Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Spurgeon said that it should be the same case for each of us, and we should not preach upon these words. However, he then dials in on how he will deal with the text.
You must know that the words of our text are not only the language of Christ, but they are the language of David. You who are acquainted with the Psalms know that the 22nd Psalm begins with just these words, so that David said what Jesus said; and I gather from this that many a child of God has had to say precisely what the Lord Jesus, the first-born of the family, uttered upon the cross. Now as God’s children are brought into the same circumstances as Christ, and Christ is considered the exemplar, my object to-night will be simply this—not to expound the words, but to say to believers who come into a similar plight, Do as Jesus did. If you come into his condition, lift up your hearts to God, that you may act as he did in that condition. So we shall make the Saviour now not a study for our learning, but an example for reproduction.1
I. UNDER DESERTION OF SOUL, THE LORD JESUS STILL TURNS TO GOD.
Now observe our Lord. He is deserted of God, but instead of looking in, and saying, “My soul, why art thou this? Why art thou that? Why art thou cast down? Why dost thou mourn?” he looks straight away from that dried-up well that is within, to those eternal waters that never can be stayed, and which are always full of refreshment. He cries, “My God.” He knows which way to look, and I say to every Christian here, it is a temptation of the devil, when you are desponding, and when you are not enjoying your religion as you did, to begin peering and searching about in the dunghill of your own corruptions, and stirring over all that you are feeling, and all you ought to feel, and all you do not feel, and all that. Instead of that, look from within, look above, look to your God again, for the light will come there.2
II. THOUGH UNDER A SENSE OF DESERTION, OUR MASTER DOES NOT RELAX HIS HOLD OF HIS GOD.
He believes that God is still his God. He uses the possessive particle twice, “My God, my God.”
Now it is easy to believe that God is ours when he smiles upon us, and when we have the sweet fellowship of his love in our hearts; but the point for faith to attend to, is to hold to God when he gives the hard words, when his providence frowns upon thee, and when even his Spirit seems to be withdrawn from thee. Oh! let go everything, but let not go thy God. If the ship be tossed and ready to sink, and the tempest rages exceedingly, cast out the ingots, let the gold go, throw out the wheat, as Paul’s companions did. Let even necessaries go, but oh! still hold to thy God; give not up thy God; say still, notwithstanding all, “In the teeth of all my feelings, doubts, and suspicions, I hold him yet; he is my God; I will not let him go.” . . .
. . . Now I would like to put this personally to any tried child of God here. Are you going to let go your God because you have lost his smile? Then I ask you, Did you base your faith upon his smile? for if you did, you mistook the true ground of faith. The ground of a believer’s confidence is not God’s smile, but God’s promise. It is not his temporary sunshine of his love, but his deep eternal love itself, as it reveals itself in the covenant and in the promises. Now the present smile of God may go, but God’s promise does not go; and if you believe upon God’s promise, that is just as true when God frowns as when he smiles.3
IV. OUR LORD, WHEN HE DOES CRY, CRIES WITH THE ENQUIRING VOICE OF A LOVING CHILD.
“I have forsaken thee, my child, because thou hast forsaken me. Thou hast grown cold of heart by slow degrees; grey hairs have come upon thee, and thou didst not know; and I have made thee know it to make thee see thy backsliding, and sorrowfully repent of it.” Sometimes the answer will be, “My child, I have forsaken thee because thou hast set up an idol in thy heart. Thou lovest thy child too much, thy gold too much, thy trade too much; and I cannot come into thy soul unless I am thy Lord, thy love, thy bridegroom, and thy all.” Oh! we shall be glad to know these answers . . .
. . . Sometimes the Lord’s answer will be, “My child, I have gone from thee for a little to try thee, to see if thou lovest me.” A true lover will love on under frowns. It is only the superficial professor that wants sweetmeats every day, and only loves his God for what he gets out of him; but the genuine believer loves him when he smites him, when he bruises him with the bruises of a cruel one. Why, then we will say, “O God, if this is why thou dost forsake us, we will love thee still, and prove to thee that thy grace has made our souls to hunger and thirst for thee.” Depend upon it, the best way to get away from trouble, or to get great help under it, is to run close in to God. . . .
. . . Now, beloved, we shall have an answer to our question something like that. When we get to heaven, perhaps not until then, God will tell us why he forsook us. When I tossed upon my bed three months ago in weary pain that robbed me of my night’s rest, and my day’s rest too, I asked why it was I was there, but I have realised since the reason, for God helped me afterwards so to preach that many souls were ingathered. Often you will find that God deserts you that he may be with you after a nobler sort—hides the light, that afterwards the light of seven suns at once may break in upon your spirit, and there you shall learn that it was for his glory that he left you, for his glory that he tried your faith. Only mind you stand to that. Still cry to him, and still call him God, and never complain, but ask him why, and pursue his work still under all difficulties; so being like Christ on earth, you shall be like Christ above, as to the answer.4
God never actually told Job why he allowed so much affliction to come upon him. Instead, God revealed his glory to him, and that was sufficient for Job to put his hand over his mouth. We will all one day see God, and we will not walk away from his presence confused about what he has done and allowed. Every tongue will confess that the Lord of all the earth has done what is right. The question is if we will confess it from a heart that trusts in that God, or rejects him. Spurgeon leaves us with a final exhortation:
I cannot sit down without saying just this word. God will never forsake his people for ever. But as many of you as are not his people, if you have not believed in him, he will forsake you for ever, and for ever, and for ever; and if you ask, “Why hast thou forsaken me?” you will get your answer in the echo of your words, “Thou hast forsaken me.” “How shall ye escape if ye neglect so great salvation?” “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”
“But if your ears refuse
The language of his grace,
And hearts grow hard like stubborn Jews,
That unbelieving race;
The Lord in vengeance drest
Shall lift his hand and swear,
‘You that despised my promised rest
Shall have no portion there.’ ”
God grant it may never be so with you, for Christ’s sake. Amen.5
1 C. H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 62 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1916), 170–171.
2 Ibid, 171.
3 Ibid, 172-173.
4 Ibid, 175-176, 178-179.
5 Ibid, 179.