Theme: A Friend in Jesus
In this week’s lessons we observe how David expresses himself honestly before God, and see how God hears and understands the great difficulties we go through.
Scripture: Psalm 69:19-36
If there was ever a messianic psalm, it is Psalm 69. Seven of its thirty-six verses are quoted in the New Testament, and there are themes that are developed in a general way in reference to Jesus Christ in the gospels. In exploring the application of this psalm to Jesus, we looked at points that are illustrated by Jesus’ earthly experience, saw how he endured them for the sake of the Father and for us, and observed how we should also willingly endure such trials for Jesus. We also saw that we will be able to do this only through the power and grace he supplies.
A brief review of the outline of the psalm is helpful before we dig into the passage again. It begins with a stanza in which the psalmist both laments his sad situation and also calls on God to help him in it (vv. 1-4). This is followed by a one-verse acknowledgement of the psalmist’s folly and guilt (v. 5).
At this point the psalm begins to repeat, first the lament and then the plea for help, doing both two times. Verses 6-12 contain the first renewal of the lament. Verses 13-18 contain the first renewal of the plea for help. Those are the sections we looked at in the last study. Then, in the section of the psalm we are to look at now, verses 19-21 contain the second renewal of the lament and verses 22–29 contain the second renewal of the plea. That constitutes the main body of the psalm. It then closes with a short, one-verse interjection similar to verse 5, in verse 29, and a formal conclusion in which the reader is invited to praise God along with the psalmist, in verses 30-36. We pick up here with verse 19.
Verses 19-21 contain a second renewal of the psalmist’s lament, but like the other renewals these verses also introduce new elements. The first new element is the writer’s claim that God knows how he is being scorned (v. 19). This is the second time he has claimed that God knows something. Earlier it was his folly and guilt (v. 5). Here it is his mistreatment.
It is helpful for us to know that God knows what we are going through, and there is comfort in knowing that he knows. I think this is why the hymn by Joseph Scriven (c. 1855), “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” is so popular. It is not great poetry, and the tune is rather bland. But it has drawn forth an echoing note in countless devout hearts, people who have taken their sad troubles to Jesus and been comforted simply by knowing that he knows about them and has gone through them himself:
What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer.
Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged:
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness—
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
When we are hurting, either from physical ills or mistreatment, the most natural thing in the world is to look around for someone who might at least be able to show us some sympathy or offer comfort. But David says that in his trouble there was no one, no one who offered sympathy. No one provided even a little comfort.
That may be your experience too. Many people are alone in their grief and suffering, and people do not naturally identify with the unfortunate or console them. If that is your case, remember that there is One who knows what you are going through, because he has gone through it himself. When he was in his greatest agony on the cross no one showed any sympathy for him; they mocked him instead: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isa. 53:3).
That is what makes Jesus such a great empathizing help to us. The author of Hebrews wrote, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need” (Heb. 4:14-16).
Verse 21 deserves some special consideration. There are not many verses in the Old Testament that are quoted in the New Testament. Even less are quoted more than once. This verse is cited or alluded to in each of the four gospels in the accounts of Christ’s crucifixion (Matt. 27:34, 48; Mark 15:23, 36; Luke 23:36; John 19:29). The reference in John is most explicit, because John says that Jesus was offered wine vinegar to drink “so that the Scripture would be fulfilled,” an unmistakable reference to our psalm.
What new elements are introduced in the psalmist’s second lament (v. 19)?
What is the job of a high priest? How does Jesus perform that job for us?
Why is the reference to verse 21 in all four gospel accounts significant?
Reflection: Think through hard times you’ve experienced. Did you feel close to God? If not, what do you think caused you to move? What enabled you to recover from these spiritual difficulties?