Psalm 44 and Romans 8:18-39
It is understandable that if a Christian has believed in God and trusted Jesus for forgiveness and eternal life but is struggling in aspects of their life, that they should question God about it. There is a branch of the late twentieth century and twenty first century Protestant church that advocates what is called the prosperity gospel or theology. This was mostly found in Pentecostal or Charismatic movements, although there are many in those denominations who would oppose such theology. However, aspects of this teaching have been absorbed through the modern church. In brief it says that if you are obedient in your faith God will reward you with material wellbeing. This could be in the areas of wealth, health, career and personal fulfilment. Some of the leaders in this movement have been at the centre of scandals as they have grown wealthy at the personal cost of many low income followers who have been desperate to please God and improve their personal circumstances. It holds out a promise of hope to people who are desperate for a resolution to their problems with the appearance of being rooted in biblical teaching. So, people believe that if they are in some way more obedient in their faith or giving they will have the child they desire, meet their life partner, increase their wealth, be healed or perhaps gain spiritual gifts or ministries that they would love to have.
The psalmist in Psalm 44, speaking on behalf of the nation, finds himself in a similar dilemma. Israel, he says, has been faithful in its covenant relationship with God v17 and yet its circumstances are dire. ‘Yet for your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ v22 How then can we understand how God who has honoured his covenantal relationship with Israel vv 1-8 can then apparently turn and leave them in a state of national mourning? vv 9-16
Romans 8 sets Psalm 44 in a New Testament context quoting verse 22. The New Testament Christians are indeed in a covenantal relationship with God as children of God. ‘The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ,’ but Paul makes clear this is not a free ticket to a smooth life as he goes on to say, ‘provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. Rom 8.16,17 Our hope is an eternal hope linked to the promise of a new creation Rom 8.23 When Paul talks about all things working together for good, for those called according to his purpose, Rom 8.28 he is not speaking of prosperity in this life, he is speaking of the hope of salvation. ‘Those he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.’ Rom 8.30
When the Psalmist complains, ‘You have made us a reproach to our neighbours, the scorn and derision of those around us,’ Ps 44.13 Paul’s reply is, ‘Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?’ Rom 8.35
The New Testament knows nothing of prosperity gospel, Jesus words were, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself.’ Luke9.23-25 God has not rejected us or forgotten us as the psalmist pleaded, Ps 44.23,24 he has indeed risen up and rescued us because of his unfailing love through Jesus Christ.
Does this mean we cannot bring our daily lives before God? Of course not. However, our joy is to be in Christ himself and our calling is to go tell whatever our circumstances.
More Than Conquerors” from Rend Collective