Suffering Well In Psalm 22 on July 9, 2023
Suffering Well In Psalm 22
July 9, 2023

Suffering Well In Psalm 22

Passage: Psalm 22
Message By:
Service Type:

Hello and Good morning Church family! For those who don’t know me, my name is Damian Neudorf and I am a fourth year graduate from Nipawin Bible college as of this last April. My wife, Emily and I are also members here and we have two young girls; Molly who is 2 and Sophia who is a little over 3 months. I am excited to serve here today by preaching from the passage that we just read, Psalm 22.

But before we get started I just have a few initial thoughts that I think would be helpful in order to understand this Psalm. When we read this Psalm, I’m sure you found that it is very easy to see Jesus in it, and we are certainly going to talk about that a fair bit. But what I was curious about before studying the passage, and maybe you are too, was; what were the events that led up to David writing this Psalm? Keep in mind that this Psalm was written over a thousand years before Jesus ever came and yet, it has so accurately portrayed the crucifixion of Christ. When I started to look for an answer, I quickly discovered that there isn’t really an one. I couldn’t find where or when exactly this Psalm was written with a great amount of confidence. But maybe that’s the point, that it doesn’t matter what David was going through.

I have two reasons for why I think this is the case. Number one, people have different tolerances for what they consider to be suffering. Take Emily and I for example, when Sophia has been crying for hours on end, and I am needing a bit of a mental break, Emily gently reminds me that she has only been crying for 10 minutes. If we had the exact situation that David was going through, we would be tempted to over-apply the passage for us today. We would try and measure our suffering against what David was going through. We would say to someone something like, “you are not actually suffering because what you are going through doesn’t look like or is as bad as what David was going through when he wrote Psalm 22.” The point of the Psalm is not wrapped up in the circumstances that caused David to feel the way he did while he wrote but rather THAT he felt the way that he did.

Number two, if we knew the situation that led to this Psalm, it would tempt us to focus too much on all the minutiae of the past rather than what it is pointing to, that is Christ. It would be like looking at a beautiful painting through a microscope, it can be helpful, but we would also miss the bigger, more important picture. And I think that as we go through this Psalm, this point will be made more evident.

And with that, as we begin this morning, I would like to start with a question. One that will set the backdrop for this entire passage. Have you ever felt forsaken by God, or felt that He was far from you? Have you ever gone through a situation and thought, why God? Why me? Why now? Two Aprils ago, in 2022, everything was looking up. I was graduating from my third year at Nipawin Bible college, our daughter Molly was a year and a bit old. And I had attained a summer job. We also had some rather exciting news, there was going to be another little addition to the family. But, on April 28, Emily went in for the usual start of pregnancy check up and ultrasound. And it was there that we found out that there was no longer any heartbeat. We had lost the baby. Almost exactly a month later, on May 27, I woke up with some unusual chest pain. And after going into the ER in Nipawin I was taken by ambulance to Saskatoon because the doctors thought that I had had a massive heart attack. While in Saskatoon, We were informed that it wasn’t a heart attack, but myo-pericarditis, which is inflammation of the heart muscle and the sack around the heart. Resulting in a mandatory two week vacation from work to rest and give my heart a chance to recover.

After these rather major events in our lives, it would have been very easy for Emily and I to question God, and to be angry with Him. Why God, in your sovereignty would you allow these events to happen? We are young, we are healthy and in good shape. How could this be happening to us? Why are you allowing these trials to come upon us? Maybe after a tough situation, you have asked those very same questions, and maybe you're asking them now. I share my own tough situations not to get your pity, but in an attempt get us into the mindspace that David was likely in as he wrote Psalm 22. There is no question that David was in severe agony when he wrote this Psalm. These first few verses in David's Lament could not be more potent.

David’s 1st Lament; Why? (1-2)

My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. This beginning phrase is highly intentional and we will look at it more in depth later, but for now, David is pouring his heart out to God. He feels utterly abandoned by Him. It’s as If God has denounced him. But even in this apparent abandonment, David knows that God is still his God, from the expression “my God, my God.” He would still rather cry out to the One who seems silent, than to cry out to any another. But that doesn’t stop David from inquiring of the Lord, why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? Groaning is such an interesting word, and when I hear it I think of someone who is mumbling under their breath, or someone who is complaining about a responsibility. But this is not the Biblical definition of the word groaning, and it is not the only time the word is used in the Bible.

When groaning is used in the Bible, it is used by a people (or a person) who are in deep affliction. It is a strong choice of word and should be noticed. One instance of the word being used is found in Exodus 2:23 when the Israelites were in slavery. They are constantly crying out to the Lord to rescue them, but He doesn’t. At least not right away. Groaning gives this idea of a constant crying out, and that they have no rest because of it. They also have no rest because there is no deliverance. People would often become physically weak from groaning, Psalm 6, I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. And this is exactly what we see David experiencing. He calls to the Lord day and night but is not able to find rest. And even though God doesn’t seem to be listening to David, it doesn’t stop him from reflecting on who God is, which is what we see in the first of David’s praises.

David’s 1st Praise; Yet in You they trusted (3-5)

Verse 3, Yet you are Holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued;

in you they trusted and were not put to shame. David recognizes that even though God is silent, He is still Holy, and able to save. David looks back on all that God has done for his ancestors. All of Israel's fathers trusted in God, and when they trusted in God, they were delivered. One area where we see this is when they were in the wilderness, God provided food and water for them. Nobody could shame them for believing in God, for when Israel cried, God delivered them. God showed Himself to all the land with His saving acts. All Israel praised God for their deliverance, while David, though who shares the same faith as his fathers, holds a different experience. God does not seem to deliver him from his trouble. And while all Israel is praising God, David is alone, cut off from the miraculous acts of God that his ancestors experienced. And with that, he starts his second lament.

David’s 2nd Lament; I am scorned and Despised (6-8)

Verse 6, But I am a worm, and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” David now returns to reflecting on his own troubles. And while God is being enthroned with the praises of Israel, David in a sense is being enthroned with scorn, and mocking. He is rejected by people, looked down upon, treated as something less than human. He calls himself a worm, only to be trampled on underfoot. People Mock his trust in the Lord and think that David is being hypocritical. Since he is suffering then he must not truly trust in the God he proclaims or maybe that God doesn’t love him and that is why he is suffering. The people shake their heads at David in disgust as they walk by. They make faces at David and laugh at him. But Once again, David turns his gaze from his present suffering, and on to God’s faithfulness, and praises Him.

David’s 2nd Praise; Yet You have been with me (9-10)

Verse 9, Yet you are He who took me from the womb;

You made me trust You at my mother's breasts. On You was I cast from my birth,

and from my mother's womb You have been my God. Again, despite God not answering David's groaning, he recognizes that God has been with Him from the very beginning. God has always been faithful to him. When David would watch his fathers flocks and a dangerous animal came, God was with David and he was able to defeat the animal. When David went up against Goliath, God was there too and again delivered him. Whenever David went into battle, once again God was there and delivered David. God has shown Himself not only in Israel's history to be a faithful, trustworthy God, but also to David personally. But where is God now? How can God leave one of His own children when they need His help and deliverance? David now gives us his third and final lament in verses 11-21a.

David’s Final lament; Be not far from me! For trouble is near! (11-21a)

Verse 11, Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help. Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me; they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion. David calls on God to not be far away, because trouble is near, and there is no one to help him. God is his only hope! Ezekiel 39 makes mention of the big, strong beasts that reside in Bashan. And here in the Psalm, they are no different, these bulls would be big powerful creatures with horns, easily able to pierce flesh. David also mentions the opening of their mouths like Lions. When a lion opens their mouth wide, it is highly likely that they are about to give a death blow to their prey. David uses this imagery of the strong bulls of Bashan and lions and the great danger that they pose to him to describe the aggression and threat of the armies that encompass him. An army who is strong, powerful, and who wants to eliminate him. This thought is connected with something that David has said earlier. He looks at these great, strong, powerful beasts, and compared to them, he is only a worm and not a man.

David is no doubt feeling the intensity of the situation. What can David do against these armies? And worse yet, David is still alone, he has no one. Where is God? Where is his family? Where are his friends? Where is the rest of the Nation of Israel? There is no one to rescue him, and it is in this scenario, where these next few lines take shape. Verse 14, I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; This beginning phrase, “poured out like water,” isn’t used regularly in the Scriptures at least in this sense. But Lamentations 2:19, gives us this idea of pouring out one's thoughts and emotions and feelings out onto the table, nothing is left out, or held back. And just as if you were to pour a glass of water out, and there being nothing left in the cup, so too has David exhausted himself with his groaning, a constant calling out to God. David has nothing else left to give, he has been poured out like water.

David likening his heart to wax, and it being melted within his chest is to show his deep and utter fear. The idea of one's heart melting is used a few times in Scripture, with two occurrences in Ezekiel chapters 7 and 21. In these uses the people are terrified of God's upcoming wrath and judgment and so their hearts are melting with fear. David uses these five phrases; poured out like water, bones are out of joint, heart is melted wax, strength being dried up and his tongue sticks to his jaws to show how terrified and exhausted he is to the point where he can no longer function properly. His body fails him, his bones buckle under his weight, David can’t even speak because his tongue is stuck in his mouth. His strength is all dried up and he compares himself to a potsherd, a piece of pottery that has been broken off. Just as he has been broken off from his people and from God.

This leads nicely into the last part of verse 15, you lay me in the dust of death. David has accepted his fate, he isn’t going to get out of this one. David is preparing to die, and he holds the Lord personally responsible. What can he do? He is surrounded by strong, powerful armies with lots of soldiers. God seems to have abandoned him in his time of need. And he is no longer able to defend himself with the shape that his body is in.

David looks back at those who encompass him, only this time, instead of seeing lions and bulls, he sees a bunch of dogs. But even still, they prove to be difficult. Verse 16, For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet I can count all my bones, they stare and gloat over me; Perhaps David is looking at his enemies through the lens with which he has held when God was on his side. Even though things look bleak, David still remembers that with God’s help, these armies that were once strong in his sight, would be as good as dogs. But that vision is short lived, because those dogs attacked David, biting at him, at his hands and at his feet. They tear the flesh off his bones, all the while gloating over him in victory, and staring at him. David's use of dogs here is to show exactly what kind of state he was in. David is so weak, exhausted and so defenseless, that he can’t even ward off the dogs!

Verse 18, they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. This thought is connected with the last bit of verse 15, where David is getting ready to die, and here, his tormentors are also preparing for him to die. They have taken his clothes and are dividing them up amongst themselves. Like they would with the plunder they just got after defeating a city. David now cries out to the Lord one last time.

Verse 19, But you, O Lord, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid! Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog! Save me from the mouth of the lion! David once again has taken his eyes off his situation and has turned his gaze onto the only One who can help him. He pleads with the Lord to rescue him in his distress. But notice this. Even as broken as David is physically, even as broken as he is emotionally from the mocking and scorn, not to mention how he has seemingly been forsaken by God. Even in that state, David still considers his life to be precious. He doesn’t want to die, he still values his life, which is evidenced by his constant groaning to the Lord to save him. How far we have come in our world, where we don't value life to the extent that David does. We would rather give up, then keep fighting, keep calling out to the Lord.

I will praise You! (21b-22)

And at the end of verse 21, there is a sudden shift in David's writing. He went from calling on God to save him to proclaiming what God has done verse 21. You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen! David declares that he has been delivered! Past tense, David is now praising God for what He has done! just as he did in verse 3-5 and 9-10. And in fact, he takes it a step further and proclaims it to the Nation! Verse 22,  I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: This is a really interesting phrase. The writer of Hebrews quotes this verse in chapter 2, except it is Jesus who will say this, and not David! For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one origin. That is why He (that is Jesus) is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying,

“I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” There was a time when Jesus would have been very ashamed to call us His brothers, for He is truly God, and we were a sinful people. But now, after making sanctification possible, Jesus is not ashamed to call us His brothers! And to proclaim the name of His Father to us!


All who fear the Lord, Praise Him! (23-26)

Then after proclaiming the mighty work of God to the bigger assembly, David invites them to join him in praise! Verse 23,

You who fear the Lord, praise Him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify Him,

and stand in awe of Him, all you offspring of Israel! For He has not despised or abhorred

the affliction of the afflicted, and He has not hidden His face from him,

but has heard, when he cried to Him. David who was once completely alone, is going to proclaim to everyone and then with everyone the wonders of God!  What was once David's groaning for help has now turned to his outcry of joy and praise toward the One who saves! For God has not abandoned the afflicted, He has not hidden Himself from him who cries, but He has heard, and He has delivered Him!

Notice here that we don’t know exactly what happened. We don’t know how God worked to save David. All we know is that God took action and He saved! All those who mocked and scorned David are now being drowned out by the sound of praise and joy toward the saving Lord! David can join in with his ancestors once again in giving praise and honor and glory to the Lord most high!

Verse 25, he continues, From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will perform before those who fear him. David recognizes that his praise ultimately comes from God, for God has delivered him from his suffering. People would often make vows while under distress, such as giving freewill offerings and they would often fulfill them once God had shown His loyalty. David is participating in a corporate gathering to worship and praise the Lord, verse 26, Makes clear that there is much feasting going on as well. The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord!

May your hearts live forever! David as well as the congregation are feasting and giving thanks, they are sharing with the less fortunate which David was not long prior. In doing so, not only are they strengthening the less fortunates physical bodies with food, but it is also a message to them of encouragement. The hardship that they are in now is only temporary, better days are ahead, keep pressing into the Lord, as David did and was delivered. In today’s world, our promise of a better life comes only after we meet God face to face, and until then, we might be in constant suffering. But we can trust in the Lord to keep His promises of that better future because He has kept His promises from the past.

All Nations shall worship! (27-31)

Now here in verse 27, and for the rest of the chapter, David now shifts his gaze once again, from the congregation presently around him, and onto the future and coming generations,

All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations. All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, even the one who could not keep himself alive. Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it. The picture here is not of a brief time of success but it is an assurance that the time of suffering will lead to a time of greatly spreading the knowledge of God throughout the earth. And surely, since the time of Pentecost, we have seen the fulfillment of this promise. All around the world today, Jesus is known and worshiped. Even though suffering continues in this world. David proclaims that all people, across the entire globe, spanning through every generation and all future generations will come and worship the King. Because God has saved!

Jesus in the New Testament

Now it only makes sense to talk about application here after finishing the passage, however it is always important to look at an Old testament passage through the lens of the New Testament. With that in mind, when you read Psalm 22, it is nearly impossible to read it and not think of Jesus and His crucifixion. While on the cross, Jesus quoted the first line of this Psalm, because He knew it was ultimately about Him. Psalm 22 takes on a fuller meaning in light of Jesus. The pain and agony of David are fully realized in Christ. In Matthew 27 Jesus is flogged and beaten. Flogging was a terrible practice that the Romans had perfected. The Romans were at that time a very strong, powerful and numerous army. They would make whips with seven strands which they would then tie in pieces of bone or metal. They would use these instruments to then literally take the flesh off of someone's back exposing their bones. After the flogging they gave Him a crown of thorns with a robe and scepter and bowed down to Him, mocking Jesus as King. They scorned Him, slapped Him, spit in His face. Some historical books will say that they pulled hair out of His beard even and that after all the beating Jesus wasn’t even recognizable. He looked as though He were less than human. They then led Him away to the hill where He was to die. While on the way there Jesus was unable to carry His cross and stumbled, His bones were no longer able to support His weight and the weight of the cross. He needed help. They pierced His hands and His feet as they nailed Him to that tree. And While Jesus was there, the soldiers took His garments and cast lots for them, waiting for Him to die. Those that passed by Jesus wagged their heads at Him, continuing to mock Him and make fun of Him. “He trusts in God, let Him deliver Him they say.” And unlike David who was weak, exhausted and defenseless against the dogs, Jesus, who is still truly God, was meek and obedient to His Father. Jesus was thirsty and He asked for something to drink. And it was then at around the ninth hour, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, Eli, Eli, Lema Sabachthani! My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me? Only this time, God truly had forsaken His Son, for it was His desire to crush Him for the iniquity of us all, Isa 53, another great Messianic passage. Jesus gave one last cry before yielding up His Spirit. Then to make sure He was dead, the soldiers pierced His side, and blood and water poured out. His heart was pierced, and along with the blood, the pericardium fluid which has the appearance of water came out. And it was finished.

We see how Jesus’ whole crucifixion is played out in Psalm 22. To think that Jesus, who was truly God and truly man, went through that for me, and for you. That He went through all that to save the very ones who were beating Him, and mocking Him, and crucifying Him. There will never be a greater love than that. Romans 8:5; but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

BUT, that is not where the story ends! For on the third day, Jesus rose from the dead, conquering death and receiving the victory, and all the praise and all the glory and all the joy from all the nations! All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You. For kingship belongs to the Lord, and He rules over the nations. Posterity shall serve Him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; they shall come and proclaim His righteousness to a people yet unborn, that He has done it. Jesus has done it! He has conquered death! He took upon Himself the wrath of God for every sin that has ever been committed and ever will be committed. It is finished, He has done it! And to this very day, long after David said it, we are still telling people of the things that God has done. We are still serving and praising the Lord for what He has done for us. And we are still not done telling people because not everybody knows the good news that is the Gospel!



Now there are a number of great application points from this passage, but I will draw our attention to what I think is the major one.

Number one: Prayer & Reflection

The real and inescapable problems of life in this fallen world should lead us to prayer. David throughout all the suffering and pain, constantly came back to prayer. Then out of his prayers came a reflection on the promises of God, both those fulfilled in the past and those that he trusted will be fulfilled in the future. Remembering God’s faithfulness in the past will help us to praise Him as we ought. Even through our suffering, we can praise Him, we can continue to face with grace and faith the problems that come daily into our lives.

This is all fine and well, however when you are in the midst of suffering, it can be really hard to come to prayer and to remember all the good that God has done. So I have something super practical that you can do. Now just to give the cold notes where this comes from, in Joshua 4, after all Israel had crossed through the Jordan river on dry land, a man from each tribe got a stone from the river and put them in a pile near the water's edge. The purpose of these stones was to be a reminder of what God did for Israel. When the younger generations would ask, what is the purpose of this pile of rocks? The older generations could tell them of all that God did. Now Emily and I don’t have a big pile of rocks in the backyard, but what we do have, is a dedicated notebook to record all the things that we have seen God do in our lives, and in the lives of those around us, so that whenever we want to, whether we are suffering, or maybe we just want to praise the Lord. We can look through that notebook and see all that God has done. And we can show it to our kids, and if they have kids our grandkids and so on.

And so, as we wrap up here today, in the midst of suffering, let's remember to pray and reflect on what God has done for us already. If nothing else, He has saved us from our sins, and because of that, there is always at least one reason to praise Him. For nothing is as important as our salvation.