The Longest Chapter – Part 11 March 22, 2016

Psalm 119: 81-88

I am worn out waiting for Your rescue, but I have put my hope in Your Word.

My eyes are straining to see Your promises come true. When will You comfort me?

I am shriveled like a wineskin in the smoke, but I have not forgotten to obey Your decrees.

How long must I wait? When will You punish those who persecute me?

These arrogant people who hate Your instructions have dug deep pits to trap me.

All Your commands are trustworthy. 

Protect me from those who hunt me down without cause.

They almost finished me off, but I refused to abandon Your commandments.

In Your unfailing love, spare my life; then I can continue to obey Your laws.

We can conclude from these verses that the psalmist has encountered persecution for his devotion to the Holy One of Israel.  He refers to ‘arrogant people who hate Your instructions’ and asks when the Lord will take up his cause against those who criticize, malign and/or denigrate him because of his faith.  He acknowledges that he has been wearied by their opposition for he says ‘they almost finished me off’ and then continues with the inspiring words: ‘but I refused to abandon Your commandments.’

I am reminded of three young men in Babylon in the days of Nebuchadnezzar; three young Hebrews who refused to bow to a golden statue the king had made as an object of worship.  When challenged for their refusal to bow, they replied: ‘Our God is able to deliver us and He will deliver us out of your hand, O King, but even if He doesn’t, we will not bow.’

What makes their ‘refusal to abandon’ their faith and obedience to God so impacting is that they were three among some 4600 Jews living in Babylon at the time.  According to Daniel 3: 17-18, only four out of those 4600 exiles refused to compromise their faith.  That’s astounding, particularly considering that Jewish life flourished in Babylon.  The communities were large and prosperous, yeshivas (seminaries) were built and maintained, even the Babylonian Talmud was written there.  Yet when the King demanded worship to a statue, only four – these three young men plus Daniel, refused to bow.

Persecution is a fact of history and continues to this day.  Consider the wholesale slaughter of Christians happening now in Syria, Iraq, Nigeria and more, a slaughter finally recognized as genocide by the U. S. State Department.  In the midst of it, like in the midst of the Inquisition in Spain and the Holocaust during World War II, testimonies emerge of valiant souls who in the face of the most brutal persecution, refuse to bow to anyone but the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Almighty, Everlasting One.

We live in a world today where the biblical and moral values cherished by millions in the past are being challenged in the halls of academia and government.  Not only there – but even in religious settings, compromises abound and dismissal of fundamental truths by which our parents and grandparents lived are being cast aside.

Will we, like David, like the heroes of Faith throughout the centuries, stand firm on the truth of God’s Word? Or will we cave to societal pressure and hide our convictions behind closed doors and drawn curtains to compromise our stand externally to avoid ‘persecution’?

Anti-Semitic violence against Jews is increasing in many countries along with persecution of Christians. To the enemies of God’s Word, to the ‘arrogant who hate’ the Bible and all it stands for, both groups are as one: they call us ‘the people of the Book’.

May we this day stir up our courage – like the psalmist – to pray:

All Your commands are trustworthy. Protect me from those who hunt me down without cause.

They almost finished me off, but I refused to abandon Your commandments.

In Your unfailing love, spare my life; then I can continue to obey Your laws.

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