Psalm 22 – From Death to Life
With this psalm the reader moves with the Psalmist from the deepest distress to the heights of praise. The Psalmist employs a variety of images to evoke the manifold perils of his situation: scorned by everyone (v. 7), surrounded by bulls (v. 13), menaced by a roaring lion (v. 14), laid in the dust of death (v. 16), beset by a band of wicked (v. 17), wasted to skin and bones (v. 18), endangered by the sword (v. 21). These images underscore in forceful language how life-threatening his circumstances are. And in the midst of this dreadful situation the Psalmist twice repeats the plea, “Stay not far from me,” (vv. 12, 20), expressing a devastated sense of God’s remoteness and inaccessibility in the midst of this unbearable anguish. This alarm at God’s absence is rendered more acute by the repeated entreaty “my God,” (vv. 2, 2, 3, 11) implying that the relationship, once close and intimate, now seems altered and distant. The opening line of this psalm is poignantly repeated by Jesus in St. Matthew’s account of the passion as he hangs up on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Ps 22:2/Matt 27:46). In addition to this memorable usage, several other verses of the psalm appear elsewhere in the passion narrative: Ps 22:8//Matt 27:39; Ps 22:9//Matt 27:43; Ps 22:19//Matt 27:35). The Psalmist’s description of his condition emphasizes the sense of being on the margin of life: a worm and not even human (v. 7), like water poured out upon the ground (v. 15), his heart like melted wax (v. 15), his throat parched (v. 16), his hands and feet mutilated (v. 17), and nakedness before his enemies (v. 19). And then, when this situation is at its lowest ebb, something changes, suddenly and drastically. As we move into the final section of the psalm (vv. 23-43), the very one who cried in despair at the psalm’s outset now raises exalted praise to God who has lifted him from his isolation and placed him in the midst of the assembly (vv. 23, 26). His new situation bespeaks a significant precept of biblical anthropology: to be without a place in the community is to be a non-person; to be restored to the community is to be restored to personhood.. The Psalmist has been reunited with the community that gives him both identity and security; his restoration is accomplished by God alone. The Psalmist now proclaims a vision not only of the descendants of Jacob, but of all nations, coming before God in worship, even those who have died and gone down into the dust (v. 30). This psalm is suited to bear a significant role in today’s world scene: it can articulate the cry of many people whose pain is so great that they can are unable to find words to express it. Psalm 22 gives meaning to suffering along with the promise of great hope that in God’s good time a reversal of human misfortune can and will be wrought, as we live out the great paschal mystery in our own lives.
1 For the Choirmaster. In the manner of “The Doe at Daybreak.” A Psalm of David.
2 My God, my Gód, whý have you forsáken me?
Why are you fár from sáving mé,
so fár from my wórds of ánguish?
3 O my Gód, I call by dáy and you dó not ánswer;
I cáll by níght and I fínd no repriéve.
4 Yet yóu, O Gód, are hóly,
enthróned on the práises of Ísrael.
5 In you our fórebears pút their trúst;
they trústed and you sét them frée.
6 When they críed to yóu, they escáped;
in you they trústed and were nót put to sháme.
7 But Í am a wórm and no mán,
scorned by éveryone, despísed by the péople.
8 Áll who sée me deríde me;
,they curl their líps, they tóss their héads:
9 “He trústed in the Lórd, let him sáve him;
let him reléase him, for in hím he delíghts.”
10 Yes, it was yóu who tóok me from the wómb,
entrústed me to my móther’s bréast.
11 To yóu I was commítted from bírth;
from my móther’s womb, yóu have been my Gód.
12 Stáy not fár from mé;
trouble is néar, and there is nó one to hélp.
13 Mány búlls have surróunded me,
fíerce bulls of Báshan close me ín.
14 Agáinst me they ópen wide their móuths,
like a líon, rénding and róaring.
15 Like wáter Í am poured óut,
disjóinted are áll my bónes.
My héart has becóme like wáx,
it is mélted withín my bréast.
16 Párched as burnt cláy is my thróat,
my tóngue cléaves to my jáws.
You láy me in the dúst of déath.
17 For dógs have surróunded mé;
a bánd of the wícked beséts me.
They tear hóles in my hánds and my féet;
18 I can cóunt every óne of my bónes.
They stáre at mé and glóat.
19 They divíde my clóthing amóng them,
théy cast lóts for my róbe.
20 But you, O LÓrd, do not stáy afar óff;
my stréngth, make háste to hélp me!
21 Réscue my sóul from the swórd,
my lífe from the gríp of the dóg.
22 Save my lífe from the jáws of the líon,
my poor sóul from the hórns of wild búlls.
23 I will téll of your náme to my kín,
and práise you in the mídst of the assémbly;
24 “Yóu who fear the Lórd, give him práise;
all descéndants of Jácob, give him glóry;
revére him, all you descéndants of Ísrael.
25 For hé has néver despísed
nor scórned the póverty of the póor.
From hím he has not hídden his fáce,
but he héard him whenéver he críed.”
26 Yóu are my práise in the gréat assémbly.
My vóws I will páy before thóse who féar him.
27 The póor shall éat and shall háve their fíll.
They shall práise the Lórd, thóse who séek him.
May their héarts live ón foréver and éver!
28 All the éarth shall remémber and retúrn to the Lórd,
all fámilies of the nátions wórship befóre him,
29 for the kíngdom is the Lórd’s, he is rúler of the nátions.
30 They shall wórship him, áll the míghty of the éarth;
befóre him shall bów all who go dówn to the dúst.
31 And my sóul shall líve for him, my óffspring sérve him.
They shall téll of the Lórd to generátions yet to cóme,
32 decláre his saving jústice to péoples yet unbórn:
“Thése are the thíngs the Lórd has dóne.”
Prayer for Psalm 22
O God, who never despise the poverty of the poor, look with compassion on all those whose suffering may move them to doubt your presence in their lives. Enthroned on the praises of your people, hear the pleas of all who call out to you in faith; heed their prayer, and renew them with your loving hand and outstretched arm. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.