Woes and Worship
If you believe in a holy God and His desire that people would walk righteously before Him, then it is easy to be dismayed by the state of our nation and our world. We see His word violated every day, and witness verses like, “The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men” (Psalm 12:8), played out regularly on the evening news. It causes us to shake our heads, and wonder with David, “When the foundations are being shaken, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3)
As I was praying for our nation, and wondering if we could ever recover from this societal and spiritual decline (notice how these two things go hand in hand), several scripture passages came to mind. I thought about how the faithful among the Israelites must have felt when wicked kings ruled the land. Elijah felt isolated, like he was the only one left who cared about God’s righteous ways. Even though he had just experienced a miraculous victory on Mt. Carmel, he was at the point of despair. While all the priest of Baal had been killed, wicked Ahab and even more evil Jezebel were still in power, and she was intent on killing him.
But, God assure Elijah that there were still 7000 people who had not bowed their knees to Baal. In the midst of oppression, persecution (Jezebel had put many righteous to death), and peer pressure to conform, there were still those who worshipped only the true God, and He knew who they were.
I thought also of Manasseh, son of Hezekiah, who reigned for 55 years, and was known as one of Judah’s most wicked kings. Since he began to reign at age 12, it is likely that the positives of his godly father persisted in the early years, but how did the righteous feel as little by little idolatry and godlessness became ever more prevalent in the land? Manasseh went so far as to worship Moloch, even sacrificing his sons in the fire to that vile god. Did the faithful followers of Yahweh call out to Him, praying for deliverance from this wicked ruler, and asking for forgiveness for their nation? Did they despair when year after year, and decade after decade evil continued to reign?
While they had to endure much heartbreak during Manasseh’s reign, the amazing thing is Manasseh’s heart did eventually change! Even after all that wickedness, God did a miracle in the soul of that man. And, although his evil son, Amon, succeeded him, Amon only reigned a couple of years before Manasseh’s godly grandson, Josiah, took over and led the nation to a spiritual revival.
It is a good reminder to keep praying for changed hearts of leaders. Think of what Manasseh and Kim Jong-un have in common. Couldn’t the heart of Kim be changed? Or the heart of the Turkish leader, Erdogan, holding Pastor Andrew Brunson prisoner? Or the heart of that senator or congressman who is espousing things contrary to the word of God? God is in the transformation business, and we should be in the business for praying down His work into the hearts of this nation and her leaders.
The way to hold onto hope when the woes of this wicked world threaten to cause us despair, disillusionment, and discouragement can be found in Psalm 73. Here the Psalmist looks at the prosperity of the wicked. These people were arrogant and seem to succeed in every way. They were scoffers, oppressors, boastful to the point that “their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth” (sounds a bit like politics today, doesn’t it?). The Psalmist admits to feeling sorry for himself: What’s the use? They’re going to win in the end.
But he does the right thing—he goes to worship. There he remembers his personal relationship with God, and regains the eternal perspective on this world. He takes refuge in God, and delights in just being near Him in His presence. And, in this state of worship, he finds relief from the frustration of this seeming lack of justice. He realizes God will make all things right in the end…and he (and we) has not reached the end yet.
Whether our woes are caused by injustice in the world, the onslaught of wickedness around us, or some dire circumstances confronting us, the place of hope is to be found in worshipping the One who loves us, and holds it all in His hands. When we turn our eyes to Him, our perspective will inevitably be raised, and our hope renewed.
by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries