Psalm 44, Judges 19
I’ve never had a problem with believing God exists. I spent the first 16 years of my life virtually without exposure to church, Christianity, or Jesus — I went to a public school, and then a university that many would call liberal, learned of evolution, geology, various world religions and cultures, and people’s various upbringings and experiences. This has never thwarted my understanding, starting at 16 years old, that Jesus is real, that He is the Lord, and that the Bible, which speaks of His life and the history of God’s people, is legit.
It’s too challenging for me to deny the miraculous, that, in a chaotic universe where a nearby star could explode and quickly obliterate our solar system, that black holes suck in and transform matter instantaneously, that a smattering of rocks are darting around our puny planet constantly, I was able to get out of bed, take a deep breath, walk outside without getting fried by the sun (for the most part — being white makes it more likely), and see some trees moving in the wind.
The chief challenge for me is, without question, how to depend on God for everything.
You’d think it’s easy for a Christian to just “know” that God is hanging around, but man, I do know it. I just don’t always feel it.
We expect winter to inevitably arrive in six months, that there will in fact be gas at the station tomorrow for our commute, and that In-N-Out will get a shipment of potatoes from a local farm and we’ll eat once again, but we have great difficulty believing that the Lord Almighty, who lives within every person who has surrendered to Jesus, is really keeping us alive and good for us.
The author of Psalm 44 seems to feel the same way. He has no problem giving God credit for all He’s done, but not even halfway through his props, he pulls a 180 and speaks of how the Lord has turned away, how those around him scorn and deride, how it seems the light of justice is too far away. His resolve that God still exists is intact, but He wonders, where is He?:
23 Awake! Why do You sleep, O Lord?
Arise! Do not cast us off forever.
24 Why do You hide Your face,
And forget our affliction and our oppression?
25 For our soul is bowed down to the dust;
Our body clings to the ground.
26 Arise for our help,
And redeem us for Your mercies’ sake.
And where was God when the horror of Judges 19 came about? A Levite, a guy supposedly set apart for God’s work, marries a hooker, sends her away, then comes back for her, subsequently can’t get some help on his travels, but when he finally does, he gets bombarded by a bunch of horny guys looking for some homo loving, and decides to let his wife get gang-raped until she dies. Context reveals a trend of corruption in Judah, a national disregard for the Lord altogether.
Perhaps the answer is sitting right in front of us here — a blatant rejection of God’s tenets, a resolution to do as you see fit, is a precursor to complacency and outright denial of God. Both chapters in question are reflections of this reality: the fruit of a faithless people is a distinctly ignorant and corrupt society.
Furthermore, when you stand in a sea of bitterness, it’s a lot harder to see God, to see the love of Jesus Christ in salvation and the beauty of His creation. Note that the psalmist still resolved to call out to God, to trust even then.
Hey, I’m not saying it’s easy. If you stare at injustice long enough, it’s hard to get that cool goosebumpy feeling about God we all want. Maybe it’s not about feelings at all. A sincere trust in God, despite the hideous nature of humanity, vanquishes sentiments of hopelessness, and some of the frustration disappears. And it looks pretty hardcore to other people, especially when it isn’t what the majority is doing.