Some Psalms
Lesson 7

Lesson Seven

The Anguish of a Struggling Godly Person

Text: Psalm 22

It is extremely important (because of Jesus’ usage) to set this Psalm in the context of the psalmist’s time.  It is quite easy to interpret the Psalm by looking back from Jesus’ usage and imposing our Christian theological perspective on the Psalm’s struggle. Did Jesus use quotations from this Psalm as he died?  Yes!  The issue: did the psalmist use this psalm in a conscious effort to predict God’s coming work in Jesus?  In the understanding of Peter’s statement in 1 Peter 1:10-12, that seems unlikely.  That God was at work throughout the Old Testament was evident, but not even the angels understood what God was doing.  Or, did Jesus regard some statements in the Psalm an appropriate declaration (a) of the just suffering through the actions of the wicked, and (b) of the suffering of the just not being “the end of the situation” of God’s work?  That seems more likely.  Remember, the terrible temporary physical suffering of Jesus’ cross was followed by the joyful, eternal resurrection of Jesus that still provides the Christian hope.

The Psalm powerfully and eloquently captured a basic struggle of the righteous in every century.  How should the righteous reconcile God’s knowledge and power with the sufferings of the righteous?  Every righteous person (Christian and pre-Christian) has struggled with that challenge—especially when righteous people struggle as a result of the deliberate actions of wicked people. The onlooker can hypothesize, but the righteous suffer must search for an answer.


The Psalm began with the righteous who was suffering with feeling abandoned by God.  (Remember, it is possible for one’s feelings and one’s convictions to be in conflict—faith often questions as it grows.) Though the suffering was severe, the holiness of God was unquestioned—the solution was not that God was unjust. In fact, to the psalmist, history vindicated God.  Verse 3b may be a reference to Exodus 3:7, 9.  Verse 4 may be a reference to Israel’s exodus from Egypt.  Thus, Israelites cried out, they trusted, and they were delivered.  “Why is that not happening to me?  Have I not cried out and trusted?  Why am I not delivered?”  (The righteous often fail to consider how long many past situations existed prior to God’s deliverance.)


The situation the righteous person encountered was severe—it crushed his image of himself.  He was overwhelmed by the shame he encountered.  The way people treated him ridiculed him—their actions showed him contempt in public.  They ridiculed him for placing his trust in a God that did not deliver him from his suffering!  If his God was of value, then his God should rescue him.


The psalmist had no doubt God always had been there.   God was there when he was born.  God was there when he was a nursing infant.  The plea: “Do not be removed from me now when trouble is so near.”


The psalmist depicted his situation in pathetic terms.  He was surrounded by bulls that were determined to kill him.  They were strong and inescapable!  Their intent could not be more deadly if they were lions!  He had control of nothing.  He compared himself to spilt water (forces other than the water even determine its shape and where it goes).  His bones were out of joint (can you imagine the pain of just the hips, the knees, the shoulders, and the elbows being out of socket or unhinged?).  His insides were as unstable as shaking Jell-O.  His strength had vanished—he was as useless as a piece of broken clay pot.  He was so dry his tongue stuck to the inside of his mouth.  He was as good as dead!


To make matters worse, people like semi-tamed dogs surrounded him just waiting for him to die.  They increased his misery and stared at him.  He was so malnourished he was like a sack of bones bound together with skin.  He did not have any strength—he was defenseless against their attacks!


No matter how terrible his condition was, he knew God was near him.  He cried out for God’s assistance and deliverance.  In his dire circumstances, God answered.


Please notice:  The psalmist did not say, “Why did you allow me to get into such a horrible shape and suffer those things?”  He did not say, “Why did You not come quicker?”  He did not criticize God for allowing him to go through that situation.  Instead, he praised God for His help!


He would not be ashamed to praise God in public.  He would be a witness of God’s worthiness of praise, glory, and awe.  He would declare that God does not desert the afflicted.  God does not hide his face from those who cry to Him.  He would not be less devoted to God because of his experience.


Those who laughed would not continue to laugh.  It was evident God was with the afflicted.  Not only was God with Israel, but He also ruled (rules) the nations.  Those who were as good as dead would praise God. Those who, at one time, seemed to have no posterity would be the parents of generations who praised God.  The yet unborn would honor God.


Physical suffering will be a reality for righteous people in all generations.  The righteous do not praise God because all is physically fine with them all the time. Times and situations of suffering do not mean God abandoned the afflicted nor did (does) it mean God did not heed the cries of the afflicted.  God’s best witnesses are those who endured suffering and continued to praise God.  The suffering of the righteous does not define the character of God.



For Thought and Discussion


1. Discuss why it important to set this psalm in the psalmist’s time.  What is the issue?

2. What does the psalm powerfully, eloquently capture?  How does it begin?

3. Why is the righteous person’s situation severe?

4. The psalmist did not doubt what?

5. How did the psalmist depict his situation in pathetic terms?  What were people like?

6. What did the psalmist know?

7. The psalmist did not say what?

8. He would not be ashamed to do what?

9. Discuss: Physical suffering will be a reality for righteous people in all generations.

Link to Teacher's Guide Lesson 7

Copyright © 2010
David Chadwell & West-Ark Church of Christ

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