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Day 23: Times Two

My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Psalm 22:1 (English)

My God, my God – In the Bible, when God really wants someone’s attention, He calls the name twice. This doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it is critically important. “Abraham, Abraham” (Genesis 22:11), “Samuel, Samuel” (1 Samuel 3:10), “Saul, Saul” (Acts 9:4). But in this verse, David calls God – and Jesus calls God (Matthew 27:46). But there is more here than just an exclamation for attention.

“Eli, eli” are the words in Hebrew. However, el is not the name of God but rather the classification of gods. If David wanted to call God’s name, he would have used the Hebrew Yahweh because Yahweh is God’s personal name. El is the category of every being who is a god. There is only One being in this classification but that does not stop men from thinking differently.

Why does David use the class name rather than the personal name? It certainly seems an appropriate place for the personal name. After all, this cry is a demand for personal attention. We can offer some conjectures that show something deeper in these words.

The use of el to indicate the true God of Israel almost never stands alone. Every time we find el, we find it in conjunction with some other epithet that distinguishes this “god”. We know these combinations as the common names of God (like El-shaddai and El-gibor and El-olam). David also uses a unique combination, el plus the personal possessive. In prophetic revelation, David utters a word that proclaims the full authority and power of the One True God. All pretenders are abolished. All hope in fate, destiny or any other form of divine intervention is thrown aside. God is needed, but here, He seems to be missing. It is the sovereign God of justice Who is absent. Suddenly, the world seems empty of its Master.

This is the clue. David utters a complaint against the God who is in charge of everything. “God, if You are really in control, then where are You now, when I am afflicted?” David’s words accuse God of not doing His job, namely, taking care of me!

So, why does Jesus use the same expression? Jesus uses David’s prophetic words because, in that moment on the cross, the absence of the One True God from control of the moral universe seems to take center stage. It is not the intimate connection with the Father that is broken. It is the essential relationship of creation to its sovereign and just Lord that is missing. The Holy One of Israel is silent. The afflicted Son is not spared. Justice is not served. Something terribly wrong is happening.

You and I will never know the full impact of an absence like Jesus knew. But we have days when some sliver of silence invades our souls. We know, in part, what it means to cry, “My God, my God.” We may complain that God is not being just, but the complaint is not the end of the story. That is why the Psalm does not end here. It becomes a song of victory, not defeat. “My God, my God,” is the opening cry to the God Who does answer, even when the call comes from the cross, as we shall see – tomorrow.


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