Proper Psalm for Good Friday (Morning).
Psalms 22, 23 = Day 4 (Evening).
THE GREATEST OF THE PASSION PSALMS
‘O my Strength, haste Thee to help me!’
I. There are feelings and instincts in human nature the very antiquity of which is a proof of their universal reality.—Foremost among such instincts is the aching sense of severance between man and the Infinite Being outside and above himself. Long before the Hebrew Psalmist, Indians and Egyptians, and savage races beyond the pale of even primitive civilisation, had been, with varying accents, uttering the same lament; and Greek tragedians, and Roman Stoics, and mediæval monks and mystics, and all the voices of modern poets and philosophers, have been echoing incessantly, with however strange a dissonance, the eternal cry of humanity, ‘My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?’
II. It is upon this universal sense of severance that the spiritual life of Christianity depends.—You may never have dreamed of saying to yourself, ‘My soul is athirst for God, yea, even for the living God’; but you are athirst for finite objects, with a thirst which upon analysis will turn out to be infinite, both in quality and kind, and which therefore nothing short of an infinite object can ever satisfy. (1) Take, for instance, your desire for communion with the natural world. You desire infinite possession of, and infinite communion with, the grandeur, and the beauty, and the wonder of the world; and failing, you feel bitterly that it is your prison, and not your home. (2) It is the same with your human relations. Man will not be satisfied with family, or friendship, or acquaintance. Fresh vistas of humanity are ever opening before him, and each new friend becomes a new point of departure for the extension of his influence to a wider circle still. His motive may vary, but the instinct remains the same, and is simply the instinct to wider, deeper, more intense communion with his fellow-men. And yet, as before, its very unrest is but the measure of its failure. We are more severed from humanity than ever we were from external nature, and if the world is our prison, our fellow-men are our gaolers. (3) And so in our loneliness we look within and try to find refuge in an ideal world, but only to find schism and severance in the recesses of our inmost being. We are farther off from our ideals than even from nature and mankind.
III. All this is a fact, and a fact as universal as human experience; and Christianity, beyond other creeds, has faced and interpreted the fact.—Nature, and society, and the thoughts of our hearts were created by a Person, and created for Himself; and our feelings of separation from the world and its inhabitants, and even from the inner vision of our own ideal self, are but symptoms of alienation from the Person in Whom they exist.
IV. Because God is a Person, He cannot be contented with the abstract allegiance of one part of our nature.—He claims our being in its wholeness, and says, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.’ This command is, on the face of it, a paradox. But obey, give God your love, and the paradox will pass into a truism, for you will find that you possess Him in whom all things lovely have their being.
—Rev. J. R. Illingworth.
(1) ‘We may well say with the Ethiopian statesman, “Of whom speaketh the prophet this? Of himself or of some other?” Whatever may have been its immediate occasion in David’s life, it is clear that he was borne along by prophetic impulse, and said things which he must have questioned after he had written them, searching what the Spirit of Christ that was in him did signify, when it testified of the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow.’
(2) ‘Coleridge once said, “I am much delighted and instructed by the hypothesis that our Lord in repeating ‘Eli, Eli,’ etc., really recited the whole or a large part of the twenty-second psalm. It is impossible to read that psalm without the liveliest feelings of love, gratitude, and sympathy.”’
(3) ‘We often ask why? The answer is not always vouchsafed. But never let us cease to believe in the holiness of God. Roll thyself on God. Tell God the full measure of thy complaint. He knows all, but He likes thee to tell Him all; and when He has answered thee from the horns of the wild oxen (21 R.V.) then call upon brethren and congregation to join in thy glad praise. It is helpful to read these closing words into the lips of Christ, as He speaks them from the throne of His glory and triumph, and assures us that God does hear, that the meek shall be satisfied, that those who seek God shall praise Him.’
THE POWER OF THE DOG1
‘Deliver … my darling from the power of the dog.’
The word dog in the Scriptures often means a wicked person. It has that meaning in the text. David is speaking as a prophet, and he foretells the sufferings of our Saviour. When he says, ‘Deliver my darling from the power of the dog,’ it is a prayer that God would deliver His only Son from the hands of wicked men.
What ought we specially to think about in Lent? About our Lord’s Fasting and Temptation. Yes, but there is something more for us to think of—our own sins and temptations, and how to conquer them. That is what I mean when I tell you there are several bad dogs of which we must beware. Let us think of some of their names.
I. The dog called Sulky.—No one can be happy with a sulky person, and no one is more unhappy than the sulky one himself.
II. The dog called Passion.—Beware, then, of that fierce dog Passion. Remember what Solomon the wise man says about anger. I wonder if you could tell me the text. ‘He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.’
III. The dog called Idle.—You never see this dog doing anything useful. You never find him carrying a basket or a bundle, as some good dogs will. You never see him keeping guard over his master’s goods, or minding the sheep, or drawing a sledge, like the clever dogs at the North Pole. Take care not to be bitten by dog Idle.
IV. The dog called Mischief.—He is very dangerous. I am not speaking of Fun and Merriment—they are good dogs, which skip and play about, and do good, not harm. But Mischief is sly and secret, he goes about in dark places, and is never safe to meddle with. When a child is bitten by dog Mischief no one can tell what harm he may do.
V. The dog called Careless.—He is not so bad as some dogs; at times we can scarcely help liking him, and yet he does much harm. A child, after he has been bitten by dog Careless, says his prayers without thinking what they mean, and reads the Bible without understanding it. Be on your guard against dog Careless.
—Rev. J. H. Wilmot Buxton.
‘The old Greek fable says that once a waggoner was driving a loaded waggon along a muddy lane, and the wheels stuck fast. Then the man prayed the strong Hercules to come and help him. But Hercules told him to put his shoulder to the wheel if he wanted help. Remember that we must help ourselves. We must, as the Spanish proverb puts it,
Pray to God devoutly,
Hammer away stoutly.’
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Psalms 22". Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany