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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Cycles of oppression and deliverance

Psalm 14:1 is famous for the line, "Fools say in their hearts, 'There is no God.'" This is the psalm often cited where the Lord looks down on mankind and sees that "there is no one who does good." We evangelicals use the passage to point out that no one can be good enough to earn their way into heaven.

However, there is another theme in the psalm. In spite of the apparent negative judgment on all of mankind, God still has His people, and those who call on His name are often persecuted, sometimes for long periods of time, by the fools who deny God's existence. The question arises, "How can a mighty God allow His own people to suffer at the hands of evil-doers? "They eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call upon the LORD" (v. 4). Picture an Israelite woman in Egypt. She has just had a gorgeous baby boy who is perfectly healthy and shows signs of precociousness. The Egyptians burst into the house, rip the babe from her arms, and throw him to the alligators in the Nile. The baby screams until it drowns. The mother screams and cries, but it does her no good. An alligator notes the disturbance in the water and glides toward the little body. That is the time when one is tempted to curse God and give up their faith. This horrendous persecution may have gone on for decades before Israel became the only massive group of Asiatics other than the Hyksos to escape Egyptian bondage and become a major, persistent, national state in history.

Picture Ann Frank and all the other Jews who died naked in German gas chambers? Bodies thrown into pits. The men and women freed from concentration camps were walking skeletons. Ps. 14:5 reads, "They (the wicked who deny God) shall be in great terror, for God is with the company of the righteous." The German Nazis would certainly have laughed at that in 1943 or '44. "Where is your God, O foolish Jews, you scum who are not fit to live. You are vermin. Your God is dead!" But when the German cities finally began to burn, hell came down to earth. Those who designed the ovens and allowed the Jews to be sent away had to watch their neighborhoods, and many of their neighbors, be reduced to ashes.

When you are one of those who do believe in God, you also have to believe that His plans don't just cover the next 5 weeks or 5 years. We have to think of 5 generations. We have to believe that God turns every apocalypse of our lives into something worthwhile. Job cried out, "He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come out like gold" (Job 23:10). (Gold is purified in the fire.) Job 8:13, 14 indicates that the way of the wicked will perish. "Their confidence is gossamer, a spider's house their trust." Meaning that they are putting their trust in a spider's web.

Both the Egyptians and the Germans seemed invincible at some point in the cycle of oppression, but the little guy survived to not only be delivered from oppression, but to come out on the other side immensely stronger than if the problem had never arisen. The Bible is not a book of spider webs. It is surefire tested in the furnaces of history. Those who trust in it will come forth like gold, sometimes tomorrow, sometimes somewhere down the line.