Text – Psalm 22:22-31:
22 I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him;
stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he did not despise or abhor
the affliction of the afflicted;
he did not hide his face from me,
but heard when I cried to him.
25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will pay before those who fear him.
26 The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the Lord.
May your hearts live forever!
27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the Lord;
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before him.
28 For dominion belongs to the Lord,
and he rules over the nations.
29 To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
and I shall live for him.
30 Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord,
31 and[i] proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,
saying that he has done it.
This Psalm is one of the texts that is widely quoted on Good Friday, toward the conclusion of Lent. As he was dying on the cross, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” And the first twenty-one verses of the Psalm sounds like the cry of one undergoing some sort of suffering: perhaps Judah in Babylonian exile, feeling abandoned by God or someone who is experience some sort of religious or social persecution. You can see how it fits so well to the abandonment that Jesus was feeling. The Psalm has universal appeal in this regard.
But then a shift comes in verse 22. “I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters. Praise the Lord…for he has not ignored or belittled the suffering of the needy…I will praise you to the great assembly…The poor will eat and be satisfied…The whole earth will acknowledge the Lord and return to him….His righteous acts will be told to those not yet born.” You get the idea.
This Psalm is good for Lent because of the way in which it brings together the twin ideas of despair and praise. In the doldrums of winter. In times of feeling abandoned and judged because of besetting sins in one’s life. In the hope of spring as one rejoices in Christ’s victory and the future he unfolds for us.
This is why people fast during Lent. It is a way to call to mind the things that distract us. It is a way to focus on praying intently to God about our own lives and how in spite of suffering for various reasons, ultimately all that we mourn about will be reconciled and made whole again.
Dear Father, At Lent we cry out with Isaiah, “It is our sins that have caused God to turn away from us.” We mourn in the way that Jesus called us to mourn. But we also know that you forgive and embrace us. You offer us a future full of the hope of Resurrection. So today we thankfully praise your compassion and love. In Jesus’ name I pray this. Amen.