Yea, for thy sake are we killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
Awake, why sleepest thou, O Lord? Arise, cast us not off for ever.
Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and forgettest our affliction and our oppression? (Psalm 44:22-24).
The Psalms are well-known for their expressions of emotion. They have been valued for generations for how they can help the believer in God express his or her feelings and to be more devoted to God.
Yet where there is emotion there is volatility, and some of the most raw and strongly worded messages in Scripture come from the Psalms. Psalm 44 exemplifies this.
The sons of Korah have deep and abiding faith in YHWH the God of Israel and His great power (Psalm 44:17-18). They are struck, however, by the seeming disconnect: they have heard the great work of God for their ancestors, and how He gave them the land and independence because He favored them (Psalm 44:1-8). And yet the fathers were idolatrous! After the return after the second exile, Israel is, if nothing else, not idolatrous, and yet they remain under the hand of foreign powers, are scattered abroad, and suffer derision (Psalm 44:9-21). They feel as if they are perpetually killed for God, and in their distress they ask God to awake from sleep, wanting to know why He hides His face from them and does not assist them (Psalm 44:22-26).
When one considers the history of Israel one can sympathize with the sons of Korah. On a human level it did not make sense– Israel had cast off idols and yet remained under the hand of idolaters. Their sinful fathers gained better advantage than they did. Very few of us would be so bold as to ask God to wake up, believing that the lack of action means that God has fallen asleep, but the sons of Korah make this shocking statement in full faith and confidence in God. They know that He can redeem them, but wonder and are distressed at why He does not do so.
Nevertheless we should not believe that God was asleep or that He had somehow missed the affliction and oppression of Israel. He instead had His own plan and His own purpose that He was accomplishing, preparing Israel for her Messiah and a Kingdom that would be greater than any earthly kingdom (cf. Ephesians 3:11, Daniel 2:36-44). Had God redeemed Israel in the days of the sons of Korah, as the sons of Korah were expecting, there would have been no impulse to hope for the true redemption of Israel that God was bringing forth (cf. Luke 2:38).
There are many times in our lives that we can relate to the sons of Korah in Psalm 44. There are many times in life when, even though we have a strong and abiding faith in God, we fear that God has fallen asleep. We wonder how it could be that He loves us and yet has seemingly forgotten our affliction and oppression. We want God to address our difficulties and pain right now in the way we believe they should be addressed.
As then, so now– that feeling is understandable and one with which we easily sympathize. But God is not asleep today. He has not forgotten our affliction and our oppression.
In Romans 8:36, Paul quotes Psalm 44:22, indicating that we in the new covenant are “killed all the day long” and “accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” But consider what Paul says in Romans 8:31-35 and 37-39. He powerfully affirms that God is for us and is willing to give us all things. He demonstrates without a doubt that if we are in Him there is no condemnation and there is no external factor that can separate us from His love.
There are times in life when we will be sorely tried. We will feel as if we are being constantly led to slaughter. It will be quite easy to wonder where God is at that time, but let us not be deceived– He is there. He is watching. He will make sure that it will all work out for good. He has not forgotten nor will forget. His love will sustain you. Let us therefore trust in God, even when, according to our perspective, He does not seem to be there!
Ethan R. Longhenry