Does God Sometimes Abandon Us? Does He Turn His Back on His People? #226
Hello friends and happy Lord’s Day to you. No matter how much longer this pandemic drags out, and no matter how dark and grim and worse it might get – if it gets worse – then rest assured in the great victory of the King of Kings over death that we celebrate not just on Easter Sunday, but on EVERY Sunday – which is why I call this day the Lord’s Day. Every Sunday is a day to celebrate and remember the resurrection of King Jesus – His resurrection means life for all who are saved followers of Jesus – no matter how dark the times they are living in. I invite you to join us at VBC Salinas on Facebook this Sunday morning at 11am as we learn more about the Holy Spirit and are encouraged to seek Him and His fullness.
Our Bible readings for this wonderful Lord’s Day include Ruth 2, Jeremiah 37, Psalms 10 and Acts 27. Some exciting things happen in Acts 27 – including Paul’s adventures on the high seas, but that is not our focus passage for the day. Ruth 2 is pretty gripping too. Remember that Ruth is set in the period of the Judges, where the Israelites behaved in a most vile manner. You might miss it, but if you listen carefully, you will hear several times that it was apparently common for the poor women gleaning in the fields at that time to be sexually harassed and raped – horrifying, and another illustration of people following their desires and feelings and rejecting God’s word. We could focus on jeremiah 37, and this almost humorous exchange between King Zedekiah and Jeremiah at the end of the chapter:
17 King Zedekiah later sent for him and received him, and in his house privately asked him, “Is there a word from the Lord?” “There is,” Jeremiah responded. He continued, “You will be handed over to the king of Babylon.” 18 Then Jeremiah said to King Zedekiah, “How have I sinned against you or your servants or these people that you have put me in prison? 19 Where are your prophets who prophesied to you, claiming, ‘The king of Babylon will not come against you and this land’? 20 So now please listen, my lord the king. May my petition come before you. Don’t send me back to the house of Jonathan the scribe, or I will die there.”
I don’t know if Jeremiah was being sarcastic there or what, but that seems to be a great and sad example of dark humor. Our focus passage also starts in a dark place, but ends in a much more hopeful one. Does God sometimes ignore us and turn His back on us? Most Christians would religiously answer ‘Of course not,’ but consider the opening of Psalms 10
Lord, why do you stand so far away?
Why do you hide in times of trouble?
I am sure that all of us can related to the questions of the Psalmist here, because all of us have felt the distance of the Lord in troubled times – perhaps during this pandemic even more so. Is God hiding? Is He standing far away? Is He attending to other, more important business? Let’s read Psalms 10 together and consider the seeming distance of God.
This is one of the many Psalms that begins in a dark and down place, but ends with much greater hope. One of the reasons that I have come to appreciate the Psalms more and more in my own personal life is because I can so much relate to the feelings and struggles and emotions that are expressed here. I do feel abandoned by God sometimes, but He always reveals Himself. I do feel the distance of God quite regularly, but also His presence…it can be baffling and confusing from our earthly perspective, and I think the Psalms brilliantly, honestly and authentically captures so much of that. Psalms 10, in particular, captures our groaning at injustice and our desire and impatience to see God move and rescue. Here’s some great Spurgeon wisdom on Psalms 10 (how cool is it that he also references Acts 27?!)
WHY standest thou afar off, O LORD? why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble?… The answer to this is not far to seek, for if the Lord did not hide himself it would not be a time of trouble at all. As well ask why the sun does not shine at night, when for certain there could be no night if he did. It is essential to our thorough chastisement that the Father should withdraw his smile: there is a needs be not only for manifold temptations, but that we he in heaviness through them. The design of the rod is only answered by making us smart. If there be no pain, there will be no profit. If there be no hiding of God, there will be no bitterness, and consequently no purging efficacy in his chastisements.Let me suggest that the question is not to be answered in the same manner in all cases. Past sin, trials of graces, strengthening of faith, discovery of depravity, instruction, etc., etc., are varied reasons for the hiding of our Father’s face.
To the tearful eye of the sufferer the Lord seemed to stand still, as if he calmly looked on, and did not sympathize with his afflicted one. Nay, more, the Lord appeared to be afar off, no longer “a very present help in trouble,” but an inaccessible mountain, into which no man would be able to climb. The presence of God is the joy of his people, but any suspicion of his absence is distracting beyond measure. Let us, then, ever remember that the Lord is nigh us. The refiner is never far from the mouth of the furnace when his gold is in the fire, and the Son of God is always walking in the midst of the flames when his holy children are cast into them. Yet he that knows the frailty of man will little wonder that when we are sharply exercised, we find it hard to bear the apparent neglect of the Lord when he forbears to work our deliverance.
“Why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble?” It is not the trouble, but the hiding of our Father’s face, which cuts us to the quick. When trial and desertion come together, we are in as perilous a plight as Paul, when his ship fell into a place where two seas met (Acts 27:41). It is but little wonder if we are like the vessel which ran aground, and the fore-part stuck fast, and remained unmovable, while the hinder part was broken by the violence of the waves. When our sun is eclipsed, it is dark indeed. If we need an answer to the question, “Why hidest thou thyself?” it is to be found in the fact that there is a “need for it,” not only for trial, but for heaviness of heart under trial (1 Pet. 1:6 “You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials“); but how could this be the case, if the Lord should shine upon us while he is afflicting us? Should the parent comfort his child while he is correcting him, where would be the use of the chastening?… If we are carried in the arms of God over every stream, where would be the trial, and where the experience, which trouble is meant to teach us?…
The Psalm ends with a song of thanksgiving to the great and everlasting King, because he has granted the desire of his humble and oppressed people, has defended the fatherless, and punished the heathen who trampled upon his poor and afflicted children. Let us learn that we are sure to speed well, if we carry our complaint to the King of kings. Rights will be vindicated, and wrongs redressed, at his throne. His government neglects not the interests of the needy, nor does it tolerate oppression in the mighty. Great God, we leave ourselves in thine hand; to thee we commit thy church afresh.
C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David: Psalms 1-26, vol. 1 (London; Edinburgh; New York: Marshall Brothers, n.d.), 110.