Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Psalm 22

I woke to the first cool moment I had had in 36 hours. At 5 AM it was already 73°. For this lifelong Southern Californian, warm summers are no surprise. But yesterday? It had been one of those nearly unbearable days for this too practical girl who long before had decided having an air-conditioning unit put in her home was too expensive because we only use it a few weeks each year. I stand by my decision even though I hate myself each time we have a heat wave. So there I was, in my bed after a miserable night, trying to capture the last few minutes of sleep-like activity. I finally gave up pretending and headed to my kitchen to begin the early morning process of opening all the windows and turning on the fans to try to capture as much cool air as possible. As I pulled back the curtains I noticed the sun's red glow. I thought of a conversation had just days before in Bible study about how God‘s fingerprints can be seen in the beauty of nature. As I continued to open windows I couldn’t help but notice, again and again, the sunlight's deep red hue on such an overcast day. By 8 o’clock I was ready to leave the house to run an errand. It was at that time that I noticed the unmistakable sign that I had missed that morning: White ash covering my dark car. The overcast skies and red sun were not just a fluke of nature; they were a result of wildfire season.  I had missed the signs.

It's not hard to miss signs in the Bible.  If we read the Bible, we may read verse by verse instead of chapter by chapter, and even then sometimes a chapter is not enough to study at one time.  We tend to spend long periods of time considering small details instead of investigating how those details relate to the larger text. Before I began my journey through the Psalms, I often skipped them because of their poetic nature.  It's not that I thought they were unimportant; they were less preferred text.

As a result, I missed a key detail of the Psalms.  I was already familiar with the idea that Jesus talked about the Psalms, but never realized how much the Psalms talked about Jesus.  For those of you needing a brief history: The Psalms were written between 500 and 1,000 years before Jesus was born. They were essentially a songbook for the Jewish people. They would read and sing Psalms when they were together. The Psalms helped them to celebrate happy times and to feel better when they were hurting. 

Most believers know that when Jesus was on the cross He said some things. Depending on your denominational heritage, these sayings may be a part of your Good Friday experience.  One of the things He said was “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” That wasn’t just Jesus calling out to God. He was quoting the first words of Psalm 22. The Psalm begins like this:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why do you seem so far away when I need you to save me?
Why do you seem so far away that you can’t hear my groans?
My God, I cry out in the daytime. But you don’t answer.
I cry out at night. But you don’t let me sleep.
But you rule from your throne as the Holy One.
You are the God Israel praises.
Our people of long ago put their trust in you.
They trusted in you, and you saved them.
They cried out to you and were saved.
They trusted in you, and you didn’t let them down.
(Psalm 22:1-5, NIRV)
Jesus was going through the hardest time of His life, but even as He called out to God, He put His trust in Him. He knew God would not let Him down. Even in the details of His death, Christ modeled perfect faith.  It's no coincidence that Jesus recited this Psalm.  I believe He wanted those those who heard Him to draw their attention to Psalm 22 which would help confirm His claims of being Messiah.  If the Psalms were written hundreds of years before Jesus was born, how could they talk about Jesus?

Sometimes God gave His believers special information they couldn’t know on their own – we call this a prophecy. There are hundreds of prophecies about Jesus in the Old Testament. They talk about His family, His birth, and as we read in Psalm 22, His death:
A group of sinful people has closed in on me.
They are all around me like a pack of dogs.
They have pierced my hands and my feet.
Everyone can see all my bones right through my skin.
People stare at me. They laugh when I suffer.
They divide up my clothes among them.
They cast lots for what I am wearing.
Lord, don’t be so far away from me.
You give me strength. Come quickly to help me.
(Psalm 22:16-19, NIRV)
That sounds a lot like what happened to Jesus: His hands and feet were pierced, people watched him and laughed at him, His clothing was divided, and the guards cast lots for His robe.  Read the gospel accounts of Christ's crucifixion and let me know what you think.  What other signs do you see (that maybe others miss) that point to who Jesus is?

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