God, we've been loyal. I'm not saying we've been sinless.
That's not the point. But God, we haven't dealt falsely with your covenant. God, we haven't turned away. God, we've looked to you in faith and yet look at the circumstances here, God.
This is not the way it is supposed to be. Welcome again to the Truth Pulpit with Don Green, founding pastor of Truth Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. I'm Bill Wright, and Don is wrapping up a series titled, How Long O God? He has part two of a message titled, Though He Slay Us. Last time, Don showed us in Psalm 44, how the Psalmist began his remarks to God by giving thanks for the Lord's provision in the past. He then acknowledged suffering in the present, but did so in recognition of God's sovereign will. We were reminded that even if we're following God faithfully, suffering can still be a part of our lives.
Today, Don will conclude his thoughts on the subject. So have your Bible ready as we join him now to continue teaching God's people God's word from the Truth Pulpit. Look at what he says in verse nine.
Remember, he's praying to God here. Why are we in this position? God, it's because you have rejected us. You have brought us to dishonor.
You do not go out with our enemies. Look at verse 10. You cause us to turn back from the adversary. Verse 11, you give us as sheep to be eaten. You have scattered us among the nations. You sell your people cheaply.
You have not profited by their sale. He's saying, God, I recognize that your hand is in this setback to me. He's not blaming it on other forces. He realizes that his circumstances are what God has given to him, what God has brought to him and his nation, and he is attributing it to the sovereign work of God. James Montgomery Boice says this at this point in his commentary on Psalm 44, and I quote, he says the people's defeats are no accident. God is behind them. Although it makes the situation puzzling, the realization that God is in control is still both the proper way to approach such problems and the only possible way to find a solution to them.
End quote. Beloved, let me help you a lot when you go through trials with what I'm about to say right here. First of all, it is theologically incorrect to separate God from the trials that come into your life as though they have happened to you apart from the hand of God. That is an utter denial of the providence of God. It is a denial of his sovereignty. It is a denial of the fact that God is always working out his purposes, especially in the lives of his people.
And so it is a serious mistake to somehow stop thinking about God when you are in the midst of your trials and to say God allowed this or something like, no, no, God has brought this into your life in one manner or another. Why does that help? Why does that help?
It helps you for this reason. First of all, oh, you've got to write these things down. You have got to imprint them on the heart of your mind so that you bring this to mind again and again and again. Beloved, here is something really crucial for you to recognize. To recognize and acknowledge and submit to the sovereignty of God in your trials means this, first of all. First of all, it means that there is a purpose in them, even if you can't see them right now. If a sovereign God is bringing trials into your life, a wise God is at work, it means that there is a purpose to them.
It's not something random, something that has happened to you as a result of hostile forces. It also means that there is hope going forward in the midst of them. If God is sovereign over your trials, it means that the same good God who saved you in Jesus Christ has the power to bring you out of them. And to deny that, to forget that, is to let the whole purpose, the whole meaning, the whole significance of the deepest trials in your life collapse into meaninglessness.
Don't do that. Renew your confidence, renew your trust, your belief, your assertion that somehow God's sovereign hand is in this, even if I don't understand. That's what the psalmist is doing here. Lord, you've brought this into our lives. I can't understand it, but I cannot and I will not compromise the basic fundamental principle of your sovereign reign over your universe in order to account for what's happening in my life. He says, you've done this, and what's the result of it?
Remember that he's working on the front side of the cross. The result of this is it is a demoralizing time of national disgrace for a people who are trusting in God. Look at verse 13. We're defeated. God, you've rejected us.
Now let me tell you, God, here's what the outcome of it has been. Verse 13, you make us a reproach to our neighbors, a scoffing and a derision to those around us. You make us a byword among the nations, a laughing stock among the peoples. All day long, my dishonor is before me and my humiliation has overwhelmed me because of the voice of him who reproaches and reviles because of the presence of the enemy and the avenger. Imagine your worst enemy defeating you on a field of battle and taunting you, mocking you. Where's your God? As he raises his bloody sword in conquest over you, as he takes your goods, your people away from you and leaves you humiliated. And you're left asking the question, God, I trusted you going into this battle and here I am defeated. God, we belong to you, we look to you.
And what has happened? Loss, humiliation, and disgrace instead. God, this is not the expected outcome. This is how you deal with your loyal people? God, I'm not, and in the Psalm, he's not claiming sinlessness. He's not claiming a sense of merit that obligated God that's not like that. He's simply saying, we've been loyal, we haven't turned to other gods. And yet, here we are in shame and defeat in the midst of a battle with our enemies taunting us. You loser, where is your God?
And the discouragement of that is great. And he goes forth. As it were, he protests their blamelessness and the innocence of the nation. Even in the midst of the battle, they have not stopped looking to God. In the midst of the defeat, I should say, they have not stopped looking to God. Look at verse 17 with me now. All this has come upon us.
All this what? All this defeat, all this disgrace 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. He's saying, God, in the midst of this suffering, in the midst of this defeat, we're still here looking to you. God, we're still loyal. We're still calling out to you. And yet, despite our faithfulness, you've handed us over to a dark defeat.
Look at verse 19. He says, yet you have crushed us in a place of jackals and covered us with the shadow of death. We're in a position of desolation. Wild animals roam about in the midst of our defeat.
The shadow of death, deep darkness has come upon us, both in a physical sense, there were lives lost in the battle, in a spiritual sense, there seems to be nowhere to go forward in the midst of this. And beloved, what I want you to see in this, that which you can identify in your own trials as this, is that the inconsistency of this situation is painful. God, we've been loyal. I'm not saying we've been sinless.
That's not the point. But God, we haven't dealt falsely with your covenant. God, we haven't turned away. God, we've looked to you in faith, and yet look at the circumstances here, God.
This is not the way it is supposed to be. God, there's nothing else that we could have done to show our loyalty, to show our faith, to be obedient to you. And he goes on in verse 20 and he sets up a hypothetical that would explain this result. He says in verse 20, he says, 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. He says, I could understand it, God, if we had been disloyal to you. If we had turned to idolatry, if we had denied your truth and pursued false idols in the process of this, I could understand a loss like this.
But there's nothing like that. God, we're here blameless and we are here in pain. And what you have done is you have withdrawn and stood in silence and abandoned your people in the midst of it.
It's a very powerful statement of lament, of complaint. And the psalmist says in verse 22, the only explanation for this, God, is that you have sacrificed your people for reasons that are known only to yourself. Look at verse 22. He says, but for your sake we are killed all day long. We are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. He says, God, we're your people. Somehow for something that pleases you, for something known only to you, for your sake we're treated like sheep to be slaughtered.
And there is a great sense of resignation in what is said here. Beloved, sympathize with his dilemma. Sympathize with a man of God.
Remember what he said from the beginning. We share the faith of our forefathers. You helped them. Why are you silent? Why are you inactive when we have not forsaken you? Why this difference of treatment between one loyal people compared to the way that you'd blessed and helped loyal people in the past?
Why are you dealing with us differently? Is this prayer, is this dilemma, beloved, faithful Christian walking through deep water? Do you find yourself in a similar position? A time of life where it seems like with one wave of trial crashing down you upon another, upon another, driving you into the sand, beating you down as you're trying to cling to God? And it seems like God has turned against you even when to the best of your ability you've been faithful and you suddenly find yourself in the midst of a raging storm that was not of your own making. Beloved, take heart. Other saints have walked that same painful path with you. Good men of God, even recorded for us in Scripture, have walked down that path and know exactly what you feel. You find their Spirit-inspired words recorded for you in Psalm 44. Beloved, here's the thing. Let me make this as simple as I possibly can, as simple as I possibly know how to say. Let this strengthen you in your own trials.
Let it shape your perspective in the way that you view people going through their own trials. As we all share that tendency, oh, I wonder what's wrong in their life. Look at their life.
Look how bad it is. You know, I wonder what they are hiding. That's what they said to Job, wasn't it? No, that's not the way we think. That's not biblical thinking. To let that be the only explanation that you have to offer in the midst of a faithful person of God in the midst of their suffering.
Here's the truth of the matter. Sometimes God's people suffer greatly even when they are innocent in it. Suffering is not always a direct consequence of personal sin that brought it upon you. Multiple illustrations I want to give you here right now.
Let's start with the supreme one. Did not our Lord Jesus Christ suffer greatly during his earthly life, but he was innocent? Didn't the Apostle Paul, though not sinless, faithful, did he not suffer greatly? Read his epistles and hear him describe the beatings, the nights in the deep, the hunger, the cold, the sleeplessness, the pressure of the concern that he had for all of his churches. Suffering in the plan of God. Is not church history a mark of faithful martyrs shedding their blood rather than denying Christ, rather than turning over the Scriptures to be burned?
They said, no, crucify me, gouge out my eyes, I'll be faithful to Christ instead. You see, beloved, we need to expand our view of suffering. We need to understand that the purposes of God far transcend simply arranging our circumstances so that we're good and comfortable all the way into heaven. That's not the purpose of God for many people. What we do is we put our hand over our mouth and we say who can understand the sovereign wisdom and the sovereign purposes of God? That he deals with one in such a way and deals with another in a different way. We recognize the sovereign prerogative of God to deal with his people as he sees fit and to realize that everything that he does, he does in his wisdom, he does in his goodness, and he does in his love.
And the fact that you and I cannot see the purpose in it as it is happening does not mean that we either accuse innocent people of sin or that we accuse God of unrighteousness. We accuse ourselves of having a lack of wisdom and a lack of ability to understand and we renew our trust in God all over again. That enlarges your heart to have sympathy on those that are suffering. That enlarges your heart to avoid false accusations when trials come. That enlarges your own heart to patiently submit to suffering in your own life when it comes and say, God, I trust you in the midst of this even though I don't understand. Because Scripture has laid out for us the pattern, the example that there are times when God's people suffer even though they are in comparative innocence in the midst of it. And if that's you today, I would encourage you, you don't have to do it in the same animated way that I do when I'm in a pulpit, but to let your heart latch onto that and say, Oh, thank God there's an explanation here, an explanation that transcends me, that helps me see that the hand of God has not abandoned me, that sometimes he allows his people, sometimes he brings them into hardship and that what I'm going through is consistent with the way that God sometimes deals with his people.
Nothing has changed. I'm still in a position of security as I go through it. Now, let's come back into the present, come back into the midst of the howling storm. What do you do in the midst of the howling storm when there is no explanation?
Well, that brings us to our third point, the final section of this psalm, the supplication for the future, the supplication for the future. In the midst of this time, it seems like God has fallen asleep. Do you remember that that actually happened to the disciples when they were with Jesus out on the boat? Jesus fell asleep and the storm is rousing and raging and they go down and they wake him up. They say, Lord, wake up.
Don't you care that we're perishing? This is an Old Testament example of that. The psalmist, in the midst of his suffering and the inactivity of God, urgently prays and tells God to wake up and get to work.
Look at verse 23. He says, Arouse yourself. Why do you sleep, O Lord? Awake!
Do not reject us forever. Now, of course, God is not literally asleep. He hasn't literally stopped watching and superintending his creation. The psalmist is speaking from his perspective. The inactivity of God, the prolonged nature of the suffering indicates God is not acting.
It looks like he's asleep. And so in verse 24, he says, Why do you hide your face and forget our affliction and our oppression? Surely, God, you see that we're low, don't you? Verse 25, our soul has sunk down into the dust.
Our body cleaves to the earth. As often happens in the Psalms, a simple prayer defines the request and gives the need. Verse 26, the simplicity of this. Rise up, be our help, and redeem us for the sake of your loving kindness. He says, O God, for the sake of your loyal love, act and help us. Manifest your covenant faithfulness to us. Show to us your loyalty by interceding, by waking up, by starting to act in a way that you haven't before in order to relieve this affliction that we find ourselves in.
Be our help. Now, beloved, notice the profound depth of faith that's reflected in that last Psalm. Not the last Psalm, the last verse of the Psalm. And understand why you, in your affliction, in the midst of your suffering, in the midst of your fears, understand why you can still continue to pray. Why is it that you can still trust God even though it seems like He is slaying you? It's because, Christian, He is a God of unchanging love to His people. What seems like abandonment in the moment could never be the true explanation of what you're facing because God's love does not change. God does not stray from His people. There is purpose.
There is love. There is grace in the midst of your trials even if it is not visible to your eyes, even if it is not apparent to your understanding. In fact, beloved, turn over to Romans chapter 8. Your innocent suffering in life is simply you have a benefit that the Psalmist didn't have.
Your innocent suffering in life is actually a down payment on your eventual victory. Look at Romans chapter 8 verse 35. The Apostle Paul quotes from Psalm 44 in this great familiar passage that you know so well. Psalm 44 points you into the eternal realities of Christ. Romans chapter 8 verse 35. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or sword?
Just as it is written, and he quotes from Psalm 44, for your sake we are being put to death all day long. We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered. In your loyal love, Lord, you brought us to a place of great suffering and hardship. It's like we were sheep to be slaughtered.
Is that the end? No, verse 37, quite to the contrary. But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through him who loved us. 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 what?
From the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Nothing of these earthly circumstances can sever the bond of loyal, faithful love that God has set upon you in Christ. Nothing of your worst circumstances, not the worst surprises, not the worst afflictions, not the worst actions of man ever break that unbreakable bond that God has set upon you in Christ. Beloved, whatever the momentary reversal, God will not abandon you. Christ loves you even if you are suffering without blame. Your position in him is utterly, completely secure. God rules over all. His love never fails. He'll always bring us to the victory in Christ. Today on The Truth Pulpit, Pastor Don Green has concluded our series, How Long, O God?
Well, there's more great teaching headed your way next time, so don't miss a moment. But Don, how about a closing word of hope for those who are discouraged by suffering? Well, my friend, I'll simply tell you what I wish someone had told me back in the day, a couple of things really. First of all, God bless you. I know that it's hard, I know that I can't change it for you, and this deep valley is a place of difficulty for you.
I've been there, I understand that, and my heart of sympathy is with you. But secondly, I want to tell you this, to give you something that might help you persevere through it all. Yes, God has brought you to a deep valley, but God will lead you through the valley and onto the other side. Scripture promises us that he works all things together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose. My Christian friend, my brother and sister in Christ, you may not be able to see it now, but God will indeed sanctify this trial of yours to the good of your soul. He will take those tears and turn them into blessings, and so persevere, trust God through it, even when you can't see the way out.
God is faithful, and God is sovereign, and God is loving and faithful to his children all the time, no exceptions. He'll lead you through your trial, too, just like he did me, just like he did the writers of Scripture, just like he has done for his people faithfully for millennia. God will be good to you in the end. Yes, my friend, you can trust God. You can trust your Savior, Jesus Christ, especially in this dark time. And I would just leave you with Psalm 27, verse 14. Wait for the Lord. Be strong and let your heart take courage.
Yes, wait for the Lord. Thanks, Don. And friend, remember, you have a standing invitation to visit thetruthpulpit.com to learn more about our ministry. That's thetruthpulpit.com. I'm Bill Wright, and we will see you next time on The Truth Pulpit, where Don Green teaches God's people God's Word.
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