To Be Sung to the Tune “Doe of the Morning”

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My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Thus begins Psalm 22. But we know those words better as one of the seven last words Jesus spoke from the cross. Of all of the seven, these are the second most haunting. The first is (my opinion) when Jesus died by declaring “It is finished.” Just prior to that Jesus spoke (or shouted in exasperation) “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus felt forsaken.

I have felt forsaken. More than once.

Hundreds of years before the crucifixion these words were written by David starting with these in verse 1. David continued:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.

Haunting. Empty. Painful. But I have felt this way also.

Psalm 22 is a long psalm. Thirty-one verses total. Included are more painful prayers like, Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help (v. 11). It grows even darker with My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death (v. 15).

Also included are declarations of praise and hope like, But you, Lord, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me (v. 19). And, For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help (v. 24). Have you noticed how most of the Psalms end with such brave declarations of praise after pouring out such honest pain?

Also included are more prophetic insights into the forthcoming crucifixion of our Savior. All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment (vv. 18-19).

At the beginning of this psalm, before verse 1, there is a descriptor that says “For the director of music. To the tune of “The Doe of the Morning.” A psalm of David.” This was a song to be sung. The pain and the praise of this psalm were to be sung. Don’t you think that the tune of “The Doe of the Morning” would then be a pretty song? A pretty song that now opens with such a cry of pain?

Perhaps there is beauty in the pain?

Do you know how a certain song connects with you in an emotional way? It could be a song that reminds you of your beach vacation. Don’t some songs just sound like the beach? Or it could be a song that reminds you of a lost love. For me, Barry Manilow’s “Weekend in New England” still takes me back to my first love. Still. Don’t judge me for liking Barry Manilow. Songs that connect aren’t always the classics.

When you hear these songs just the opening notes move you. Your senses are heightened. You can sing every lyric. You know what beat is coming next. You know every bit of this song personally. You feel this song.

So can you imagine how the people who witnessed Jesus’ death on the cross reacted when they heard Jesus quote from this psalm/song? Did the tune enter their minds? Did the tune stick in their minds for the rest of the day?

Did this song have a forever different emotional meaning for them?

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