This mornings psalm was Psalm 22 , familiar to many becuase the imagery used takes us to the foot of the cross, indeed Jesus quotes this Psalm from the cross itself “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In the days of COVID19, Self Isolation and Social Distancing it may seem like that for many.
Actually I love Psalm 22 beucase of its deep contrast between Lament and Praise, verses 1-21 are a lament, God seems so far away and the Psalmist is so broken, so isolated and so alone. We move to verses 22-31 a hymn of praise and thanks to God as the Psalmist brings his brokenness before the perfection of God who he knows will redeem him. It seems to me that in our worship as a church the lament is largely forgotten, yet in the Psalms the two go hand in hand. The hymnbooks in most of our churches have lost the lament they used to contain without hymns such as Be Still My Soul, God Moves in a Mysterious Way, and On Christ the Solid Rock these are uknown to most worshipers today. Does this somehow suggest that it is not OK to complain or be concerned before God?
For me Lament & Praise is about living in the real world, we see a broken world, we look at the reality of our own lives and our failings before God, and then we praise God for his unchanging grace, the beauty of creation and his undending love for us all. In Psalm 22 the precise nature of the distress being experienced by the author is not known, some suggest it is illness , perhaps it is just the human condition – perhaps the words will ring true to some in sefl isolation today. What we do know is it is the route to the authors praise. First he must understand the worlds and his own brokeness before being able to praise God for his glory and grace and seek his redemption.
Lament and praise are two sides of the same coin, at this time in our society and world we come to God remembering our weakness and laying it before him, asking God for his help at a time when we seem unable to help ourselves. We can only do that because our God is one to be praised. In your prayers over the next few weeks hold together that lament and praise and see where it takes you.
A hymn that is a favourite of many enshrines for me Lament & Praise , written by John Newton a former slave ship captain who had much to lament yet forgiven by a God who loved him. I leave his words with you:
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found; Was blind, but now I see.
’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear The hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me, His Word my hope secures;
He will my Shield and Portion be, As long as life endures.
Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail, And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil, A life of joy and peace.
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow, The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below, Will be forever mine
Yours in Christ