Thank you to Revd Andy McPherson for today’s talk

Psalm 22 “God, my God, why have you forsaken me”


Have you noticed how many of our favourite TV programmes are not being produced recently?  One of Mel’s favourites Holby City has gone off air.  I’ve had my own problems too.  During the pandemic the Archers, ‘an everyday tale of country folk’ on Radio 4 has changed its format into a number of monologues where the characters are thinking aloud, a bit like Talking Heads written by Alan Bennett which was rerun recently, that’s definitely worth a listen!

Our Psalm today is bit like one of these.  It’s an insight into the thought processes and internal arguments of a person experiencing physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual suffering.  Maybe it also gives us some insight into what Jesus might have suffered upon the cross.


Psalm 22 is the first of the so-called ‘passion psalms’ given that name because the word passion comes from a Latin word ‘to suffer’.  Hence, the ‘passion psalms’ describe the suffering and persecution of an innocent victim reminiscent of the Suffering Servant sequence of passages found in Isaiah in chapters 40 onwards.  One chapter that is particularly well known is Isaiah 53.

He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

 Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

Link to Jesus on the Cross

And although some commentators suggest that the Suffering Servant of Psalm 22 is somewhat archetypal, that is not an actual person but representative of a type of person or even representative of the Jewish nation and it’s struggles with great powers and nations that were on its borders.  We can’t read Psalm 22 without thinking of Jesus, the Suffering Servant, without equal, especially when we hear those introductory words: Eloi, eloi, lama sebachthani or My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.

These are the words spoken by Jesus on the cross as recorded in Mark’s Gospel.  In fact, Jesus’ cry of dereliction from the cross ‘My God, my God why have you forsaken me’ is one of a number of allusions to Psalm 22 contained in the crucifixion narratives from Mark’s Gospel. The others include the shaking of heads and mockery – Psalm 22 v 7-8 his dryness and need for a drink – Psalm 22 v 15; and the dividing of the garments and the casting of lots – Psalm 22 v 18;  

As we read the Psalm in conjunction with the narrative from the Gospels of Jesus last hours before his death, we can begin to imagine how Jesus suffered upon the cross, physically, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually.

Physical suffering

Jesus, God’s Servant, cries out to his Father as he is hanging on the cross from a place of physical suffering in which he feels totally abandoned and in extreme isolation ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.’ 

But this is not a cry of failure or defeat.  The physical suffering has not distracted him from completing the task that he was put on this earth to complete.  In fact, another thing that Jesus cries out from the cross as recorded in John’s gospel is, “It is finished!”  In other words, my destiny is fulfilled, the purpose for which I came to this earth is complete, I have won the victory.

Just as when Jesus was praying to His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me, yet not my will but yours be done.”

This is not a plea for a reprieve but rather an acknowledgement of the journey that Jesus needed to follow to arrive at his destination upon the cross and his commitment to completing his journey.

Certainly, Psalm 22 although it contains cries of desperation, as v 1 & 2 continue “Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?  O my God, I cry out by day but you do not answer me, by night and you are silent!”

It is, if you read it again, a Psalm of praise, where it recognises that God is all-powerful, all-holy, all-loving and worthy of our trust.  Look at v 3-5

 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.

And yet, in the very next verse v 6 the Psalmist cries

“But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people.”

Psychological and emotional suffering

I would want to suggest that this is not a sign of a bi-polar mind but rather the psychological and emotional suffering the servant is enduring when one minute he is on a high and the next on an extreme low.

I actually sense that the Psalmist is displaying human emotions, he is being true to his own experience and honestly expressing how he feels, from one moment to the next.

In his book “God on Mute” – {by the way this is a great book on prayer explaining what should we do when God appears silent and your prayers appear not to be working} –  Pete Greig recounts a section of C S Lewis’s book ‘A Grief Observed’, the true story of his wife’s Joy fight with cancer, and Lewis remembers one particular time when Joy’s cancer appeared to be in remission that he was particularly desperate.

During the time that C S Lewis was observing his wife slowly dying from cancer, I expect there were many times that he would have echoed the words of Jesus on the cross and have cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” 

And throughout our lifetime, you and I may well have cried out to God with a similar sentiment at the loss of a loved one, during the long term illness of someone dear to us, if our marriage has been in rocky waters, when circumstances in our lives don’t seem to be turning out in our favour, or even during the current Covid crisis we may well have thought that we have felt forsaken by God, abandoned, deserted, alone, cast aside or in isolation.  But this does not mean that we have lost our faith in God. 

Henri Nouwen, in ‘Return of the Prodigal’ says

“The person who never had any religious doubts is probably walking around blindfolded…

he who never experimented with his traditional values and ideas was probably more afraid than free…

he who never put his parent’s advice to the test probably never developed a critical mind. 

But he who did, took a risk…a risk of becoming alienated from his past and of becoming irritated by everything religious, even the word of God.  The risk even of searing loneliness, which Jesus himself suffered when he cried from the cross, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me.”

Spiritual suffering

When we are physically suffering and our mind is in turmoil as well, this is a fertile breeding ground for the evil one to spread his lies, deception and malice about our faith in God.  Look at v 6-8

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.

How does the Psalmist get back on track?  Well he looks back and remembers how God has protected him and kept him safe in the past, even before he could articulate a faith for himself.

Look at verses 9 & 10

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.

It may be that this spiritual suffering is the most difficult to endure.  I say that because Jesus was under attack from Satan right at the beginning of his ministry after his baptism when he was sent by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by Satan and he was tested by Satan right at the end of his life on the

cross.  What was the test that Jesus underwent on the cross?  It was the test to trust in his Father even when it appeared that his Father had abandoned him.

When I have spoken with individuals near the end of this eartly life, their biggest fear is having to travel to life beyond, alone.  I can’t travel with them and their loved ones on earth cant support them through.  But I assure them that they won’t be alone because Jesus is coming to meet them and walk alongside them as they continue their journey to heaven.  That is the cry of the Psalmist in v19.

But you, LORD, do not be far from me.

            You are my strength; come quickly to help me.

Os Guinness in his classic book ‘Doubt’ subtitled Faith in two minds where he explores many of the varieties of doubts that people can experience but during the course of the book he argues that “doubt is a path towards mature faith!”

And although this ‘happy ever after ending’ is not always the conclusion that I have seen in friends that have experienced doubts during their Christian life, it is certainly the place in which the Psalmist ends up.

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!


The suffering servant of Psalm 22 was to endure suffering and turn cries of dereliction to a declaration of praise.  And we like him, because of Jesus’ victory on the cross over sin, evil and death itself, and his resurrection on that first Easter morning, are offered a hope in God of new life now – and in the future, of life beyond death in heaven.


You who fear The Lord, Praise Him. The Psalmist tells us that those who trust in the Lord will not be put to shame, and the well known chorus reminds us that ‘He has the whole wide world in His hands’  Thank you Lord for these promises as we bring our prayers to you in confidence.

Let us Pray

Heavenly Father we bring our country to you at this time of great uncertainty and turmoil. We pray for our government, the cabinet and all those making critical decisions for the nation. Father they need your divine wisdom and compassion as they listen to all the conflicting advice, expertise and  criticism. Guide the scientists working to produce a vaccine and support all the doctors, nurses and key workers responding to the challenges of every day. We pray for the general public including ourselves, that we may all be willing to behave responsibly during this pandemic. God of mercy and Compassion, hear us Good Lord

 We pray for our church here at St. Christopher’s and for the interviews taking place later this month, which will possibly lead to the appointment of someone to take the church forward. Lord we are praying for the person of your choosing and so we bring before you both the applicants and those who will be conducting the interviews. We pray too for a positive and encouraging response from the Diocese as we seek to reach out and grow the church in this area. Please help each one of us to play our part in praying and actively promoting the gospel by our lives and our lip. God of mercy and Compassion, hear us Good Lord

We pray for Julian and Catherine working with The Wycliffe Bible Translators in Southern Russia, We pray today  especially  for Misha and Rita who are involved in translation, but at present they are both unwell. We ask Lord that you will restore them to health and strength again. As the Children’s Bible is being checked we thank you for the positive response from those outside the Christian faith, and especially Elina. Please Lord use this translation to impact both children and adults as they appreciate the printed word in their own language. May your Holy Spirit  reveal to the Yakar people  the love of Jesus for them. We pray for Catherine now working as a Health Coach helping those within Wycliffe and beyond. We also pray for the children, Ella, Rosie, Tom and Coralie. and ask you to bless their family life together.
God of mercy and Compassion, hear us Good Lord

Finally we bring before our loving Heavenly Father those who have asked for our prayers and firstly we remember those who are grieving. We especially remember Marian Evans and the family, Karlow and the family and friends of Tina, and the family and friends of Ali the young man who very recently died suddenly.We remember all those on our news sheet and we commit to you Alan Bennett as he prepares for his planned surgery later this month.As you journey with us Lord,provide comfort in loss,Hope in despair,Assurance in fear, andYour presence in loneliness.

Merciful Father ,
Accept these prayers, for the sake of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ, Amen

Category: Prayers , Sermons , Services , The Bridge

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