In times of deepest trouble, how do we most effectively call on God?
In Psalm 44, the Sons of Korah beg God for help in dealing with their present trials. The singers are referring to a national trial, probably a defeat in battle during the time of Hezekiah or Josiah, but with existing evidence we cannot be certain. Since the singers make no mention of the destruction of Solomon’s Temple, and since there is no mention of religious persecution, this Psalm is probably set during or after the Babylonian exile.
The Days of Victory
Korah’s sons begin by looking back. Israel had glorious days under the watchful eyes of their loving God. Through His power, Moses delivered the Hebrews from Egypt, Joshua conquered the Promised Land, and David made them into a mighty nation. Verses 1-3 demonstrate that fathers taught their sons for generations about the awesome works of God on their behalf. The sons listened.
- Did the Hebrews recognize Jehovah’s power at the time, or did they only see it in retrospect?
- As Christians, do we recognize the works of the Lord in our times, or do we only see it in retrospect?
- As parents and ministers, do we teach our children about God’s works in our generation?
- As children, do we remember what our forebears taught us about His wonderful goodness?
The Current Call for Help
In this prayer to God, specifically in verses 4-8, the sons of Korah now ask Him to honor their requests for victory as He honored those of their fathers. They promise to give the Lord the glory for any triumphs that He provides, to thank Him, and to remember His goodness in generations forever. No one is hiding his true desires. The sons of Korah want to trample their adversaries into the mire. They want their enemies to wallow in shame.
- Does God’s past goodness to us as individuals, as a church, as a community, and as a nation, prompt us to call Him for help now?
- Do we remind the Lord of what He has done for us in the past as we ask Him for help in the future?
- Are we honest with God, requesting what we want rather than what we think He wants us to ask for?
- When He has saved us in the past, have we given Him the glory?
- If He saves us now, will we ascribe the victory to Him, and not to ourselves?
- Will we teach those who come after us about His mighty works in our lives?
The Current Tribulation
The singers had been beseeching the Lord a long time, and He had not saved them. According to verses 9-16, the Israelites faced military defeat, destitution, shame, slavery, and death. They endured disaster upon disaster and saw no relief from the throne of heaven.
- Are we honest with our discouragement before God?
- Do we lay out our complaints?
- Do we keep going back to Him again and again?
The Moral Dimension
Verses 17-22 describe Israel’s protestations of their innocence. Most likely, the Israelites were in a recent revival under a good king. They complained to God that they had not forgotten Him, not broken His covenant, and not oppressed their neighbor. Still, they felt that He ignored Jerusalem and left her to die.
- Do we take responsibility for our own sin? Do we repent in our own lives before asking God to save us? If we hide sin in our hearts, how can we expect Him to hear us and honor our prayers (Psalm 66:18)?
- Do we hold others accountable in repentance before asking God to save us? Christianity is a team sport, and just as the Hebrews suffered because of Aachen’s sin, so many believers suffer for the sins of others (Joshua 7:16-26).
- Once our church has repented, have we come before God again in faith, presenting our repentance to Him (2 Chronicles 7:14)?
Faith Despite Trials
Having spilled their blood and tears before the Father, the sons of Korah come back to their starting point. They knew the acts of Jehovah, they had asked for His blessing, but He had rejected their position. Repenting for their sins, improving their conduct, coming before the Almighty, and girding up their faith, these men asked again for deliverance. Though the pain in verses 23-26 sears our hearts, these Israelites never doubted that eventually, God would arise for them.
Tony Campolo was an evangelical Christian thinker and leader in the 1970s and 1980s. His son, Bart, has rejected the Christian faith and adopted a secular humanist world view. Bart said in the movie, American Gospel Project, Part 2, after many disappointments, “nothing fails like prayer.”
- After we are heartbroken, feeling that the Lord has rejected us forever, and suffering pain unimaginable, do we return to God for our comfort and our help?
- After we are heartbroken, feeling that the Lord has rejected us forever, and suffering unimaginable pain, do we reject God entirely and try to find relief in our own resources?
From Albania to Zanzibar, everyone faces tribulation in life. The book of Proverbs teaches that those who follow the Lord avoid some trials because of God-given wisdom. Jesus said that Christians will face many trials, including severe ones, because they are Christians (John 16:33). We all choose, as individuals and as a group, how we will deal with tribulation. Will we be like the Sons of Korah and cling to God regardless of circumstances, as Habakkuk also did (Habakkuk 5:17-19), or reject Him and retreat into something else?