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Psalm 22

posted Mar 28, 2015, 10:49 AM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Jul 2, 2015, 3:06 PM ]
For the leader; according to “The deer of the dawn.” A psalm of David.

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why so far from my call for help, from my cries of anguish?
My God, I call by day, but you do not answer; by night, but I have no relief.
Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the glory of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted; they trusted and you rescued them.
To you they cried out and they escaped; in you they trusted and were not disappointed.
But I am a worm, not a man, scorned by men, despised by the people.
All who see me mock me; they curl their lips and jeer; they shake their heads at me: 
“He relied on the LORD—let him deliver him; if he loves him, let him rescue him.”
For you drew me forth from the womb, made me safe at my mother’s breasts.
Upon you I was thrust from the womb; since my mother bore me you are my God.
Do not stay far from me, for trouble is near, and there is no one to help.

Many bulls surround me; fierce bulls of Bashan encircle me.
They open their mouths against me, lions that rend and roar.
Like water my life drains away; all my bones are disjointed. My heart has become like wax, it melts away within me.
As dry as a potsherd is my throat; my tongue cleaves to my palate; you lay me in the dust of death.
Dogs surround me; a pack of evildoers closes in on me. They have pierced my hands and my feet
I can count all my bones. They stare at me and gloat; they divide my garments among them; for my clothing they cast lots.
But you, LORD, do not stay far off; my strength, come quickly to help me.
Deliver my soul from the sword, my life from the grip of the dog.
Save me from the lion’s mouth, my poor life from the horns of wild bulls.

Then I will proclaim your name to my brethren; in the assembly I will praise you:
“You who fear the LORD, give praise! All descendants of Jacob, give honor; show reverence, all descendants of Israel!
For he has not spurned or disdained the misery of this poor wretch, Did not turn away from me, but heard me when I cried out.
I will offer praise in the great assembly; my vows I will fulfill before those who fear him.
The poor will eat their fill; those who seek the LORD will offer praise. May your hearts enjoy life forever!”

All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD; All the families of nations will bow low before him.
For kingship belongs to the LORD, the ruler over the nations.
All who sleep in the earth will bow low before God; All who have gone down into the dust will kneel in homage.
And I will live for the LORD; my descendants will serve you.
The generation to come will be told of the Lord, that they may proclaim to a people yet unborn the deliverance you have brought.
Of the 150 psalms in the Book of Psalms, over 50 of them belong in the category of laments. These “cries of distress” express deep sorrow for a nation’s troubles and appeal for divine help. Their format usually contains the following: an address to God; a description of the suffering; a petition for help; a curse toward the enemies; an expression of innocence in this situation OR a confession of the lack thereof; a vow corresponding to an expected divine response; and lastly, a song of praise.

Psalm 22, sometimes called The Song of David, is unusually intense as it presents the speaker’s suffering, contrasting the psalmist’s present distress with God’s past mercy. Then like most laments, it talks of enemies and ends with an invitation to praise God. It’s also sometimes referred to as the Crucifixion Psalm, since its opening words occur on the lips of the crucified Jesus.

Felix Mendelssohn was a German composer, pianist, organist and conductor; today considered to be the link between the classical style of Mozart and Beethoven and the high romantic style of Schumann and Brahms. He wrote symphonies, oratorios such as Elijah and his most famous piano music, Songs Without Words. But he was also well known for his sacred choral compositions. So in the summer of 1843 King Friedrich Wilhelm IV appointed him Director of the royal Berliner-Domchor (Berlin's Cathedral Men's Choir). He composed an a cappella, or unaccompanied setting of Psalm 22 which they premiered on Good Friday, 1844.

Mendelssohn is also credited for beginning the Bach revival that’s never ended, when in 1829, he conducted the first performance of the St. Matthew Passion since Bach himself had done it. After Bach had died in 1750, his music was pretty much forgotten except in his own former church of St. Thomas in Leipzig. And there he had started a project of composing one cantata for each Sunday and holiday of the liturgical year. (A cantata is a vocal composition usually with soloists, choir and orchestra, typically in several movements.) He wrote Die Elenden sollen essen (The poor will eat) for the first Sunday after Trinity in 1723. It’s opening chorus is based on Psalm 22:27; 
The poor will eat their fill; those who seek the LORD will offer praise. May your hearts enjoy life forever!”