The Psalm with No Hope: Psalm 44 - when God doesn't even seem to be listening

Andrew Fountain
Sun, 2022-02-13

Video cover image by bf5man Public Domain

  • The Psalm does not directly provide an answer, but there is an answer which is beyond our dreams.
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Sermon Slides - The Psalm with No Hope: Psalm 44 - when God doesn’t even seem to be listening


If you have ever felt that things are really bad
and God is not listening?
Then this is the Psalm for you!

  • The psalm divides into five stanzas
    • The first stanza (v1–3) talks about the old stories of how God saved his people.

Psalm 44 §1: The Old Stories

  • To the Choirmaster. A Maskil of the Sons Of Korah
  1. O God, we have heard with our ears,
          our fathers have told us,
    what deeds you performed in their days,
          in the days of old:
  2. you with your own hand drove out the nations,
          but them you planted;
    you afflicted the peoples,
          but them you set free;
  3. for not by their own sword did they win the land,
          nor did their own arm save them,
    but your right hand and your arm,
          and the light of your face,
                for you delighted in them.
  • Most of us have probably heard stories of how God has done wonderful things in the past.
    • The Psalmist is thinking of the great stories of the Exodus: Plagues/Red sea/Jericho/Conquest
    • Maybe we have read stories from the past…
    • Maybe we have Christian parents or relatives who have told us stories of God’s faithfulness in the past

Next he talks about what God has done in his own lifetime:

§2: in his own lifetime

  1. You are my King, O God;
          ordain salvation for Jacob!
  2. Through you we push down our foes;
          through your name we tread down those who rise up against us.
  3. For not in my bow do I trust,
          nor can my sword save me.
  4. But you have saved us from our foes
          and have put to shame those who hate us.
  5. In God we have boasted continually,
          and we will give thanks to your name forever. Selah
  • You can probably think of great things God has done for you, or your friends, in the recent past…
    • Many years ago when I was on a student visa, I was given wrong advice about my visa, and ended up being in a panic about my immigration.
    • But I knew the Lord wanted me here in Canada, so I just cried out to him to help me.
    • In the space of a day, every single problem was taken care of, by God’s amazing providence
    • I called to him and he helped me!!
  • Not long ago I heard a missionary talking about her experiences.
    • Have you ever been desperate, and cried out to God, and he has helped you?

But now, in the third stanza, there is a huge change. We begin to learn what the psalm is all about:

§3: You’ve turned against us!

  1. But you have rejected us and disgraced us
          and have not gone out with our armies.
  2. You have made us turn back from the foe,
          and those who hate us
            have gotten spoil.
  3. You have made us like sheep for slaughter
      and have scattered us among the nations.
  4. You have sold your people for a trifle,
      demanding no high price for them.
  5. You have made us the taunt of our neighbours,
    the derision and scorn of those around us.
  6. You have made us a byword among the nations,
      a laughingstock among the peoples.
  7. All day long my disgrace is before me,
      and shame has covered my face
  8. at the sound of the taunter and reviler,
      at the sight of the enemy and the avenger.
  • Everything is going wrong, and God seems to be nowhere to be seen.
  • We can’t be sure of the exact historical background,
    • Commentaries have some speculations, but nowhere is a good fit
    • and I think that is deliberate, because I think we are to identify with it
  • Do things ever go wrong in your life?
    • One day a few years ago I was awoken at 4:00am by a phone call. …from the police…
  • Bad things happen. Does anything bad ever happen to you?

Story so far...

  1. The Old Stories
  2. Stories in his own lifetime
  3. You have turned against us!
  4. But we are not to blame!

Hear how the Psalm continues: (4th)

§4: But we are not to blame!

  1. All this has come upon us,
          though we have not forgotten you,
    and we’ve not been false to your covenant.
  2. Our heart has not turned back,
    nor have our steps departed from your way;
  3. yet you’ve broken us in the place of jackals
    and covered us with the shadow of death.
  4. If we had forgotten the name of our God
    or spread out our hands to a foreign god,
  5. would not God discover this?
    For he knows the secrets of the heart.
  6. Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long;
    we’re regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.
  • He is pretty upset with God! (you can probably see that)
  • This reminds me of the book of Job.
    • Everything went wrong for Job…
      • What did his friends say…

This brings us to the final stanza:

§5: Desperate cry for help

  1. Awake! Why are you sleeping, O LORD?
          Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever!
  2. Why do you hide your face?
          Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?
  3. For our soul is bowed down to the dust;
          our belly clings to the ground.
  4. Rise up; come to our help!
          Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!
  • Now the psalmist is really upset!!!
  • He pleads with God and just cries out for pity and mercy.
    • It seems that God is not being fair!!!
      • He has made promises and is not being faithful to them.
      • His actions, his works, do not match up with his words.
    • Have you ever felt like that? …. I confess that I have!!!
      • I have pleaded with God and it seems to make no difference.
      • God does not seem to be interested in my problems at all.
    • Where are his promises of faithfulness, like “I will never leave you nor forsake you” ??
  • The problem is that this is where the Psalm ends!!
    • I don’t like that so I decided to make up another stanza

My fake ending

  1. The Old Stories
  2. Stories in his own lifetime
  3. You have turned against us!
  4. But we are not to blame!
  5. Desperate cry for help
  6. God answers and we praise him

Fake §6: (how we’d like it to end)

  1. I called unto the LORD and he answered me
          I cried to him and he heard my voice
  2. He brought my feet up out of the pit
          He set them on a high rock
  3. The LORD is my strength and my high tower
          I will praise his name for evermore.
  • Do you like that?
    • But it doesn’t!!!!!
    • Why does it end like this? Any suggestions?
  • I struggled long and hard with this psalm.
    • I pleaded with God to know how to interpret it.
    • Finally I believe God gave me some understanding of it.
    1. The psalm ends like this so that we can identify with it, while we are in our problems.
      • (else we would say “it’s ok for the psalmist, God answered him…”)
    2. There is deliberately no answer within the Psalm.
      • We have to look outside of it
    3. God has given us a key, and the key is that the Apostle Paul quotes the Psalm in Romans and explains to us it’s meaning.

Romans 8:36,37

  1. As it is written,
    “For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    We are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” (quoted from Psalm 44)
  2. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Allusion to Psalm 45)
  • Paul doesn’t say it isn’t true
    • He says it might be true but doesn’t matter in the slightest
  • It’s ok for outward circumstances to be bad, if our true reality is so amazing
    • There is a supreme king who has defeated every bad thing, and that king loves us intensely.
    • We’ll come back to this, but first let’s look at Psalm 45
  • Psalm 44 and 45
    • Psalm 44 is about external events
      • Circumstances are bad and God does not seem to answer prayer
    • Psalm 45 takes us into a another story
      • A girl has been taken captive, taken from her friends and her family
      • Who is this man who wants to marry her?
      • He is the king of kings! and he has chosen her!
  • Psalm 45 provides the answer to Psalm 44.
    • More and more scholars are recognizing that the book of Psalms was put together with careful thought as to the sequence
    • There is deliberated ordering of the Psalms.
      • Indeed, the previous two Psalms, 42 & 43 are well known to be a pair as they share a common chorus line.
      • Paul seems to have put 44 and 45 together in Romans 8
    • let’s read it:

Psalm 45

For the music director; according to the tune of “Lilies” by the Korahites, a well-written poem, a love song.

  1. My heart is stirred by a beautiful song.
          I say, “I have composed this special song for the king;
          my tongue is as skilled as the pen of an experienced scribe.”
  2. You are the most handsome of all men!
          You your lips have been anointed with grace!
          Therefore God has blessed you forever.
  3. Strap your sword to your thigh, O warrior!
          Appear in your majestic splendor!
  4. Appear in your majesty and be victorious!
          Ride forth for the sake of what is right,
                on behalf of justice!
                      Then your right hand will accomplish mighty acts!
  5. Your arrows are sharp
          and penetrate the hearts of the king’s enemies.
                Nations fall at your feet.
  6. Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.
          The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of justice.
  7. You love justice and hate evil.
          For this reason God, your God has anointed you
                with the oil of joy, elevating you above your companions.
  8. All your garments are perfumed with myrrh, aloes, and cassia.
          From ivory palaces the music of stringed instruments that makes you glad.
  9. Daughters of kings are among your ladies of honor,
          At your right hand stands your bride in gold of Ophir.
  10. Listen, O princess!
          Observe and pay attention!
                Forget your homeland and your family!
  11. And the king will desire your beauty.
          After all, he is your lord! Honour him!
  12. The Daughter of Tyre will come with a gift,
          men of wealth will seek your favour.
  13. All glorious is the princess in pearls,
          her clothing woven with gold.
  14. In embroidered robes she is led to the king.
          her virgin companions follow her
                and are brought to you.
  15. They are overwhelmed with joy as they walk in procession
          and enter the royal palace.
  16. Instead of your fathers you will have your sons;
          you will make them princes throughout the land.
  17. I will proclaim your greatness through the coming years,
          then the nations will praise you forever.

NET Bible with some changes by AMF

  • A young man
  • It is the answer that Paul gives us.
    • The external situation looks bad, and contains no answers.
    • The only answer is found in God’s covenant promise that
      • his anointed one will ultimately rule the nations,
      • and his bride will forget all the external hardship of former times as she rejoices in her secure state with her new lover.
  • What is really exciting is that if we look at Psalm 45, we see that this is exactly the point of the Psalm.
    • The first half pictures the conquering king
      • whom we very soon realize cannot be just a human king
      • we know he’s Jesus Christ because Hebrews 1:8,9 tells us very explicitly that it is.
    • The second half pictures his bride and the wedding.
    • The language is unmistakably similar to that of Song of Solomon,
      • yet we know without a doubt that the bridegroom-king is Jesus Christ.

Romans 8:1–39

  1. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
  2. As it is written,
    “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; We are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
  3. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
  4. For I am sure that neither death nor life,
    nor angels nor rulers,
    nor things present nor things to come,
    nor powers, 39nor height nor depth,
    nor anything else in all creation,
    will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
  • Psalm 44 is about a situation in which
    • circumstances have gone bad, and God is not making them good again.
    • Paul’s answer is one that we don’t expect…
    • It’s ok for outward circumstances to be bad, if our inner reality and future hope is amazing
    • Paul’s point is that the problems cannot shake us because
    1. there is a king who has conquerored the universe
    2. and he loves us intensely

What should we do?

  • First, it could be things are going wrong to lead you to God -maybe not a Christian, or become sidetracked
  • Sometimes things do not make sense to us: God does not have to explain!
  • Don’t listen to the lie that God does not care
  • Don’t miss out on what God has for you -free meal at hotel
  • Ask for a revelation of the love of Jesus—it changed everything for Paul
  • Maybe God is speaking to you today
  • maybe you are under attack
    • You need to know the intensity of Jesus love for you
    • He says “love is strong as death”
    • If you are his, then the future is extraordinarily amazingly wonderful (the story of the queen is small compared with what we have!)
    • After an hour with Jesus, every bad thing that has every happened to you will seem like a faded dream.
  • maybe you’re not sure you have this kind of relationship with him?
    • I would love to talk with you and pray with you.

Updated on 2022-02-13 by Andrew Fountain