Finding Our Strength in GodAugust 2, 2020 - 12:00 am
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish? — Psalm 22:1
In honour of my father, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, and his lifework helping Christians understand the Jewish roots of their faith, I offer you one of his devotional teachings from the beloved Psalms.
According to the Jewish sages, Psalm 22 was written by King David, but for a different place and time than the one in which he was living. This psalm foresaw the days of Esther and Mordecai when the Jewish people would be threatened with extinction by the wicked Persian official, Haman. With these well-known words, Mordecai told Esther that she alone held the power to save the Jews: “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).
Esther resolved to risk her life by appearing before her husband, the king, without being summoned — an act punishable by death. She prepared to ask for the salvation of her people by fasting for three days. On the third day she approached the king. According to Jewish tradition, as Esther approached the king, she first had to walk through a chamber where the faces of previous kings were etched into the wall on a massive scale. Walking through that hall, with the intimidating images of those former kings, Esther lost her strength and confidence – but found her God.
According to tradition, as Esther stood in that hall, weakened in body and soul, she cried out the words of this psalm: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Immediately, God sent three angels to support Esther. One held up her right side, one supported her left side, and one angel lifted Esther’s head. That is how she approached the king. By the grace of God, the king greeted Esther favourably, granting her life and the opportunity to save her people.
I often think of that image of Esther — at the end of her human strength, finding the supernatural strength of God. It is such a powerful image that reminds us not to rely on our own strength alone. Later in the psalm, King David wrote, “But I am a worm and not a man” (v.6). David realized that without God’s spirit within us, we are nothing — nothing more than a worm. It is only because of God and through God that we are able to accomplish anything.
Ironically, in order to possess true self-confidence, a person has to recognize how insignificant he or she truly is. It’s only when we lose faith in our own strength that we can fully embrace the strength of God. Once we welcome God’s presence in our life, that’s when we attain true power. Only then is there no task we cannot assume and no challenge we cannot tackle.
Your turn: It would be a privilege and honour for me to take your prayer to the holiest site in all Israel — the Western Wall — and pray for you. Please submit your prayer request today!