“In the book of life’s questions, the answers are not in the back.” Charlie Brown More important, where is God when we have those questions? especially when it is God who is under attack? Can we go to God’s word and find answers to those questions? Not in the way Charlie Brown was talking about. The Bible isn’t a Magic Eight Ball or Shell Answer Man in book form. New Testament tells us:
2 Tim. 3:16-17 “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
There’s a lot more to teaching, instruction, equipping than simply supplying answers to questions. Students at times got really frustrated: I won’t give you the answer, I will help you understand the process. Saxon math books, answers in back to odd-numbered problems; would assign even-numbered! Can guess at how to do it, try different ways until you get an answer that matches; doesn’t help understand the correct method. When Mary did petty cash, she added; if it didn’t come out, she’d subtract. If still didn’t come out, try again and change the numbers, hope the one at the end matched. After had worked in financial office, several years!
How does Bible approach teaching? Take the 10 Commandments – Deut. 5 verses 6-21 list the Ten; Deut. chapters 6-26 are Moses’ exposition, giving range of examples how each of commandments applies to “real life situations”. Unless you’re Amish or live in 3rd-world country, much of real life for Moses looked very different from real life for you and me. So we’re out of luck, right? No, Moses understood from early experiences leading Hebrew children that it’s far more important to teach principles than give answers; hence, his commentary.
Back to the psalmist’s question. Similar to previous ones but with added dimension. Earlier questions, pleas for help centered on individual’s need: I’m confused, under attack, feeling abandoned, please help me. But in this psalm, God’s people not the only ones experiencing attacks from their enemies. God himself is object of enemy action. And sure looks like God is asleep; what’s up with that? At other times, God appears to be on other side, against his people. How can that be? What’s wrong with this picture? Will God give answer to these questions?
A. nothing is sacred v.1-11
your pasture (1)
if shepherd is doing his job, pasture to be a safe place for sheep; something wrong with this picture
your dwelling (2)
really brazen enemies: citizens of the kingdom under assault, even more, no respect for royal residence, King’s dwelling
your sanctuary (3,5-7)
another place of safety that doesn’t live up to its billing; enemies have invaded, destroyed its beauty, made it unfit, defiled it so no longer can serve intended purpose
your meeting place (4,8)
not content to destroy some places of worship, move to other worship places and take them over, setting up their own symbols and system of in quotes “religious worship”
your name (7,10)
show no respect for God’s name, either literally or for what it represents (his person); seems like a contest: who can be most outrageous in scoffing and reviling God
God, why are you holding back? (9,11)
no obvious sign of God’s presence, interest, activity on their behalf – no miracles, no prophet, no clue how it will turn out
in fact, seems like you’ve given your enemies even more latitude, withdrawn restraint from them
B. God is really present, though v.12-17
but wait, I know better than this (12)
God, you and I go back a long way; there’s a history here, a track record – what I’m seeing doesn’t match what I know to be true
psalmist didn’t disregard his observations, his feelings; instead began trying to understand and interpret what his senses were telling him in light of objective truth – same idea as a pilot trusting his instruments, must rely on absolute truth revealed in God’s Word about God
you rule the seas (13a)
man is at mercy of the sea, can’t always safely use it much less tame it; God spoke into being and set its boundaries
you rule the creatures (13b-14a)
God has power and authority to rule his universe, including those portions of it that exceed man’s capacity
you feed your people (14b)
God is benevolent ruler, does what is good especially for his people; when God says, “watch this!” is for good purpose – his glory, his people’s benefit
you rule the rules (15)
God established rules, laws of nature, etc., but he is not at their mercy; God can overrule at his pleasure to do miracles: Red Sea, water from the rock, Jordan River
you rule time (16)
God established parameters for time in all respects: he began it, he defined it by his creative acts and laws he applied to motion of earth, sun, moon; all creation bound by time and space, God is not
you rule the seasons (17)
too complicated to describe in detail but was God that put earth at 15 deg.
“It will be well when all our “ologies”are tinctured with “theology,”and the Creator is seen at work amid his universe.” CHS
if God can do all that, if he’s that kind of God with that sort of character, what need do his people have for fear
C. God’s reputation is at stake v.18-23
If you missed contemporary parallels in first 11 verses, here’s second chance for you! See if this doesn’t sound like today!
you are insulted (18a)
the enemy scoffs / hurls insults / has mocked the Lord; if there is a God, then…; religion (particularly Christianity) is opiate of the masses; The God Delusion
you are blasphemed (18b)
“I believe in God the father-mother and in the only child Jesus”; the Trinity is God, Mary, Jesus (4:171, 5:76,78; 5:16); “Christ is not a person but a principle”
you are insulted daily (22)
every day all day, scoffed at and insulted by fools, those who have no spiritual understanding, no wisdom
btw, it’s the foolish person, the Nabal, who does this (v.18,22) – rudely insulted the one who had showed him favor
you are increasingly defied (23)
more and more people live openly defiant of God’s standard: for public and private behavior, for worship, relationships, respect for human life, and on and on
remember your defenseless people (19)
no more able to help and defend self than a dove; are poor and needy, dependent on God for everything, esp. now
remember your covenant (20)
you promised to be our God, to be a father to your people – keep your promise to us that we not become like them
remember the poor and needy (21)
it’s hard to praise God when things are going really badly – please give us cause to praise you
D. so what’s the answer? v.22-23
strive to know God, not his reasons
what was reason for 9/11? great tsunami? strongest typhoon ever to hit Philippines? bring size of “disaster” down to more personal size – unexpected trip to hospital, lost job, huge unjust financial obligation?
most of the time: God doesn’t say what his reasons were; not a good use of time and energy to try figuring it out
far more helpful to know God’s character, his person, his Son, his Word; if for Paul to live was Christ, couldn’t have spent much time on the reasons for all his suffering
strive to recognize God’s actions/activities, not his motives
where is God obviously (or not so obviously) at work in the world, what is he doing – way more important than speculating about his motives (our good, his glory, something else)
persevere in prayer
Just because we know God is still on his throne, no excuse to stop praying: asking, seeking, knocking… importunately.
pray that he would deal with his enemies now
limit the harm they can do by setting boundaries around them, by converting them
either way, let them know God is still God
pray that he would deal with his enemies finally
what we pray for in Lord’s Prayer – “thy kingdom come” in its fullness
don’t forget to praise!!
God deserves our praise no matter what else is happening either from God’s side or ours
So,… what’s the answer? Where is God when bad things are happening? God says in Mal. 3:6 “I the Lord do not change”. God is in the same place with the same character doing the same things today that he was in Asaph’s day and Abraham’s day. The judge of all the earth will do what is right (Gen. 18:25). He is the same God who declared by Isaiah the prophet, “My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure”. (Isa. 46:10) Because he is the same God yesterday, today, forever, we can safely trust in him when it’s hard, confusing, discouraging. And, we can praise him because he deserves it!