This verse occurs in the psalm that begins with the cry of one abandoned, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus on the cross cried out in these words. The psalmist screams these words in agony, yet he ultimately asserts with equal fervency, “Dominion belongs to the Lord.” How do you reconcile the two images in one poem?
Read some of the verses that precede this verse, and notice how the psalmist is moves back and forth between deep despair (O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer) and exultant hope (To you they cried, and were saved). Can you of a time when you felt confused like this, alternately complaining that God had done nothing for you, and then remembering that he actually has blessed you richly? Did you pray your confusion, or were you afraid to admit your confusion?
The word “dominion” implies a person with power. It is a person to whom one might plead for help:
But you, O LORD, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid! Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog! Save me from the mouth of the lion!
In the culture wars in the USA, what makes Christians feel under attack by ravenous wild animals? Have you ever felt that way? How did you pray under those circumstances? Were you able to feel confident in the “dominion” of the Lord?
This psalm is filled with imagery and thoughts that call to mind the crucifixion of Jesus. The fact that Jesus quoted it leads readers today to think of Jesus’ death whenever they read this Psalm. In the crucifixion of Jesus, the cross became Christ’s throne. The seeming weakness of Christ on the cross is the power that conquered evil and won our salvation. When have you felt weak and powerless in the face of cultural, political and legal challenges to your faith? How does the image of Christ taking dominion over evil on the cross help you in your own weakness?
The thoughts expressed in this psalm relate closely to the vision John recorded in the book of Revelation. Carried into God’s heavenly throne room, John said:
Between [God’s]throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain … And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. Revelation 5:6-7
A slaughtered lamb would seem to be a powerless creature, yet in the heavenly throne room, only the Lamb has the power to take the scroll of judgment from God’s hand and set its words free on earth. The image in Revelation is the reality of the faith expressed in Psalm 22. When you feel that evil is winning and the imaginations and words of people around you are either completely malevolent or completely mad, how does this image sustain your hope?
In countries where government or angry neighbors may steal or burn the Bibles Christians treasure, the Christians have learned that internalizing Scripture is the only secure way to have God’s words at the ready when trouble strikes. Do you think that knowing this verse by memory would help you when you feel that the culture is trying to destroy Christ’s church?