Leaning on God
April 13th – Les Kovacs Psalm 44
Observe: Psalm 44 is a lament about the times that God seems silent and far away.
The Psalmist starts by remembering the history of all the great and wonderous things God did for the His people in the past. They remember how God drove out the peoples that occupied the land He promised to give them and helped them establish a new home. They remember that it was not their own armies that secured the victories for the Israelites, but the Lord’s mighty sword. It was not in their own power they trusted, but in the power of the Lord.
Then, the Psalmist turns to their present circumstances and wonders why the Lord seems to have abandoned them. They no longer feel His protection from their enemies. They are vulnerable to the attacks and taunts of the nations. And they ask “Why?” Why has God abandoned them? What had they done wrong? In their view, they had not turned away form Him, they had not strayed from His path, they had not forgotten Him.
So, they call out to God to rouse Himself and save them once again, and not reject them forever. They call on Him to rise up and help them because of His great love for them.
Interpret: Scholars are not sure when this Psalm was written or who wrote it. It may have been written during the Babylonian exile, when they were far from their own land, and it is credited to the “Sons of Korah”.
These would certainly have been very difficult times for the people of Israel, surrounded by a pagan culture and oppressed at every turn. Furthermore, they saw themselves as unfortunate victims, being taken captive through no fault of them own, but rather through the abandonment by their God. Although they remember the stories of His great provenance to His chosen people as told to them by their ancestors and teachers, they couldn’t understand why He would allow their enemies to defeat them and carry them off as captives and slaves. In their own eyes they had done nothing wrong, certainly nothing that would warrant this ill-treatment from the Lord. In their own eyes they believed they had remained faithful to the Lord, had done all the things He required of them, and had not forgotten or turned away from His path. They conveniently seemed to have forgotten that it was in fact, their own sinfulness that had gotten them into this trouble. They had forgotten about their acceptance and worship of foreign gods and idols; about their injustice towards the less fortunate in their society; and about following their own will and wisdom instead of seeking God’s ways. Sadly, what we don’t see here is any evidence of repentance or regret for sin on the part of the people.
Then they call on God to rouse Himself to save them because of His great love for them, but somehow it feels a bit unfinished. In the end, there is no indication that God has or will deliver them, just a plea for Him to do so. But, at least the Psalmist knows to whom they should turn as their only real hope.
Application: Psalm 44 feels a bit like a psalm that any one of us could have written because we’ve all been there. A place where we remember the wonders that God has performed and the many blessings He has bestowed on us. A time when we remember how good and kind and merciful and gracious God has been to us. And yet there are times when He seems far away from us, when things are not going the way we planned or hoped, and we wonder what’s going on, “Why is this happening to me? How do I deal with this?” We can become depressed and anxious during these times, and we can well understand the feeling of “aloneness” the psalmist experiences as we struggle with our own feelings, and we long for the “good old days.”
The fact that this Psalm, with its description of dire circumstances and its expressions of concern and confusion over God keeping His word to His people, is even included in Scripture is an indication of just how universal these feelings are. We are not the only ones to ever have these feelings. They are a part of our human experience, and God is fully aware of it because He lived it. We live in a world of chaos and confusion and crisis. Even on our journey to become more like Christ, we encounter hurtful events that can cause us to doubt our faith. God knows all that, and accepts the strained questions we have when we don’t understand the painful times we go through. It is a valid part of growing in our faith.
It is easy to rejoice in the Lord when the going is smooth, and living is easy. But, when the harsh realities of life in a fallen world crush in on us, and our hearts groan with anguish, that is when we can experience the most meaningful growth in our faith. When we are forced to lean into God’s love and rely on His grace to get us through the darkness, that is when we can see Him most clearly. When we can rely on no one else, that is when we must rely on Him the most.
I recently had an exchange with a dear friend who has been dealing with a lot of pain lately. I said to her that there is a common expression that God never gives you more than you can handle, but I told her that I don't believe that. I think that sometimes He lets you deal with just a little more than you can handle, so that you have to lean into Him and so He can help you deal with it. When you find yourself in one of those times, lean into Him as hard as you can because that is where you will find your strength.
Prayer: Father God, this life is filled with uncertainty, and we often fail to trust you completely in all our circumstances. We ask your forgiveness for our unbelieving hearts. Help us to remember your great love for us, and your unfailing faithfulness, faithfulness even to death on the cross. This we pray in the merciful name of Jesus, Amen.
Song: Leaning on You, Jesus – Christy Nockles
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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.