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Psalm 22:25-31

Psalm 22 is an individual lament that serves the community as a whole. The whole righteous assembly is invited to enter into the experience of the suffering servant and the servant is found to carry within her the whole history and suffering experience of the assembly. It is one of those fine examples of a collective individual where the whole history of the people is present in one person that points us forward to Jesus himself.

There is also a strong tradition of interpreting this Psalm messianically that may go back to the Gospels themselves (Mark 15:34). But it also carries within the experience of the prophets (Jeremiah, Isaiah and Samuel spring to mind), Job, Moses and all those servants of God who suffer because of their faithfulness.

By the time we reach the passage that the lectionary gives us for this week, we are in the final portion, focusing on God’s presence and rule.[1] There is a strong focus on fulfilled vows (v. 25), a celebration potluck in the temple that results in the poor of the house of God receiving food to eat. This is a physical manifestation of the relief of personal physical and psychic pain that spills over as a fulfilled promise to the poor. As the Lord strengthens their bodies with food, so he will continue to strengthen their hearts and enable them to endure their affliction with patience.[2] From this celebration, the praise of God continues in unbroken succession. Praise leads to thanks and praise in the house of God.

The other readings for Easter 5B extend this notion beyond the poor in the house of God. Like v. 27-28, Acts 8 indicates a world where the nations are brought into the fold. In John 15, the suffering of Psalm 22:1-24 makes clear what it costs to abide in the True Vine. This pruning is no joke and the Farmer-Father and Vine-Son living in unity suffer together the cost of bearing fruit in the world. But the psalm then bursts forth into a hopeful vision throughout all the world, throughout every nation and family and through all future generations. Both rich and destitute come before God to feast in the temple (v. 29).

This future focus is the most compelling aspect of the psalm for me. We sit within a community that extends into the past (v. 4-5) as well as the future (v. 30-31). On the back of today’s suffering and the vow-fulfilling praise that blesses the poor in our midst, “future generations will be told about the Lord.” The psalmist sings and hymns to the Lord in the confidence that future generations will do the same.

I do not know what this does for you and I doubt that many of us will be preaching on this portion of Psalm 22 this week. However, if anything, this passage ought to help frame our practice of preaching and worship. Especially in the Easter moment, we live in the glow of God’s faithfulness to Jesus in raising him from the grave and in Jesus’ faithfulness to God in laying down his life before the Father, as was described in the first portion of the psalm. This response portion—which focuses on the need to fulfill our vows and allow that blessing to flow over into the lives of the spiritually and physically poor—has a special focus on future generations and the impact of our work on posterity. As we preach, whether it is on the nation-expanding faith of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch or the deep Resurrection-abiding of John 15 or the perfected and perfecting love of 1 John, let us do so with the knowledge that we suffer, we work, we worship within a celestial and terrestrial community that extends both forward and back into the eternal mists of time and the eternal care of God. ​


[1] Longman, and Garland, 236.

[2] Ibid, 248.