Psalm 22 is a lament that expresses David’s experience of abandonment by God as well as his confidence in God. This pairing seems odd to our ears but is common. C.S. Lewis describes the tension in this Psalm of lament as “the union of total privation with total adherence to God,” again, not a pairing that makes immediate intuitive sense (Reflections on the Psalms, p. 127). Such Psalms have a standard five part structure including:
- An invocation or introductory cry to God
- The lament or complaint
- A petition or prayer
- A statement of confidence in God
- A vow to praise God (Ryken, Words of Delight, p. 240).
We can see this pattern quite clearly in Psalm 22 from the introductory cry in verses 1-2, to the complaint in verses 3-18; to the petition or prayer v.19-21; to the statement of confidence in God and vow to praise him which run together from verses 22 to the end. The lament is rich with description and metaphors using animals and physical objects.
But the strong and extended lament transitions into a prayer in verses 19-21 and then an expression of a life fully committed to God, especially in the midst of the suffering described in the first part. This tension and pairing is where the power of the Psalm lies as well as the power of faith.
Entrusting one’s life to this kind of God, as the psalmist did and as Jesus did, changes everything. For instance, life can be understood not as a frantic search for self-satisfaction and self-security, but as a matter of dependence upon God. Suffering can be understood not as something to be avoided at all costs, but as something to be accepted – even embraced on behalf of others – with the knowledge that God shares the suffering of the afflicted (Heb. 2:14-18). Death can be understood not as the ultimate insult to human sovereignty, but as something to be entrusted to God with the assurance that nothing in all creaton can separate us from God (see Rom. 8:31-39). [ The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary, Psalms, p. 766].
For Further Reading: Follow the use of this Psalm by Jesus and in the four gospels: Matthew 27:34, 46; Mark 15:29, 34; Luke 23:34; John 15:24