[One of our church members, John Bates, wrote a meditation on Psalm 22 following the sermon last Sunday. I asked John if I could post it, and he gave me permission. May God use it to inspire your worship of Christ. – Pastor David ]

Seldom do we look at the psalms to lead our meditations through the passion of the Christ. The words that dripped from Christ’s lips, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” were not just a mere utterance of the sacrifice receiving the weight of the sin of His people. These were the words of King David in his prophetic psalm written 1000 years earlier.

The psalm that the dying Christ spoke, directing the bystanders to be witnesses, paints a picture of pure suffering and humiliation with such vivid details that mirrored the event unfolding at the cross. The scoffers, as they shook their heads and proclaimed, “He trusts in the Lord, let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” were written by David but played out on Golgotha. Those bulls of Bashan with gaping mouth like a raging and roaring lion were the children of Israel calling for His death. David said they would divide His garments and cast lots for them, and so the soldiers did. How strange were David’s words as he talked about piercing hands and feet, long before the morbid minds devised this means of execution. Who would suffer these pains of death far beyond David’s imagination, who would be the one poured out and dried up, broken and frail? Christ was proclaiming, “It is I! I am fulfilling the prophecy of David.”

Yet David’s psalm does not end with the echos of the suffering. For if one is astonished by the accurate description of the sufferings, then one would have to explode in exuberance in the hope of the resurrection. Through Christ’s suffering and death comes life in salvation through the resurrection. For David said, “He has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted.” Oh, there is HOPE! “The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord!” In his resurrection He has inherited the Kingdom, and we become the subjects and the children of the righteous King. David said, “Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it.”

So another 2000 years from the fulfillment of the suffering, I urge you to be witnesses and partakers in the hope of the resurrection and prepare to proclaim to the next generation the hope we have in Christ. His suffering had to be incredibly horrid, in order for His salvation to be ever so glorious.

The psalmist once asked, “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?”  The answer, of course, is nowhere.  Unless you’re talking about Twitter or Facebook.  We all know that God isn’t on social media, which is why we use it to post whatever we want.  In cyber world we’re like ambassadors in a foreign country, moving among our friends and followers with diplomatic immunity.  What is it to Jesus or the church or to anyone else for that matter if we grumble, or rant, or flirt, or slander, or brag?  Once we’ve signed in, we have left the sphere of verbal and visual accountability.  We have entered a virtual God-free zone where we can “just be real” or “not really mean anything by it.”

The psalmist had no conception of social media as he pondered escaping God’s presence.  But his ancient conclusion is no less applicable to our modern situation: God is everywhere.  God is present in all reality, including virtual reality.  My dear Christian brother or sister, we must remember this.  Just as we would hope to honor Jesus in our personal interactions with others, we must seek to honor him in online interactions too.  We should never think of our discipleship as being temporarily suspended whenever we log on.  Our passwords may be secret, but what we post never is.

Dispelling the illusion of secrecy is a good place to start.  Last year Pastor Kevin DeYoung offered some good advice on this point:

Whether you are a tween, a teen, a pastor, a politician, a grandma, or a grad student, whether you blog, tweet, post, or pin, here is the one indispensable social media rule you must follow if you want to be wise, edifying, and save yourself a lot of anguish:  Assume that everyone, everywhere will read what you write and see what you post.

No matter your settings or how tight your circle is, you ought to figure that anyone in the world could come across your social media. All it takes is a link or a search or a bunch of friends you don’t know gathered around a phone that belongs to someone you do know. Anyone can see everything. Your pastor, your parishioners, your ex-whatever, your boss, your prospective employer, your spouse, your kids, your in-laws, your…fans, your constituents, your opponents, your enemies, your parole officer, the girl you like, the dude who freaks you out, the feds, the papers—assume everyone can read your rant and see your pics….

It’s amazing what some people post online. Do we forget that a thousand other folks are reading this intimate declaration of marital affection or this lambasting of all that their family holds dear? I wonder if people realize that what we post is who we are to hundreds or thousands of people. So no matter what we think we are like in real life, to most people who know of us, they only know us as that guy obsessed with Ron Paul or that girl obsessed with dieting or the pastor who seems to hate everyone or the cynical college kid or the older [person] checking out strange things through Socialcam.

(Read the whole article here.)

To DeYoung’s one indispensable rule for social media we can add several explicitly Christian points.  I offer these points in the form of diagnostic questions.  None of us will remember all of these questions, but they are the kinds of thoughts that should pass through our minds before we ever hit ‘Tweet’ or ‘Post’ or ‘Pin It’ or ’Upload.’  An honest, gospel-shaped answer will guide you well.

  • Is the content sinful (e.g., grumbling, slanderous, immodest, suggestive, etc.)?
  • When God opens my timeline history on the day of judgment, will I regret this?
  • Will this hinder or help my witness for Jesus?
  • Is this truly benign, or am I seeking to make much of myself?
  • Can I post this with faith and a clear conscience?
  • How am I seeking to honor God with this post?
  • How am I seeking to build up my neighbor with this post?

None of these questions are meant to imply that every tweet or post must be a Bible verse or a spiritual thought.  But let all of our posts have the hearty aim of serving Jesus and others rather than ourselves.  In short, love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all your tweets and posts.

All the world belongs to God, including cyber world.  God is with us offline and online.  Post for his glory!

Jesus prayed the Psalms, of that we are sure.  But in what way did Jesus pray those Psalms in which the psalmist confesses guilt and cries out for forgiveness?  Bonhoeffer’s answer to the question has stirred my affection for Christ.  Here are a few relevant quotations:

It is the incarnate Son of God, who has borne every human weakness in his own flesh, who here pours out the heart of all humanity before God and who stands in our place and prays for us….

Christ speaks of the guilt of all men, also about the guilt of David and my own guilt which he has taken upon himself, and borne, and for which he now suffers the wrath of the Father….

How can the sinless one ask for forgiveness?  In no way other than he can, as the sinless one, bear the sins of the world and be made sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21).  Not for the sake of his sins, but for the sake of our sins, which he has taken upon himself and for which he suffers, does Jesus pray for the forgiveness of sins.  He positions himself entirely for us.  He wants to be a man before God as we are.  So he prays the most human of all prayers with us and thereby demonstrates precisely that he is the true Son of God.

Bonhoeffer, Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible, 20-21, 37, 51-52

Christ Jesus, in taking upon himself our sin, also took upon himself our guilt and need for forgiveness.  Jesus prays in our place as the true man.

Uppermost in Bonhoeffer’s mind on the Psalms is the idea — somewhat foreign to us — that the Psalms are now ours because they first belonged to Christ.  The pre-incarnate Christ inspired them (2 Sam 23:1; 2 Tim 3:16); Christ, while in the flesh, prayed them as his own prayers; and we understand them as pointing to Christ’s death, resurrection, and the spread of the gospel (Luke 24:44-47).

This stunning idea of course raises a question.  How exactly did Jesus pray for himself the psalms of guilt or of imprecation?  I’ll let Bonhoeffer answer those questions later this week.  But, for now, let’s get hold of the fundamental point:

All prayers of the Bible are such prayers which we pray together with Jesus Christ, in which he accompanies us, and through which he brings us into the presence of God.  Otherwise there are no true prayers, for only in and with Jesus Christ can we truly pray.

The prayers of David were prayed also by Christ.  Or better, Christ himself prayed them through his forerunner David.

It is really our prayer, but since he knows us better than we know ourselves and since he himself was true man for our sakes, it is also really his prayer, and it can become our prayer only because it was his prayer.

The Psalms are given to us to this end, that we may learn to pray them in the name of Jesus Christ.

Who prays the Psalms?  David (Solomon, Asaph, etc.) prays, Christ prays, we pray.

Bonhoeffer, Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible, 14-15, 19, 21

We pray in and with Jesus Christ or not at all.  Don’t hear that as a threat, but as a glorious invitation.  For when we pray in and with Jesus Christ, we are truly praying.

Prayer does not mean simply to pour out one’s heart.  It means rather to find the way to God and to speak with him, whether the heart is full or empty.  No man can do that by himself.  For that he needs Jesus Christ….

Only in Jesus Christ are we able to pray, and with him we also know that we shall be heard….

God’s speech in Jesus Christ meets us in the Holy Scriptures.

Bonhoeffer, Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible, 9-11

Bonhoeffer presses us with a crucial question in the opening chapter of his book on the Psalms.  The question is foundational for understanding how to pray.  Is it of primary importance that your prayer be heartfelt or that your prayer be heard by God?

Of course we want our prayer to be heartfelt.  But far more important is that our prayer be heard, regardless of our heart.  That’s actually good news to me, because my heart is rarely (ever?) what it ought to be.

For prayer to be heard, we must pray in and with Jesus.  And to know that we’re praying in and with Jesus, we must pray the Scriptures.

That’s why we have been given the Psalms.