For 5 years I was the pastor of Trinity International Church in Strasbourg, France. I created this blog with those people in mind. In mid-November 2018 I will become the Senior Pastor of Word of Life Church in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. The focus of this blog will therefore shift, but I pray that people from the blogosphere will continue to find it helpful wherever they might be found.
The churches' websites includes recorded sermons for those who are interested. Click the links below to access them.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Lord, Why Do You Stand So Far Away?

Trials come in many shapes and sizes. Sometimes it seems like "normal" problems pile on top of one another so that it feels like life is coming apart. The toaster burned your last piece of bread and you rush outside only to discover that your bike has a flat tire. It is only then that you realize that you forgot to take your keys with you and you are now locked out of the apartment. It wouldn't be so bad, except that you overslept because for some reason your phone didn't charge so the alarm didn't go off.  Now you are standing outside rideless, breakfastless, phoneless, and very late. Then it starts to rain.

We've all had days like that, haven't we?

But there are other trials that don't involve the simple piling up of circumstances. They involve people who act wickedly. They lie and cheat in order to get ahead at work. They love to intimidate and use their power to bend people to do their will. They take selfish advantage of every situation. They are the schoolyard bully who never grew up. In the corporate world they are like sharks in business suits. On the city streets, they are like schools of piranhas committing crimes and threatening people. When they gain political power they plunge the nation into darkness while their egos are stroked and their bank accounts grow. 

The Bible is well aware of people like this and the troubles that they cause on the earth. They are known collectively as "the wicked." Consider how Psalm 10 describes the activity of the wicked person:
  • He hotly pursues the poor.
  • He is greedy for gain.
  • He is extremely confident in his strong position of power.
  • His speech is full of deceit and evil plans.
  • He sits in ambush in the villages taking advantage of the unsuspecting to destroy the innocent and the poor for his own benefit.
  • He believes that there is no God that will hold him accountable for his actions.
Even though the wicked are so destructive to people and society, they are often successful in gaining money and positions of power. They justify their selfish actions believing that they are entitled to whatever they can get their hands on. It is a "dog eat dog world" and "only the strong survive" are their mottos. The weak, the poor, the fearful, and those too "polite" to oppose them are crushed under their feet.
It can be easy to feel like God is not just in allowing them to terrorize the earth. When we see someone surrounded by a school of piranhas it is easy to cry out, "Why, O Lord, do you stand far away?" When we find ourselves swimming with sharks we find ourselves crying to God, "Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?" (Psalm 10:1). 

The psalmist gives some wise words for dealing with this situation. 

Turn to God as your source of hope. 
Even the simple cry "Why?" is a sign of faith rather than a rejection of God. It is the response of a soul trying to reconcile the promises of God with the injustice that they see and feel around them. God takes no offense in this struggle if it comes from a heart that is in pursuit of him. Faith shines brightest in the midst of difficult situations and questions like this indicate that our faith in God is being stretched. Like the disciples in the boat during the storm, we are alarmed that Jesus is asleep in the boat and doesn't seem to care about our desperate need (Mark 4:35-41). Trials, as painful as they are, can serve to strengthen our walk with God if we honestly cry out to him (James 1:2-4).

Ask God to act on behalf of the afflicted.
The entire psalm is a call for God to act on the behalf of the oppressed. The writer recounts the evil deeds of the wicked and asks God to intervene. He proclaims that God will strengthen the heart of the afflicted and that he will do justice on the earth. God wants us to join in prayer and intercession on behalf of the oppressed. He wants us to cry out for justice to be done on the earth.

Call on God to break the arm of the wicked.
The "arm of the wicked" is their strength. Ask God to destroy the strength of the wicked rendering them powerless. Pray that the schemes and plans of the wicked would come to nothing. Pray against their plans. Ask God to send them into confusion and that their power would be broken. Pray that they would be caught by the traps that they have set for others. 

Ask God to call the wicked to account until they are no longer doing evil.
Remember that God sees everything that is done on the earth. There is nothing hidden from his sight. He "notes mischief and vexation" and will see that justice is done (Psalm 10:14). There is coming a day of judgment and the wicked will be cast into hell forever. One of the reasons that the wicked continue to do evil is that they scoff at the idea of divine judgment (Psalm 10:4, 11,13). To call the wicked to account is to pray that they would recognize that they are under the wrath of God and are destined for hell.

To pray for the arm of the wicked to be broken and for them to be called to account is an act of love. The momentary rewards of doing evil spur the wicked on to more and more wickedness. We pray that this reward cycle would be destroyed and that their wicked schemes would come to nothing. When we pray for the wicked to be called to account, we are praying for the conviction of sin to fall heavily upon them now. Their wickedness will end either with their salvation or their damnation. We pray that the conviction of sin would be strong upon them now so that they will be saved.

No comments:

Post a Comment