There was a young man that I knew in Pakistan when we lived there. He had been born a member of the majority religion, but at some stage he had decided to become a follower of Jesus. Not surprisingly, this did not please his family, in fact, it made them quite angry that their son and brother had become an “infidel”. They tried a number of ways to dissuade him and bring him back to the fold and one of those ways was to arrange a marriage to a woman of the same majority religion. The aim being that she was to convince him to turn from his new beliefs. It didn’t work! In time, seeing her new husband’s life and listening to him share his faith in Jesus, she too decided to become a follower of Jesus. They were very happy together.
After some time, things seemed to have calmed down and they were both invited back to his village home for a special event. As far as I know, it was the last time he saw his wife! She was taken away from him and he was thrown out of the village. It was heart breaking!
How could God allow this to happen to them? They were faithful followers of His and the young man was actively serving God in sharing the Good News with others. And yet it happened!
The psalmist in Psalm 44 faced this same dilemma as we noted in my last Post (verses 17-22), but there is a hint of understanding the issue here that comes through and we need to consider it. The key verse is verse 22:
22 Yet for your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.
Kidner speaks of an “Old Testament glimpse” into the answer. He says:
“This psalm is perhaps the clearest example of a search for some other cause of national disaster than guilt and punishment. It comes within sight of an answer at the point of its greatest perplexity: ‘Nay, for thy sake we are slain…’ (22). Momentarily it sees that God’s people are caught up in a war that is more than local: the struggle of ‘the kings of the earth…against the Lord and his Anointed’ (Psalm 2:2).”
So, “the crux is in verse 22, with the phrase for thy sake. The psalm does not develop it, but implies the revolutionary thought that suffering may be a battle scar rather than a punishment; the price of loyalty in a world which is at war with God. If this is so, a reverse [defeat] as well as a victory may be a sign of fellowship with Him, not of alienation.”
He reminds us that it is important to realize that the “last words in the psalm [are] Thy steadfast love.” (# 29)
It is always interesting to note the verses in the Psalms that are then quoted in the NT. Verse 22 in this psalm is one such verse found in the writings of Paul to the Romans (8:36).
It is quoted in the context of suffering as faithful followers of Jesus. Paul says:
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us…35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:18, 35-37)
Wilcock comments on these verses from Psalm 44 quoted by Paul:
“We are prepared to endure sufferings, to cope with frustrations, to face with equanimity ‘periods of blessing and barrenness, advance and retreat’ which may bear no relation to our spiritual state, out of love for the Lord who has already proved his covenant love to us.” (# 5)
It seems that Paul quotes Psalm 44:22 “to show that suffering has always been part of the experience of God’s people.” (NIV comment)
And Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica:
2 We sent Timothy… to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, 3 so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them. 4 In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. (1 Thessalonians 3:2-4)
Father, despite these truths we confess to finding trials and suffering difficult, but for your sake, we are willing. Empower us to take on board James exhortation to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4) Amen.