Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?

Quite some time ago I found myself in a conversation about the Lord where the woman I was speaking to felt very sure that Jesus wasn’t really God.  Well, given the number of Scriptures that assure me beyond any doubt that the Lord Jesus is, in fact, God incarnate (John 1:1,14; Col 2:9; Rom 1:4; Titus 2:13, Jude 1:25; Heb 1:6, etc, etc, etc.), I was curious to know what made her so sure.  With a little smirk on her face she informed me that, “from the cross Jesus asked, ‘My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?'”  Then she added, “how could He be God if He didn’t know what was going on?”  So I answered.  I said something like, “great question,” I pulled a little Bible from my pocket, looked up the passage and asked her if I could read it to her.  Graciously she let me read it and talk to her about it.

Matthew 27:46-50
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is to say, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, “This man calleth for Elias.”  And straightway one of them ran, and took a spunge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink.  The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him.

Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.

This takes place as the Lord Jesus is hanging on the cross.  One thing I can’t help from pointing out here is the fulfillment of the Lord’s Words when He said, ” … I lay down my life that I might take it again.  No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself.  I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it again …” (John 10:17-18).  You see, in the passage above it says, “He cried with a loud voice.”  When a person dies from crucifixion, they die of asphixiation brought on from sheer exhaustion.  In plain language, they have no strength to lift themselves up and lean back in order to take a breath and they suffocate.  Can a person seconds away from suffocation “cry with a loud voice?”  No.  They can’t.  The Lord Jesus laid down his own life at the moment of His choosing.  But I digress.  This is not what I spoke to that woman about.

What I pointed out to the woman that day was how careful the writer (Matthew) is to give us exactly what the Lord Jesus said in the language He said it.  He didn’t say, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”  He said, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani,” which means, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me.”  Matthew tells us what He said in Hebrew.  Hebrew wasn’t even the normal everyday language of the day (which was Aramaic).  But it’s the language the Lord Jesus used when He spoke those words.

So what’s the big deal about that?  The big deal is for two reasons.  First off, it explains why “some of them that stood by” thought he was calling for “Elias” (which is the Greek way to say Elijah, the Old Testament prophet).  “Eli” sounds a little like “Elias” and we’ll see that this in itself reveals the ignorance of those people that “stood by.”  The thing that makes this Hebrew statement of the Lord Jesus (yes, statement; not a question at all) from the cross a really big deal is that it reveals exactly what the Lord Jesus was thinking just minutes before He gave His life for us.  The reason Matthew is so careful to tell us exactly what He said in Hebrew was because He was quoting the Hebrew Scriptures.  Those that “stood by” were so ignorant of God’s Word they didn’t even recognize they were fulfilling it!

One of the clearest of the Messianic Psalms (Psalms about the Lord Jesus, Himself) is Psalm 22.  It starts like this, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”  From the cross, the Lord Jesus called out loudly the first words of this psalm to get your attention.  He wasn’t questioning God – or anything for that matter.  Rather, He was telling us in just four Hebrew words exactly what was happening!  And more than that.  He was affirming to all who would hear that He is exactly who He said He is: “The Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mat 16:16).

I’m not going to go through much of Psalm 22 here and now.  But I’ll urge you to take just a few minutes and read it, understanding that these were the words in our Lord’s mind in the moments just before He “yielded up the ghost.”  It is pasted below for your convenience.

That day I spoke to the woman, I pointed her particularly to verse 16 which says, “they pierced my hands and my feet.”  This is a foretelling of crucifixion a thousand years before the Romans invented it.  And I showed her verse 18 which says, “they part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.”  This is fulfilled exactly in John 19:24.  And I talked to her about the Lord Jesus becoming sin for man (2 Cor 5:21) which is reflected in verse 3 and answers the initial question asked in the Psalm, “Why hast thou forsaken me?”  And I’m sure there was a lot more discussion that day, too.  There certainly is a lot more to be said of Psalm 22.  (Don’t even get me started on verse 6.)  I do hope you’ll read it and enjoy exploring some of the last thoughts the Lord Jesus had just before He gave His life for us on that terrible cross.

-J. Wilbur

Psalm 22 (To the chief Musician upon Aijeleth Shahar, A Psalm of David.):
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?  why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?  O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.  But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.  Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them.

They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.

But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.  All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.

But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother’s breasts.  I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother’s belly.

Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.  Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round.  They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion.  I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.  My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.  For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.  I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me.  They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.

But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me.  Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog.  Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.

I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.

Ye that fear the LORD, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel.  For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.

My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him.  The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever.

All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee.  For the kingdom is the LORD’S: and he is the governor among the nations.

All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul.

A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.  They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.

[If you got this far, just think about this.  There are other places in the New Testament where the writer tells us a word in the original language.  Do you think maybe there’s something more to it in those places as well?  Hmmmm.]

some pictures from http://www.bibleplaces.com

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