How Long, O Lord? - by Richard Neufeld
Psalm 10 vents so much of our frustration at the wickedness and corruption we see nowadays and what must have been just as rampant at the time of it’s writing. The author writes comprehensively of their disgust of the wicked and asks “Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” They lay out all the ways in which they see evil go unpunished, greed result in gain, and those who curse the Lord prosper in whatever they do. They lament the ways in which the poor and needy are crushed; how the powerful prey on those who have no means of protecting themselves. The author lays out their complaint that the wicked continue to prosper and God, it appears, is standing far off.
As is common in the Psalms, complaining is not the entirety of what is written. In verses 12-18 is a call for the Lord to arise and act according to His promises; to break the arm of the evildoer; to prove the wicked wrong that God does not see their deeds. “But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation, that you may take it into your hands.” There is a note of reassuring oneself as the author remembers that “to you the helpless commits himself; you have been the helper of the fatherless.” Psalm 10 wraps up in praising God, His promises, and His justice.
In the United States alone, 20 million Americans lost their jobs during the pandemic. At the exact same time, roughly 650 billionaires in America saw their total net worth increase by 1.2 trillion dollars, from 3 400 000 000 000 to 4 600 000 000 000. Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon, has recently spent 1.2 billion on a Super Yacht that has it’s own, smaller, companion yacht that will carry his helicopter around, all while successfully busting an effort of Alabama Amazon workers to unionize; this would have given the workers a voice with which to call for things like better job security, higher pay, and proper breaks in what has accurately been described as sweatshop-like conditions. This is one of countless stories of the rich exploiting the poor and trampling on the weak, and you don’t have to search very far to find its kind.
It’s clear that these sorts of disparities have been around for thousands and thousands of years. We can imagine that the Psalmist above was just as sick and tired of the mighty and wicked constantly getting away with their corruption as we are today. It is not an issue isolated to time but is endemic to humanity. The worst part is that the wicked and corrupt not only get away with their schemes but flourish and thrive, and all the while God is nowhere to be found. We are just like the author of Psalm 10 whenever we look at the corruption and deliberate evil taking place around us and ask “how long, O Lord?”
Now, it isn’t true that God is absent in our times of need, nor does He dismiss the thoughts, deeds, and words of those who are wicked. He doesn’t fail to catch and comfort the poor and oppressed who run to Him for help, nor will any of those who rebel against Him stand. We are unable to see Him in everything, all the time, but He is always sovereign, always attentive, always nearby!
Christ doesn’t ask us to dismiss the turmoil we see around us or to just skate by evil and corruption; the Psalmist here pulls no punches in conveying their despair and frustration in a state of honest worship that lays bare their heart before their God. We are supposed to lament these things and have them break our heart, for they grieve the Lord as well. It is a holy and right grief turned into worship. Yet there is more than simple venting here, for Psalm 10 turns lament into a reminder of God’s goodness and promise. It is in the darkest hour that we need to preach to ourselves the promises of God and let our hearts rest on that which might be hidden from our eyes. It is clear that when we follow this path of prayer, we find ourselves reassured and comforted in the peace of Christ; from there we slide naturally into praise and a deeper trust of Him who holds the world in His hands.
The Lord knows what is on your heart better than you do yourself, so it is no use hiding these things from Him. It is no sin to lament evil in prayer or to call God to action on behalf of those oppressed, nor is it shameful to cry out to God when we cannot sense Him or see His hand at work. The name Israel quite literally means wrestles with God, and that is seen no more obvious than in the Psalms where the deep and turbulent woes of the heart are laid bare. There is a faithful and sure pattern that we see time and time again: prayer and petition, then praise and worship; woe and sorrow, then thanksgiving and promise. They do not all follow this exact pattern but usually contain all of these elements.
Do your prayers do the same? Are you truly being vulnerable with God in your times of prayer? Do you actually bring forth the most elemental parts of your burdens in lament and frustration? Do not shave down your prayers to what you think might be acceptable – give everything to God! All of it! Even the part of you that might not want to be praying at all. Give it to Him and in doing so, learn to actually lean on Him for everything. Make it your instinct to run to the throne of God with everything that comes your way. Abide in Him, and you cannot help but grow and worship and praise Him.
How long, O Lord, will this world continue in such darkness and evil? How long until you do away with pain and suffering forever? Why is it so hard to find your face in times of trouble? Please help us bear these burdens and remind us of your plan. Put in our hearts the assuredness of all things working out for our good and your glory. Thank you for giving us our daily bread and for the work you’ve given for this freezing cold Monday. Thank you for free access to you in prayer, knowing that you hold each and every one of us near and dear as your children; please give us that comfort today in a tangible way, that all who look upon us could see your face instead of ours. Thank you for your Son, for your Holy Spirit, O God of comfort and peace. Amen!
Song: How Long - Bifrost Artists
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In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.