“O God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us, what deeds you performed in their days, in the days of old.” One of the sons of Korah reminded Israel about the way that the Lord had helped His people in past generations. God drove out other nations from the land of Canaan. He took Israel from bondage in Egypt and brought them to the territory that He had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God surely loved them.
The psalmist believed that the Lord was still King over His people in his own day many centuries after Joshua led the people into the land. God was their salvation. They were not trusting in their own strength. They were boasting in the Lord.
Yet now they were suffering defeat. “You have rejected us.” Their enemies had taken their possessions and forced them to retreat, but the bigger issue for Israel was her God. “You have made us like sheep for slaughter.”
What had gone so wrong? Had Israel turned away from the Lord? Not according to the sons of Korah. “We have not forgotten you, and we have not been false to your covenant.” This surprising assessment insists that we look at Psalm 44 as the song of a righteous people pleading for the Lord to vindicate them.
The severe setbacks that they faced were not the result of their idolatry. “Our heart has not turned back.” They had not stopped worshiping the Lord. The only answer that the psalmist suggested was some purpose in the Lord Himself. “For Your sake” we are killed.
Somehow the unjust suffering of the righteous was according to the Lord’s own mysterious plan. Their current troubles could not be God’s final answer for them. With that faith, they continued to cry out to the Almighty. “Rise up; come to our help! Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!”
If we think of Jesus singing this psalm in the midst of His suffering, we are able to understand how one righteous Man might face the worst trouble—not for His own sin, but according to the purposes of God. He was led as a sheep to the slaughter according to His Father’s plan. But how could these words apply to a group of sinful people?
Paul quoted this psalm in Romans 8:36 in light of the unjust suffering that the church was facing in the first century. The Lord has a purpose even now in the setbacks that we endure as those who have been declared righteous through faith in Jesus. “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39)
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Lord God, so many of Your great deeds are recorded for us in Your Word. You have won the victory for Your people through centuries of trouble and deliverance. We do not trust in ourselves. We boast in You. But where are You today, Father? We do not understand our current situation. While we do not doubt Your power and Your love, we are ashamed of our present condition. Your Son is still the King and Head of the church and our perfect Substitute. Yet we are in great need. Our affliction and oppression are obvious. We need You. Help us today, in accord with Your steadfast love.