My God, my God, O why have you Forsaken and abandoned me? Why are you far from giving help, From listening to my anguished plea?
My God, I cry to you by day; You do not hear when I complain. I call to you throughout the night; In silence I cannot remain.
Yet you are holy: on the praise Of Israèl you are enthroned. In you our fathers put their trust; They trusted, and were not disowned.
They called, and you delivered them; You listened to them when they cried. Our fathers were not put to shame, Because on you they had relied.
But I’m a worm and not a man, By people scorned, reproached by all. And those who see me shake their heads; They sneer at me, and thus they call:
“This man has trusted in the LORD, So let him save him from his plight. Now let his God deliver him, Because in him he takes delight.”
Yet you, LORD, brought me from the womb; When I was at my mother’s breast You gave me cause to trust in you. From birth upon you I was cast.
Yes, from my mother’s womb till now, O LORD, you are my God alone. Be not far off, for trouble’s near, And other helper I have none.
Strong bulls of Bashan circle me, Wild bulls approach on every side. As roaring lions tear their prey, At me their mouths they open wide.
Like water I am emptied out, And all my bones are torn apart; My inmost being melts away, And into wax is turned my heart.
My strength is dried like shattered clay, And, as I fight to draw my breath, My tongue is sticking to my jaws; You lay me in the dust of death.
A pack of dogs encloses me; Their circle round me is complete. I am beset by evil men And they have pierced my hands and feet.
I count the number of my bones; With gloating eyes the people stare. They throw the dice to get my coat; Among themselves my clothes they share.
Come quickly, rescue me, my Strength; Do not be far from me, O LORD. Save me from power of evil dogs, My precious life from cruel sword.
From menace of the lions’ mouths And from their fury set me free. From peril of wild oxen’s horns You heard my cry and rescued me.
Now to my brothers I’ll declare The praises of your glorious name; Within their gathering I will stand And your renown I will proclaim.
Praise him, all you that fear the LORD; Give honour to him, Jacob’s race. All Isr’el’s children, worship him; Bow down with awe before his face.
He has not scorned the suffering Which on the afflicted one is laid; He did not hide his face from him, But listened to his cry for aid.
You are the theme of all my praise Within the great assembly, LORD; Before all those who fear your name I will fulfil my solemn word.
The poor will eat and will be filled And those who seek the LORD will give A shout of joyful praise to him. O may your hearts for ever live!
The whole earth will remember him And turn towards the LORD their God. All peoples will bow down to him— The nations of the world abroad.
Dominion to the LORD belongs And over nations he is king. The rich of all the earth will feast And worship with an offering.
All those whose destiny is dust Will humbly kneel before his throne; They cannot keep themselves alive, For they depend on him alone.
Posterity will serve the LORD; And generations still to come Will tell a people yet unborn The righteous acts that he has done.
You can hear a Free Church congregation sing this to the tune St Clement here or to the tune Marrel here.
I have such strong memories of singing this psalm every year to a plainsong chant during the stripping of the altar in an Anglican church that I attended for many years. It always brought tears to my eyes and it does so, now.
It is referred to as the Song of David but we will never know if David really was the writer/composer. Even in the introduction to the psalm, David asks the chief musician to play this song on a ‘particular instrument’ indicating that it was meant to be sung.
There is such sadness and anguish about this psalm. It is a heartfelt prayer of lament from one who feels abandoned by God. The psalmist is confused. He has grown up hearing about God’s faithfulness towards his people, but in his situation God seems to be absent? What seems to be the problem? He is resolutely confident in God, but at the same time confused. Why is God absent for him, when God has intervened in the lives of so many others?
Surrounded by enemies who are persecuting him, the psalmist cries out for help in the day and the night, and still God remains silent. The psalmist remembers how, in the past, the people of Israel called trustingly upon the Lord in times of trial, and he answered their prayer. He remembers the tenderness with which the Lord cared for him personally in his earlier life, as a child in his mother’s womb, as an infant in his mother’s arms, and yet now God seems strangely distant. Despite such difficult and distressing times, though, the psalmist’s faith and trust in the Lord remains steadfast. The psalm ends on a note of confidence, as God’s name is praised before all the nations. There are many echoes of this psalm in the gospels of the New Testament. In the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, the opening line of this psalm is recorded as being repeated by Jesus as he calls upon the Father from the Cross. He too seems to have been abandoned to a cruel fate, while his enemies mock him, attacking him like ravenous and roaring lions, dividing his clothing among them as if he were already dead.
There have been times in my life when I have felt that God is far from me. I call and He doesn’t respond. I seek Him but cannot find Him. There have been times when I have felt that instead of God being our Father and Creator, that in fact, we create God to fulfil a need within us. It is possible that you have felt this on occasion, too. Remember that the shadow of the Cross gives way to the bright hope of the Resurrection. We too, when we call upon him in times of trial, must place our trust in the God who brings salvation, who conquers death with the gift of eternal life.
Loving God, we live in a world that doubts everything it hears; and, even with open eyes, doubts everything it sees. We know that we can trust you in all things. In a world that often scoffs at our faith and trust in God, we praise you that you continue to demonstrate your trustworthiness to people who have eyes to see, and ears to hear your gentle words of encouragement, grace and mercy. We offer you our lives, our love and our faithfulness in response. Father, strengthen our faith. Amen
Ann Barton, Facilities Manager, Church House.
Sing Psalms (C) Psalmody and Praise Committee, Free Church of Scotland, 15 North Bank Street, Edinburgh, EH1 2LS.