Meditation on Psalm 22

IN the last few posts, we’ve looked at these ancient poems and songs and made an effort to apply their meaning in our own, modern context.  We have considered the military allusions – to battles and kings – as metaphors for the existential battles we all face daily.  We went so far as to say that these psalms, in assuming that life is a battle, are a corrective tonic to any modern mindset that is tempted to see life as something completely out of one’s control and that has long relinquished any idea that a person might actually reach his or her “heart’s desire” given the gigantic forces at work against us in our circumstances.  Instead of being fully engaged in a battle, we may see ourselves as simply cast upon high currents and tides that it would be futile to fight against.  So we lift our feet from the pavement and let the earth spin beneath us and we drop our hands and simply coast through life.

If people really believed that their “heart’s desire” might be attainable, they would not fall into addictions and idolatries that are nothing but attempts to fill the void in our hearts.  The scriptures teach – and they say this over and over again in the Psalms – that God will give us our heart’s desire.

Here is Psalm 37: 4

Delight thyself in the Lord

And He shall give thee the desires of thine heart

 

It’s hard for me to leave this theme.  It is so intriguing to me personally.  “Heart’s desire.”  That means something for me.  Something that will satisfy every longing in me.  Wow.

But on to today’s meditation.  Psalm 22.  And this is a different story altogether.  When we read the first verse of this Psalm “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me,” we are stopped in our tracks.

Or, at least, I should say, those of us in the west who are familiar with the Christian story are immediately stopped in our tracks.  I forget that most of the “likes” recorded for this page are from India and the South Pacific.  (I’m very happy about that.)  For those of us who are familiar with the Gospels and with the Christian calendar, the words “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me” are immediately recognized as the words of Jesus Christ on the cross, in the midst of His agony.  They echo and ring in our minds.   It is almost ridiculous for us to try and give them any other meaning or context.

And maybe that is the point here.  The point for the day, at least.  In the final analysis, the scriptures – Psalms included – are about Jesus Christ.   That is implied in His constant reference to them during his lifetime.   He not only quotes this Psalm from the cross, when He is tempted in the desert He answers Satan with quotes from the Pentateuch. (Torah)   When we read the Gospel accounts of His life it is inescapable that Jesus Christ knew the scriptures inside and out and considered them relevant to life. He very consciously ordered His life to fulfill the scriptures.  It is not too much to use the modern phrase and say that Christ “found himself” in the scriptures.

Even more – He said the very same to the Pharisees in no uncertain terms:

John 5:39-40The Message (MSG)

39-40 You have your heads in your Bibles constantly because you think you’ll find eternal life there. But you miss the forest for the trees. These Scriptures are all about me! And here I am, standing right before you, and you aren’t willing to receive from me the life you say you want.

And so, if we attend to the scriptures diligently, it is not so much that we will “find ourselves.” Rather, we will find Jesus Christ.  What does that have to say about our own fulfillment?  Our own heart’s desire?  Everything.  For Jesus Christ is in fact the fulfillment of every desire.  That idea is deeply embedded in Christian tradition.  Consider Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.  Consider the traditional Christmas carol, Hark, The Herald Angels Sing:  “Come, desire of nations, come.”

 

Neither is scripture silent on the point.  What are the first words of Jesus Christ recorded in Saint John’s gospel?

Only these:

“What do you want?”

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