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Day 34

Praising in the Great Congregation
Imagine standing with Jesus, right next to him, in prayer to his Father. Read this passage of praise aloud. As you do so, consider that you are praying along with Jesus, your two voices becoming one as you bless God.  
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
   and all that is within me,
   bless his holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
   and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity
   who heals all your diseases, 
who redeems your life from the pit,
   who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
   so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalm 103:1-5)
Psalm 22:20-31 
Deliver my soul from the sword,
   my precious life from the power of the dog!
   Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!
I will tell of your name to my brothers;
   in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
You who fear the LORD, praise him!
   All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
   and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
For he has not despised or abhorred
   the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
   but has heard, when he cried to him.
From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
   my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;
   those who seek him shall praise the LORD!
   May your hearts live forever!
All the ends of the earth shall remember
   and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations
   shall worship before you.
For kingship belongs to the LORD,
   and he rules over the nations.
All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;
   before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
   even the one who could not keep himself alive.
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.
What Is This Psalm About?   
As we considered Jesus’ crucifixion, on Days 22 and 23, we read the first half of Psalm 22. We saw how this song gave Jesus lyrics for the horrible experience of spiritual forsakenness and bodily crucifixion. Ross describes how a psalm written hundreds of years before Jesus might be both true for its writer and speak beyond itself. He writes, “[T]o Christians the psalm finds its divinely intended meaning in Jesus Christ. How this worked was that the Spirit of God inspired the psalmist in the writing of this psalm so that he used many vivid and at times hyperbolic expressions to describe his own suffering that would ultimately be true in a greater way of David’s greater son, the Messiah” (1: 548).
Remarkably, this bleak psalm abruptly turns to the joy of being rescued.  Beginning with urgent pleas for deliverance, the psalmist employs vivid  metaphors for the enemy: “Save me from the thrusting sword, the snarling dog and the ravenous lion!” Then, abruptly, in the middle of a verse, without explanation, the psalmist declares himself rescued. The verb tenses shift from imperative (as in, “Do this!”) to the present perfect (“It has been done”). David’s despair of life itself suddenly becomes a passion to make known the LORD’s saving power among the people. Today, we’ll see how this second part of Psalm 22 has also been attributed to Jesus in the New Testament.
What Might This Psalm Have Meant to Jesus?
In Psalm 22, David’s enemies seem to be mocking and torturing him to death, but the LORD hears and answers his plea before it’s too late. Jesus prays the forsakenness of verse 1 from the cross, but his Father does not spare him from death. This is the agonizing part of the agonizing plan. Jesus will die for the sake of the world he came to save. His deliverance will occur, but not until the third day. Then the Father declares that it is not too late. He sends forth the Spirit to raise the Son, reclothing him in a resurrection body. Our redemption is accomplished. 
Hebrews describes this transition from Jesus’ passion to triumph: “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence” (Hebrews 5:7). The Father heard Jesus all along. He indeed saved his Son from death, but not until Jesus had passed through death, tasting it for all of us. 
The sudden change described in Psalm 22:21 occurs for Jesus between Good Friday and Easter. Jesus dies in this world. His voice sounds no more. Then it does. Jesus departs into the silence of death on Friday and then blinks awake in new life on Easter. How soon, alive in that cave, does he finish the psalm he started on the cross? Perhaps he wonders, “What do I do now?” Then he prays in his joy, “I will tell of your name to my brothers!”
John’s account helps us make this link. After appearing to Mary, Jesus instructs her, “Go to my brothers and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (John 20:17). He has healed the breach between God and humanity. Jesus creates in himself one new man (Ephesians 2:15). He stays fully human, still our brother in the flesh. He has now opened the way for us to participate in a new intimacy with his Father.
Jesus prays Psalm 22 even now, “In the midst of the congregation, I will praise you.” Jesus is present to us now by his Holy Spirit who resides in the heart of every believer. He is present by his Spirit whenever two or three (or three thousand) gather in his name (Matthew 18:20). So at every worship service, the real leader of praise is Jesus! He created our access to the Father. He receives worship as the eternal Son of God. He offers worship as the continuing son of humanity. Jesus even now raises a joyful voice, a lamenting voice, an interceding voice with us. Poet Malcolm Guite describes this mystery of making prayer in and through Jesus, “I sing my psalm in Christ who sings in me” (40). 
Praying with Jesus
Jesus, with David you prayed the glorious reality
Of being saved from death, through death, into life.
You pray even now the joy
That your passage through dark to light,
Through forsakenness to communion,
Will be told to every generation.
I rejoice with you to declare of the LORD,
“That he has done it.”
What no one could do, the triune God has done.
When I was lost beyond finding,
You sought me in the ruins.
He has done it!
When I was yet your enemy,
You died to make us friends.
He has done it!
When I was in bondage to death,
You rose to shatter its gates.
He has done it!
When this world looks so bleak,
You promise to return to set it right.
So I can say even of this future,
He has done it!
For you, Jesus, will surely do
All you have promised, 
And I praise your Father
With you in the Spirit today.


Posted in: Lent