Reading: Psalm 44
“Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered. Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord? rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever!
If you’ve read this before, it was probably not in this psalm. Paul quotes v.22 in Romans 8, the famous passage about how there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God. It’s an odd thing to encounter it in its original context. The psalmist is not triumphant like Paul is; he’s begging God to relent.
When I read this psalm in preparation for this meditation, I puzzled over this juxtaposition. These two things don’t seem to belong together. Paul seems to be quoting out of context. Is he being irresponsible with the way that he quotes the Old Testament the way that so many people do with, say, Philippians 4:13 (“I can do all things through him who strengthens me”)? What’s going on here?
The short answer is Jesus. In fact, Jesus is the answer to the psalmist’s prayer. When he cries out to God, that God would rouse himself, that he would come to his aid and rescue him from his enemies—God has answered him in Jesus. That’s how Paul gets where he does.
In fact, Jesus transforms the whole way we look at passages like this, and how we look at our own suffering. You see, the psalmist couldn’t see God’s faithfulness beyond death. He couldn’t see past this life now. And so he cried for justice in real time—right now, right here!
But Paul can see beyond death—not because he’s been given some special prophetic insight (although he had that). Instead, he could see that God’s faithfulness extended even beyond the dark door of death. In fact, for Paul, the faithfulness of God beyond death was breaking into the present.
Of course, I’m talking about the resurrection of Jesus.
Here’s how to work it out: before Jesus died, he told us that his death was for our salvation, to save us from our sin, and through that we would receive eternal life. When Jesus was raised from the dead, it proved that God had accepted his sacrifice and that our salvation was secure if we placed our faith in Jesus. And that means that, no matter what happens to us here—even if we die!—nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus.
So when Paul quotes this passage in Romans, he’s doing so under the light of the resurrection of Jesus. They were indeed being persecuted for the sake of Jesus. But in the resurrection of Jesus, God had answered his prayer. God had roused himself to action in Jesus. He showed that his rejection would not be forever.
Lord, all your promises are ‘yes!’ in Jesus. Thank you that there is nothing in this life that can separate us from your love. Grant us grateful hearts that take full account of this truth.