Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray with Me”.
Psalm 44 presents the most spectacular, the most visceral, the most vigorous criticism of God in the Psalms so far.
The poet begins subtly enough, with an account of how God helped Israel on their journey to the promised land, driving out the nations before them (v. 1), crushing the inhabitants (v. 2), planting the Israelite ancestors on the land and making them flourish. The poet says it was not the military skill of the army that achieved this –the victory was a gift of God’s love, won by God’s skill and God’s strength (v. 3).
The poet says that it works the same way in his day:
You are my King and my God
who decrees victories…;
Through you we push back our enemies;
I put no trust in my bow,
my sword does not bring me victory;
You, God give us victory over our enemies (vv. 4-8).
That’s an unbeatable military arrangement–God loves his people and helps them win battles. The poet feels this is the expected outcome of the covenant between God and Israel: Israel worships God and follows his laws, and God supports his people, giving them success in everything they do.
But the poet doesn’t end on this positive note. His army has recently suffered a humiliating military defeat, and he is looking for someone to blame. He says to God:
You have rejected and humbled us (v. 9).
You made us retreat before the enemy (v. 10).
You gave us up to be devoured like sheep (v. 11).
You sold your people for a pittance (v. 12).
You make us a reproach to our neighbours (v. 13).
You crushed us and made us a haunt for jackals (v. 19).
The God who used to help them did not show up for this battle. Surprisingly, he was not even an impartial observer. He was an active participant in the defeat. He rejected, abandoned, and sold them to their enemies. Why did he unexpectedly quit helping them? Why did he turn traitor and hand them over to their enemies? Did he forget his covenant with Israel?
But in the end, the poet turns to this God who failed him, who turned traitor against him. He asks God to resume honoring the covenant, praying:
Do not reject us forever (v. 23)
Rise up and help us;
Rescue us because of your unfailing love (v. 26).
God, you have a covenant with us too. You adopted us into your family. You feed us with living water. You give us true bread to eat. We feel your great love for us. We have have built our lives on this covenant relationship.
But now things have gone wrong–our children have rejected you, our church is stuck in painful arguments, some of us are unemployed, depression and cancer haunt our days, we face demons of fear and anxiety within.
Where are you when we need you God? Why are we sinking into the pit again? When St. Teresa of Avila was on a dangerous journey she said, “God, why do you keep putting obstacles in our way?” You replied, “I always treat my friends like this.” And Teresa responded, “Ah Lord, that must be why you have so few of them.” https://fauxtations.wordpress.com/2016/10/03/st-teresa-of-avila-if-this-is-how-you-treat-your-friends/
Ah Lord, we are with St. Teresa. We are with the poet. No wonder you have so few friends. But we remember your covenant with us. We press on past your failure to help us, past your indifference, past the obstacles you set in our way. We still claim you as our God, we still know we are your children. O Lord, we expect you to treat your children better than this. Now would be a good time to start. Rescue us because of your unfailing love.
I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.