Where is Their God?

The sadness Asaph (or more specifically one of that musical family) expressed as a witness of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in Psalm 79 offers a poignant reminder of the fragility of the circumstances in life we often take for granted. He recounted the hurt of watching the army of Nebuchadnezzar marching through Judah, defiling the temple, and destroying Jerusalem (Psa. 79:1). With horror he recalled the extent of death that left throughout the city—bodies left to rot in numbers so great the streets practically ran with blood (Psa. 79:2-3). The emotional distress created by such a humiliating circumstance left Asaph and those like him embarrassed as an object of ridicule by all their neighbors (Psa. 79:4). Left to ponder the lessons to be learned, Asaph correctly recognized that they were experiencing the consequences of their own actions and pled for relief from their pain (Psa. 79:5-7). Recognition finally had set in, and thus the petition for forgiveness in accordance with the Lord’s mercy and the plea for deliverance pointed to the Lord’s character and reputation rather than their own (Psa. 79:8-9). Then, in the midst of this request, in which he seeks an opportunity for Judah to return and be able to demonstrate their faithfulness once again (Psa. 79:10-13), he says something quite striking: “Why should the nations say, ‘Where is their God?’” (Psa. 79:10). A consequence of their failure was quite telling. The Babylonians used it to declare that Yahweh was nowhere to be found. This is important, because the fact is that the evidence of this existed before Jerusalem’s destruction in the unfaithfulness of the people.

The lessons available throughout this psalm are numerous, but the essential point provides a challenge that Christians living in comfort easily forget. The trends in American culture for many years have pushed God and Christianity out of the realm of influence and into a place of relative cultural obscurity. Rather than provoking only political complaints and prayers for a change in circumstances, this should cause us to pause and consider what led to such a situation. For many years people relied on a generic Christian culture to carry their faith and support their morality instead of shining their own lights in a crooked and perverse generation (Phil. 2:15). With the culture turning both completely secular and largely immoral, rather than blaming others it is appropriate to consider our own failure to show others our God through righteous living, refusal to compromise, and bold evangelism. Thankfully, it is not too late to reverse this trend. Christians may not have a majority vote in what happens in Washington, D.C., but they have the power to determine whether people see God in their own lives. This, my friends, is what we must embrace, and we should give it our all, even if it is only, like Asaph, looking to the future and better days ahead.

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From Fear to Fear

Christianity is under attack. Of this there can be no doubt. While some Christians remain oblivious to this or somehow believe they are immune to its effects, the growing reality in the world and in this country warns of dark days ahead for all those who seek to be true to the cause of Christ. The very real threat of direct attacks that lie an ocean away, seen in the kidnappings perpetrated by Boko Haram in northern Nigeria, the bombings directed against those professing a faith in Christ in Egypt, and the persecution perpetrated by ISIS in Syria may seem limited and unrelated by some, but they reveal a pattern that cannot be ignored. Furthermore, the subtle path Satan took for decades, stripping morality and Christian values from the cultural conscience and thereby slowing but surely pushing Christianity into the background through both court decisions and legislation, has now evolved into an open advocacy for immorality and secular humanism and an open hostility toward morality and Christian values and expression. But in this we are not alone. Others have gone through similar situations throughout the centuries. Even David, long ago, felt the pain of seeing wickedness seemingly triumph, and his response offers perspective and hope.

In his reflection recorded in the sixty-fourth psalm, David found himself thrust outside of his kingdom by the plotting of his own son, Absalom. However, David accepted this with dignity despite the sense of fear that loomed throughout it all. Instead of letting his fear control him, he turned to God in faith and prayed for deliverance and safety in the midst of the storm (Psa. 64:1-2). David had to listen to personal attacks, both verbal and physical, as the forces with Absalom took advantage of their newfound power to express their wickedness (Psa. 64:3-4). How sad that such brazenness so often accompanies evil when it comes to power (Psa. 64:5-6). Regardless, God’s people can have assurance that God Himself will address the evil in a manner so sudden that no one will expect it (Psa. 64:7). On His own timetable He will bring them down (Psa. 64:8), so that while they sought to have men fear them while they feared no one, in the end, men will come to fear God (Psa. 64:9).

This must be our confidence too. We may not know how or when God will bring down those who promote wickedness from an evil heart, but we can know with certainty that He will. They may take the country down with them, but they will fall from their lofty sense of self-importance, and the eternal kingdom of God will still stand (Dan. 2:44; Matt. 16:18-19). Therefore, “The righteous shall be glad in the LORD, and trust in Him. And all the upright in heart shall glory” (Psa. 64:10). The cause of Christ may not now be popular, morality may not be appreciated, and persecution may be our plight, but the rejection of the world does not define us. In fact, more than ever, our faith must speak from a heart dedicated more than ever to the truth and to our God. There may be many reasons to fear in the upcoming years, but our fear of God should trump them all.

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