February 24: Psalm 44
Hope only found in God’s Redemption
188.8.131.52. Gordon (My Jesus, I Love Thee)
Foundation (How Firm a Foundation)
O God, we have heard and our fathers have told
What wonders You did in the great days of old.
Where nations were crushed and cast out by Your hand;
You planted our fathers to dwell in the land.
They gained not the land by the edge of their sword;
Their own arm to them could no safety afford,
But your right hand, Your arm, the light of your face.
You showed them Your favor, Your wonderful grace.
O God, You alone are forever my King;
Command, and for Jacob deliverance bring.
Through You we will surely put down all our foes,
Through Your name will trample on them that oppose.
No trust will I place in my sword or my bow,
For You are our Savior from hater and foe.
In God we will boast Who has put them to shame,
All day and forever give thanks to Your name.
But you have forsaken, to shame brought our boasts;
No more into battle You go with our hosts.
You make us turn back from the foe in dismay,
And spoilers who hate us have made us their prey.
You give us like sheep to be slaughtered for food,
Among all the nations dispersed and pursued.
You sell off Your people to strangers for naught;
Their price to Your treas’ry no increase has brought.
You make all our neighbors reproach us in pride,
And cause those around us to scoff and deride.
Our name among nations a byword You’ve made;
The people all laugh at us, shaking the head.
And all the day long I behold my disgrace,
And covered am I with the shame of my face,
Because the blasphemer and scoffer I hear,
While foe and avenger against me appear.
We suffered this, yet we did not forget You,
We always have been to Your covenant true.
Our heart is not turned and our steps have not strayed,
Though crushed amid ruins and under death’s shade.
If we have forgotten the name of our God,
Or unto an idol our hands spread abroad,
Shall God not search out and uncover this sin,
Who knows ev’ry heart and the secrets within?
But all the day long for Your sake we’re consumed;
Like sheep for the slaughter to death we are doomed.
Arouse Yourself! Why are You sleeping, O Lord?
Awake! Do not leave us forever ignored.
O Why are You hiding the light of Your face,
Forgetting the burden and grief of our race?
Our soul is bowed down; we lie crushed in the dust.
Rise! Help and redeem us! Your mercy we trust.
Psalm 44 is the prayer of an individual, or a people, being sorely tried with respect to faith. Were it not for such experiences of being abandoned by God, there would be no test for the important proposition that the just man lives by faith. Whatever the trial (and its possible forms are manifold), it is finally the voice of faith that prevails in this psalm. From Romans 8:35-36, we know how the Apostle Paul prayed this psalm, seeing in its lament a reflection of the sufferings in his own soul by reason of his fidelity to Christ. (Reardon p. 86)
This experience of shame, scorn and reproach in spite of faithfulness (or because of it), is the very passage Paul quotes in the middle of his triumphant declaration about nothing separating us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. And there is the key—Jesus was here! He cried out the same anguish of being abandoned or forsaken by God on the cross. And it is only because Christ entered this place of shame, scorn, reproach and forsakenness, that now nothing can separate us from His love. Paul references this very psalm to prove this. The Church is “filling up what is lacking in the afflictions/suffering of Christ”—but not without God, not alone! When the psalmist ends with his cry, “Help and redeem us! Your mercy we trust!” it is a plea that results in great sacrifice, for redeeming us meant that God in Christ entered this very forsaken place Himself.