Psalm 44’s important reminder

“O God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us the work that You did in their days, in the days of old.”

So begins the first of three verses in Psalm 44, where the sons of Korah rehearse God’s work in times past. Verse 4 follows with a confession of faith, “You are my King, O God!”; an urgent petition, “Command victories for Jacob!”; then more confident confessions of victory (v 5), trust (v 6), and triumph in God (vv 7-8a); capped off with thanksgiving to God forever (v 8b).

But then we come to verses 9-16; and suddenly what at first seemed to be a psalm of confident confession and praise takes an about face as it ushers us into the realm of the psalmist’s dismay and confusion. For reasons apparently known only to the Lord, there has been a reversal of all that was so wonderfully celebrated in verses 1-8.  Six times (6x) in verses 9-14 the writer attributes their now dismal plight to the actions of the Lord:“You have rejected us . . .”; “You cause us to turn back . . .”; “You give us as sheep to be eaten . . .”; “You sell Your people . . .”; “You make us a reproach . . .”; “You make us a byword  . .”

Verses 17-19 provide something of a window into his consternation over where they now find themselves:
All this has come upon us, but we have not forgotten You,
And we have not dealt falsely with Your covenant.
Our heart has not turned back,
And our steps have not deviated from Your way,
Yet You have crushed us in a place of jackals
And covered us with the shadow of death.

Most of us know what it’s like to experience difficult times as part of the Lord’s discipline and correction; say, for example, when we are struggling with a sin issue. The writer of Hebrews instructs us how to get through these times victoriously in 12:4-13. And the writer of Psalm 119 reminds us that such times are both needful and perfectly in keeping with God’s goodness and righteousness:
“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word” (v 67). . . . “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn your statutes” (v 71). . . . “I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are righteous, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me” (v 75).

But the scene in Psalm 44 is different. If we take the words in verses 17-19 at face value (and there is nothing in the psalm to suggest otherwise), what is at work here is not the result of discipline. In fact, verses 20-22 reiterate the point: “If we had forgotten the name of our God or extended our hands to a strange god, would not God find this out? For He knows the secrets of the heart.”

It’s a tough place to be in – seemingly out of sorts with God, and unable to point to a reason why. It’s as if nothing that they are encountering is matching up to how they know and believe things should be. Verse 22 may be the writer’s summary of their state: “But for Your sake we are killed all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” Incidentally, this is the exact verse (Psalm 44:22) that Paul quotes in Romans 8:36, before exclaiming, “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us“; after which he concludes, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:37-39).

Let’s be honest, there are times when our circumstances can be very difficult to understand, and even (seemingly) unbearable? Sometimes, like in Hebrews 12 and Psalm 119, you can make sense out of them; but, sometimes, well sometimes, you simply can’t (at least not in the moment); and at such times what remains is to simply trust that God is in absolute control and has ordained such times specifically for you (see, Psalm 31:15;139:16). The Scriptures are clear on that point:

“On the day of prosperity be happy, but on the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other so that a person will not discover anything that will come after him” (Ecclesiastes 7:14).

“Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?” (Lamentations 3:37).
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Along with these assurances, Psalm 44 was written for our instruction as well.  And one of the main points it illustrates is that our faith in God is manifested when we do exactly what the people in Psalm 44 did in the face of inexplicable circumstances –  PRAY! Having acknowledged their situation as it stood, they boldly took their circumstances to the One who alone was able to help and who, they were confident, would do so out of His great love for them:

“Rise up; come to our help! Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!”
(v 26). 
Maybe you find yourself in circumstances that are challenging your understanding of the way things should be. If so, may Psalm 44 be a reminder and encouragement to pray (and keep praying) to your Heavenly Father, who never tires of hearing your prayers (Isaiah 40:28) through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, “who ever lives to make intercession for you”(Hebrews 7:25).

May grace and peace be yours in abundance in Christ!

“And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.”(See Luke 18:1-8)

Pastor Ryne

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