Saturday Reflection – 21 December 2019
“Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.” Psalm 22:11
Psalm 22 is one of the most interesting Psalms in David’s collection. This is so as he writes from a place where he feels deserted and lonely. You see, God’s servant had been pursued and attacked by Saul, an event which had plunged him into hiding. As he moves from place to place he suffers the mental impact of the attack and therein comes to the place of lamentation.
Therein, David writes the words later used by Christ on the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1) Even in the Christmas season- one filled with joy, peace and goodwill to all people – many may be like David plunged in this state of suffering. There may seem to be no joy – no peace on earth. The darkness that surrounds us seems to engulf the light and we feel alone.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow the writer of the hymn “I heard the bells on Christmas day” pens in verses 1 and 3:
“I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men.
And in despair I bowed my head.
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men.”
It is almost a feeling of drowning, or being engulfed by the flames of suffering and we cry out to God lost to a feeling of peace and goodwill. In David’s despair he questions God recalling his omnipotence and the goodness and mercies he has shown in time past. This led him to feeling alone, dejected and less than human. Then comes his plea, as recorded in Today’s Watchword “Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.” And in his plea, he records the trouble that surrounds him and in his petition to God – he beseeches with God to come to his relief. He even continues by noting the message and song that he will proclaim at worship and to the people around him should God come to his rescue.
Have we ever felt this dejected? – almost rejected? Does the message of joy, peace and goodwill we proclaim that this time seem to be drowned out by all that is going on around us? Does our surrounding embody the hatred that Longfellow records in verse 3 of his hymn that mocks our message of hope. David felt this way and therein he begs for relief.
The hope that we then feel – comes that David’s note of praise to God. The Psalm changes the note of complaining to one of rejoicing. He comes to the place where he can now again celebrate the goodness of God to him. We know, in our reflection that God had saved him from the hand of the enemies and had made him king of Israel. It is that even in his feeling of desertion, he continues to plea to God and hope for coming relief. He ends the collection with celebration and praise to the God who came through for him. Truly, weeping endures for a night but joy comes in the morning. Hold on to God. He will come through for you. He is God – the one in control and he has our best interest at heart. Just like for David – God will show up, and show himself to God in the face of our suffering.
Longfellow in writing the hymn, also comes to this place in verse 4 and says:
“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”
Until next week, let us be strengthened by David’s words in Psalm 43:5 “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.”
Surely he is a good God whose steadfast love and mercies never fail. It is a truly a blessing then, that David begins his next Psalm with words of celebration “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”
Dominic J. Blair