Sunday, May 26, 2024

Psalm 44


by Everette Hunt

Psalm 44
1We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work thou didst in their days, in the times of old.
2 How thou didst drive out the heathen with thy hand, and plantedst them; how thou didst afflict the people, and cast them out.
3 For they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them: but thy right hand, and thine arm, and the light of thy countenance, because thou hadst a favour unto them.
4 Thou art my King, O God: command deliverances for Jacob.
5 Through thee will we push down our enemies: through thy name will we tread them under that rise up against us.
6 For I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me.
7 But thou hast saved us from our enemies, and hast put them to shame that hated us.
8 In God we boast all the day long, and praise thy name for ever. Selah.

Psalm 44 is my absolute favorite chapter of the Bible. It’s one I found completely by accident one day when my family was in between books of the Bible in our Bible reading. I’d just finished up one and wasn’t really sure where I wanted to head next, so I thought I’d pick a nice, friendly Psalm to talk about God’s greatness until I made up my mind.

Psalm 44 seemed to fit the bill. There’s nothing better than hearing about the greatness of God and thinking about all the things God has done for us. To look back through our lives and see all the high spots. To have others tell us of the miracles that He’s wrought and the ways He’s delivered.

I mean, you imagine what it was like to walk across Jordan on dry land. Imagine what it was like to step into that promised land that you’d been waiting for forty years. Imagine watching that manna you’d been eating out of the hand of God dry up, to get that first taste of old corn, knowing that next year, you’d be planting your own corn on your own inheritance. Imagine what it was like to see the walls of Jericho fall. Imagine what it was like to fight the enemies and route them. Imagine when God gathered all those kings together in Joshua chapter 10 and then had Joshua smash them. Imagine how Caleb took that mountain promised him by God.

God saved them from their enemies. God put those that hated them to shame. Of course they’d boast on God and praise his name forever.

And I read that psalm to my family right through that “Selah.” And my eyes began to wander down through, skimming as I continued reading.

9 But thou hast cast off, and put us to shame; and goest not forth with our armies.
10 Thou makest us to turn back from the enemy: and they which hate us spoil for themselves.
11 Thou hast given us like sheep appointed for meat; and hast scattered us among the heathen.
12 Thou sellest thy people for nought, and dost not increase thy wealth by their price.
13 Thou makest us a reproach to our neighbours, a scorn and a derision to them that are round about us.
14 Thou makest us a byword among the heathen, a shaking of the head among the people.
15 My confusion is continually before me, and the shame of my face hath covered me,
16 For the voice of him that reproacheth and blasphemeth; by reason of the enemy and avenger.
17 All this is come upon us; yet have we not forgotten thee, neither have we dealt falsely in thy covenant.
18 Our heart is not turned back, neither have our steps declined from thy way;
19 Though thou hast sore broken us in the place of dragons, and covered us with the shadow of death.
20 If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to a strange god;
21 Shall not God search this out? for he knoweth the secrets of the heart.
22 Yea, for thy sake are we killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter.

And as I read, my words began to slow and I eventually stopped. I was trying to take in what I was reading. It wasn’t that I’d never read it before. Probably dozens of times. I’d just never read it before.

What was going on here? This was no psalm of praise. It was a plea for mercy. It was a cry of anguish. This psalm struck me in a place that was real. All of this hardship going on. All of these troubles. All of this despair. God Almighty, why?

23 Awake, why sleepest thou, O Lord? arise, cast us not off for ever.
24 Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and forgettest our affliction and our oppression?
25 For our soul is bowed down to the dust: our belly cleaveth unto the earth.
26 Arise for our help, and redeem us for thy mercies’ sake.

That’s exactly what the psalmist asked. “Why, Lord? What is going on? We’ve served you. We’ve done what you asked. We’ve been obedient to your word. Why are our enemies overrunning us? Why are we being sold out? We’ve been faithful. O, God, why?”

Do you know what Psalm 66 says? It says God tries us as silver is tried. How is silver tried? In the fire. You purify silver by holding it in the heat. And all of the impurities burn off of it. That’s how God tries us. As the silver melts and purifies, all that slag comes floating to the surface. The silversmith scoops it out and tosses it. It’s gone for good.

Psalm 66 also says that God causes men to run over our heads, that He brings us through fire and through water. He causes afflictions upon our loins…but brings us out into a wealthy place.

It’s an easy thing to sit back and read those Bible stories and think about all the amazing things that were done. It’s easy to wish that God would work in our lives like that. Wouldn’t it be nice to get a word like Daniel or Jeremiah or Moses? To say, “God said this!” and it’s true? God talking directly to you?

Hebrews 11 provides a different view of life in God’s service:

32 And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:
33 Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions.
34 Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.
35 Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:
36 And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:
37 They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;
38 (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

See all those great people of faith? See all the great things they’ve done, subduing kingdoms, working righteousness, obtaining promises, stopping the mouths of lions? Praise God.

Do you see what they had to go through, the torture and mockings and scourgings and bonds and stonings and being killed and wandering that they had to go through to get there?

See, I read over that psalm again and again because I wanted to get it. I wanted to understand what God was saying. Would you believe the answer was in the chapter? Would you believe that there was a reason why things were so hard?

1We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work thou didst in their days, in the times of old.

“We’ve heard with our ears, O God, all the wonderful things you’ve done. Lord, I’d like to see that.”

That’s the why. Right there. Ecclesiastes 7:10 says “Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not enquire wisely concerning this.”

See it’s easy to forget what it cost those Hebrews coming into the promised land. It’s easy to forget what they left behind in Egypt. It’s easy to forget that they were purified in the desert for forty years and watched their mothers and fathers dying out there, knowing that they’d never get there until every last one was buried. It’s easy to forget that they stormed an insurmountable enemy with only their faith and the word of God.

It’s not wise to say “Why was it so much better then?” God is still God. He’s still capable. But if you want to see him work the way He did in previous times, it’s going to cost you. It’s going to get hard. Don’t be surprised if you’re out eating dirt mixed with blood, snot, and tears. Don’t be surprised if no one likes you, if you get sold out by everyone around you. Don’t be surprised if you’re run over and left to die in the place of dragons.

The question is not why. You asked for it. If you want to know what’s going on, ask what for. And get back up off your knees and keep going. That’s what Christ did.

The Bible says Simon of Cyrene was forced to carry his cross for him. But if you read the gospels carefully, when He got to the bottom of that hill, after being beaten and broken and battered and having his guts ripped out, after having his beard plucked and being spit on and having a crown of thorns smashed down on his head, after stumbling through the streets while the people He loved shouted “Crucify him! Crucify him!” the Bible says Jesus Christ took that cross and carried it up that hill himself. The Bible said He endured the cross, despising the shame, and is now sitting on the right hand of the throne of God.

Oh, why, God? Why am I going through this? Because you want to be used of God, a living sacrifice. Sacrifices weren’t selected to live. They were chosen to die. To please God. If you want to be a living sacrifice, your entire life is forfeit. And if you want to see the great things God can do with you, you’re going to have to let God make you what He needs you to be.

by Everette Hunt

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