As I was driving into work yesterday A.M., Chris Tomlin was proclaiming on the radio, “You are the LORD, the famous One, famous One! Great is Your Name in all the earth!”
As much as I wanted to join in and sing with Chris as I had done so many times before, this morning I couldn’t. Not because I don’t believe Jesus is God in the flesh and the Redeemer of all creation; I believe that. But famous? Having a great name throughout all the earth? Sometimes I just don’t see it. The majority of the people I work with seem to fall into two categories: 1.say they believe in Jesus but talk about things, live like, and accept the same sins as permissible as those who don’t profess Jesus, 2. those who flat out deny Jesus (whether atheist or agnostic).
My immediate supervisor thinks all religions are a joke, especially Christianity. The only time he says Jesus’ name is as an explanation of fury or consternation. I hear people saying Jesus’ name in mockery when something good happens they act like a “church person” and give fake praise to Jesus as a joke to their friends. I was just speaking with a friend yesterday who shared about a student in one of her classes who is outraged that there is a prayer displayed on the school wall that has been there for years. The student is a professing atheist and said things like this should not be on display. Her perspective is not uncommon in America today.
This has been magnified by the fact that for the past two weeks I have been reading about a myriad of other religions and their belief systems for apologetics class. One can see the fallacy in them as you just read their doctrine, teaching, and origin; but still, there is so many of them! And so many people who believe them! God’s name is great among all the earth? I just don’t see it!
Apparently, I am not alone in this. The author of Psalm 73 said:
But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling, My steps had almost slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant As I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no pains in their death, And their body is fat. They are not in trouble as other men, Nor are they plagued like mankind. Therefore pride is their necklace; The garment of violence covers them. Their eye bulges from fatness; The imaginations of their heart run riot. They mock and wickedly speak of oppression; They speak from on high. They have set their mouth against the heavens, And their tongue parades through the earth. Therefore his people return to this place, And waters of abundance are drunk by them. They say, “How does God know? And is there knowledge with the Most High?” Behold, these are the wicked; And always at ease, they have increased in wealth. Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure And washed my hands in innocence; For I have been stricken all day long And chastened every morning. If I had said, “I will speak thus,” Behold, I would have betrayed the generation of Your children. When I pondered to understand this, It was troublesome in my sight.
Surprisingly, I didn’t write this Psalm, but it so perfectly describes how I feel at times. I thank God the Psalmist didn’t stop there.
Until I came into the sanctuary of God; Then I perceived their end. Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction. How they are destroyed in a moment! They are utterly swept away by sudden terrors! Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when aroused, You will despise their form. When my heart was embittered And I was pierced within, Then I was senseless and ignorant; I was like a beast before You. Nevertheless I am continually with You; You have taken hold of my right hand. With Your counsel You will guide me, And afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For, behold, those who are far from You will perish; You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You. But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, That I may tell of all Your works.
A few things stand out to me:
- The Reason: The Psalmist got his eyes off God and onto the wicked. I don’t know if you noticed, but everything at the beginning of this post that I described that got me discouraged was because I was looking at others and their God-less worldview. If we look for God in the godless we’re sure to come up empty handed.
- The Reprimand: The Psalmist says that during these times of discouragement he is “senseless and ignorant” and then poetically restates it “I was as a beast before you”. I guess that’s a nice way of saying, “i was dumb as an ox”.
- The Restoration: Even though I’m questioning the reality of God’s rule and reign, wondering why things don’t look like I think they should look if God is on the throne, God has never forsaken me. Even more so, He has taken hold of me and will walk me through these times. Even though my worry and doubt hurts Him, He holds me. He will guide me through and He will receiving me to glory!
- The Rejoicing: The Psalmist doesn’t walk away saying he will never go through these times again, quite the contrary. He says, “My flesh and my heart may fail…” but he has learned something, “God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever”. A summary statement of his proclamation is “Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.”
The Psalmist began saying, “I just don’t see it!” and as he pours his heart out to God he ends saying essentially, “How can they not see it?” I say that along side him.
This is how Scripture has helped me today. Thank God for His word. It is most definitely a means of grace.