Theme: Feeling Overwhelmed
In this week’s lessons we are given a vivid picture of Christ’s sufferings.
Scripture: Psalm 69:1-18
The tone of the psalm is set in the first four verses, which are at the same time both a lament about the psalmist’s sad plight and a plea to God to help him. As far as its genre goes, the psalm is a classic lament.
I wonder if you have ever felt like the psalmist. I am sure you have. Our word for it is “overwhelmed.” We often feel overwhelmed with problems we cannot seem to solve, pressures we don’t see how we can sustain, and demands on us and our time we know we cannot meet. Then, in addition, we feel that we are at the end of our ability even to pray, to petition, to plead, to place our hurts and needs before God. The psalmist relates to us at this point, because he uses powerful images that vividly describe how he was feeling. We have already mentioned how he talks about being in waters up to his neck and stuck in the mire where he cannot gain a foothold. In a similar way, we too speak of drowning in deep troubles or being stuck somewhere and being unable to get out of that dead end.
Two things seem to make this pain particularly intense for the psalmist. First, he has not given his enemies cause to bring these evils on him. They hate him “without reason” and oppose him “without cause” (v. 4). Second, he has been pleading with God for help and God has not answered (v. 3). Have you ever gone through times like that? I am sure you have. If so, remember this: although the psalmist was worn out with calling on God he did not stop calling. He continued to pray. The psalm is proof of it.
Let’s recall here that we need to study this psalm on three levels: 1) what it meant to David in his situation; 2) what it tells us about Jesus and his suffering; and 3) what it ought to mean to us. In the paragraphs above we have begun to explore points one and three. What about point two? What does the psalm tell us about Jesus and his suffering?
The first question we might want to ask along these lines is whether Jesus could have prayed like this? The answer is: of course. And not only could he have prayed like this, he did. He prayed like this in the Garden of Gethsemane at least, and perhaps on other occasions. In John 15:25 Jesus quotes verse 4 of himself, saying, “This is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’”
The best commentary on verses 1-4 in terms of Jesus’ earthly experience is Hebrews 5:7-10: “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.” These verses tell us that in his humanity Jesus was not exempt from those feelings of being almost overwhelmed that sometimes overtake us. But Jesus prayed, was heard by the Father and grew in the knowledge of God’s ways and in obedience as a result of his suffering. Obviously that is to be our pattern. When we feel overwhelmed we must pray and trust God to keep and teach us too.
What is the tone of the psalm?
What two things make the psalmist’s pain particularly intense?
What was the psalmist’s response to his plight?
Reflection: When have you felt overwhelmed like the psalmist? Do you respond, as the psalmist does, by praying?