Yet you brought me out of the womb;
you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
From birth I was cast on you;
from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.
Many bulls surround me;
strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
Roaring lions that tear their prey
open their mouths wide against me.
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.
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.
Dogs surround me,
a pack of villains encircles me;
they pierce my hands and my feet.
All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.
But you, Lord, do not be far from me.(Ps. 22:9-21 NIV)
You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
Deliver me from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dogs.
Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
save me from the horns of the wild oxen.
The theme of abandonment and dereliction continues with the Psalmist. The fact that God had helped his ancestors makes his feeling of neglect all the more painful. But heaping agony upon agony is the recollection that the LORD had been with the Psalmist when he was a child. ‘Yet you brought me out of the womb.’ As I child I trusted You, why do you abandon me now? It is a bad time for You to leave me, please do not stand faraway, for trouble is on my doorstep and there is no one to help. No one to understand, no one to share, no one to bring me comfort, I am alone.
Perhaps totally alone might be better because the enemy encircles me. They are like those strong bulls of Bashan that are renowned for their strength and size. They are like lions that roar and snarl, their mouths wide open, ready to tear the flesh from my bones. The strength in my body has drained away and I am poured out like water, nothing remains. My courage has gone, my heart is like wax melting in a hot flame. My bones, heart, strength and tongue fail me. My tongue is dried up like discarded broken pottery. I can hardly speak because my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. LORD you lay me down in the dust of death. LORD you have done this to me. Disease- ridden wild dogs surround me, like a pack of villains closing in for the kill. The dogs bite my hands and my feet. I am so weak that my whole skeleton is observable, my bones stick out and the people stare at me and gloat over my weakness and helplessness. I am so near to death that they are already casting lots to see who gets my clothes and possessions.
I have only one cause to plead and that is my covenant relationship. I have no strength, I have no ability, nothing left to fight, nothing left to run. ‘But You, O covenant LORD, do not remain far off, You are my Strength, come quickly to help me.’ The Psalmist invokes the Name of the covenant LORD, and that galvanises his heart, because the covenant LORD has promised to be near, to support His people and to protect them from all adversaries. The covenant LORD is the strength of His covenant people.
Sometimes we have to have what strength and talents we think we have taken away, so that we learn that The LORD alone is our strength. The Psalmist paints a very graphic picture of his weakness. When we are feeling alone, it is helpful to allow the words of the Psalm to help us express that loneliness, weakness or sickness.
Already we see signs of the Psalmist responding. While he started talking about being abandoned by God, who was he talking to? It is the paradox of his life. He is talking to God, who he complains is not near. Then he moves to plead with God for deliverance. Save me from the sword, from the power of the dogs, from the mouth of the lions and the horns of the wild oxen.
It can be a helpful exercise when our heart is troubled to try and find metaphors to help express how we feel and bring that description to God. The Psalmist makes the problem as vivid as possible. There are no dogs, lions, bulls or wild oxen near him. He forms a vivid picture of the problem which leads him to see and trust the covenant LORD who will deliver him from his sickness, his loneliness. It doesn’t mean that the problem goes away, but it does mean that God will deliver him out of his fear.
Lord we depend upon our experience, our gifts, our energy and all our resources too much. Help us to realise that You alone are our strength and very present help in time of trouble. We thank You that You have brought us into covenant relationship through Christ becoming our covenant representative and dying for us. We have been bought at a very high price. Help us to know in our hearts that You will never leave us or forsake us, through Jesus Christ our Lord in whose name we pray. Amen