Here we are at the last day of our almost month long look at the book of Psalms. There will be several more sprinkled in as we continue through the Old Testament because of their direct connection to the chronological order of events, but the lions share of this magnificent book is now behind us. The last two days have been simply wonderful as we have had the opportunity to look at the psalms that are prophetic in nature and point to Messiah, Jesus Christ. As is typical each week there are so many different passages and verses that we could look at and be further inspired by but today I want to look at one psalm in particular. This Psalm was actually in yesterday's reading but strikes right at the heart, thematically speaking, of what the last two days readings have encompassed.
Before we get going to far, How many of you love music? Music is a powerful force. It causes emotions to run on high, it can calm our spirits, lift us up and encourage us, pump us full of adrenaline, cause us to cry in sadness, happiness and laughter; in a word it moves us.
The other thing about music is that it can get stuck in your head. Have you ever had a song that you just couldn't get out of your mind. Music has a way of sticking with us. It is for this reason that often things we want children to learn or memorize are put to music. Music helps it to stick.
In the forth grade every student in Idaho takes Idaho state history. Fourth grade was a long time ago for me. 1987-88 to be exact. But thanks to a little song called 10 little indians I have had the counties of Idaho memorized in alphabetical order ever since. I can, usually within 3 seconds or less of seeing a licence plate that is not 1A or 2C here in the valley, tell you where that car is from in our state. My wife just chuckles because she knows that I am going to tell here whether she wants to know or not. Sometimes she sees them first and quizes me. The point to all of this is that I would have a hard time just saying them counties out loud to you in order without the song. Even if I were to be telling you the counties in a straight voice, the song is being sung in my head. Music has a way of sticking with us.
This is true of most any music that we have any familiarity with. We can hear the first few bars of a song (sometimes just the first couple of notes) and immediately tell you what song it is and who it is by. Our brains work very well when music is attached to information.
With the Psalms, as with other parts of scripture such as Moses' song, Mary's song, etc.. the lyrics are more than just a nice thought. Often they are communicating very deep spiritual truths and theological thoughts. It was meant to be used in such a way that would cause people to not easily forget the content.
They didn't have America's Top 40 or the Billboard charts back then but the psalm book was a collection of songs that every jew would have been familiar with and likely upon hearing certain lyrics or the first few bars of a song would know what song was about to be sung.
Well this takes us to Psalm 22. The first line of Psalm 22 is also found in Matthew 27:46. Christ's word from the cross : "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Many of those at the foot of the cross would have heard this spoken and probably thought of Psalm 22 immediately. Without a doubt the Pharisees would have known this psalm and it would have been on the tip of their tongues as he finished saying it. They probably in their minds carried on the rest of the song in their minds. Or at least certain parts of it.
The thing to notice here is not only are the singing/thinking of this psalm it is being physically lived out in front of them with Christ's death on the cross. It would have been an exclamation point to fact of Christ's deity, and his being the Messiah that they had all looked for. The enormity of that moment would not have gone unnoticed.
I have posted the psalm in its entirety for you to re-read today. (bold words added for emphasis)
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? 2 My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.
3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises. 4 In you our ancestors put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. 5 To you they cried out and were saved; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
6 But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people. 7 All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads. 8 “He trusts in the Lord,” they say, “let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.”
9 Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast. 10 From birth I was cast on you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
11 Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.
12 Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. 13 Roaring lions that tear their prey open their mouths wide against me. 14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted within me. 15 My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.
16 Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet. 17 All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me. 18 They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.
19 But you, Lord, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me. 20 Deliver me from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs. 21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen.
22 I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise you. 23 You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! 24 For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.
25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows. 26 The poor will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the Lord will praise him— may your hearts live forever!
27 All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, 28 for dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations.
29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him— those who cannot keep themselves alive. 30 Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. 31 They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!
I love this connection for a lot of reasons. One being that it points to the fact that God had a plan. This was written hundreds of years before Christ was even born, because God had a plan. He has always had a plan and that he is active in the lives of people. There is nothing random in what God does and there is nothing random in our lives. We have a purpose and God has a purpose for each and every one of us. God's desire is that we would lay down our lives so that we can live. He sent his Son to die in our place for the things we have done. He loved us so much that he gave up everything so that we could be declared righteous and have renewed fellowship with him.
If you have never asked the Jesus to be the center of your life, today is your day. If you have asked Jesus to be a part of your life and you indeed are a Christian but have kept Jesus at arms length, out of the center, today is your day. God has a plan for your life. God is not into random. He, as this psalm and all the others we have read the last two days, had a plan so that you could have a relationship with the creator of the universe that would bring a fullness of life unparalleled to anything we could possibly think of.
We need to return to God in a major way and we need to start with placing Jesus back in the center, the true center, of all that we do; all that we are; all that he has planned for us; all that we think, all that we say; and every other second of the day not mentioned. Center means center.
When we worship it is with a heart that is full of joy for all that we have been given in the richness of his mercies and grace. When we read his word we have a hard time putting it down because it is life and it is truth and it is the guide for how we are to live our life. Jesus came to give us life to the full. Would those around us know it if they looked at our life? Would the see truth displayed in all it's glory and richness if they were to peek into your life for a day? God has a plan that none should perish and these psalms show that God has had this plan for quite some time (since the beginning actually). You are part of that plan. It is through disciples of Christ that the world hears the good news of the Gospel. The good news of salvation. The creator of the universe has invited us to be a part of letting people know that there is hope. We will continually have a hard time communicating that if we have failed to put Jesus at the center, the place in which all of our hope comes form.