Have I mentioned how much I love Psalms? Maybe just hinted at it once or twice? Okay, so maybe a little more than that, but it’s true. Sometimes I just hunger to read a psalm because I know it will fit. Of course, that is as much because God’s Word is alive as it is because the literary style of a psalm is so perfectly applicable, but I’m still drawn to Psalms on a regular basis.
I especially love how the psalmist, whether David another author, frequently moves from an “all is lost and I’m going to die!” mentality to an attitude of complete praise and abandon. I struggle to accomplish that on my own. It is tough to captivate my thoughts and tune them into praise. But, when I read David’s words, my thoughts begin to come in line with his and I cannot help but move into an attitude of praise.
Over the past few days, though, I’ve been working through a different kind of psalm. Yes, David wrote it, and he still started it in despair. Loneliness and oppression seemed to be drowning him. And yes, by the end of the psalm, David is fully entrenched in praise. In fact, one heading I’ve seen for this particular psalm is “A Cry of Anguish and a Song of Praise.” That definitely fits!
But, the difference lies in the praise part.
I will tell of Your name to my brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will praise You. You who fear the Lord, praise Him; all you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him, and stand in awe of Him, all you descendants of Israel. For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor has He hidden His face from him; but when he cried to Him for help, He heard.
From You comes my praise in the great assembly; I shall pay my vows before those who fear Him. The afflicted will eat and be satisfied; those who seek Him will praise the Lord. Let your heart live forever! All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will worship before You. For the kingdom is the Lord’s and He rules over the nations. All the prosperous of the earth will eat and worship, all those who go down to the dust will bow before Him, even he who cannot keep his soul alive. Posterity will serve Him; it will be told of the Lord to the coming generation. They will come and will declare His righteousness to a people who will be born, that He has performed it. Psalm 22:22-31
Do you notice anything here? I’ve somehow overlooked it before, but there is a distinct difference between this psalm and many of the others David penned. In others, David finds his solace in the Lord. He finds peace and refuge. Even as he continues to stand before his enemies, he knows the presence, comfort, and company of God.
But in Psalm 22, David finds delight in the company of God’s people! He starts off completely alone, feeling that he is despised by everyone. By the end, though, he plants himself in the midst of the assembly, an assembly focused on worship.
Now, from a biblical studies perspective, there are many other nuances to this psalm, not the least of which being the fact that Jesus quoted the first line of this psalm while hanging on the cross. It has a tone of prophecy to it, reminding us that God directed every detail of the writing of His Word. David, however, just knew what was running through his own mind at the time. And his own mind went from despair to a hunger for fellowship in worship.
It’s easy to withdraw in our despair. It’s easy to feel so very alone in our struggles. But like David, we need one another. We need the assembly. We need the ability to praise among the many. It can be hard to let our guard down, especially when we’ve been hurt by some of the very people with whom we are called to worship. But, we need them. They need us.
As we struggle through this life, may we hunger to move out of our anguish into an attitude of praise. But may we also not seek to remain alone. May we hunger to worship with the assembly, finding great delight in the fellowship of the family of God.