There are times it seems the enemy is winning. There are times it seems our hearts are trampled and it seems we cannot find the strength to fight or even stand. Israel suffered losses many times and this Maskil of Asaph describes one of those times. It describes how we have all felt from time to time when the enemy has attacked and our wounds feel like they may never heal. What do we do when we don’t have the power to stand up and fight? We call out to God. Verses 1-3 read,
“O God, why do you cast us off forever?
Why does your anger smoke against the sheep of your pasture?
2 Remember your congregation, which you have purchased of old,
which you have redeemed to be the tribe of your heritage!
Remember Mount Zion, where you have dwelt.
3 Direct your steps to the perpetual ruins;
the enemy has destroyed everything in the sanctuary!”
We know that God will never leave us when we depend on Him for our salvation. Hebrews 13:5-6 reminds us,
“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we can confidently say,
“The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear;
what can man do to me?”
But when we are in the midst of suffering it can seem like it will never end. I confess I have dealt with one issue for years now and it feels like it will go on forever. But I know it has a purpose for my own good and Jesus’ glory. I can say, God’s grace is sufficient for me. 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 read,
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
We don’t have to be strong all the time. We don’t have to be able to stand on our own power. God taught Israel time and again that He was their strength and power and they needed to lean on Him as their only God, their Almighty Lord, and their Salvation. He used the enemies of Israel to discipline them, to punish them, and to bring them back to Him. He uses our enemy to turn us back to Him as well. Verses 4-8 describe what the enemy had done to Israel.
“Your foes have roared in the midst of your meeting place;
they set up their own signs for signs.
5 They were like those who swing axes
in a forest of trees.
6 And all its carved wood
they broke down with hatchets and hammers.
7 They set your sanctuary on fire;
they profaned the dwelling place of your name,
bringing it down to the ground.
8 They said to themselves, “We will utterly subdue them”;
they burned all the meeting places of God in the land.”
The enemy attacks for different reasons. One is that we are powerful soldiers for the Kingdom of God and dangerous to his princedom. He can’t have that and so he will try and hurt us to make us ineffectual. But when that happens rejoice and know God’s grace is sufficient for you. When that happens remember the Lord is glorified through your response, deliverance, and maturation. (Romans 5:3-5). The enemy will attack because the Lord allows it for our own strengthening and discipline. Like Satan tempted Jesus in the desert, we are tested and our faith made pure and Jesus will be glorified. (1 Peter 1:5-9). When we have suffered, we are able to bring comfort to people who are likewise suffering. Jesus suffered and we share in His suffering if we live for His glory. But not only do we share in Jesus’ suffering we share in His comfort. Jesus suffering brought us salvation. (2 Corinthians 1:3-7). Our suffering and subsequent response can lead people to Christ. That’s a reason to rejoice, y’all!
In the aftermath or in the center of the attack we look around for rescue or escape and it can be devastating. We may not see any hope. Verses 9-11 read,
“We do not see our signs;
there is no longer any prophet,
and there is none among us who knows how long.
10 How long, O God, is the foe to scoff?
Is the enemy to revile your name forever?
11 Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand?
Take it from the fold of your garment and destroy them!”
Israel looked for signs and for prophets, people who would tell them what God had to say. But they didn’t look to God. How many times has that been us? We suffer and we go to people for help we go to the pastor for encouragement, or we search for comfort from food, drink, or material things. But finally we resort to prayer, to our Lord for help. He is okay with us asking, “Why are you taking so long?” and He hopes we will listen to the answer.
Has the Lord done great things? Yes! What has He done for us over the years? Did He save you? Did He bring you through troubles over and over? It is good to remember what God has done, especially when you are under attack, suffering, and wondering, “How long Lord.”
I have a jars of rocks. Each stone has a word that represents answered prayer, even prayers I never articulated. As God does a great work or as He answers prayers I add a stone to the answered prayers jar. I occasionally go through those stones and remember what the Lord has done. Asaph too remembered what God had done for Israel. Verses 12-17 say,
“Yet God my King is from of old,
working salvation in the midst of the earth.
13 You divided the sea by your might;
you broke the heads of the sea monsters on the waters.
14 You crushed the heads of Leviathan;
you gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.
15 You split open springs and brooks;
you dried up ever-flowing streams.
16 Yours is the day, yours also the night;
you have established the heavenly lights and the sun.
17 You have fixed all the boundaries of the earth;
you have made summer and winter.”
Look at how great God is! He loves us so much! There is nothing God cannot do. He is Almighty Righteous Holy God. Sure sometimes it looks like the enemy is winning. Sometimes it feels like our pain will never end. But God is with us. And He is The LORD! Jesus suffered and He is The LORD. It is a joy to share in His suffering because it makes us more like Him and it brings Him glory.
God hasn’t forgotten us or the promises He made. It is us who sometimes forget His covenant with us, His eternal salvation and undying hope. God knows our hearts and minds better than we do. We do not pray for God’s benefit but for our own. When we articulate our heart, our hopes our fears, our joys, and our grief, it is so we will understand and The Holy Spirit, our Comforter, builds us up through those conversations with us. He reminds us who we are and who He is. And when we pray aloud all those around can be encouraged and edified by who God is. (1 Corinthians 14:13-19). And so Asaph prayed for God’s deliverance from the enemies of Israel. Verses 18-23 read,
“Remember this, O Lord, how the enemy scoffs,
and a foolish people reviles your name.
19 Do not deliver the soul of your dove to the wild beasts;
do not forget the life of your poor forever.
20 Have regard for the covenant,
for the dark places of the land are full of the habitations of violence.
21 Let not the downtrodden turn back in shame;
let the poor and needy praise your name.
22 Arise, O God, defend your cause;
remember how the foolish scoff at you all the day!
23 Do not forget the clamor of your foes,
the uproar of those who rise against you, which goes up continually!”
In this prayer Asaph and Israel could remember God would deliver them and their enemies would be defeated. We too remember when we pray that God will rescue us, that He has saved us, and that although the enemy laughs now, he will one day be thrown into the pit of Hell.
So pray, don’t be afraid to pray with sincerity even if God may not like the words. He already knows how you feel but when you express it you can realize the awesome Love of God. Pray those fighting words, “Arise, O God, defend your cause;” and remember you are God’s cause, His glory is His cause, and the lost are His cause. The enemy has already been defeated, he just doesn’t know it yet, but we do.