Sometimes God brings trials of great difficulty to the lives of faithful believers, and we're not able to discern any purpose for it whatsoever. So you followed the Lord faithfully for years, and while you're not perfect, you've sought to honor the name of Jesus Christ. But then, suffering comes.
Is it because you've done something wrong? Well, that is most assuredly not the case, as Pastor Don Green will show you on this edition of The Truth Pulpit. Hi, I'm Bill Wright, and Don is continuing to teach God's people God's Word with a series titled, How Long, O God? And part one of a message titled, Though He Slay Us. Don will take us to Psalm 44 to reveal how we should deal with trials and suffering in a manner that remembers the past, recognizes the present, and trusts God for the future. So have your Bible handy as we join our teacher now in The Truth Pulpit. Psalm 44 is a national lament by the nation of Israel following an unexpected and seemingly unexplainable military defeat.
We don't know the exact setting. We're confident that it was not something that occurred as a psalm that was written in the exile because the exile was a clear stated punishment for the sin of the people. It seems like it was probably something that preceded that, a time not recorded in Scripture where they had suffered at the hands of a foreign army that had defeated them on the battlefield. The losses were great, and there was no seeming explanation for it because God had promised to be a God who would go before them in their battles if they were faithful. And here they are facing loss, suffering defeat in the midst of fidelity to God, in the midst of loyalty to their covenant responsibilities, and yet they were defeated on the battlefield.
And Psalm 44 is a cry that says, God, why? You are our help. We need your help. There's nothing to keep you from helping us, and yet you've not helped us. So help us is kind of the theme of this psalm. We don't know, as I said, the exact setting, but we can understand enough to see as we go through the psalm what is going on, and we can trace the response of the people of God to this calamity and find food for our own soul. Even though it was written as a national lament, the spiritual principles that are at stake and that are at play in this psalm are the same principles that can sustain you in the midst of your trials. And in that sense, I know that it's a very timely psalm for our church, both corporately and individually. And so I thank God once again for the marvels of his providence, the way that he brings Scripture to us, the right Scripture at the right time to meet the right need of our soul. I trust that as you listen today, it will be with a sense of expectation that God will minister to your own heart in what is said here today. Now, the psalm breaks down roughly in three sections. You could negotiate where the exact breaks are, but basically let me just give you a little overview, knowing that this psalm is not familiar. In the first eight verses, what you see is the psalmist talking about the past success of the nation of Israel under the hand of God, that God had blessed them and given them the land, and now the people of God are still maintaining the faith that carried those people into victory in the Promised Land. There was success in the past, and the people were self-consciously identifying with that lineage. But now, second section here, now in the present there is suffering that they cannot understand.
There are losses that have been painful and have made them a laughingstock to the nations around them that defeated them. That goes from verses 9 through 22. Then in verse 23, they look to the future and they renew their trust in God even though there is nothing circumstantial to support them in that turn of trust once again to their God. So the past, the present, and the future is really the way this psalm breaks down.
And let's look first of all at the success in the past, the success in the past. And one of the great challenges for Christians as they move deeper into their Christian life, many Christians, not everyone, but most Christians have a time of spiritual, let's say, euphoria where everything is well. There's a time of blessing.
The newness of conversion is a great joy and it is exciting and there is just blessing all around. And then something happens, a trial strikes of unexpected severity that seems to have no explanation. A family relationship goes south. Death or injury or physical affliction intervenes.
There's a financial reversal, a fraud committed that no one saw coming and all of a sudden the world is turned upside down and the very issues of life are at stake. And the natural question is, why is this happening to me? What happened to the place of blessing that I had been in? People start to ask, have I sinned?
Is something wrong? Well, Scripture understands all of that. And one of the things that you're going to see from Psalm 44 and that you see from the book of Job and from the life of Christ and from the life of the Apostle Paul is that sometimes in direct contradiction of the false theology of the health and wealth and prosperity movement, sometimes God brings trials of great difficulty into the lives of faithful believers and we're not able to discern any purpose for it whatsoever. This is God's sovereign prerogative.
It's his sovereign pleasure to do that and we are to trust him anyway. And so let's look first as we go into the Psalm now, Psalm 44. Let's look at the success in the past and just kind of follow what's going on in this psalm. The psalmist as he writes this is recalling past times of God's favor to the nation. In the opening two verses, the psalmist is recalling the national history of Israel and how God blessed them in the past.
He says in verse 1, "'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. You, with your own hand, drove out the nations, then you planted them.
You afflicted the peoples, then you spread them abroad.'" What do we see from this opening two verses? This is being written by someone who is a member of the nation of Israel. They belong to the covenant nation, the nation that God had favored with his revelation, the nation that God had made his own people. And he's recalling, he is rehearsing how in times long ago, God had delivered his people from slavery in Egypt and how God had delivered them from the oppressive hand of Pharaoh with miraculous deeds at the hands of Moses. God led them out from a great nation, though they were slaves, led them out powerfully and delivered them from slavery after 400 years of affliction. In the course of their deliverance, God leads them through the Red Sea, they go through with walls of water on either side, safely into the land that God had promised them.
They get into the land, nations are there with armies, with fortifications as in the fall of Jericho, and God systematically dispossessed those nations of their land and brought his own people into the land and settled them and planted a nation there by his great power. What the psalmist is doing as this psalm opens is he is remembering in summary fashion that miraculous deliverance that gave birth to a nation. And he's remembering that, and he says, God, it was by your power that that happened. God, it was by your strength, not by the strength of our fathers, that they were established, that they were delivered, and that you brought them into their own land and you planted them and they grew. God, this was an act of you, not an act of man. Our fathers have told us, we have heard it with our ears, we believe it with our hearts, we identify with that spiritual lineage that we come from.
That's what he's saying. As you go on in verse 3, you see him giving a brief recitation of the fact that God gave victory under Joshua and established them in the land, and he says it wasn't by the strength of our fathers. Look at verse 3 with me. He says, for by their own sword they did not possess the land, and their own arm did not save them, but your right hand and your arm and the light of your presence, for you favored them. He says, God, and this is a matter of prayer that we don't practice nearly often enough today, I suppose. What he's doing in this psalm is, before he gets to the nature of the problem that is afflicting his heart, he's recalling history. He's setting a context for the prayer that is yet to come. And he says, God, I remember in this time of national difficulty that in the past, by your power, by your strength, you delivered our fathers. It wasn't their military expertise that did it, it was the fact that they were under your guidance, under your grace, under your love, and by your miraculous power, you manifested to them your strength and you secured them in victory and established them in the land.
God, I remember that. I praise you and I thank you for it. That's not a bad place to start in prayer. If you're struggling here today, you're in a time of affliction as a Christian, to just go back, to set your problem aside for a moment and say, God, I remember. I remember how you've blessed me in the past, how you blessed others that I know, perhaps others who were in my biological lineage who were Christians and you blessed them, or other Christians that I've known, you've blessed them.
Father, I've seen how you have acted strongly for your people, and I thank you for that, and I thank you for how you've done that in my past. That's a great place to start when you're in affliction, is to remember that your life hasn't always been one of affliction and trial. You've had times of God's blessing, haven't you? Well, remember that and let that frame the way that you pray.
God had favored this nation in the past with his power and his grace. Now, as you follow through in this Psalm, let me say one other thing about the Psalms. I understand that for those that are just very superficially acquainted with the Bible, you know, there's an expectation, I think, that is sometimes brought, an unspoken assumption, an unrecognized presupposition that says, every time I go to the Psalms, I'm going to find something written that is in the spirit of Psalm 23, something that speaks of security and faith and trust in God, and you try to read every Psalm from that perspective of the particular need that you bring to it as you read it. But the Psalms aren't like that. There is a broad variety of experience reflected in the Psalms. There are, just like in your own life, there is a broad nature of experience in your life, sometimes happy, sometimes sad, sometimes difficult, sometimes peaceful, sometimes you're concerned about what's happening at a national level in your country, sometimes it's deep spiritual anguish, confessing sin perhaps, trying to find your way through trials.
There's a broad breadth of experience in your own life. Well, the Psalms are like that too, and it's important to realize that to let the Psalms speak and to let it be received on its own terms rather than trying to force it to speak immediately into the need that you think you're bringing to the text. What we need to do here today is to realize what the Psalmist is saying, let it speak for itself and then draw lessons from it, rather than just forcing, this is what I need today, and trying to force it into saying something that it wasn't meant to say. Now, with that said, he opens up in these first three verses and makes this historical framework, God, you blessed our fathers in the past. As you go on, beginning in verse 4, he identifies himself and his nation with the fact that that's our faith too. The faith that our fathers had, that's our faith too. We're not separated from them.
We're not distinguished from them. We self-consciously identify and place ourselves in the lines of the faith of our fathers, the fathers that you blessed in the past. Look at verse 4, he says, You are my king, O God, command victories for Jacob. Through you we will push back our adversaries.
Through your name we will trample down those who rise up against us. Notice, just as a matter of observation, how he switches from first-person singular and first-person plural. Sometimes he says, You're my king.
Sometimes he speaks in the plural. Verse 5, They rise up against us. This is perhaps indicating that maybe this was written by a king, perhaps by a military general, who is speaking both on his own behalf and as a representative of the people at large. You know, it's as when a president speaks on behalf of our nation.
He speaks in his own capacity and his own person in one sense, but also in a representative capacity for the people that he leads. Well, that gives you a sense of something like what's happening here in Psalm 44. This psalmist is saying, You're my king, O God.
Remember what he's saying. God, you're the God who blessed our people in the past and led them to victory. You're that God, and you, that God, you're my God. He brings that past experience and says, Lord, that defines my perspective of faith in you as I pray here today. And he affirms that he and his people are trusting God as they go. He says in verse 5, You know, through you we'll push back our adversaries.
You'll give us victory on the battlefield. Verse 6, he disclaims any confidence in self. Look at verse 6. He says, For I will not trust in my bow, nor will my sword save me. He says, God, I am not trusting in my own strength. We are not trusting in our own military prowess to bring us victory. Our eyes are fixed on you. We are looking to you for help.
We are not trusting in ourselves. And so he's clarifying in his own heart and in prayer where his faith is. That's another good place for you to go, beloved, as you're going through those deep waters to just simply, clearly, unambiguously affirm your faith in God and say, God, I am not trusting in my own abilities to deliver me from this affliction. I am looking to you. You say, I don't have any control over the attitudes of this person.
I don't have any control over what they do. Father, therefore I'm trusting in you who are sovereign over all to help me. As the psalmist expresses that, he goes on and recognizes that God has helped them in the past. In verse 7, But you have saved us from our adversaries.
There's a contrast. We're not trusting in ourselves, and as we look back at the past and we see our success, Lord, that came from you. You have saved us from our adversaries.
You have put to shame those who hate us. And in verse 8, he says, we're full of gratitude as a result. In God, we have boasted all day long, and we will give thanks to your name forever.
What's he saying there? He's saying, God, our faith and our confidence is so completely in you. I want you to know that we recognize that our success in the past came from the blessing of your hand. And I want you to know that we recognize that. We're full of gratitude. We thank you for how you've blessed us in the past, and we give thanks to you. Our heart is inclined to gratitude. We have not forgotten your blessing. We have not forgotten all that you've done. We give thanks to you. We recognize your supremacy, and we bow humbly before you.
That's what he's saying. In your time of affliction, that's what you do. You affirm the centrality of the goodness and the character of God. You recognize that any blessings that you've had in the past have come from him and not by your own skill or wisdom.
And you thank him, and you express that gratitude toward him. And look at the end of verse 8 there over in most of your Bibles. Probably separated out a little bit in the margin is the word selah. That's a call to stop, to meditate, to think about what's just been said. And what he's saying is this in this first section.
It's this. Beloved, this is so important to understanding the direction of this psalm. He says, God, we identify with the faith of our fathers. We confess that you are our God, that our past blessings have come to you. We are inclined toward obedience, toward faith, toward thanks. We are unconditionally committed to blessing your name forever and ever. He says that's the condition that we bring. That's the posture of faith with which I approach you here today. And so you stop and you think about that.
Now, remember a couple of things. As he wrote this psalm, he was writing under the influence of the Holy Spirit who was guarding his heart from error, guarding what was written from any sense of error or misrepresentation. What we have in these first eight verses is an accurate reflection of the condition of the people and the condition of the psalmist when this was written. They are in a position of spiritual trust, not disobedience.
They are in a position of gratitude, not complaining or murmuring. And so, based on the character of God and the way he's acted in the past, you would expect their life to be flowing out with external circumstantial blessing. But that's not the case. And you see that as you move into the second section of the psalm. Their experience was actually just the opposite. And I would love to preach this psalm to a health and wealth prosperity congregation.
I know that that is almost certainly never going to happen. But if it did, I would embrace the opportunity with gladness because it turns all of those assumptions on their head. And exposes it for how unbiblical and wrong it is. Because in this condition of faith identified with the people of God, section two, what do you see? You see the suffering in the present.
The suffering in the present. They are positioned spiritually where they should be. But life does not match up with what you would expect if it was simply a matter of the simple equation obedience leads to external blessing. Faith leads to prosperity. If that was the case, then everything is upside down for them.
Rather than sharing in the victories of their ancestors, they were in the throes of a humiliating military defeat. Look at verse nine with me. And look at that key word, yet. Here we are a trusting, thankful people, and yet something different. It alerts you that something unexpected is about to come. And what does he say? Let's look at verses nine through 12 together here. He says, Yet you have rejected us and brought us to dishonor and do not go out with our armies. You cause us to turn back from the adversary and those who hate us have taken spoil for themselves.
Stop right there for just a minute. You see the core as he gives a literal description of what is the occasion of the song. He says, God, you have not gone out with our armies. We have experienced a humiliating defeat. Rather than advancing in victory, we are in retreat. Those who hate us have taken our spoil.
We are rejected and there is nothing but shame and dishonor to show for our efforts on the battlefield. God, this is not the way it's supposed to go. You ever thought that in your trials? God, I'm a Christian. I've been in your word.
I've been in prayer. This is not how it's supposed to happen. That's what he's struggling with here. Verse 11, he begins to describe it in a metaphorical sense. He says, You give us as sheep to be eaten and have scattered us among the nations. You sell your people cheaply and have not profited by their sale. He says, God, it's like you've handed us over as sheep to be slaughtered.
And why would you do that when we are your people? And yet there's nothing to gain from this in your honor. God, what's the value to the honor of your name when your people are humiliated on the battlefield? Those who have trusted you that have gone out in your name find defeat and shame and they're spoiled for their enemies. How does this honor your name, God?
There's nothing in this result for you, let alone for us. And beloved, here's what I want you to see. Those who hold to weak teaching, that when trials come, they say, Oh, Satan got me here. You know, and this is the devil that's doing this and all of that. And, you know, I need to pray for God to intervene and stop the work of Satan here.
Notice something really crucial here. That is not at all the perspective of the psalmist. Look at verses 9 through 12 with me again. He attributes their defeat to the sovereign action and plan of God, not to their military prowess, those who have defeated them. As Christians, we're not promised perfect circumstances devoid of trials on this side of heaven.
Coping with those trials in a biblical manner is the key to maintaining faith and hope. Pastor Don Green will conclude our series, How Long, O God, on our next broadcast. So plan now to be with us right here on The Truth Pulpit. But right now, here's Don with some exciting ministry news. Well, my friend, today I have an opportunity to offer you something for free that goes beyond what we've done on our radio broadcast. It's a 10-message CD album titled The Bible and Roman Catholicism.
It's a series I recently completed at Truth Community Church, taking scripture and evaluating what Catholics teach and believe about the pope, about Mary, about the mass, and about the whole nature of salvation. It's a resource that you really need to have in your hands, either for yourself or for your friends and loved ones, to know how to interact with them, and it's available for free at the place that Bill's going to point you to right now. Just visit us at thetruthpulpit.com and click on Radio Offers to learn more. I'm Bill Wright. See you next time on The Truth Pulpit, where Don Green continues teaching God's people God's Word.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-18 23:16:24 / 2023-03-18 23:26:08 / 10