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Forsakenness and the God Who Sings: Theological Commentary

Some books are devotional and some are academic commentary, but it is rare to find a helpful combination of both. Theological Commentary: Evangelical Perspectives deftly walks that line. It never sacrifices its academic rigor, yet the theological focus devotionally points the reader squarely to the character of God. For both learning and devotional reading, I commend this volume to you as a wonderful addition to your library.
Edited by R. Michael Allen, Theological Commentary brings together a handful of essays from evangelical scholars which comment on a range of Scripture passages. Contributors include Michael Horton, D. A. Carson, Kelly M. Kapic, Kevin Vanhoozer, and many more. Each essay examines a passage not in light of recent debate or textual variance, but in light of what the Bible teaches about who God is, and what the passage in question contributes to that understanding. This volume invites us to lift our heads from the dusty tomes of higher criticism and survey the beautiful theological landscape which binds the Church to the study of God’s Word.
My family recently suffered the loss of a loved one, and this morning I turned to Kelly M. Kapic’s chapter in this book on Psalm 22, where I found great help and comfort. This chapter, titled “Forsakenness and the God Who Sings,” begins with a survey of the structure and flow of the psalm, moving to asking questions about who the psalm is describing, and ending by looking at the psalm in relation to Jesus.
This moving psalm has been amplified in Christian study throughout church history as Jesus shouted its opening line from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Kapic makes several important notes about this phrase throughout his chapter. First, that such a cry implies a time when God was near.

How can someone really consider himself forsaken without presupposing a real relationship or commitment? This cry of abandonment is so painful to hear partly because the psalmist and reader know that the crying heart aches for what is lost.

Second, Kapic surveys various opinion on who is praying the psalm. The words may have been originally penned with the inspiration of the Spirit as the very words of Christ, or they may be the cry of God’s exiled people which Christ embodies on the cross as he atones for their sin. Ultimately he concludes,

Through our union with Christ these are the words of David, the words of Christ, and the words of his corporate body. “Let us hear them as one single organism, but let us listen to the Head as Head, and the body as body. The persons are not separated, but in dignity they are distinct, for the Head saves and the body is saved”; while the head and body are distinct, “the voice is one.”

Third, he describes a scene which is very familiar to me: loved ones gathered at a funeral, and someone’s voice raises above singing “Amazing grace how sweet the sound.” Before the word “sweet,” the whole assembly’s voice is lifted up in song, seeing it through to its end. Kapic argues that as Jesus utters the first words of a famous song in Israel’s hymnal, likewise he is implying that we sing it through to the end. The beautiful end of Psalm 22, where the psalmist declares the unfailing faithfulness of the Lord and the inevitable time when all families, including those from among the despisers and “dogs,” are worshiping God.

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.

Kapic’s conclusion is beautiful, and worth reading and reflecting on:

Charles Spurgeon argued that the order of the Psalter is no accident. It is only after we have read, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22), that we can truly say, “The Lord is my shepherd” (Psalm 23). More recently, John Eaton similarly concluded that for us “to enter fully into the peace of [Psalm] 23, the pilgrim must first make the daunting journey through 22, through that place where the lonely representative suffers to the uttermost, holds true, and obtains victory; having stood with him in that awesome place, the pilgrim will know the joy of the homecoming.”
For the Psalmist the sense of forsakenness was not the final reality, and thus he clung to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—this is the God of the living and not the dead. So Jesus, as he prays these words, clings to life amid the black hole of hell that he is experiencing. Adopting these words and taking them to himself, Jesus enters the savagery of human anguish, sin, and death; he enters as a divine warrior goes into battle knowing that blood will be spilled, but also knowing the purpose is to restore life and shalom. The new life he achieves comes in the most paradoxical way; Jesus actualizes the psalmist’s hope and healing, not by avoiding death, but through death which then gives way to the power of his resurrection.[1]

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If you would like to add this remarkable book to your library, Logos is the perfect platform in which to do so. This 232 page volume is only $19.99, which is a steal compared to the cost of the hardcover on Amazon (last I looked, $121 for the hardcover). Not only that, the original language citations in this book become exponentially more useful with Logos’ powerful tools and features. Get your copy today for less than $20, and enjoy.

[1] Kelly M. Kapic, “Psalm 22: Forsakenness and the God Who Sings,” in Theological Commentary: Evangelical Perspectives, ed. R. Michael Allen (London; New York: T&T Clark, 2011), 55–56.

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Written by
Jonathan Watson

Jon Watson is a minister in training with St. Columbia's Free Church in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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Written by Jonathan Watson