Psalm 22

1 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, honour 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 fulfil my vows. 26 The poor will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the Lord will praise him – may your hearts live for ever!

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!

This is a song written in the most desperate of circumstances. Again, we don’t know exactly what David was going through but we do see his pain and anguish and we know that this psalm also contains elements of Messianic prophecy and words that Jesus would later utter as he hung, dying on the cross, abandoned by everyone and everything. 

What stuck out to me, though, was the fact that David notes that this psalm is written to be sung to the tune of a pre-existing song. As a musician/youth and children's worker I have, for many years, carried on the age-old tradition of appropriating the songs of the day to communicate God-truth and story. Sometimes the lyrics of a song on the radio seem almost to mirror my circumstances and help me to communicate with my Father in heaven as well as anything more overtly ‘spiritual’ might.

Questions for thought and discussion...

  • What current (or not so current) song might you appropriate to help you process your circumstances in this moment?
  • Can you design a session for your young people around re-writing a song to tell a part of God’s story or express something of His truth?

Jenny Cheung

Jenny is the Independent Schools’ Worker in west & central Scotland. She’s also a mum of three and has a passion for the gym and the community choir she directs (the last two are not related!).