On average, eleven Christians a day were killed for their faith in Jesus last year. In May 2019, the BBC reported that persecution of Christians was reaching “near genocide levels” in some parts of the world. This can lead us to ask “Why?” and “Where is God in the midst of this?”
In today’s reading, the Psalmist raises similar questions to God. We do not know the exact circumstance in which Psalm 44 was written, but clearly, Israel had suffered a devastating military defeat. Reeling from the loss, the Psalmist begins by recounting what God had done for Israel in the past. He had defeated other nations, especially during the time of Joshua (vv. 1–8). These victories were not accomplished because of the strength of Israel’s army, but because God gave them victory (vv. 6–7).
Verse 9 describes Israel’s current plight. They have been rejected and humbled by God. They have fled before their enemies (v. 10). They have been plundered (v. 11). Worst of all, they have been publicly shamed and disgraced (vv. 13–16). Yet, this defeat was not for any known sin. Israel had not worshiped other gods or forgotten their covenant (vv. 17–21).
Israel thought that if they were faithful to God, God would be faithful to them. They could not understand their current defeat. Their theology did not align with their experience. This did not lead Israel to unbelief, but to their knees. They conclude by begging God to “Awake! ...Rouse yourself! ...Rise up and help us!” (vv. 23–26). In many ways, their request to God is not for an explanation, but for His action.
>> Like the Psalmist, we can express our bewilderment to God and plead for Him to act. We can cling to God when life doesn’t make sense. Paul quotes this psalm, reminding believers that nothing, not even suffering, can separate us from the love of Christ (Rom. 8:35–39).