This a Psalm that, as individual lament, could have been penned by Corrie ten Boom, Yousef Nadarkhani, Saeed Abedini, some of 200,000 in North Korean “no exit camps”, many others past and present. Also reflects situation in church frequently throughout her history – see Foxe’s Book of Martyrs; could still be adding chapters, too. Written from perspective of one in middle of tremendous national calamity, just as applicable to individual adversity.
There’s emotional roller coaster ride expressed in its lines – confidence, complaint, question, cry for help. In parts, quite comforting and reassuring. In others, quite unsettling. An echo of Job’s desperate challenge: Job 10:2 I will say to God, “…show me why you contend with me.” Job 23:3-5 “Oh, that I knew where I might find Him… I would present my case before Him, …I would know the words which He would answer me.”
God, you have brought all this disaster upon us; why? What is your purpose? Not a prideful arrogant challenge – what do you think you’re doing? A plea for understanding – thinking is that comprehension aids endurance. Seems from history and Biblical record God thinks what he’s given us in his Word plus faith is enough. Remember, Paul said 2 Cor. 5:7 “We walk by faith, not by sight.” Not a leap in the dark, confidence in the One we can’t see and his promises: Heb. 11:1 “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
A. confidence v.1-8
you’ve been faithful in the past
witness of history (1-3)
parents/grandparents made sure descendants knew who got credit for mighty works – Deut. 4:9; 6:7-9 – important example for modern families
succeeding generations knew stories of God’s faithfulness by heart, understanding it was only because of God’s favor that they had prospered
“While the songs of other nations sing of the heroism of their ancestors, the songs of Israel celebrate the works of God.”
witness of experience (4-7)
own observations built on tradition and training resulted in personal confidence
not an “ok, if you say so” kind, not assurance rooted only in past performance
God’s ongoing faithfulness and power demonstrated in present; people knew how it should look, would easily recognize its “absence”
we expect you’ll be faithful in the future (8)
they trusted, you delivered; we trust, you will deliver, right?
it’s sincere praise, giving glory honestly and wholeheartedly; since God in covenant promised blessing for obedience, it’s reasonable to expect he will follow through
confusing/puzzling when God seems distant or absent, especially when no obvious reason
insert pregnant pause (Selah), prepare for radical contrast
B. complaint v.9-16
the present isn’t what we think it ought to be – you aren’t treating us that way
first in list of blessings promised Deut. 28:1-14 – “the Lord your God will set you high above all nations of the earth.”
followed by: “The Lord will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before your face.”
interspersed with other promises of prosperity and protection
conditions: “you shall not turn aside from any of the words which I command you this day, to the right or the left, to go after other gods to serve them.”
here’s what our senses tell us: (have application at “national” level, relate to individual experience also)
abandoned, humiliated, neglected (9)
defeated and plundered (10)
consumed, scattered (11)
sold for a pittance (12)
scorned and mocked (13)
no respect on the world stage (14)
ashamed, ridiculed and insulted (15-16)
how many different ways can you describe utter defeat and rejection
as if God had given up on his people, no longer interested in them, unwilling to make any further investment
treated like a junk car – sell it to recycler not to get rich, to get rid of a liability
unashamedly gives God credit for disastrous circumstances
to do so without sin requires proper mindset – acknowledgement that God will bring good from disaster
not what people try to do by redefining: calling good evil and evil good
what Joseph understood when confronting his brothers: “you meant it for evil, God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20)
C. question v.17-22
why are we experiencing this
we aren’t forgetful, hypocritical, unfaithful (17-18)
pleading sincerity, not sinlessness; honest intention to do what pleases God
thinking / deciding according to biblical principle; maintaining loyalty and affection to God – intellectual, physical, emotional and spiritual activity directed to God
motivation is God-serving not self-serving, to have God’s approval and not just temporal blessings
we know God too well to try get away with anything (20-21)
besides, God knows the heart; nothing is hid from him, we don’t want to try
his knowledge is unlimited, he is never surprised or taken off guard, never learns new information because all things occur according to his eternal purpose; so what is that purpose? right now?
what are you trying to teach us
in spite of our sincere effort…it’s not going well
“although it is the greatest alleviation of our sorrow that the cause for which we suffer is common to us with Christ himself, yet it is neither in vain nor out of place that the faithful here plead with God that they suffer wrongfully for his sake, in order that he may the more vigorously set himself for their defense. It is right that he should have respect to the maintenance of his glory, which the wicked endeavor to overthrow, when they insolently persecute those who serve him.” Calvin
but still, suffering for sake of suffering only isn’t a biblical principle; even guilt by association – suffering because we are God’s people – doesn’t seem enough
how are we supposed to understand all this
what frame of reference should we use
how present situation appears cannot be reconciled from human perspective with character of God
we need your help to more than simply endure; more important to profit from adversity
D. cry v.23-26
we need your help (23)
what else do we need to do so you respond (24)
we need you to demonstrate your faithfulness (25)
can’t get any worse, can’t go any lower – soul and body both have hit bottom
it’s beyond our resources/ability to change situation – we’re desperate here
come to life on our behalf (26a)
there’s a compelling reason: your character and promises (26b)
final, closing plea – show mercy; deliver us because you love us, you are compassionate and faithful to your covenant promises
While waiting on God’s mercy to deliver from adversity, some “bullet points” to remember:
God is always on the side of his people; he may not be on the side of a particular nation.
Prosperity does not always result from faith, adversity does not always result from lack of faith.
Victory in death is far more significant than victory over enemies in life.
Rom. 15:4For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.
notice principle here: Scriptures are source of patience and comfort to give us hope, not answers about what God’s purpose is in particular situation
God may give limited answers/understanding but usually after-the-fact in hind-sight.
most important issue: not, do we understand God; is, do we trust God
Paul quotes v.22 in Romans 8:36 but then keeps going – through Christ we his people are conquerors in our circumstances. Our situation can in no way come between us and God any more than Jesus’ circumstances could come between him and his redemptive purpose. The difference – Christ’s suffering was for our benefit, our suffering is for Christ’s glory (Col. 1:24). We have a great High Priest who sympathizes with our weaknesses, with us in our suffering (Heb. 4:15). If Lord Jesus endured affliction before he was glorified, we should expect the same as we progress up the steps to glory.