19 But You, O LORD, do not be far from Me;
O My Strength, hasten to help Me!
20 Deliver Me from the sword,
My precious life from the power of the dog.
21 Save Me from the lion's mouth
And from the horns of the wild oxen!
You have answered Me.
Nailed to the Cross, breathing His last breath, beaten and bruised, bleeding from His brow and hands and feet and side, our Savior Jesus Christ yet took the time to ask for our forgiveness. And then He cried out the first words of Psalms 22, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?" In such a horrible state, the Son of God felt the "dust of death" (v.15), the despair of any human life which is about to end. As He prayed to the Father for our forgiveness, our salvation, He then also called out to the Father for His own deliverance.
There on the Cross, our Savior called for God to be His strength, just as God had been for many others throughout history. Just as the Lord God had been the strength of Moses, of Joshua, of Elijah, of David, so Jesus called for His Father to be near to Him, to share the strength which the Son had temporarily laid aside to allow wicked men to nail Him to a tree. Jesus knew that He was not to be saved from the Cross, and so He asked for the strength to bear it, to carry through.
The Crucifixion was why Jesus was born, why He came into the world in that time and in that place. It was a terrible way to be sacrificed for the sins of the world, and yet it was what He chose, what the Father had ordained for Him. For Jesus to choose to go through with it, He needed that solid rock of the strength of the Father, and so He asked for it just like you or I ought to do.
There were other ways that God the Father could have allowed His Son to die. God might simply have abandoned His Son to die by the sword. Swords were drawn at the moment Jesus was arrested, and one man was injured. The Savior responded to such violence with healing, for such is the nature of the Son of God. (Luke 22:49-51) Even on the Cross, when soldiers might have struck Him or broken His bones, God yet chose for His Son to only be pierced by the spear and nothing else. Jesus the Christ was not to die from the weapons of war, but only at the cruel hands of man.
What power does a dog have? Unlike their hunting cousins the wolves, dogs are scavengers. They seek weak and injured prey, or they eat animals that are freshly dead, consuming scraps from others' meals. They bite and tear, and they fight with each other over the tiniest scrap. What power dogs have is in their ability to devour the powerless, to capitalize on injury and fear and death. In many respects, dogs are a lot like people--or we are a lot like them. We prey on the weak, we fight amongst ourselves, and power among us goes to the most selfish rather than the most selfless. It is no wonder Jesus asked that His precious life be spared from such ignominy.
Daniel faced the lion's den with faith that the Lord God would save him. Lions are great beasts, as noble as they are fearsome. Lions are bold and powerful, and they are unafraid to take down the largest of animals. Where dogs would shy away from bigger beasts, lions would attack. There are those among us who are bold enough to face even the most powerful people and creatures without fear. Satan himself is such a roaring lion, seeking to devour. (1 Peter 5:8) We would do well to seek deliverance from such lions in our lives.
Oxen are still used as farm animals in many parts of the world, harnessed for tilling fields and hauling loads. But a wild ox will not be so tamed. From a distance, the wild ox may appear placid and meek, but when angered or frightened, he becomes a terrible foe. He will fight and tear, charge and gore. His strength is a challenge even for the mighty lion. The ox may not have the best aim when he directs his attack, but what he lacks in finesse he makes up for in sheer power and the sharpness of his horns. The blind fury of such an attack is enough to take down even the strongest man. Such raw power is dangerous, especially when it is in a person, when someone with great power lashes out in sudden anger or fear, without sense or direction.
When we seek God as our strength, we can bear such things. We can seek peace when men of war threaten to slay us. We can face the dogs who prey upon the weak and know that they shall not overcome us. We can walk into the den of lions and know that God will preserve us. We can walk by the fiercest bull and never once feel threatened. Our strength will come from the Lord, and although we may face death in following the Lord's will, we can know that He will be with us. God will never be far from us.
The Lord God has answered us, just as He did our Savior. God the Father gave us the Living Word, Jesus Christ, to be with us, to stand for us and to be our righteousness and strength. He gave us His Spirit to be beside us through all things. He gave us His written Word to strengthen our minds and our faith. God has answered us through faithful men and women who have stood strong before the swords, the dogs, the lions, and the wild oxen of life. May we all speak to God our Father and seek Him as our Strength in all things.
O My Strength, hasten to help me. Father God, do not be far from me today as I face temptations and despair, as I encounter the wild beats of life. Be the horn of my salvation, the rock upon which I can stand. Let not Satan devour me. Lord God, be my light and my shelter, my shield and my song. Amen.