Exceedingly Near

My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? [Psa 22:1]

These words, written by David many thousands of years ago, were not just his words. They were, in fact, the words of Jesus, who would utter them from His cross as He died for our sins. Matthew writes, “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?” [Mat 27:46] Jesus cries out to God upon the cross the very truth of the situation: God had indeed forsaken Him. For us, as mere men and women, we may wrongly interpret the heart and reality of God, but not Jesus who was God’s Son and who, as Hebrews says, is and was “the express image of [The Father’s] substance.” [Heb 1:3] For example, in the Psalms, the Psalmist cries out, among other things, “Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more?…Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Hath He in anger shut up His tender mercies? Selah,” to which He then concludes, “this is my infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.” [Psa 77:7; 9-10] And so we see that when Jesus uttered these famous words from the cross, it was not just His thoughts or his “infirmity” as the Psalmist; the cry was justified, a truthful picture of the situation: God The Father had indeed utterly cast off and forsaken His Son. See then the severity of the statement in the word “so”: for Jesus says “why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring.” [Psa 22:1] God was not just far off, but so far off; The Father was not just unwilling to help or hear Jesus our Christ, but was so unwilling. He was removed to the furthest degree: as Jesus said, “so far.”

Now consider the stark contrast between this truthful statement by our Lord Jesus, the only man to ever live a completely righteous life, and what is promised to us in Psalms 46:1, which gloriously promises, “God is our refuge and strength, an exceedingly near help in distress.” It is completely opposite and different than what one would expect. This promise is deservedly Christ’s, and yet it is given to us freely if we are in Him, “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” [2 Cor 1:20] It is because Jesus went through utter separation from The Father, a complete forsaking, that we can claim and enjoy this promise, or any other which is of the same substance.

For Christ, there was not one single iota of a chance of help from The Father, not one chance in all the universe that The Father would aid Jesus in any way upon that cross. As Jesus rightly said, God was “so far from helping” Him. And yet for us, it is promised that in our distress/trouble, The Father is “exceedingly near.”

Reflect upon another promise from the Psalms, which may comfort us eternally, and which proclaims, “as far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us.” [Psa 103:12] That separation of sin was fulfilled for us in Christ, who was “made…sin for us.” [2 Cor 5:21] Jesus was literally separated from God as far as the east is from the west so that our sins might be; for when Jesus was on that cross He was sin for us, and He, as Paul says, “condemned sin in the flesh.” [Rom 8:3]

Thanks be to our God and King, our Shepherd and Groom, who according to His abundant mercy and overflowing grace, has offered us such a promise, that we might be able to cling to it and find strength in our time of need; who, because of His unfathomable sacrifice, has opened to us not just this but also every other promise in scripture. Yes, blessed be His name.

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