For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. A maskil.
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.
4 You are my King and my God,
who decrees victories for Jacob.
5 Through you we push back our enemies;
through your name we trample our foes.
6 I put no trust in my bow,
my sword does not bring me victory;
7 but you give us victory over our enemies,
you put our adversaries to shame.
8 In God we make our boast all day long,
and we will praise your name forever.
9 But now you have rejected and humbled us;
you no longer go out with our armies.
10 You made us retreat before the enemy,
and our adversaries have plundered us.
11 You gave us up to be devoured like sheep
and have scattered us among the nations.
12 You sold your people for a pittance,
gaining nothing from their sale.
13 You have made us a reproach to our neighbors,
the scorn and derision of those around us.
14 You have made us a byword among the nations;
the peoples shake their heads at us.
15 I live in disgrace all day long,
and my face is covered with shame
16 at the taunts of those who reproach and revile me,
because of the enemy, who is bent on revenge.
17 All this came upon us,
though we had not forgotten you;
we had not been false to your covenant.
18 Our hearts had not turned back;
our feet had not strayed from your path.
19 But you crushed us and made us a haunt for jackals;
you covered us over with deep darkness.
20 If we had forgotten the name of our God
or spread out our hands to a foreign god,
21 would not God have discovered it,
since he knows the secrets of the heart?
22 Yet for your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.
23 Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.
24 Why do you hide your face
and forget our misery and oppression?
25 We are brought down to the dust;
our bodies cling to the ground.
26 Rise up and help us;
rescue us because of your unfailing love.
Do you ever feel in life that the best times are behind you rather than in front of you? Do you sometimes feel that the good times are the past times not the present times, not the future times?
God’s people in the Old Testament certainly relate to that feeling. It’s the feeling that’s being explored in this Psalm, as it turns painfully on the two words at the start of verse 9: “but now”.
Verses 1-8 are a celebration, but of the past. These opening verses rejoice in the past victories of the nation, expressing no doubt where the victories came from. The praise of God climaxes in verse 8: “we will praise your name forever”. But the victory song, the celebration song, is abruptly interrupted with those two words “but now”. In the following verses, victory is replaced with defeat, light with darkness, life with death and singing with crying.
Through it all lies the deep question “why?” For the suffering of this Psalm is the suffering of the righteous. Why would the righteous person suffer? The big hint in this Psalm, though not fully explored, comes in verse 22: “for your sake we face death…” There are some scars that are more than scars of punishment, but scars of battle. Scars that speak of future victory beyond present pain.
This victory, of course, comes through the scars of Jesus. The Psalm painfully turned on the two words “but now”. Turning from life to death. The gospel turns joyfully on those same two words: “But now …a righteousness…” (Romans 3:21). This is a turning from death to life. So Romans later celebrates verse 22 of our Psalm: the future victory beyond present sufferings won by the scars of Jesus (Romans 8:36). We are “more than conquerors!” Jesus’ scars gives meaning to our scars. Our scars are indeed scars of battle – a battle already won by Jesus. As we look to the scars of Jesus – to the victory won by the cross of Jesus – we can know for certain that the best times are ahead of us. Forever.
Head: What have you learnt about Jesus from Psalm 44? What have you learnt about yourself?
Heart: How does it make you feel that, through Jesus’ scars, the best times are ahead of you?
Hands: Look again at your concerns in the present through the lens of the cross of Jesus. Look again at your fears for the future through the lens of the cross of Jesus. At any point today when your heart feels defeated, remember Jesus’ scars and give thanks for present love and future victory beyond all defeats.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for the scars of Jesus. Thank you that they have won for me the great “but now” of the gospel. Thank you that I see in his scars that I am your loved, forgiven child now. Thank you that I see in his scars that the best times are ahead. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.