To the Chief Musician. A Contemplation of the sons of Korah
1 We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, the deeds You did in their days, in days of old:
2 You drove out the nations with Your hand, but them You planted; You afflicted the peoples, and cast them out.
3 For they did not gain possession of the land by their own sword, nor did their own arm save them; but it was Your right hand, Your arm, and the light of Your countenance, because You favored them.
4 You are my King, O God; command victories for Jacob.
5 Through You we will push down our enemies; through Your name we will trample those who rise up against us.
6 For I will not trust in my bow, nor shall my sword save me.
7 But You have saved us from our enemies, and have put to shame those who hated us.
8 In God we boast all day long, and praise Your name forever. Selah
9 But You have cast us off and put us to shame, and You do not go out with our armies.
10 You make us turn back from the enemy, and those who hate us have taken spoil for themselves.
11 You have given us up like sheep intended for food, and have scattered us among the nations.
12 You sell Your people for next to nothing, and are not enriched by selling them.
13 You make us a reproach to our neighbors, a scorn and a derision to those all around us.
14 You make us a byword among the nations, a shaking of the head among the peoples.
15 My dishonor is continually before me, and the shame of my face has covered me,
16 Because of the voice of him who reproaches and reviles, because of the enemy and the avenger.
17 All this has come upon us; but we have not forgotten You, nor have we dealt falsely with Your covenant.
18 Our heart has not turned back, nor have our steps departed from Your way;
19 But You have severely broken us in the place of jackals, and covered us with the shadow of death.
20 If we had forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to a foreign god,
21 Would not God search this out? For He knows the secrets of the heart.
22 Yet for Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
23 Awake! Why do You sleep, O Lord? Arise! Do not cast us off forever.
24 Why do You hide Your face, and forget our affliction and our oppression?
25 For our soul is bowed down to the dust; our body clings to the ground.
26 Arise for our help, and redeem us for Your mercies’ sake.
We seem to get two very different pictures from this psalm. The beginning is full of victories and cheers. Its one success after another and all the while giving proper credit to God for every one of them. You can almost hear the angelic army saying, “God sent us here to kick butt and chew bubble gum, and we’re all out of bubble gum.” Then there is a drastic reversal of fortune. They are quite confused as to why God has allowed this when they have stayed true to their covenant.
Sometimes a plant needs to be pruned back to make way for new growth. The seeds of some trees will lay completely dormant until awaked by the heat of a forest fire. It takes intense heat and pressure to turn a coal into a diamond. I can point to all sorts of analogies as to how these bewildering times of apparent abandonment by God work for our benefit, and what grows back out of the ashes is stronger, richer, and greater than what was before, but knowing that takes none of the sting out of actually going through it. Having been through these times myself more often than I would have preferred, I can certainly bear witness to the truth of what the writer of Hebrews said in chapter 12 verse 11, “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” It is, unfortunately every bit as necessary as it is painful if the goal is growth to maturity. Have faith and keep going, you can always go a little bit farther than you think you can.