1 We have heard it with our ears, O God;
our ancestors have told us
what you did in their days,
in days long ago.
2 With your hand you drove out the nations
and planted our ancestors;
you crushed the peoples
and made our ancestors flourish.
3 It was not by their sword that they won the land,
nor did their arm bring them victory;
it was your right hand, your arm,
and the light of your face, for you loved them.
– Psalm 44:1–3 (read more)
Is anyone there? Is anyone listening?
Ever caught yourself thinking such thoughts? If you have then this Psalm says you’re in good company.
The nostalgia-tinged opening of the Psalm celebrates what God has done in the past (vv. 1–3). It looks back to a golden age when God rescued his people, delivered them from Egypt, led them through the wilderness, took them to the Promised Land and saved them from their enemies. God had granted them success after success, victory after victory and so God is to be praised (vv. 4–8). And there the Psalm could end but it doesn’t.
Verse 9 begins the accusation: that was then, but what about now? The following verses catalogue a list of national disasters, rejection by God (v. 9), dispersal amongst the nations (v. 10), the butt and scorn of the neighbours (vv. 14–15).
I walked past a wayside pulpit the other day. It read, ‘If God seems distant, guess who moved?’ The psalmist would protest loudly, ‘I didn’t!’
In vv. 17–22 he makes it very clear that he has not been unfaithful, that he has not chased after other gods but he has remained loyal to the God of Israel. So, what’s going on?
Verse 22 suggests that sometimes suffering is the price we pay in the world for our loyalty, ‘for your sake we face persecution all day long’. Derek Kidner comments that ‘suffering may be a battle scar rather than a punishment’. Jesus said the same: ‘If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also’ (John 15:20). That has been the case for many Christians throughout the centuries and as organisations like Open Doors remind us it still is the case for many today.
Verse 22 is also quoted by St Paul in the middle of that great passage where he reminds us that nothing in the whole of creation can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ (Romans 8:36). Later on in the Psalms we read that he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep (Psalm 121:4–6). There are long times in the Bible when God appears silent (the Egyptian captivity, the Exile in Babylon, Easter Saturday). Sometimes we feel like that as well, but the truth is that God has not forgotten us and is not unaware of what we go through. In his steadfast love he has and will redeem us.