January 10, 2018: Terror No MoreJanuary 10, 2018:
by Josh Moody
It is the constant experience of God’s people that God sometimes seems to go quiet when things get tough. Where is God? That is the cry of many a beleaguered soul, even a devout and pious soul. Such feelings are the ones that give rise to this psalm. See how real this psalm is, how willing it is to ask the hard questions, how it refuses to hide behind pious platitudes and “Christianese.”
Who has not, at one time or another, asked the question: “Why, O LORD, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (10:1). Perhaps you are asking that question this morning. Perhaps some calamity, some trouble, some unexpected difficulty has come upon you. You have started to pray, you have started to read the Bible, and yet God—at the hour of your greatest need—seems distant, quiet, standoffish.
First, this psalm gives language to our feelings.
The wicked hotly pursue the poor. They have schemes, plans, and intentions to manipulate and abuse. They boast of their evil deeds. They are proud of their ability to make money out of the suffering of others. They are greedy for gain. They curse God. In their pride they do not seek God, and in fact their every thought is that “there is no God.” If you wonder why it is that people act in this way, here is the answer. They tell themselves over and over again that God is not real.
And yet, the wicked prosper. Talk of God’s “judgment” is too far off for them to take seriously. They consider that their life will go on for a very long time, even if there is judgment after death. They are not concerned by the judgment of God. The wicked man thinks that nothing will move him. He plans ambushes on the unwary, lying and deceiving to get ahead. The helpless are crushed. The wicked say God has forgotten.
But then this psalm, second, gives expression to our prayers.
“Arise O LORD.” Do something about it, God! “O, God lift up your hand.” It is time to act, God! We might be fearful of praying boldly like this if the psalm did not give us an example of how to pray in this way. The wicked think that God takes no notice. “But you do see.”—perhaps the central, startling truth of the psalm. The wicked think that God is not real, and that if he is real, he is so distant and vague that he does not notice what they do. But you do see. And because of this, it is to God that the helpless commits himself. Because of this, God is the helper of the fatherless.
Marx sneered that religion is the opiate of the people. No, God is the helper of the people. Where else can they turn when trouble comes? They turn to God. “Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer.” How bold is the psalm’s expression to our prayers!
Finally, the psalm gives confidence to our future.
“The LORD is king forever and ever.” Whatever you fear this morning, let this truth pertain. God is King. That will not change whatever else changes. He is King forever and ever. What is more, even though it feels as if God is distant (which is where the psalm started, with our feelings), it is not true that he is distant. In fact, God does “hear the desire of the afflicted.” Even our desires our heard. Our unvoiced prayers. The Spirit intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.
And he not only hears, he acts. “You will strengthen their heart.” Those who rely upon God have supernatural strength, endless resources of emotional and psychological reserves, for God himself is their rock. God will “do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed.” And one day, “man who is of the earth”—a mere dusty mortal—will “strike terror no more.”