The Good Old Days
Ps 44:1-3 O God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us, what deeds you performed in their days, in the days of old: you with your own hand drove out the nations, but them you planted; you afflicted the peoples, but them you set free; for not by their own sword did they win the land, nor did their own arm save them, but your right hand and your arm, and the light of your face, for you delighted in them. The authors, Levites who served the priests but themselves were not actually priests, remember and glorify and praise the awesome wonder, authority, and power of YHWH for the wondrous things He’s done for their forefathers. They recognized it wasn’t by their own power that great things were done, but by the Hand of God Himself. The authors understood personal humbling before YHWH particularly well since their own family had suffered great loss for defying the authority of God (Nu 16).
God is God and i am Not
Ps 44:6 For not in my bow do I trust, nor can my sword save me. We have no power in ourselves or things we make for ourselves. Any such power is mere illusion – self delusion. This passage does not in any mean we are not to do what we are commanded by God to do, but it does mean we have no reason to expect what we’ve done ourselves apart from God will save us in this life, let alone for eternity.
Us & Them (Part 1)
Ps 44:7 But you have saved us from our foes and have put to shame those who hate us. The author remembers how God helped the children of Israel through the trials of the wilderness and their return to the land promised to Abraham. Back then, the people were devoted to YHWH, loving God and serving Him earnestly, from their hearts.
Ps 44:8 In God we have boasted continually, and we will give thanks to your name forever. If we brag on ourselves, what do we accomplish? We are nothing. We’ve done nothing to brag about. All that is good comes from the Father. So, as with the Psalmist, we should boast in the Lord rather than ourselves, thanking Him for all we have and all that’s good, not patting ourselves on the back.
Us & Them (Part 2)
Ps 44:9-11 But you have rejected us and disgraced us and have not gone out with our armies. You have made us turn back from the foe, and those who hate us have gotten spoil. You have made us like sheep for slaughter and have scattered us among the nations. Previously God helped out Israel. Lately, He hasn’t been. One might think after listening to the Psalmist that God changed. The reality is Israel changed. It isn’t known for sure, but it seems likely this particular Psalm was written after David’s time and perhaps even around the time of the first captivity. Regardless, the Psalmist is saying the relationship of the people to the Lord has in fact changed. Since we know God’s character doesn’t change, then the only logical reason for a change in man’s relationship with God lies with a change in the men.
Ps 44:18-19 Our heart has not turned back, nor have our steps departed from your way; yet you have broken us in the place of jackals and covered us with the shadow of death. Is the psalmist in denial about responsibility of Israel for the departure of God’s protection? Perhaps the writer is sincere, but somehow things the goodness of a few can make up for the apostasy of the larger group. Either way, the writer is having a negative emotional response to God’s chastening. This reminds me of Job and his misunderstanding of God’s larger plan. The reality is none are adequate before YHWH and we are under the shadow of death from the moment of birth. Good intentions are not enough. Regardless, the writer is still reminding God of their obedience and the desire of their heart to follow Him. Even in our imperfection we can seek Him, and He desires us to seek him. We are allowed our feelings, indeed our emotions are a gift. As the writer continues we see he comes out of the emotion to a realization of his position and moves from self-pity to holy petition.
Ps 44:23-25 Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever! Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression? For our soul is bowed down to the dust; our belly clings to the ground. Rise up; come to our help! The psalmist falls to the ground in abject humility, utterly broken before God, asking Him to return His favor to them. They know their condition is wretched and they need His help. They know there is only one solution, and that is God’s gracious mercy. We must likewise come broken before God, realizing our utter inability to save ourselves, our brokenness, and our inability to set right what we’ve done wrong regardless of our intentions. God is good. He doesn’t do evil and He doesn’t lie. He made promises to Abraham and his descendants. He made promises to all who love Him, and He is faithful to keep His promises. Even in a broken state the psalmist knew he could appeal to God to remember His own words. The power we have in his holy name is not our own power, but rather power stemming from His own promises. The right to call on God is assured not to those who are pure or obedient, but to those who love Him (Deut 6:5).
Good News: What We Hope
Ps 44:26 Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love! This last verse is a direct appeal to the most profound characteristic of our God. God is love (1 Jn 4:16). Because God’s character is unchanging, He is the ultimate example of steadfastness. And what then is love? Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends. (Jn 15:13) and He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” (Jn 21:17) and finally If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. (Jn 15:10) We were created, given life, given everything we need to live, given purpose, given what we need to fulfill our purpose, given direction, given a conscience, given the Spirit, given many promises, and when we fell we were given hope. As Ps 44:26 indicates, what we hope for ultimately is our redemption. To be redeemed literally means to be bought back. The implication is we were once fully God’s, then somehow we stopped being His, but we hope to again be totally and utterly His.
Good News: Why We Hope
Ps 44:4 You are my King, O God; ordain salvation for Jacob! This relatively simple statement is, to my simple mind, perhaps the most powerful in the whole of Ps 44 because to me it explains the reason we have something to hope for. We must first understand our position relative to God. His is king. We must realize we are His subject, not the other way around. God is God and we are not. The second part of Ps 44:4 appears at first to be a command given by man to God. Rather than a command, I think it is really a plea. God promised salvation to Israel and in the midst of praising and in the midst of suffering we must always remember the source and grantor and guarantor of our salvation, our heavenly Father. The word translated “ordain” here (ESV, also Holman) is translated “command” in KJV and NASB, “give” in CEV, and “decree” in NIV. Any of these English words convey the general meaning of the Hebrew word which literally means: to give orders to. Understanding this simple definition helps clarify the psalmists intent to appeal to God to give the order for salvation, not that the psalmist himself is issuing an order. As to the Hebrew for salvation (also translated to English as deliverance or victory), it is the word transliterated as Yeshua. Yeshua is carried over directly to Greek and in the New Testament this word is translated to English as the proper name Jesus. The Psalmist understood that salvation was coming from God and indeed salvation was literally a manifestation of God yet to be realized. Today we have the luxury of seeing back roughly 2000 years to see the victory God brought over death, redeeming us from its grasp and making us His own forever and ever. The price was paid on the cross. To realize this hope we need faith and love. In His infinite grace and mercy, He even gives us these since our own are never sufficient without Him. Finally, Jacob, like us, is a child of the promise made to Abraham. We are spiritual children who share Abraham’s faith and this is why we share the hope of Jacob, trusting in the victory of Christ already won on that most blessed resurrection morning.
The Good News Summarized
Jesus came. He was a real man. He was also the physical incarnation of the Word of God, the manifestation of salvation and victor over death itself. He fulfilled the requirements of the Law of God, but even more amazingly fulfilling the plan of God from the beginning to love absolutely and ultimately. What we hope for is eternal life in His presence. We hope for it because He promised it to any who would believe in it – not merely to acknowledge it, but to truly trust in it live a life of loving obedience toward God. Eternal life is a gift. I urge you to accept it today.