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; then You planted them; You afflicted peoples, then You spread them abroad. 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 (Psalm 44:1-3).
We all know the Biblical accounts of how God freed Israel from slavery in Egypt and gave them the Promised Land in Canaan. While they were still in Egypt, God’s mighty hand brought plague after plague upon the Egyptians. Before the last plague Moses records the words of the Lord saying, “‘At midnight I will go throughout Egypt. Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any man or animal.’ Then you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel” (Exodus 11:4-7).
The principle is this: God makes a distinction between those who are His children and those who are not. Israel was freed from slavery and led into the land which He gave them by His right hand and His arm and the light of His presence. It was for their good, but also for His glory. God did what He did for Israel so His name would be praised not only among His children, but also among those who were not His children. At Jericho Rahab saved the two Israelite spies and said, “We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. When we heard it, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven and on earth beneath” (Joshua 2:10-11).
As children of God, our lives are to speak testimony of the greatness of our God. Those who are not in God’s family are to look at our lives and fear the Lord and praise Him. Our actions should never be the focus, what God should always be center. In the same way that Israel was saved from slavery to Egypt, God also saved us from slavery to sin and the domain of darkness (Romans 6:17; Colossians 1:13). Instead of praising the Lord for what He has done like the first half of Psalms 44, many times I find myself living in the second half of the chapter. Instead of praising God for all He has done and will do, I get wrapped up in trials and tribulations in the here and now. “Yet You have rejected us and brought us to dishonor, and do not go out with our armies…You have given 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…You make us a byword among the nations, a laughingstock among the peoples…” (Psalm 44:9-14). Instead of getting caught up in our circumstances and trials we should continue to fear the Lord for who He is, what He has done, and what He will do. Fearing the Lord is more than reverence and respect; it is reverence and respect that leads to action. “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil” (Proverbs 8:13). As His children we are to stand firm in our faith, flee evil, continue to seek His righteousness, and continue to trust He will use these trials for His glory. “All this has come upon us, but we have not forgotten You, and we have not dealt falsely with Your covenant. Out heart has not turned back, and our steps have not deviated from Your way” (Psalm 44:17-18).
Romans 8:36 quotes Psalm 44:22 which says, “But for Your sake we are killed all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” Many people quote the latter half of Romans 8 emphasizing that nothing, “Neither death, nor life..nor powers, nor height..nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God” (Romans 8:38-39). Praise God for that! But also praise God that, “For Your sake we are killed all day long.” Suffering, hardship, and trials endured for the glory of God are cause for us to rejoice. “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” (Colossians 1:24). Everyone who was not at the crucifixion of Jesus did not see Him patiently endure His suffering, but God has allowed the body of Christ to be used “in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. What “is lacking” is that the world today did not see Christ, who for the joy set before Him, patiently endured suffering on the cross. Therefore God has allowed us, the Body of Christ, to encounter hardships and suffering so that we can be a glimpse to the world of Christ has done for us.
God brought all this to mind this morning not because I am encountering suffering but because I was discouraged. A couple things didn't happen the way I wanted them to, and I felt like God wasn't coming through for me. He used these passages to remind me that, as His children, our greatest joy in life is that we can be used by Him for His glory even through something as small as our response to a minuscule trial. In every trial, big or small, we need to stand firm in faith and pray with confidence to our Lord, “Rise up, be our help, and redeem us for the sake of Your loving-kindness” (Psalm 44:26). We can have confidence in the midst of any hardship that, "He who watches over you will not slumber" (Psalm 121:3). Godly perseverance leads to joy.