Persevering is hard and sometimes painful, especially when it appears / feels like you’re severely outnumbered. Elijah went to an extreme – “I alone am left” (1 Kings 19:10, 14) – although not alone, he certainly was in minority! Significant theme through the prophets: remnant, the small amount left over, remainder.
Isa. 10:22For though your people Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return. Destruction is decreed, overflowing with righteousness.
Theme carries over into NT, articulated by Jesus:
Matt. 7:13-14“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
Things aren’t significantly different today: numerous professors, small minority of genuine followers of Christ anywhere in the world.
Hard statistics abound: # of true Christians – based on beliefs about central doctrines (Satan, inerrancy), church attendance (at least 2 out of 3 ME/NH/VT seldom/never go to church), behaviors (divorce, abortion). Occurrences of violence, especially toward Christians. Persecution index. Increase in #’s of Muslims and others hostile toward the Gospel. # of countries closed to missionaries.
“The days of gospel persecution in the United States no longer just hang on the distant horizon; they are already here, at least for some. It’s beginning with the bakers, florists, and photographers. Before long, the consensus may be that faithful biblical exposition is “hate speech.”
For 350 years, the church on American soil has enjoyed relatively little affliction for her fidelity to the Scriptures. This nation, though, is an anomaly in church history. And those days are passing, more quickly than many of us expected.
Once the most basic beliefs and morals of Christianity were taken for granted not only in the church, but in society at large. Now many of our most deeply held, once uncontroversial claims are under full assault, within and without. Barring some change in trajectory, it will only be a matter of time before some of our leaders will find themselves in custody.”
David Mathis, http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/you-can-t-arrest-the-gospel, 03/10/2015
“This octave is the midnight of the psalm, and very dark and black it is. Stars, however, shine out, and the last verse gives promise of the dawn.” CHS
Psalmist persevered by God’s grace – are 88 more verses in psalm! And so will we, with God’s help. He questions God, in an inquiring not complaining way. Seeking information and encouragement – not sure he can continue to hold out until help comes. Wants to be reassured that God will ultimately deliver him from his troubles before he is consumed by them. Greatest desire – for God to supply his need in up close and personal way. Psalmist asks 3 questions, describes 3 problems, expresses 1 desire.
A. three questions
when will you comfort me? (82)
not pietism: “Emphasis on the heart and not the head in matters of faith.” not quietism: “The soul’s highest attainment is the passive and mystical contemplation of the divine through passive prayer.” – translation: “let go and let God”
psalmist not passively waiting for God to do something, had searched out the Scriptures and was looking for God to keep his promise; in fact, looking for evidence that God was on the move
“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise but we are hasty in looking for it.” Bridges Problem comes when we are hasty to give up looking
“David, besides looking to the Book of the Lord, looked to the Lord of the Book.” CHS Desire / expectation of deliverance not simply manufactured wish – was based on “Your word”, God’s promises
not the first…or the last to experience this: Isa. 50:10“Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.”
here’s that word again – “comfort” – more indication psalmist not expecting God to do everything
yes, he did want to feel better, to be consoled by being assured God had not abandoned him; he also wanted to be strengthened and encouraged that his hope was not empty
how long must I endure? (84a)
“If this is to be understood of the days of his life, they were very few, as the days of every man be; and if of his days of joy and comfort, peace and prosperity, they were fewer still; but if of days of adversity and affliction, which seems to be the sense, they were many indeed;” John Gill
oh yay! that’s real encouraging; fact is, it’s true – and if that is the whole story (life stinks and then you die) it is truly hopeless
given surrounding context, question not asked like that – how long do I have to put up with this junk before I can bail out?
may be darkest section of psalm but…still is full of hope – how long must I wait before you come? – like kids’ question “are we there yet?”, anticipation of what awaits far greater than enjoyment of present
implied in question: am I going to be able to hang on that long or will my persecutors get the best of me
since question is directed to God, includes unspoken request for help to endure – I can’t make it on my own resources, I need your help; the longer you take, the more help I’ll need
when will you deal with them? (84b)
indication of dependence on God – when will you deal with them, not when can I take care of them
first reading might seem psalmist asking for punishment, stiffer the better, on those who persecuted him
he could have been asking that; not the only “solution” – here’s what he asked: “when will you carry out justice”
what is just depends…: if they remain rebelliously hardened and in their sin, let ’em have it! if God grants them true repentance, let Jesus have it in their place
which route God takes is entirely up to him – comes down to which way he will be most glorified, that’s really how we should pray whether for our own circumstances or other believers
B. three problems
I’m dried out (83)
many things we take for granted are modern inventions – chimneys, stoves, glass and plastic bottles; picture here of animal skin used for storing / transporting liquid (wine, milk, water), hung up in working-class home or tent; hole in top (roof) for smoke, wineskin surrounded by smoke – dries out, hardens up, shrivels in size
that happens to God’s people – trials often come with hostile environment; just like smoke, things present that are harmful, things missing that are helpful to good health
when trials/persecution/affliction come our way – accompanied by actions and attitudes harmful to our spiritual health
nature of persecution/affliction is to deprive of things that will promote good spiritual health: fellowship with God and other believers, nourishment from God’s word (preaching, prayer, means of grace)
I’m in danger (85)
perhaps physical danger in view here – numerous examples in life of David and others of attempts on his life
further examples in lives of men and women God has used – Corrie ten Boom, Brother Andrew, missionaries to Auca Indians, John Paton, David Livingstone, William Carey – wonderfully protected and preserved…many times but not always
don’t rule out spiritual and other sorts of harm: attempts to destroy reputation, ruin credibility, introduce doctrinal error
I’m persecuted (86)
that’s sounding kind of familiar: “people persecute me with lies” HCSB – quoting out of context, putting spin on what is said, “straw man” (misrepresenting the other side, then knocking it down)
heard at beginning, it’s coming here; is already present in other parts of world, and in more violent forms
some folks have persecution complex, exaggerate any criticism into persecution; persecution is real, is serious, is designed to disable the Christian and make them ineffectcive
keep in mind: we know who our greatest enemy is, Satan; and we know who our greatest helper is, the Lord Jesus – our fuller understanding of problem and solution should encourage us to follow psalmist’s example at least as diligently as he did!
C. one desire
God’s presence and approval
long for your deliverance (81)
“The phrase used expresses the most intense desire possible…heart-sick at the long delay of hoped-for help” Pulpit Comm.
desire fueled by promises God has given in his word; is confidence, not only in Bible but God of the Bible at root of genuine hope
one of pillars of Protestant Reformation: sola scriptura; doctrine of scripture just as essential today as ever – all of this desire simply wasted effort if Bible is not the infallible inerrant word of God
can have no meaningful hope of deliverance, anything promised by God in the Bible, that God can or will provide anything for us
since we know it is true… we can and should be confident, longing for all God has promised
long for your promise (82)
“my eyes grow tired from searching for your word [to be fulfilled]” – prodigal’s father, searched the road daily for his son
same idea here – looking, not for cool things to happen on a timeline, for God to act in visible way to keep his promises
is good whether suffering affliction / persecution or not to look for evidence of God acting to carry out his promises
long for your provision (88)
“Give me life in accordance with Your faithful love” HCSB – expression here of absolute dependence on God and his grace
if God were to withdraw his help and supply, we would be all done; by same token, not wrong to desire greater provision
not stuff for the sake of more, rather more displays of God’s faithful and loyal love toward his child – for purpose of enabling greater obedience
iow, more of God, only fully satisfied in glory
is good to want more of God for the sake of God, not only for what he does and gives; good to not be satisfied here
“The solution” – remember CHS – look to the Book, also to the Lord. We find God in his Word, among his people. He revealed himself and continues to reveal himself in the Bible, where we should seek to find him and meet him first. God also dwells among his people: Emmanuel, God with us, still present by his Spirit. Do what you know to be right based on God’s word, cry out to our sympathetic High Priest for help, whether need is personal, corporate, or on behalf of brothers and sisters.