Psalm 44 is categorized as a corporate lament – it is an expression of grief or anger, written to be expressed by a community, an assembly, a people. I feel very free to express my grief and questions to God on my own, but I see an honesty in the Lament Psalms (this one in particular) that makes me uncomfortable. Expressing this sort of honesty in public spaces, as a part of worship, feels unimaginable.

The Psalmist knows God’s history of goodness.

O God, we have heard with our ears, Our fathers have told us the work that You did in their days, In the days of old. You with Your own hand drove out the nations…For by their own sword they did not possess the land, and their own arm did not save them, but Your right hand and Your arm and the light of Your presence, for You favored them. (v.1-3)

This is the story of my people, the Psalmist cries. Those who came into blessing and victory not by might or by power, but by God’s spirit. And we – the Psalmist asserts – we will be a people who follow in those footsteps.

You are my King, O God; Command victories for Jacob. Through You we will push back our adversaries; Through Your name we will trample down those who rise up against us. For I will not trust in my bow, Nor will my sword save me. (v. 4-6)

They expected victory. They expected the same outcome as their forefathers. But this is not a victory song.

Yet You have rejected us and brought us to dishonor, And do not go out with our armies.
You cause us to turn back from the adversary; And those who hate us have taken spoil for themselves.
You give us as sheep to be eaten And have scattered us among the nations.
You sell Your people cheaply, And have not profited by their sale.
You make us a reproach to our neighbors, A scoffing and a derision to those around us.
You make us a byword among the nations, A laughingstock among the peoples.
All day long my dishonor is before me and my humiliation has overwhelmed me, (v. 9-15)

We went went out in the name of our God and we have been brought low. We are God’s people and now we are a laughingstock, a reproach to the world. Why? Look at the first word in those verses. You. You. You. You. You.

That is some real talk.

How can you accuse God of unfaithfulness, of being the source of your downfall? How can you say that to a God you believe is GOOD?

I believe in God’s goodness. I hold tightly to God’s goodness. Reading Psalm 44, I want the Psalmist to turn the corner, to say that in the end of the story his people got the same outcome as their forefathers, “But your right hand and your arm and the light of Your presence saved them, for You favored them!” I want to shed some eternal perspective on this psalm.

But this is not a victory song. At this point in the Psalmist’s journey, overcoming was not his story (yet.) So he accuses and complains and laments.

And God apparently did not strike the Psalmist dead. As far as we know from Scripture, there’s no correction, no consequence for accusing God of abandoning His people. In fact, this Psalm and many like it were encased in Hebrew canon and then passed into Christian Holy Word.

As I read Psalm 44, I wonder how God felt, hearing his people sing this song. How would He feel now if I were to be honest about my response to bad news and the current state of the world, that it feels like He has abandoned us and is allowing His people to be a laughingstock and reproach among the nations?

How did God feel, and how would He feel now? Mad? Disappointed? Wishing we had the eternal perspective to trust Him?

Maybe.

But maybe He also understands. In His great heart of empathy and compassion, maybe God knows as the result of the fallen world and the Genesis 3 knowledge of good and evil, how far away He must feel sometimes. Maybe His eternal heart has room for all of our pain and honesty and accusations. Maybe this is the reason faith is required for relationship with God – not to earn eternity or grace from Him (as if we could earn anything). Maybe He knows that the realities of this fallen world make it awfully hard to trust a God who feels very far away sometimes.

Jesus on the cross echoes another lament Psalm, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Maybe, when we’re honest, God cries with us and whispers, wait.

 

{If you have thoughts about this Psalm or any of the others we’re covering this summer, hop on over to our Facebook group,  where we’re hoping to experience conversation and community around the Psalms this summer!}

 

Renee Meyer has worked with college students in some form since she was in college herself – first at Texas A&M University, and for the past 10 years here in Lincoln, NE. This summer Renee is enjoying time with her husband Matt and their three boys, eating Nebraska sweet corn, long walks, and reading good books. She can be reached at rmeyer@lincolnberean.org.