A Season of Psalms - Psalm 44:17-18, 23
Psalm 44:17-18, 23
“All this has come upon us, though we have not forgotten you, and we have not been false to your covenant. Our heart has not turned back, nor have our steps departed from your way…Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever!”
English Standard Version (ESV)
A pearl is the result of an irritated oyster. Oysters suffer affliction when a grain of sand lodges inside their shells. No matter what they do, they can’t get rid of it. The sand can’t be dislodged and it becomes thorny and drives the oyster crazy. To comfort their anguish, the oyster begins to coat that grain of sand over and over again with a substance called nacre—also known as “mother-of-pearl”—to take the edge off. It doesn’t eliminate the sand, but it brings relief to the oyster. Over time the coating of the grain of sand produces a pearl. From the oyster’s pain came beauty and something of great value.
Tradition links Psalm 44 to the persecutions enacted by Antiochus Epiphanes IV between 168-164 B.C. Antiochus banned circumcision, Sabbath observances, holy days, and the reading of Torah. In addition, he converted the Jerusalem temple into a pagan sanctuary by sacrificing a pig on its altar. These policies of Antiochus Epiphanes sparked the Maccabean revolt, as told in the apocryphal books of 1 & 2 Maccabees. It was a time of war, pain, and suffering for the Jews. In Psalm 44, Israel recounts God’s provision in the days of old and how He proved Himself faithful in every circumstance. Israel remembers this vividly, but they voice their lament that God is not with them despite their faithfulness to Him in not transgressing the covenant (v. 17-22). In spite of their devotion to God, they were still suffering, and they ask “Why?”
Christians are called to suffer. Remember what James 1 says about our trials/suffering: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” Our suffering produces endurance and brings us closer to maturity and completion in the Lord Jesus Christ. We endure our suffering so that we may gain the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him. With Christ as our Anchor and our Blessed Hope, we don’t look down and wonder, “Look at what the world has come to.” Rather, we look up and say, “Look at Who has come to the world!”
Further Reading: Psalm 118:5-7; Romans 8:36-39
Father, we know suffering is inevitable. Guide us through with our eyes firmly fixed on You, our Shield and our Deliverer. In our hardships, make us better believers, not bitter ones. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.