SF 13: Even the One Who Could Not Keep Himself Alive

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It’s the final episode in our short series on Psalm 22. What began as an Israelite peace offering to praise God for deliverance from affliction, becomes a worldwide posture of worship to a God who has shown himself completely righteous in all matters of his rule over this earth. And it gives us a most surprising perspective on suffering.

The psalmist was delivered from his affliction at the last moment, and he goes to the Temple to make a peace offering. The animal is slain, it’s blood thrown against the altar, it’s flesh roasted on the fire, and the priest serves the meat to those on the Temple grounds as the psalmist tells them the story of how he faced a severe affliction and God heard his cry, God did not turn his face from him, he delivered him. And the psalmist and all the men worship God.

The congregation taking part in this peace offering grows from the Israelites to all the nations of the world. The great congregation takes part in a great peace offering, and everyone worships this God who delivers.

We saw this congregation grow in verse 25, and it becomes even more clear in verse 27.

27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
    and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
    shall worship before you.

The testimony of the peace offering is not that there is a God in Israel. The testimony is that there is a God in the world.

What are they doing? They remember. Not that they forgot anything. Their remembering is recounting the testimony of God in their life. They are turning. Those who haven’t turned to God are hearing of the works of the Lord in the lives of these people, and they are turning to God, trusting in him. They are worshiping. They come before God together, Jews and Gentiles; all the families of all the nations — gather to worship Yahweh.

Kingship & Rule

Their worship recognizes that God is king. This is the enthronement of praise. The praise and worship of God doesn’t just give God praise and worthy honor, he is placed on a throne. A throne created by the praises and worship of his people.

28 For kingship belongs to the Lord,
    and he rules over the nations.

Kingship belongs to him. There is no vote, no democratic or parliamentary process. The world recognizes that the Lord is King because of the testimony of how he has worked in the lives of his people. He reigns as king because he always has reigned as king. He rules over the nations because he always has ruled over the nations. There is no contest to his reign and rule. It belongs to him. It doesn’t matter who may oppose him or object to his rule. He rules. Period.

The kings and rulers of the world are all flawed. No one rules over all the nations in any capacity. No one rules with the justice and righteousness that has victory over suffering or death. Not one king or ruler escapes suffering or death. All kings, all kingdoms, and all rulers come to an end. Death ends them all.

Not one king or ruler owns his authority over man. All ruling power was given to rulers by the sovereign of the Universe. His authority, his kingship, his rule, belongs to him and him alone. Any ruler is but a steward of the authority given to him by God. He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. Kingship belongs to him. He rules over the nations — whether we knew it or not, whether we see it or not, and whether we like it or not.

God is the holy, eternal sovereign who delivers the afflicted from all afflictions. Yes, he came to deliver us from sin and death, but he also came to deliver us from affliction. Psalm 22 does not allow us to overlook affliction.

When we consider the world and all the evil, all the horrors, that we see, we experience, we hear of, God is the only one, the only sovereign ruler, who can truly deliver us. It’s good that our governments have police, judges, hospitals, emergency services, benevolence organizations, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, shelters for battered women, child protective services, human trafficking task forces, armies, and we can go on and on. Those are needed to combat affliction and provide deliverance or relief. These efforts show the care a society has for the afflicted. Yet their effectiveness, even the best of them, is limited. There are afflictions they cannot touch. There are injustices they cannot correct. There are horrors they cannot stop.

But there is one king who can, and has, and will. His power over affliction and injustice is unsurpassed, even within this world of curse and sin and death. All the sorrows, all the afflictions, all the inequities, all the injustices, all the horrors will one day be completely eradicated. Completely.

Our God does not despise the affliction of the afflicted. He does not turn his face from them. He hears their cries, and he delivers. And I want you to see how this psalm explains this.

3 categories of those who suffer

And here we come to, what is for me, the most amazing part of psalm 22. There are three categories of people who participate in this peace offering and worship God. They are Jew and Gentile, people from all the nations of the world, from the ends of the earth. That we have seen.

1. The prosperous

But now the psalmist describes them in terms of their experience with affliction.

29 All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;

The prosperous of the earth is the first category. They are not defined by nation or race; they are defined by prosperity. The Hebrew is literally translated as the “fat ones.” These are the wealthy, the powerful, and those who live in peace. They are people we consider who have it all. They may not have faced severe affliction. They have enjoyed the blessings of this earth. They are those that we envy and covet. We want what they have. We desire their wealth, their success, and their ease in life. We also desire their lack of suffering. They are the ones who have eaten of the fat of the land.

And in this peace offering they too share, because no one escapes the need for deliverance. Not even the prosperous. They too suffer in this world, and they too need deliverance. No matter their appearance of prosperity, they will rightly participate in the peace offering and worship the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

2. The sufferer who survives

v. 9  before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,

The people who go down to the dust are those whose affliction brings them near to death, but they survive. They were delivered from their affliction, or at least delivered from the death that was threatened by the affliction. These are all the people who face severe forms of affliction and suffering. These people live lives that have harrowing experiences, and may have life long troubles. These are people who face disease, cancer, abuse, war, famine, poverty, natural disasters.

All of these people will bow before God, the God who does not hide his face from affliction, who sustains and delivers. The act of bowing is a powerful image of worship. And I think the psalmist uses the picture of bowing to help us come to grips with the reality that these people who suffered greatly, whose lives look like God forgot them, these will stand before God, and instead of bringing accusation or questioning him, they bow before him in worship.

The way it hits me, is that it seems those who bow are leading the prosperous. The prosperous worship, but perhaps they are not bowing. And the ones who bow first are the ones who experienced great affliction in their lives. I can’t be dogmatic about this, but that’s how it appears to me. The prosperous are eating, which is something they’re good at, and those who were severely afflicted are immediately on their knees in their worship.

And now, we come to the third category of worshipper, and this is the one that impacts me the most.

3. The sufferer who dies

v. 9 even the one who could not keep himself alive.

Did you expect this?

How many people do you know who suffered an affliction that took their life in an untimely, and excruciating, manner? How many who died of cancer, disease? Who died at the hands of evil men? Those who died from accidents, drug overdoses, or murder? Those who died of mental illness or depression that lead them to suicide — like my son. Many of these people who could not keep themselves alive are children. Many are babies abandoned by their mothers, or aborted.

These will participate in the peace offering of worship to our God. And the psalmist knows we didn’t expect this. At some level, we know abstractly that God will make all things right. But these who suffer greatly and these who could not keep themselves alive — even these cases, ones that perplex us, that we have no answers for, the ones whose lives are so much a horror that it causes us to go silent in disbelief, and for many, causes them to question their faith, and sometimes reject God — even these who the world points to and says, “If there was a God worthy or our worship he would not let this happen, and because it did, I can’t believe in the God of the Bible.” Even these most horrific of cases, they will bow alongside all of us to worship the God who delivers from affliction, the God who does not turn his face away from the suffering, the God who is the King of kings, the King of the nations. Even these.

It’s no wonder the congregation stops in their tracks and stands in awe of the God who hears the cries of the afflicted. It’s no wonder that we will join with the past generations to enthrone God on our praises. It’s no wonder we will stand should to shoulder with those who suffered the most on this cursed earth, and with them we will bow to this Almighty God.

Isn’t this an amazing picture? One day, you and I will be in this great congregation, and we will participate in this peace offering, and eat of this transcendent sacrifice, and sing out in this glorious moment of worship.

Posterity

30 Posterity shall serve him;
    it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
31 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
    that he has done it.

Posterity, the coming generations that will follow, shall also serve the Lord. They will trust in him because our generation will tell the next generation about this God, Yahweh, who hears the cries of the afflicted and delivers. We can’t be silent. We must tell the next generation.

His righteousness, this God’s holiness, will be proclaimed by the next generation, our children, to their children, a people yet unborn. Our God is so great he we must proclaim this righteousness.

What about his righteousness? That this righteousness is a righteousness that is just. It’s a righteousness that is moral. It’s a righteousness fitting his rule over this world. In spite of all the horror, all the evil, all the afflictions, all the tragedies, all the pain, all the suffering, this God’s righteousness makes everything right. When all is said and done, his justice, his morality, his rule, his righteousness, will not be questioned. No one will have doubts about it.

He has done it

And notice the last line.

    that he has done it.

There are a number of ways this can be translated from Hebrew. “That he has done it” is one way. The apostle John translates it in the Greek in a way that we’re more familiar with.

John 19:30

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, [“he has done it”] “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

The final words of Jesus’ life are the final words of Psalm 22.

The greatest display of God’s holiness and righteousness in a cursed world of suffering and affliction and sin is on the cross. Our greatest hope in the midst of the darkest hours of our lives, in the face of horrific suffering, is what Christ accomplished on the cross. The greatest testimony that Yahweh God is a God who hears our cries, is with us in our pain, who knows the affliction of the afflicted, and will deliver us in a way that satisfies us and motivates our unquestionable worship, is the work of Christ on the cross.

We find the best application of this psalm in the book of Hebrews.

Hebrews 12:1-3

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Christ suffered the hostility of sinners, leading him to execution. He was humiliated, beaten to a pulp, ridiculed, mocked for his trust in God, and though he felt God had forsaken him, and in that moment Jesus was forsaken, God came to deliver him. Through it all, he hoped in the testimony of God’s people who enthroned him on praise. This was a praise demonstrated in the peace offering. A praise among all who suffer, from the prosperous, to the ones who die in their suffering.

Conclusion

The problem of suffering in this world will not be a problem at the end of the age. We will have a full understanding at that time of God’s work, and we will bow down and worship him. We will enjoy the feast of our sacrifice to him for the feast of his sacrifice for us.

I hope this encourages you. It encourages me, and it has been the most helpful part of Scripture as I have faced the depression and suicide of my son. I know one day, I will meet him again, and together we will share in the peace offering, whether it’s figurative or real, and we will bow down before Yahweh in awe and worship. That is what I long for more than anything else in my life.

I thank you, my Lord and my King, for giving me this hope.

I hope you have enjoyed this short series on Psalm 22. If you have enjoyed it, please let me know by sending me a comment on Sparrow Falls social media. Any feedback is welcome.

Episodes in the Psalm 22 series

There are 6 messages in this series on Psalm 22. This is a rich psalm filled with marvelous insight to encourage and comfort the suffering Christian. It provides some of the grandest truths in all of Scripture, Job-like in it’s intensity and Revelation-like in it’s hope. It starts in the deepest, darkest of pits, and rockets to stellar heights, all this in 31 verses of poetry. It’s my prayer that this psalm blesses your battered soul and causes you to rejoice in God in the midst of your afflictions.