The psalm begins with a question to God: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ It is the same question that Jesus asked on the cross, the fourth of his seven recorded sayings.
The Saviour used the personal pronoun ‘my’ in addressing God. His usage points to at least two important details. One is that the Saviour’s faith was exercised when he was on the cross. His experience on it had to be endured, not as a Stoic with a stiff upper lip, but with a warm and loving and persistent faith in God. No matter how dark his environment became, the faith of Jesus shone brightly.
The other detail concerns the hope that Jesus had. It was not based on God’s power in general but on the special relationship he had enjoyed with his Father. Jesus was experiencing a previously unknown and totally indescribable encounter with the judgement of God. The Saviour was without a sense of the gracious presence of God. Yet even here, he is our example because in his darkness he turned his face to the Light he could not see and affirmed that he was dedicated to his God.
In verses 1b-2, the Saviour says that he has been praying about the abandonment mentioned in verse 1. It had so occupied his thoughts that he prayed about it day and night. We know from the Gospels that Jesus had been praying about his ordeal, and we see the intensity of his prayers in the garden of Gethsemane as his body and soul shook at the prospect ahead of him. That intensity is seen in the term ‘roaring’ that is used in verse 1 to describe his prayers. The Book of Hebrews say that in Gethsemane he prayed with strong crying and tears (Heb. 5:7).
The fact that the Saviour prayed so strongly is a challenge to how we pray about matters that concern us. Jesus knew that he would accomplish our salvation by taking our place and enduring God’s wrath against our sins. He was also aware of the many predictions in the Old Testament about the glory that would be given to the suffering Messiah once his distress was over. But he did not use his inner knowledge or his understanding of God’s promises as reasons for not praying earnestly about his awful situation. He wrestled in prayer over and over again.
Although he was in a terrible situation, he repeats in verse 2 his confidence in God that he expressed in verse 1. To the God who was silent to his prayers, he cried, ‘My God.’ This is an illustration of the triumph of faith, of the greatest display of faith in God that has ever been witnessed. When there was not even the faintest glimmer that God was for him, he affirmed repeatedly that he still trusted in him.
As we listen to the Saviour’s cry and remind ourselves that he was experiencing this abandonment because of our sins, should it not make us thankful that God laid our help on One that was mighty. Every Christian can and should say, ‘He was abandoned so that I would not be abandoned.’ At the same time it should make us hate the sins that brought about the distress he bore.