By James Boice
Theme: Prayer for Deliverance in the Future
From this psalm we learn that although we sometimes may not understand what God is doing in the present, we know how God has helped us in the past, and can therefore confidently come to him in prayer for the future.
Scripture: Psalm 44:1-26
So what is the explanation? Will you be impatient with me if I say that there is no explanation, at least none that is given in this psalm. There is a suggestion of one. I will come to that. But the answer the psalmist finds is not an explanation, however much he might have appreciated one, but rather a practical clinging to God and beseeching God for help in spite of God’s apparent sleep or silence.
Does God seem to be asleep? “Forget whether he really sleeps or not or what he may or may not be sleeping for,” the psalmist seems to be saying. “Pray to him. Get practical and rouse him, if you must, with your prayers.” As the psalmist goes on to say, “Awake, O LORD! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever. Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression? . . .Rise up and help us; redeem us because of your unfailing love.”
One of the older commentators expressed the psalm’s thought like this: “You helped us in the past. You must help us now. But you are not helping us, even though we have done nothing to prohibit your helping us. So help us.”3 The psalm is as simple as that.
However, I said I would return to the suggestion of an explanation for trouble we find in the psalm. Let me do that now. There are actually two clues or, as we might say, “starters” for further thinking.
First, there is the phrase “for your sake” in verse 22, the verse Paul quotes in Romans. Psalm 44 has no elaboration of this idea, but we cannot miss remembering that it was developed at length by Jesus who spoke of those who would be “persecuted because of righteousness” and “because of me” (Matt. 5:10, 11), and who told his disciples, “No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:20). Paul was using the same idea when he quoted Psalm 45:22 in Romans, because it is for God’s sake that the people of God often suffer.
Second, there is the last phrase of the psalm: “your unfailing love” (v. 26). That is a very important ending. Although nothing like it has appeared in the psalm thus far, it means, if it is to be taken at full value, that the love of God is of such quality that even the terrible defeats of the present moment are not without a purpose and will not, even in the worst extremity, sever the believing one from God.
This is exactly how Paul handles the problem of suffering in Romans 8 as well. Early in the chapter he explains that sharing in Christ’s sufferings now means that we will share in his glory later, concluding, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:17, 18). Then, at the end of the chapter, after having quoted from Psalm 44, he concludes, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God, that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (vv. 38, 39).
With a faith like that, those who are accounted only as “sheep to be slaughtered” always will conquer, whatever defeats they may suffer in this life. They will conquer because God is in control of all history, his love is unfailing, and he guarantees the ultimate outcome of everything that happens to us…and the victory.
- Although we do not always understand what God is doing in our lives, what does this psalm encourage us to do?
- What two clues do we find that help us to begin to think through why the Lord sometimes acts as he does? How do these help you to mature in your faith?
Application: In the uncertainties and puzzlements of life, pray for your response to become like that of the psalmist’s.
For Further Study: We as Christians can only conquer because of the Lord Jesus Christ, who has already conquered sin and death for us. Download and listen for free to James Boice’s message from Romans 8, “More Than Conquerors.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)
3E. W. Hengstenberg, Kommentar ueber die Psalmen, 4 vols. (Berlin: Ludwig Oehmigke, 1849). Cited by H. C. Leupold, Exposition of the Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1969), p. 345.
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