YEAR B: EASTER 5
Because of the great contrast in mood between vv. 1-21 and vv. 22-31, Psalm 22 has sometimes been thought to be two psalms combined. This is not a necessary conclusion as psalms of lament, in particular, often feature abrupt and profound ‘about turns’ in their content. An urgent petition offered from deep suffering quickly turns to a hymn or vow of praise and confidence in the God who delivers from despair. The only exception to this among the lament psalms is Psalm 88.
In vv. 21b-24, the psalmist acknowledges that they have been delivered from what looks like terrible physical affliction (vv. 14ff), ridicule (v. 6), and the active hostility of enemies (vv. 12ff and 16-18). There are many similarities between these verses and the afflictions of the ‘suffering servant’ of Isa 52:13-53:12. The psalmist then goes on to say that they will tell their people about the God who delivers (Ps. 22:22). The psalmist exhorts the people to praise God because of their own deliverance (v. 23).
Verse 25 begins the hymn of praise proper. This praise is also a witness to the people of the deliverance of the Lord. The psalmist sees that their own deliverance signals something wonderful for ‘the poor’ and all those who are hungry and seeking help (v. 26). From that realisation the psalmist will make their belief in the God of deliverance known to all. All of earth’s peoples will acknowledge and worship the Lord, who is sovereign of all (v. 27). But the psalm goes even further than that. The psalmist then proclaims that even the dead shall worship God: “To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down” (v. 29). Finally, even those generations which are as yet unborn will proclaim the deliverance of the Lord. It is difficult to imagine a wider expanse of God’s dominion than all of the past, present and future generations (vv. 27-31). So infectious is the poet’s experience of God
This latter part of Psalm 22 was also set for Lent
2 earlier this year. See that week for further comments on the psalm.
There I remarked that one cannot read the praise at the end of Psalm 22
without remembering that such praise can only arise out of the memory of
the hurt and pain of the earlier verses (vv. 1-21). As we continue to celebrate
the resurrection of Jesus in this Easter season it is all the more important
that we remember the pain and hurt that lie beneath the praise of a God
who delivers his people, a praise which spreads to the uttermost parts
of the world, to both past and future generations. There is no celebration
of resurrection hope without the remembrance of the hurt that lies around
us and enters our homes and lives through daily TV and radio broadcasts,
newspapers and web information.
Suggestions for the use of the psalm in worship:
A suggested call to worship based on Psalm 22:25-29:
From you comes my praise in the great congregation;?
I will perform my vows in the presence of those that fear you.
The poor shall eat and be satisfied;?
those who seek the Lord shall praise him; their hearts shall live for ever.
All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord,?
and all the families of the nations shall bow before him.
For the kingdom is the Lord’s?
and he rules over the nations.
How can those who sleep in the earth bow down in worship,?
or those who go down to the dust kneel before him?
This psalm text is from the Psalter in Uniting in Worship 2 which is taken from Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England, London: Church House Publishing, 2000. Kind permission has been given to use this Psalter, which is a revised version of the Psalter published in the Standard Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church in the USA, prepared by the Liturgical Commission of the General Synod of the Church of England. Permission is given to reproduce the psalms in that Psalter for non-commercial use in local orders of service with this acknowledgment.
Return to OT Lectionary Readings