Psalm 22:1-8; 23:1-6

“My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1).

Most of us know that the Psalmist wasn’t the only one to utter those despairing words. Most of us know that as He hung upon the cross, Jesus quoted Psalm 22 when he too cried out, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1a)

To be sure, Psalm 22 is a Messianic Psalm. We refer to it as such because it vividly pictures the passion of the Christ:

Do not stay so far from me, for trouble is near, and no one else can help me. My enemies surround me like a herd of bulls; fierce bulls of Bashan have hemmed me in! Like lions, they open their jaws against me, roaring and tearing into their prey. My life is poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart is like wax, melting within me. My strength has dried up like sunbaked clay. My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. You have laid me in the dust and left me for dead. My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs; an evil gang closes in on me. They have pierced[a] my hands and feet. I can count all my bones. My enemies stare at me and gloat. They divide my garments among themselves and throw dice[b] for my clothing. (vs. 11-18).

Psalm 22 not only reminds us of the terrible price Jesus paid upon the cross, but also that in the midst of the crisis God seemed to be silent. “Why are you so far away when I groan for help?” (Psalm 22:1b).

Sound familiar? All of us have experienced those times when we have cried and cried out to God to answer a certain prayer and it seems like our prayer just bounces off the ceiling. 

And we wonder why do I find it so difficult to hear You? Is there something wrong with me? Am I doing something wrong? Or is that You can’t hear . . . or worse don’t even really care? Sometimes the silence is deafening.

Oh, how we would much rather identify with the writer of the 23rd Psalm as he confidently exclaims, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” (23:1). What a contrast between the themes of these Psalms! Psalm 23 . . . “He leads me, He guides me, He protects me, He comforts me.” Just what we are looking for, just what we really need!

Contrast that with Psalm 22: “Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer.
Every night I lift my voice, but I find no relief.” (Psalm 22:2).

So the question is, Is there anything we can do to move from the bleak experience of Psalm 22 to the blessedness of Psalm 23? I offer you the following observations that help me through the times when God seems silent.

Although it might sometimes seem that God is silent when we pray, the truth is He’s answering . . . the answer is simply, “No.”

Sometimes His answer is, “No” because our request is wrong.

There were many times when the disciples of Jesus came to Him with a wrong request and His answer was unequivocally no. Like the time the people of Samaria were not very hospitable to Jesus and James and John ask, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to destroy the?” The text says that Jesus “rebuked them.” (Luke 9:54-55). In other words, the answer to their request was no. Then there was the time the same two disciples came with their mother (the big sissies) to Jesus and asked if they could have the two best reserved seats in heaven with Him. And Jesus said, “No, you guys don’t know what you are asking” (Mark 10:38).

How can I tell if my request is wrong? What are my motives? For example, if I pray, “Lord, help this church grow?” Surely God would want to say, “Yes” to that request. But if my motive is I want to be the pastor of a large and growing church, then my motive is skewed and God might say, “I’m sorry.”

Or, “Lord, help my business to grow.” Nothing wrong with that at all unless the motive solely involves getting rich quick so I can go on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. It seems to me that God is more likely to answer a prayer that includes, “Lord help my business to grow so that I can bless others.”

Before bringing a request to the Lord, we would do well to consider: If God were to answer this request would it (1) bring glory to Him? (2) advance His Kingdom? (3) help other people? And (4) help me to grow spiritually?

Sometimes the answer is, “No,” because like any well-meaning parent, God knows what’s best for us and we just like any child have to learn to trust Him.

Today’s Psalms tell us that this is so for both of them were written by the same person. Psalm 22 is a Psalm of David: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” But God was apparently strangely silent. And yet through it all, David learned to trust in God as he later wrote: “The Lord is my shepherd, I have everything I need” (Psalm 23:1)

And then it helps me to realize that God remained silent throughout the most excruciating ordeal faced by His Son.

It is most certainly true that no one who has ever lived could more perfectly know what it means to say “The Lord is My Shepherd” than Jesus. And yet, just when He needed to hear a word from God the most, we hear Jesus quote Psalm 22 “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me.”

The evening before He threw Himself face down on the ground, which dank up His sweat like great drops of blood as He prayed, “Father if it possible, let this cup pass from me.” And yet heaven reminded silent.

As He hung on the cross, the scoffers cried out, “Let the Lord save Him if He wants Him,” but there was no miracle salvation from death for the Son of God; not on Good Friday anyway.

We will never fully comprehend all that took place between God and His Christ on that fateful day as God hung on a cross. But on that day, Jesus experienced the silence of God.

On that day, it was from Psalm 22, not Psalm 23 that He quoted from the scriptures.

And many people have drawn comfort from the fact that even the Son of God knew what it was to experience those moments when God seemed silent. If Our Lord had to endure that deafening silence . . .

Then it helps me to understand that there will be times when what God offers me is better than anything He could say to me.

For what He offers is Himself. God doesn’t reveal His grand design . . . He reveals Himself. Sometimes we don’t need an answer as much as we need the answerer.

That’s what happened with Job. Job asks God over and over again to speak to him in a face to face encounter; to explain why He chose to allow Job to suffer so. Toward the end of the book, one of Job’s brash young friends ridicules Job’s desire for a face to face with God. “Do you really think that God cares enough for a puny creature like you that the Creator would visit this planet to speak with you in person?” How ironic that as Elihu continues with his sarcasm, a small cloud that appears on the horizon grows larger and larger until it becomes a full-fledged storm from which a voice like no other voice booms forth, silencing both Job and his friend.

God shows up. Job doesn’t get the answers he wanted . . . He got God. But in the end that was enough.

In the end, it was enough for John Wayne.

John Wayne was a big fan of Robert Schuller. One day he heard Dr. Schuller say on one of his programs that his teenage daughter, Cindy, had been in a motorcycle accident and had to have her leg amputated. So Mr. Wayne wrote a brief note to her saying:

Dear Cindy,

I wish I knew why God allowed you to be involved in an accident. Hope you will be all right.

John Wayne

The note was delivered to her and she decided she wanted to write John Wayne a note in reply:  Dear Mr. Wayne, I got your note . . . thanks for writing to me. I sometimes wonder why too. But I want to let you know I am going to be all right because Jesus is going to help me. Mr. Wayne, do you know Jesus? I sure hope you know Him, Mr. Wayne, because I cannot imagine Heaven without John Wayne being there. I hope, if you don’t know Jesus, that you will give your heart to Him soon. Hope to see you in heaven. Cindy Schuller

She had just put that letter in an envelope, sealed it, and written across the front of it “John Wayne” when a visitor came into her room to see her. He said to her: What have you been up to? She said: I just wrote a letter to John Wayne, but I don’t know how to get it to him. He said: That’s funny, I am going to have dinner with John Wayne tonight at the Newport Club down at Newport Beach. Give it to me and I will give it to him. She gave him the letter and he put it in his coat pocket.

Later that evening, they were laughing and cutting up and the guy happened to reach in his pocket and felt that letter and remembered. Wayne was seated at the end of the table and the guy took the letter out and said: “Hey, Duke, I was in Robert Schuller’s daughter’s room today and she wrote you a letter and wanted me to give it to you.” He passed it down to John Wayne and he opened it. They kept on laughing and cutting up until someone noticed John Wayne crying. One of them said: Hey, Duke, what’s the matter?

He said, “I want to read you this letter.” He read the letter, folded it, put it in his pocket, and said: “You go tell that little girl that right now, in this restaurant, right here, John Wayne gives his heart to Jesus Christ and I will see her in heaven.”

Three weeks later John Wayne died. He didn’t need an answer . . . He needed the answerer. And that’s exactly who he got.

In the end, sometimes God seems silent because God has something better in mind.

I trust that is why God said, “Sorry” to all of us who were so desperately praying for Marie Kehoe. He was saying in effect, “I had something better in mind for Marie Kehoe. I understand why you folks wanted to keep her with you. She was so dear and wonderful and loved. But please be assured that I love her too. And it was my great pleasure to bring Marie into the fullness of My Kingdom where you cannot even begin to imagine her joy!

This is what it’s all about, this is why I sent My Son to die, so people can experience what it is to really live. This is when I do my best work when I rescue a soul from death for all eternity. This is healing grace par excellent.”

Thursday night at Disciple class we shared some of our precious memories about Marie and closed class by reading from Romans 8:

What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself.  Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.