18–24 November 2018.
Sometimes one of the hardest things about being a parent is not giving our children the things they want. Because we love our children, we want them to be happy. But sometimes the things that little children want just aren’t good for them. They want to eat junk food, they want to touch the hot stove, they want to run across the road by themselves. When we parents say no, kids cry and get angry and even think we hate them. They don’t understand that we are doing what’s best for them.
In Psalm 74 we see a similar situation with the Israelites. The Israelites had wanted to build a temple in Jerusalem, even though in the Old Testament God had repeatedly told them he didn’t want it. Now Israel’s enemies had come and destroyed Jerusalem and destroyed the temple too, and the Israelites are shocked, saddened, and horrified at this result. What’s worse is that they just don’t understand why God didn’t do more to help protect the temple. Verses 12–17 describe God’s incredible power over the whole universe. The writer’s feeling is that surely a God who can rule over all creation can protect one small city and one small temple. So why didn’t God do it? In Psalm 72 the Israelites send up this prayer of lament, angrily accusing God of disappointing them and allowing their enemies to win, and accusing God of not using his divine powers to protect Jerusalem or save the temple.
We can understand their frustration and their anger. But maybe the lesson here is that God always knew that having a temple was not the right way for his people to go. And so, like a loving parent, he says “no” and takes it away from them. In the history of Israel, God says “no” to the people when they want a temple, but they build it anyway – and then they watch it get destroyed. Without learning this lesson they build the temple a second time – and then watch it get destroyed too! In Jesus, God himself even directly condemns the temple and announces in Mark 13:2 that not one stone of the temple will be left on top of another. God’s children may have wanted this terrible temple, but God the Father knows that the temple is not what’s best for them.
In our lives, we too have so many things that our hearts want. So we bring them in prayer to God. But then we get confused, depressed, and even angry when God says “no” to us. When that happens, maybe we too need to stop and ask ourselves: Could it possibly be that the thing we want really isn’t right for us? Could it be that God knows something we don’t know? Could it be that God wants to lead us in a different, better direction? These are hard questions to answer. But what is certain is that sometimes God truly does love us and bless us by not giving us the things we want.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis