‘WHY?’ QUESTIONS No.24
Psa 74:1 Why have you rejected us forever, O God? Why does your anger smolder against the sheep of your pasture?
There have been times in church history, both ancient and modern, when it seems, from the human perspective at least – and we must continue to reiterate this throughout these meditations, that it is from the human perspective – that God seems to have given up on His people. This cry seen in the verse above comes either when something so dramatic has happened that this must apparently be the conclusion, or when a long period passes when God seems to have been silent.
Perhaps for many people, there is no expectation of God’s moving and so religion is just a week by week ritual, but for those who are truly the children of God, there surely must be an expectation that God is a God of communication who speaks and moves and does things. He speaks to His people either by a word into the individual’s spirit, or through a prophetic word to the individual or His gathered people. The ‘does things’? Yes, He brings healing when we pray, He clearly changes circumstances when we pray, He draws people to Himself and miraculously transforms their lives, He provides miraculously for His servants and He brings revelation and wisdom to show them the way forward. In a whole variety of ways He speaks and moves. That is the norm for the Christian life. That is what we should expect.
But then there have been low times, times when the Lord seems to be silent. In the days of Eli and young Samuel we find, “In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions.” (1 Sam 3:1). The reason soon became clear; the leadership of Israel was far from the Lord. No wonder the Lord appeared silent. But this Psalm was written, it is believed, in the time of the exile. Jerusalem has been destroyed and the people have been cleared out of the Land. Even the remnant that had been left has now fled to Egypt. This surely, they think, is a sign of the Lord having rejected them. When Jerusalem was destroyed in AD70 and the Jewish people scattered into the world, they would have thought the same thing. The psalmist even believed that all of God’s prophets had gone (v.9) and so there were no mouth-pieces left for the Lord to speak to the people, but then why would He speak when He had no people left?
But that, we said, was the human perspective when it feels low. That forgets the prophetic word that had come through Jeremiah, “This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years. But when the seventy years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon ” (Jer 25:11,12) and even more, “This is what the LORD says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD , “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” (Jer 29:10-14) Now that was an amazing prophecy, but it is so easy to forget that the Lord has spoken when you are in the midst of a period of silence.
In such a period of silence, it is so easy to listen to the enemy and think you have been utterly rejected, but at those times we are simply called to be faithful. After the return from exile and the rebuilding of the Temple and the re-establishing of Jerusalem, there was over four hundred years when the Lord seemed to be silent and seemed to do nothing. Surely during those years, some of the people must have wondered if their centuries of experience of the Lord were all now past history. But then came the Son of God into the most glorious but brief time in human history.
In the modern church as we see the decline of moral standards and the breakdown of society, it is natural to wonder, “Has God given up on our society? Has He rejected our country?” History tells us that this is how it has been before every revival. Before every powerful and miraculous coming of the Lord in revival, the state of the land has always been very low. Yet He comes again and again into church history and brings salvation in powerful ways and in large numbers, in ways that, during the times of prior darkness seem almost impossible.
Through Isaiah the Lord spoke about restoring His people in the end times. In the mid-twentieth century Israel returned to their land. It is still a time of waiting, yet the promise is still there and one day He will come and breathe fresh life into that physical nation and draw many of them to know Him through their Messiah, the Son of God. For us as Christians, in a time of limited divine movement, we cry out for Him to come in revival power, for we see that nothing else will redeem our societies. Elsewhere in the world He moves, but in the West, that movement seems strictly limited. Has He rejected the West? No, be patient, be faithful and pray, and watch and wait. He is coming!