The joy of this season has its feet planted firmly on the ground, where beggars stand on street corners, hospitals beds are full, and families fight. We need a joy that goes down underneath all of the sorrows of this world, so that it can then lift us up into the heavens.
The text for the sermon today is Psalm 22. These are the words of God:
and by night, but I find no rest…
“Advent” derives from the Latin word meaning, “coming,” and the tradition of the church observing the season of Advent dates back to the 4th century AD when Christians fasted in anticipation of the coming Christ. During the darkest days of the calendar year, candles would be lit over successive weeks promising the growing light of Christ that would dawn on Christmas morn.
Christmas is indeed a season for joy, but this joy is rooted in the reality of God’s holiness, man’s sin, and the need for deliverance which can only come through one suffering in our place. And the joy of this season has its feet planted firmly on the ground, where beggars stand on street corners, hospitals beds are full, and families fight.
We need a joy that goes down underneath all of the sorrows of this world, so that it can then lift us up into the heavens.
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
If you could only choose one text from the Old Testament to understand the suffering of Christ, Psalm 22 would be in the conversation. David, of course, is the original author, yet through the prophetic inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we are transported to the foot of the cross.
This lament begins with a cry of dereliction. David cries out, “Why,” day and night. This is an incessant request, not a passing prayer. (v. 1, 2) He can look back and see God’s deliverance for his ancestors. If God rescued Abraham, and Jacob, and Moses, and Joshua, why won’t he do the same for David? (v. 3-8) He can look back even at his own life and see God’s favor and protection. Without God’s help he would have been stillborn. He’s crying out to the God of his fathers, and the God of his youth, yet he isn’t heard. So, what has changed? (v. 9-11)
David suffered on all fronts. Affliction came from all sides. His enemies mocked him (v. 12-13) Psychological anxiety (v. 14) Physical illness (v. 15-17) Material loss (v. 18)
David offers the kind of prayer that God loves to answer: save me so I can praise your name! Your salvation of me will encourage your people to trust in you too! They’ll know that even in their affliction and troubles, you will not abandon them! (v. 20-24) Beyond this, my deliverance will cause those who don’t know you to look to you in faith. All the ends of the earth will turn to you! Generations shall be saved—and you’ll get all the credit! (v. 25-31)
THE UNBREAKABLE WORD
King David lived nearly 1,000 years before Christ. As a reference point, that’s the same chronological distance as we share with the Great Schism and William the Conqueror. And yet, David foretold the details of the cross.
• The salvation accomplished by Christ for all who would believe (v. 27 and following)
Christ’s quote of Psalm 22:1 on the cross is no mere appropriation. Christ is declaring to us the unity and authority of God’s Word. Psalm 22 wasn’t on his mind because “it fit.” It was on his mind because the Spirit authored it about him 1,000 years prior.
Never forget, especially in the valleys of trouble, that the Word is unbreakable.
Trusting in the Lord exempts no one from suffering, and often it can lead you straight into it. Someone once said that before you trusted in Christ you only had one enemy, and he was trying to save you. And, while that isn’t 100% accurate, it illustrates a crucial point:
If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (John 15:18)
“Yea, and all that would live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (2 Tim. 3:12)
So, is your life filled with troubles? You’re in good company.
GOD, THE JUDOIST
One of the true dilemmas of the Christian faith is why God allows evil men to be, well, so evil? Why are the strong allowed to eat the weak? Why are the powerful given permission to persecute the helpless?
The prime example of this dilemma is the cross. God sent his only Son and the religious leaders, the Roman authorities, all of those in positions of power opposed him. They surrounded him. They falsely accused him, and they convicted him of crimes he did not commit. In a display of raw power, they manhandled the Son of God, beat him to a pulp, and spit in his face. They raised him up on a plank of wood to hang and die—and as they did it, they accomplished my salvation and yours.
At the cross, evil is its own undoing. God turns it back on itself. As one writer said, “[God] makes the supreme crime, the very operation that abolishes sin.”
WAITING & TRUSTING
As I said earlier, Advent is a season of anticipation; of waiting. As children the great wait is for Christmas morning presents. But, as we mature we recognize an even greater wait. A chief characteristic of a Psalm of lament is that of waiting. The answer has not yet come. And yet, the Psalmist is trusting in the Lord. As dire as the situation is, David declares his trust that God is working all things together, not just for his own personal deliverance, but for the entire world.
So, what troubles has God given to you? Physical illness? Internal anxiety and depression? Material loss? Relational conflicts?
If it’s true that God can take the greatest crime ever committed and bring salvation and life out of it, then he can be trusted with your troubles too.