that cry! The key to crying out to God in the right way and not the wrong way is to keep God’s truth, especially the truth about his son’s work on the cross, ever in your gaze.
David shows how to fight despair and seek God’s deliverance in verse 3 and verse 9. At both of these points, David interrupts his despair with God’s truth. In verse 3, after claiming that he can find not rest, he says, “Yet you are holy.” He proceeds to recount the saving acts of the Lord. Again in verse 9, after he considers the afflictions he receives at the hands of others, he says, “Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts. David here provides the most precious remedy for a troubled soul—preaching God’s truth to your downcast heart. Martin Lloyd Jones highlights this in his book on Spiritual Depression. He says that most of our problems in life come from listening to ourselves rather than talking to ourselves. The solution is to take a hold of ourselves with all of the crazy thoughts that fly through our brains and to preach, and instruct, and correct, an rebuke, indeed proclaim God’s truth to our renegade imaginations! I feel that God has forsaken me—no Christ was forsaken that you might never be! I don’t think there is anyone to help—no God delivered our fathers and he can deliver you too! I fear what man might do to me—no God has taken you up, you’ve been cast upon him, if God is for you, then what can man do to you? This is how we must fight despair. This is how we renounce trying to deliver ourselves and hope in the deliverance of God.
The Cost of God’s Deliverance
Our text not only teaches that mankind needs God’s deliverance, but it teaches that God does indeed deliver and he delivers at an unspeakable cost. The Psalm has already spoken pointedly of Christ’s sufferings. The cry of the first verse is the very cry of Jesus from the cross. The words of mockery in verse 8 are the very words of the chief priests, scribes, and elders in Matthew 27:43 as they circled around Christ dying on the cross. Even so, something begins to occur in the middle section of this Psalm—the afflictions spoken of have become unquestionably the afflictions of Christ’s suffering on the cross. In verse 14 bones are out of joint, verse 15 strength is dried up and extreme thirst is referenced, in verse 16 he is encircled as would occur at crucifixion as well as the clearest testimony that he is pierced hands and feet, in verse 17 the reference to bones showing and the gloating of onlookers fits with a scene of crucifixion, and finally lots are cast for his garments, which occurred at Christ’s crucifixion in Matthew 27:35.
The cost of our deliverance is something that we should meditate on often. There is a type of saving that does not cost the one doing the saving. If a man sees a child fall into a pool, he can dive in to rescue the child and it may only cost him some wet clothes and a few minutes of his day. This is not an example of the cost of our redemption. No, here we see that our deliverance was purchased by the Son drinking the full cup of the wrath of God for our sins. This cup was so dreadful that the night before his crucifixion, Jesus prayed, “My father, if possible, let this cup pass from me.” Yet, there was no other way for us to be saved, so Christ willing drank the fullness of the bitter cup. Look upon Christ on the cross, bleeding, suffering, dying. Back lacerated from the whip. Brow bloody from the thorns, arms stretched out and pierced with rugged nails, see his bones all out of joint with strength dried up as he pulled on the nails to gasp for a full breath. See him encircled by ferocious bulls, dogs, and lions as they open their mouths wide to devour him. See the Father turning his face away from his beaten and bloody Son as he cries out in the darkness, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Behold the price of your deliverance! To outsiders… foolishness! To some… not enough of a sign! To those who are called… the power of God! And the wisdom of God!
The Praise of God’s Deliverance
This Psalm teaches that God delivers the afflicted and closes with a final section that speaks of the result of that deliverance. We see that God’s deliverance of the afflicted ignites bold obedience and praise. In verse 21 there is a declaration of deliverance, “You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!” And then there is an immediate response of praise, verse 22, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.” Oh how different is this song than the cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” One is the cry of a man who is seeking deliverance and perplexed as to why he has not received it. The other is the declaration of a man who is confident of the salvation of the Lord. This is what the deliverance of God is intended to do in your heart, it comes in to your trouble and tribulation and lights a fire of praise to God. When your heart is warmed by the cross of Christ and you behold the only thing in the universe that matters, the things of this earth fade away, the spilt mile, the traffic lights, the lost jobs, the shortcomings of your own character—they grow dim and the glory of the Lord shines so that we cry out—“I will praise you!”
This desire to praise God spills over so that we start to call others to praise the Lord. This is what happens when you truly see God in all of his glory, you are not content to enjoy him alone but tell others about how good he is and call them to praise him as well. Verse 23 says, “You who fear the LORD, praise him!” This flame of praise that has been ignited spreads out the offspring of Jacob and Israel in verse 23 to the great congregation in verse 25. This praise swells to reach all the ends of the earth in verse 27 and then once it has reached there it has to spill over into the future in verse 30, “Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation.” When we see the glory of God clearly we are deeply moved to proclaim his glory to the ends of the earth. When once we were afraid to speak, now we must speak. Where once we feared man’s response, now we that God is too precious not to be exalted no matter what man may say about it. Oh to be a church that boils with this white-hot flame of praise for God.
Is this song your song? Does your heart sing this line, “in the midst of the congregation, I will praise you!” Is the Lord’s Day the highlight of your week? Is it something you anticipate and celebrate with your children, your siblings, your brothers and sisters in the church? There is a big football game tonight, and as often happens there will likely be a big play, a great catch or pass that will be so extraordinary that men and women will go to work tomorrow and talk about it, saying, “Did you see that catch? Did you see that touchdown?” Brothers and sisters, I encourage you to speak that way about your Savior. Have you heard of what the Lord has done? We cannot help but tell you what we have seen and heard!
Here’s a helpful question: what changes do you need to make in your life so that you might be a part of this worldwide expansion of the praise of God? This is the most significant movement in the history of the world, this is in fact what history is all about and here we are living in the midst of it. So what kind of changes to your weekly schedule might position you to take part in this praise of God? What sort of financial adjustments might leave you better suited to take part in seeing God’s praise extend to the ends of the earth? How should your prayers change? Here is one practical exhortation. Every week this church highlights a people group that stands in need of the gospel—then they are included on a one-sheet prayer guide at our Wednesday night bible study. Would you take that sheet and gather one night a week with your family, during devotions and pray for that people group?
This ever-widening tidal wave of praise is exactly what our hearts need when we experience affliction. This worldwide expansion of God’s renown is a part of the peace that can console our hearts in the midst of worldly loses and unfulfilled aspirations. Verse 26 speaks of the afflicted eating and being satisfied. So often our satisfaction comes not by the removal of difficult circumstances, but a clear vision of God’s advancing kingdom in the midst of them.
If you’re not a Christian, it is our hope that you would get swept up in this expansion of God’s praise. In the midst of all of life’s afflictions, there is one who delivers. In light of your sin, you stand in dire need of God’s deliverance. And he has provided that deliverance in the life, death, and resurrection of his Son—He is the way. He is the only way—there is no other name under heaven, given among men, by which we must be saved. Trust in him and you too will be satisfied, you will be rescued. A Psalm that begins with the darkest feelings of forsakenness and ends with being satisfied and praising God to the ends of the earth! You ask, “How does that happen?” The answer is: God delivers.