We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us,
what work thou didst in their days, in the times of old.
How thou didst drive out the heathen with thy hand, and plantedst them;
how thou didst afflict the people, and cast them out.. . .
For I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me.
But thou hast saved us from our enemies, and hast put them to shame that hated us.
In God we boast all the day long, and praise thy name for ever. Selah.
But thou hast cast off, and put us to shame; and goest not forth with our armies.
Thou makest us to turn back from the enemy: and they which hate us spoil for themselves..
Psalm 44: 1-2; 6-10
Stories are very important. I love hearing stories from “ordinary” people’s about their lives and have come to the conclusion that no one is really “ordinary!” I really enjoy reading biographies of those whose lives have influenced others. Histories are also stories. They are stories about nations and people groups. They not only chronicle events, but also the worldviews (and the movements they spawned) that moved that history along. History records the evidence of God’s hand working in the life of a nation.
Psalm 44 was written by the “Sons of Korah,” who were a guild of singers who were put in charge of the service of song by King David after the Ark of the Covenant was returned to Jerusalem. Edward Reese, in his Chronological Bible, places most of the “Sons of Korah” psalms during the time of David and Solomon, before the divided kingdom, but he placed Psalm 44 during the time of the Babylonian exile. This is a lament written for a nation within a nation.
Whether it was written by the singers in David’s time or during the exile itself, it probably was a source of comfort to God’s people during the time of this captivity. It can also be a source of comfort for us when we go through hard times.
A sound history is essential to a nation’s identity. That is why God gave the Jews the Feast of Passover (and the other feasts as well). Passover was, and still is, a time every year for families to gather and re-enact the story of that last night in Egypt. For thousands of years, fathers have re-told the story to their families about the work God did for them in the “times of old” (Psalm 44:1). As they did, they reminded their descendants how it was not their strength or their sword – but God’s right hand and His arm that brought them out of that bondage (Psalm 44:3).
What did these stories do for them? Psalm 44:4 tells us that it led them to submit to Elohim as their king. His will would direct their way and His commandments would be the ethos by which they would live their lives. Verses 5 and 6 said the stories encouraged them to face their foes with confidence. In the Selah verse (v. 8) – it led them to boast about God all day long and praise His name forever.
On the other side of that Selah, however, was the reality they were presently facing. “You have thrown us away and shamed us!” “You don’t go with our armies!” Instead of fighting they were fleeing – leaving the enemy to take whatever he wanted. God was giving them away like sheep to be slaughtered – and it seemed He did not even care. They were despised and their name had become a taunt word. They were confused and ashamed while they were being blamed by others as the source of their problems. In the midst of it all, they had no answers for their neighbors as they blasphemed the name of the One who called them.
But the story held them. The story of God’s promise, their deliverance from Egypt, and possessing the land that God gave them caused them to cry in verse 17:
All this is come upon us; yet have we not forgotten thee,
neither have we dealt falsely in thy covenant.
Yes, the nation, as a whole had dealt falsely with God – that was why they were in that mess. But there was a subset of individuals (sometimes called a “remnant”) who really believed the story, and it was able to hold them when it seemed like everything was going wrong.
We are currently in a time of great instability in our nation and the world. The Covid virus has emboldened many of our leaders to unlawfully restrict our freedoms. To make things worse, we are besieged by false stories. Our ever-present media is telling us that the truth is a lie and that lies are the truth. It looks like people who flaunt God’s laws and despise His people are in charge, at least for a while. Individuals and companies are being de-platformed for telling stories that powerful people do not like. There may soon be a time when we must suffer in some way for living by God’s Word.
But we can still remember the story. In times of distress retell it to your spouse, your children, your neighbors, and others. It is even more important that you retell it to yourself first.
What story? The story of the Old Testament that defines what is right and what is wrong. Relate to your children your personal Exodus from sin and the many times God proved faithful in your times of need. Retell the times He defended you and helped you defeat the habits that tormented you. Review the history of our country and the principles on which it was founded with your children and grandchildren.
The power of story is why Jesus gave us the Lord’s Supper – to remember the story of which the mighty Exodus was only a foreshadow. It is a story to remind us that through His death He destroyed (rendered unemployed) him who had the power of death – the Devil (Hebrews 2:14).
Stories are important. Stories from the Bible and the experiences of those who followed Christ before us are all important stories to tell. Take time to pause at this Selah to consider the stories in God’s word of His protection and deliverance – especially if you feel trapped or bound by a culture that is increasingly hostile to what you believe. Tell it to yourself again and again. It will hold you and help you grow.
Or maybe, for you, the story of the cross has only been just that – a story, a fairy-tale, a myth. You must make it your story to reap its benefits. Repent and believe – they are the simplest but also the hardest things to do. But that is how the greatest story of all can re-write yours.
Background: Psalm 44; 2 Kings 25:1-30; 2 Chronicles 36:1-21; Jeremiah 52:1-34