15–22 February 2015.
Today’s psalm is really unique because it belongs to the “protest literature” of the Old Testament.
We know that the Israelites suffered a lot in their ancient history, that they were often defeated by others, and the people were carried off into exile. Many prophets said that this was God’s punishment on Israel because they had abandoned God and forgotten his covenant. After all, the tradition we see in Deuteronomy says that if Israel breaks their covenant with God, then God will punish them. But while that is certainly an important view, it’s not the only one in the Old Testament.
Here in Psalm 44, especially in verses 17–22, we see the protest against this idea. The people protest against God, defending their own innocence, and claim not to have broken the covenant at all. In verse 17 they cry out to God, “we had not forgotten you; we had not been false to your covenant”. If anything, it is God who let the people down. So vv. 23 & 24 accuse God of sleeping while Israel suffers, of hiding his face from them while they suffer.
This protest tradition shows us two important things. First, in times of pain, it’s ok to complain to God. If God really is our friend, then he will always listen to us. He will even listen when we complain against him!
Second, even when Israel complains and accuses God, they don’t abandon him. They still hold onto God, because they know God is their only hope. The protest literature doesn’t pretend to know any answers for why we suffer. But what it does know is that God is responsible. He is our God and creator, so he is the one who needs to fix this situation – now!
And because God is in charge, in times of trouble we don’t reject God but to hold onto him even tighter. We trust in him, and shout at him in protest until he finally wakes up and does something! The faith that allows us to protest against God is the same faith that drives us to shout out to God in the words of v. 26: “Rise up and help us; rescue us because of your unfailing love!” And it is the same faith that convinces us that God hears our protests, and he will answer us.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis