The Seven Words – fourth prayer

Cross4

 

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt 

Read Matthew 27:45 – 47

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

More thoughts for meditation

As we’ve been praying this week, using the statements Jesus said on the cross as our guide, we are seeking to deepen our connection with God. Yet, the fourth statement Jesus cried aloud on the cross seems to undermine our attempt. Jesus’ prior three statements provided a tangible context for connection to take place. However, Jesus’ beckoning cry of acknowledging God’s absence shifts our focus completely. Why would God forsake Jesus? Wasn’t Jesus God? Doesn’t such a statement deconstruct the whole deal then?

Jesus was 100% God as much as 100% human. This quintessential statement that Jesus makes on the cross is the climax of all of history since the beginning. In the book of Genesis, the creation story unravels when Adam and Eve partook of the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, forsaking God’s adamant instruction not to. God came looking for them and “they hid from God” (Genesis 3:8). God was the first one to ask, “where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). This experience of disconnect God had with humanity was not something God wanted to last forever. Thus, God had to remove Adam and Eve’s access to the Tree of Life, which they originally were permitted to eat of freely. Without access to such nourishment, death was inevitable. Genesis records that God “drove them out of the garden”, suggesting they did not leave easily (Genesis 3:23). The experience of forsakenness seems to be occurring on all sides. Genesis concludes this scene by noting that God placed an angelic guard with a flaming sword at the east entrance to the garden to ensure that humanity could not have access to the Tree of Life, lest they eat of it and live forever in a disconnected state from God.

Generations later, Psalm 22 was penned as an outcry of this disconnected existence and hope for redemption. Psalm 22 is known as a “messianic psalm” as it foreshadows Jesus’ crucifixion. Yet, it may also very well reflect the preceding experience of man and woman’s exile from the garden of Eden in Genesis. The poetry of Psalm 22 is a narrative and conversation woven together to form a blanket of past, present and future realities, despair and hope, trust and recompense that wraps around humanity’s broken relationship with God to make it whole again.

Jesus’ repetitive cry on the cross echoed Psalm 22’s threaded words of feeling forsaken by God.  The tension of trusting God in the midst of life’s darkest moments is as much a refrain in Psalm 22 as is feeling forsaken. These intense sentiments were first experienced outside the entrance to the garden of Eden. As humanity begot humanity in those early days, let it be suggested that the eventual synthesis of Psalm 22 was passed down from generation to generation. The reality of being disconnected from God because of distrusting God’s care to preserve our life became a backdrop for continuing the act of sacrifice God first made for Adam and Eve, in providing them outer garments to preserve their sense of dignity to approach God again. Psalm 22 repeats the phrase “I trust you” as a redemptive declaration of knowing what life is like when we don’t. Feeling forsaken by God is like looking through a telescope the wrong way. We see a narrow view of not only who God is but who we are. Jesus hung on the cross as a public demonstration of how god has not forsaken us. From the onset of disconnection in Genesis, God was actively telling a story of wanting to be present with us, or more significantly how we can be present with him unashamed because of Jesus. This saga played out on the stage of history and culminated on the cross with Jesus’ deity and humanity being reconciled, so all could be reconciled with God. Consider the contrast between the angel in Genesis inhibiting humanity from accessing eternal life in a fallen state and the angel by Jesus’ empty tomb, inviting humanity to embrace the reality of resurrection.

Suggestions for Action

Use the words of Christ to beseech the Lord. Pray: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

But do not let this be the end of the story for you. Pray through Psalm 22, which begins with this beseeching question but marches on through the hills and valleys of the human experience, through Jesus’ experience on the cross. Let the last line of the psalm be your “Amen”, for God did something phenomenal through Jesus for us.

Pray through Psalm 22:

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.

Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the one Israel praises.
In you our ancestors put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.
To you they cried out and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
“He trusts in the Lord,” they say,
“let the Lord rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
since he delights in him.”

Yet you brought me out of the womb;
you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
10 From birth I was cast on you;
from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

11 Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.

12 Many bulls surround me;
strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
13 Roaring lions that tear their prey
open their mouths wide against me.
14 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.
15 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.

16 Dogs surround me,
a pack of villains encircles me;
they pierce my hands and my feet.
17 All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.

19 But you, Lord, do not be far from me.
You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
20 Deliver me from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dogs.
21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
save me from the horns of the wild oxen.

22 I will declare your name to my people;
in the assembly I will praise you.
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or scorned
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.

25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows.
26 The poor will eat and be satisfied;
those who seek the Lord will praise him—
may your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth
will remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before him,
28 for dominion belongs to the Lord
and he rules over the nations.

29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
those who cannot keep themselves alive.
30 Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord.
31 They will proclaim his righteousness,
declaring to a people yet unborn:
He has done it!

 

 

Reposted from Circle of Hope Daily Prayer; Water

 

 

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