Andrew Fountain - When God doesn't seem to even care

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Full sermon notes - How long will you hide your face from me?

Is God listening?

Is God listening?

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The Problem

  • 25 Psalms make some sort of accusation against God
  • God is not answering prayers
  • Time is running out
  • Either circumstances are getting desperate
  • or we are losing hope
  • Much of today’s sermon is from the work of the Hebrew scholar, Allen Ross

Psalm 10 —God’s negligence

  • Why do you hide yourself, just when you are needed?
  1. Why, O LORD, do you stand far away?
    Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
    Arise, O LORD; O God, lift up your hand;
    forget not the afflicted
  • God, please be involved!
  • Implication that God has chosen to make himself unavailable
  • Great personal loss—of their God. Grief is intense and far worse than the wicked could do to them.
    • The psalmist is used to going to the sanctuary and seeing the evidence of the presence of God.
    • But the only reason the psalmist can talk of God making his presence known is that he did so in the past.
    • There is the assumption, and hope, that there will be a time in the future when he makes his presence known
    • Only a God who reveals himself can sometimes be hidden
  • God is not predictable—not at the beck and call of people, but he does promise to make his presence known to the afflicted.
    • So this is in fact the proper and natural way to call for God’s help.

Psalm 13 —Has God forgotten them?

  • If God seems to delay too long, then this accusation comes
  • This is not unintentional, but deliberate!
  1. How long, O LORD?
    Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
  2. How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
    How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
  • The intensity of this lament is expressed with a broken-off beginning: “How long?”
    • An intolerable situation that has gone on long enough and must stop.
  • The Hebrew verbs to forget and to remember when used of God are always about action, not failing memory
  • When he lapses into “will you forget me forever” v.1, despair begins to cloud the picture.

Psalm 22 —God has forsaken him

  1. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
  2. O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
    and by night, but I find no rest.
  3. But I am a worm and not a man,
    scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
  4. “He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him;
    let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”
  • The question is an implied accusation that God is not faithful
    • It may seem that way, but this is the cry of a suffering believer who has received no response after a long and agonizing cry for help.
    • And yet the sufferer maintains his communication with God. He says My God.
  • This was the Psalm quoted by Jesus on the cross
    • We’ll come back to it because it’s very important

Psalm 44 —God is hostile

  1. You have made us like sheep for slaughter and have scattered us among the nations.
  2. You have sold your people for a trifle, demanding no high price for them.
  3. Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.
  4. Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever!
  5. Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?
  6. For our soul is bowed down to the dust; our belly clings to the ground.
  • In these cases God is actually the problem!
    • God is to blame because he is sovereign and all-powerful
    • So if I suffer and die, it must be his plan!
    • He is the only one who can do anything about it

What is the answer?

  • Do you ever feel like this?
  • Why are there such shocking worship songs in the Bible?
  • What is the answer?

Answers

  1. Sometimes our sin’s have got us into this mess
  • how long?
  • and how severe?
  • God’s anger makes it harder to bear
    • e.g. Ezekiel explains that the exile was because of God hiding his face because of sin.
    • Isaiah adds a note of anger: Is 54:8 “In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD, your Redeemer.
  • Ps 30:5 For his anger is but for a moment, and his favour is for a lifetime.
    • He goes on “you hid your face; I was terrified” —he was full of confusion
    • but he acknowledges that the reason was his own pride and presumption: “I said in my self-sufficiency, ‘I can never be moved.’”
    • At the time he was terrified, he could have died, but now he sees it was temporary
  • This experience of anger leads to a focus on the need for repentance, or prayers will be rejected
    • Ps 80:4 O LORD God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?
  • Ps 74 is an example of repentance being implicit in the song

Psalm 74

  1. O God, why do you cast us off forever? Why does your anger smoke against the sheep of your pasture?
  2. Remember your congregation, which you have purchased of old, which you have redeemed to be the tribe of your heritage! Remember Mount Zion, where you have dwelt.
  3. Direct your steps to the perpetual ruins; the enemy has destroyed everything in the sanctuary!
  4. Your foes have roared in the midst of your meeting place; they set up their own signs for signs.
  5. They set your sanctuary on fire; they profaned the dwelling place of your name, bringing it down to the ground.
  6. They said to themselves, “We will utterly subdue them”; they burned all the meeting places of God in the land.
  7. We do not see our signs; there is no longer any prophet, and there is none among us who knows how long.
  8. How long, O God, is the foe to scoff? Is the enemy to revile your name forever?
  9. Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand? Take it from the fold of your garment and destroy them!
  10. Arise, O God, defend your cause; remember how the foolish scoff at you all the day!

Version: based on NET Bible

  • Shock imagery of sheep in a pasture being hit by fire. The incongruity was meant to jar God’s attention as well
  • Ps 79:5 How long, O Lord? Will you be angry forever? Will your jealousy burn like fire?
  • Psa 38:1-2 O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath!
    For your arrows have sunk into me, and your hand has come down on me.
    • Concerned at the severity of God’s punishment 26:57
  • Ps 77 asked penetrating questions:
    1. “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favourable?
    2. Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time?
    3. Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?”
    • Although it seems God’s mercy had ended, he recalls God’s former mercies, and the contrast with them makes the current situation more painful, but it does provide hope
    • Yet if God does not rescue them soon, his worst fears might be realized

Answers

  1. Sometimes our sin’s have got us into this mess
  2. Sometimes it is our own impatience
  • Psalm 31:
  1. I had said in my alarm, “I am cut off from your sight.” But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy when I cried to you for help.
  • We are in time, for God it’s just a moment. We can’t see the future
    • e.g. Why does David get so upset about being hunted by Saul for so many years?
    • Doesn’t he know he’s going to be king soon?
  • The complexity of God’s world is way beyond our remotest understanding
    • Timothy & the internet
    • Timothy and “Squirrels”

Answers

  • Honesty as we pray to God
  • They are still talking to God!
    • shows they have not given up on him
  • Where do you take your complaints?
  • God responds to prayer
  • Next time we will look at a more complete answer

Updated on 2012-08-16 by Andrew Fountain