2016-2017 Chapel Theme: My Praise in the Great Assembly (Psalm 22:25)
Psalm 22 begins with King David in the midst of an identity crisis brought on by the difficulty and uncertainty of his circumstances. David refers to himself as “a worm and not a man” (v.6), “forsaken” by God (v.1), “scorned” and “despised,” (v.6) with “no one to help” (v.11b). David is in a dark place in the first 18 verses of the psalm. From the darkness, David cries out in verses 19-21. In verse 22, everything changes.
On one hand, nothing actually has changed. Whatever was stacked against David in the first 21 verses remains; there is no reason to believe any time has passed from verse 21 to verse 22. On the other hand, however, everything has changed. David no longer sees himself as a worm, hated and alone, dying in the dust. He sees himself as a leader of praise, very much alive and passionate, at the center of a great and cosmic assembly. David has gone from the lowest of lows to the highest of heights.
What is at the heart of David’s changed perspective? Well, a hint might be found beginning in verse 22. Remember: ancient Hebrew writers did not italicize or bold or underline in their texts. Instead they used repetition to highlight significant words or ideas. Three times in this passage David includes a declarative formula comprised of two ingredients: (1) Praise and (2) Assembly:
(v. 22a) “(1) I will declare Your name (2) to my brothers”
(v. 22b) “(2) In the congregation, (1) I will praise you”
(v. 25) “From you comes (1) my praise (2) in the great assembly.”
David’s repetition makes clear that this is not a temporary burst of gratitude. This a settled resolution, an abiding determination that his identity will not be defined by his circumstances nor by his own self-assessment, but by his place within God’s great assembly of praise.
This year in chapel we are going to discuss praise and assembly to understand how they helped to form David’s identity and how they can help to form ours. Psalm 22 is a pilgrimage from solitude to great assembly, from self-pity to selfless praise. May this be our journey too. May we discover our true identity in our relationship with the Triune God – the relationship for which we were designed, the relationship to which we look forward upon Christ’s return; and the relationship we are invited to experience in part now through the death, the resurrection and mediating work of Christ in heaven.