How long will the enemy mock you, O God? Will the foe revile your name forever? Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand? Take it from the folds of your garment and destroy them!
In the end, the attacks against God’s church are not so much aimed at us as they are at him. We are not the greatest enemy against the powers of darkness. He is.
This has always been the case. The invasion of Israel by the Babylonians and the destruction of the temple reveal this.
It’s difficult for us to grasp the horror of that invasion. We would need to imagine America being overrun by an enemy that threw out all our laws, dragged vast numbers of citizens away as captives, and settled its own people into our war-torn communities.
Then it destroyed our places of worship to wipe out any trace of our religion!
The psalmist described what the invading Babylonians did to Solomon’s temple. “Your foes roared in the place where you met with us;” he told the LORD, “They set up their standards as signs. They behaved like men wielding axes to cut through a thicket of trees. They smashed all the carved paneling with their axes and hatchets” (vs.4-6).
In shock, he reported to the LORD in whose name the temple had been dedicated, “They burned your sanctuary to the ground, they defiled the dwelling place of your Name. They said in their hearts, ‘We will crush them completely!’ They burned every place where God was worshiped in the land.”
It seemed like the LORD had abandoned his people. “We are given no miraculous signs,” the psalmist laments. “No prophets are left, and none of us knows how long this will be” (vs. 7-9).
What are the people of God to think when they see him under attack—and he does not fight back? Has he lost his power? Does he no longer care if his name is defiled, and his people destroyed?
Did he not declare “I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols” (Isaiah 42:8).
So, the question arises in the psalm “How long will the enemy mock you, O God? Will the foe revile your name forever?” (v. 10)
It isn’t that the LORD is helpless. The psalmist knows better. So, his question now is, “Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand?”
He begs the LORD, “Take it from the folds of your garment and destroy them!” (v.11).
To a certain degree, we may know how he felt. When we see his people victimized and his name ridiculed, we wonder why he lets that happen. It seems as if he is standing with his hands in his pockets while evil triumphs.
Like the psalmist, we acknowledge him as our King and the bringer of salvation. Like the psalmist, we must say to him, “The day is yours, and yours also the night; you established the sun and moon. It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth; you made both summer and winter.”
Since that is true, since he is almighty, why doesn’t he show it?
We know he is Lord of all. We know that to reject him, much less defy him, brings horrendous consequences. In Psalm 2, we are told of his reaction to human threats. “The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath.”
But he picks the time to act. He decides what his action will be. For besieged Israel, the day would come when the excited messenger would report, “Babylon has fallen, has fallen! All the images of its gods lie shattered on the ground!” (Isaiah 21:9)
The day came when the LORD took his hand out of his pocket and overthrew the haughty Babylonian empire overnight.
Always, he is in control. Never does anything escape his notice. Never is his love to be doubted. Always is his faithfulness our shield.
Hasn’t he proven that with our rescue from death and damnation by the death of his Son?
And what happens to his people while they wait for him to deliver from evil? It is written: “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).
Let us be among those who, in faith and hope, wait on the LORD to act in loving justice.
He surely will.
Just wait and see.
Eternal Father, strong to save, to you we commit ourselves and the world in which we live. Overlook our impatience when we question your decisions. Remind us that not only are your actions just, but you also strive to allow people time to turn to you in faith. You want none to perish. But neither will your kingdom perish. Amen.
Points to ponder:
- Why do we assume we are the focus of attacks when God is the primary target?
- What good might God accomplish by delaying the judgment of his enemies?
- What does the fall of empires teach us about human history?
Written and recorded by Rev. Paul Horn, WELS National Civilian Chaplain to the Military, San Diego, California.
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