Keep Calm and Read a Psalm 89:35-39:
I will not lie to David:
His seed shall endure forever,
And his throne as the sun before Me;
It shall be established forever like the moon,
Even like the faithful witness in the sky.” Selah
But You have cast off and abhorred,
You have been furious with Your anointed.
You have renounced the covenant of Your servant;
You have profaned his crown by casting it to the ground.”
Controversial. As a huge political junkie, I live and breathe that word every time it appears on a news site. Recently, Congressman Bruce Braley, who’s running for an open Iowa Senate race, made some comments that caused quite a bit of controversy. At a fundraiser in Texas, he warned that a “farmer from Iowa, who never went to law school” might become Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. There are two problems with this. First, he was talking about Iowa’s other Senator, Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who has been in Iowa politics for decades and is immensely popular with Iowans. Dissing the Senator who will be your partner in the Senate is never a good idea.
Second, he sounded elitist, downing on “Iowan farmers”—it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that you shouldn’t belittle the occupation of most of the people in your state. You kinda want them to vote for you—right? On top of all that, he’s a trial lawyer. Sounds like an attractive career choice for rural Iowa.
But American politics is not the only place where controversy abounds. The Bible is full of it. And maybe this will be a shocker, but God is also full of controversy. Say what?
Our Psalm today is one of the saddest Psalms of all—with the verses I’ve chosen being perhaps the most depressing. The Psalm starts off, “I will sing of the merices of the Lord forever” and ends with utter despair—“You’ve cast off and abhorred!” The Psalmist is talking about God. Wow. Talk about controversial. The Psalmist is telling God that He hasn’t kept His promises!
Most of the Psalm is spent rehearsing the Davidic Covenant—the promise God made to King David that he would always have a son on the throne of Israel. Many believe this Psalm to be written in the wake of the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem and the captivity of God’s chosen people. King Zedekiah, from the direct line of David (as God promised), was captured by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. In one of the saddest moments of the Bible, Zedekiah is forced to watch his sons be massacred. Then two meaty Babylonian fingers press down on the king’s eyes until they will never see again. The last thing Zedekiah ever saw was the pool of the blood of his own sons. Talk about sad.
No wonder the prophet Jeremiah, who witnessed all these things, was called the “Weeping Prophet.” Nothing seemed to be going well. I’ve been reading in the book of Jeremiah and have wondered at all the controversy surrounding Judah’s last days. God gives Jeremiah the task of telling the people of Judah that they’re doomed. The prophet watches as besieged Jerusalem starves and its women eat their own babies. Jeremiah so wanted to be a comfort. To tell everyone it was going to be all right. But he couldn’t. God’s message was doom. They’ve sinned. They will be conquered. So surrender to Babylon.
This Psalmist saw that come true. God had promised a son of David on the throne of Israel. But now the Davidic king was being dragged away with no heir—a blind prisoner of the mighty Nebuchadnezzar. Perhaps it’s not so controversial for us humans to look at that and say with the Psalmist, “You have renounced the covenant of Your servant! You’ve broken your promises, God! You’re not faithful!”
Truth be told, from our perspective it does seem like God broke His promise here. Controversial, I know. But that’s the key: “from our perspective.” God has always been a controversial God. He commands things that are hard. He ordains horrible things—like the beheading of Christians in Iraq, or the forced marriage of a seven-year-old Syrian girl to a terrorist, or the capture of innocent Nigerian school girls.
But I assure you: nothing was as controversial as the day when a perfectly innocent Man was condemned to the worst death possible. A Man Who was God. A Man who hung on a Cross, bearing all the sins of all who had rejected Him, spit on Him, and driven nails into his wrists and feet. God sent His only Son into the world to save those who violently hated Him. The Creator of the Universe willingly turned His back on His Son so that He could turn to welcome vile disgusting creatures. Now, that’s controversy. The controversy of the Cross.
From your perspective, things seem pretty unfair. Life is not working out. You feel like the Psalmist, looking out at smoldering heaps of refuse of what was once mighty Jerusalem, the city of God! And you’re wondering if God forgot. Did He forget His promises? Did He forget to be faithful?
Nope. Never. He is still faithful. Even in the billowing smoke of a conquered Zion. Even in the blood vision of murdered sons.
Yes, He does some controversial things. But if His ways always made sense and made life easy, faith would be a piece of cake. It wouldn’t really be faith at all. But you can put your faith in a controversial God, even though you don’t understand it at all. Even if your life makes zero sense, you can still believe. God is Who He says He says—you can stake your life on that. And He says He’s faithful.
Why did we ever think our human minds could comprehend all that God does anyway? His ways aren’t our ways. They’re surrounded in controversy from our point of view, but from His eternal throne, they’re surrounded by His complete and faithful control.
-Matthew W., SC