You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him;
stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted;
he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him.
From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will pay before those who fear him.
The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord.
May your hearts live forever!
All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord;
and all the families of the nations shall worship before him.
For dominion belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.
To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, and I shall live for him.
Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord,
and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it.
For the past two days, Psalm 22: 23-31 has been the featured scripture reading in my daily devotional book.* Being a ‘Bible nerd’ who loves to dive into scripture study, I chose to read the poem in its entirety first so that I might get a better understanding of the featured verses. Wow! not only did the feature verses make more sense after reading the entire psalm, but I also got a lot ‘fodder’ from the psalm for future sermons and Church Notes articles!
Because there is so much to unpack from this psalm, let me offer this week a couple of thoughts for deeper contemplation:
1. For he (God) did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him. Have you ever shared something personal and possibly embarrassing with someone you trusted, only to have this ‘affliction’ negatively affect your relationship? Things were never the same again? On the other hand, have you ever brought an ‘affliction’ before God in prayer, hoping that God will not turn away from you? Like the psalmist, having brought oodles of sins, mistakes, and embarrassments to God in prayer, I know that there is nothing I can do that will turn God’s face away from me in disgust. Yes, God may be disappointed in me, but just naming my ‘affliction’ before God brings me peace through the assurance of God’s forgiveness. Just naming my sin is the beginning of healing and restoration.
2. From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will pay before those who fear him. A major theme of this psalm is the history of the relationship between God, Source of salvation, and the Hebrew community. Although the author has experienced an affliction from a personal standpoint, he speaks of expressing his faith through praise and offering as a member of ‘the great congregation.’ The next time you sing a song of praise during worship, consider the spiritual value of joining your voice with the other worshippers in praising God for loving you (and the others!), in spite of your afflictions!
My prayer for you is that you may bring your afflictions before God in the assurance that God will continue to love you, forgive you, and guide you toward healing and restoration.
*The Upper Room Disciplines 2021.