God Is Always at Work, Even in the Darkest Times

These days, the world we live in seems increasingly hostile toward believers in the God of the Bible – Jews and Christians alike. Anti-semitism rears its ugly head in new ways every day, while Christians get blamed for the horrific actions of the practitioners of other faiths. The apparent presidential nominees in both major parties act as if they are running from biblical values as fast as they can. Let’s face it – times look pretty bleak.

Sometimes we need a reminder to hold on and not give up. Earlier this week, I came across Psalm 74 in my morning Bible reading. As I read through the Psalm, I saw eerie parallels to today.

While the scholars don’t all agree on whether the author, Asaph, wrote the psalm during the Israelite captivity in Babylon or whether it is a prophetic psalm, it’s clear that the enemies of Israel have triumphed over the nation. Asaph cries out to the Lord:

O God, why have you rejected us so long? Why is your anger so intense against the sheep of your own pasture? 2 Remember that we are the people you chose long ago, the tribe you redeemed as your own special possession!
And remember Jerusalem, your home here on earth. 3 Walk through the awful ruins of the city; see how the enemy has destroyed your sanctuary.

4 There your enemies shouted their victorious battle cries; there they set up their battle standards. 5 They swung their axes like woodcutters in a forest. 6 With axes and picks, they smashed the carved paneling. 7 They burned your sanctuary to the ground. They defiled the place that bears your name. 8 Then they thought, “Let’s destroy everything!” So they burned down all the places where God was worshiped.

9 We no longer see your miraculous signs. All the prophets are gone, and no one can tell us when it will end. 10 How long, O God, will you allow our enemies to insult you? Will you let them dishonor your name forever? 11 Why do you hold back your strong right hand? Unleash your powerful fist and destroy them.

Psalm 74:1-11 (NLT)

But, as in the case with so many of the Psalms, Asaph takes a turn about halfway through. In the New Living Translation, verse 12 reads:

You, O God, are my king from ages past, bringing salvation to the earth.

I love how the verse reads in the Tree of Life Version, a Messianic translation I enjoy:

Yet God is my King of old, working salvation in the midst of the land.

Talk about an encouraging and powerful reminder! God never stops working His life-changing, earth-shattering plan of salvation, even when times seem bleak and troubles seem insurmountable.

Asaph closes out the psalm with the reminder that God fights on behalf of those who love Him:

See how these enemies insult you, Lord. A foolish nation has dishonored your name. 19 Don’t let these wild beasts destroy your turtledoves. Don’t forget your suffering people forever.

20 Remember your covenant promises, for the land is full of darkness and violence! 21 Don’t let the downtrodden be humiliated again. Instead, let the poor and needy praise your name.

22 Arise, O God, and defend your cause. Remember how these fools insult you all day long. 23 Don’t overlook what your enemies have said or their growing uproar.

Psalm 74:18-23 (NLT)

I read Psalm 74 not just as the psalmist’s entreaty to God to save His people, but also as an encouragement to the faithful – to paraphrase Winston Churchill – to “never give in, never, never, never, never.” One commentary that I perused on Psalm 74 reminds readers:

The history of the suffering church is always edifying; when we see how the faithful trusted and wrestled with their God in times of dire distress, we are thereby taught how to behave ourselves under similar circumstances; we learn moreover, that when fiery trial befalls us, no strange thing happened unto us, we are following the trail of the host of God.

And, of course, don’t forget Paul’s encouragement to the church at Corinth:

That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NLT)

Even though this world seems bleaker than it ever has been, God is not giving up on His incredible work of salvation, and we shouldn’t give up on our faith in Him! We may lose the battles, but we know Who ultimately wins the war. So live like it!