To forsake something is to to abandon that thing entirely. It sometimes means removing that thing completely from your presence. But more often, it means to remove yourself completely from its presence, and to no longer care about it, or even to be aware of it. It is an acutely harsh action, and it’s harshness lives almost entirely in its deliberateness. It is impossible to accidentally forsake a person, place or thing. When you abandon ship, for instance, you make an intentional choice to forsake that ship and do nothing to try and save it from whatever demise it faces.
People experience abandonment all of the time. Soldiers sometimes feel forsaken by their country. Wives feel forsaken by their husbands, and husbands by their wives. Tragically, children feel forsaken by parents, and perhaps even more tragically, parents by their children. If you are reading this, you have either experienced it, or you have tasted something close enough to it that you can imagine it well enough to understand that to be forsaken is a terrible thing.
One of the strangest moments in the bible is when Jesus is dying on the cross and utters to God “why have you forsaken me (Matthew 27:45-46).” It’s strange because Jesus was holy, had done nothing wrong, and was being abused by evil men who had not only done many wrong things, but who likely possessed hardened and evil hearts. It seems odd that God would forsake a holy and pure man, who is now known to be his very son. But it isn’t so strange when you consider God’s love for the human race (John 3:16) along with his need to mete out wrath upon the race which had voluntarily destroyed his perfect creation (Romans 5:12, Colossians 3:25). Since God is both holy and just, a consequence must be given for sin and evil to satisfy that justice. The human race deserved that punishment. But God put that punishment on himself by allowing his son to represent the human race and to receive in our stead the consequence we deserved. God forsook Jesus so that we will never have to experience being forsaken by him. Ever. With full intent and the purest love, God abandoned Jesus to die on the cross and to receive the shame, abuse, and spurning that was due to us. Then Jesus rose again to prove to us that we were not forsaken, and to give us assurance that we will also live, even if our bodies die.