When God “Sleeps”

More often than not, when you read in the Bible of times when God appeared to be sleeping and non responsive to the cries of Israel, it was because they had sinned having turned their hearts from him. In Psalm 44 however, we find Israel in the midst of trial and defeat, yet the author of the Psalm protests their innocence.

We find in this Psalm the author lamenting to God after an apparent military defeat. He remembers the victories of old, how God had vanquished the nations before Israel. He recalls the intimacy with which God, by his right hand, strong arm, and the light of his face had led Israel from victory to victory.

“But now you have tossed us aside in dishonor.
You no longer lead our armies to battle.
10 You make us retreat from our enemies
and allow those who hate us to plunder our land.
11 You have butchered us like sheep
and scattered us among the nations.
12 You sold your precious people for a pittance,
making nothing on the sale.
13 You let our neighbors mock us.
We are an object of scorn and derision to those around us.
14 You have made us the butt of their jokes;
they shake their heads at us in scorn.
15 We can’t escape the constant humiliation;
shame is written across our faces.
16 All we hear are the taunts of our mockers.
All we see are our vengeful enemies.”

The Lord seems to have abandoned his people. When they cry out to God, they receive no answer. People are making fun of them because the once mighty people of God have been left alone, forsaken by their Lord and given over into the hands of their enemies. When they ask God why…..SILENCE!

“All this has happened though we have not forgotten you.
We have not violated your covenant.
18 Our hearts have not deserted you.
We have not strayed from your path…

The author insists that they have done no wrong. He claims that God is also aware of this fact.

…If we had forgotten the name of our God
or spread our hands in prayer to foreign gods,
21 God would surely have known it,
for he knows the secrets of every heart.”

“But for your sake we are killed every day;
we are being slaughtered like sheep.” (v22) The psalmist associates their suffering with the reality of their relationship with God. He sees the suffering that has come upon the nation as that which is in direct correlation to their covenant with Yahweh.  And, he cries,

“Wake up, O Lord! Why do you sleep?
Get up! Do not reject us forever.
24 Why do you look the other way?
Why do you ignore our suffering and oppression?
25 We collapse in the dust,
lying face down in the dirt.
26 Rise up! Help us!
Ransom us because of your unfailing love.”

Interestingly, the Apostle Paul equates this Psalm (at least v22) with the suffering of Christians. Check out Romans 8:35-38:

“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, ‘For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.’[Ps. 44:22]) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

One of the hardest things in our Christian walk is going through times when God seems to be asleep, and we suffer. So often, during these times, we are tempted to abandon hope and pursue our own desires. We get mad at God, through our hands up in the air, and say “Well, so much for the faithfulness of God!” We need to understand that sometimes we are not given the reasons why we suffer, but we are given the assurance that in spite of it; God has poured out his unfailing love on us in Christ, and nothing can separate us from him. There will be heartache, trouble, danger, trials, tribulations, and perhaps even death, but in all these things; we have the victory in Jesus.

When it seems that God is sleeping, remember what he has done for you, remain faithful to him, and KNOW that the victory is yours in Jesus.