The last lesson was about action, but if we can't do it all on our own, where do we turn for help? You've tried everything. Reason, logic, prayer, volunteer work; you even went to your pastor or priest and asked for advice, but that doubting voice inside your head will not be still. What if my belief is just hopeful make-believe, you wonder. What if my faith is something I want so bad that I'll believe anything, the doubting voice says. You can feel your faith wavering and it seems like it might slip away like it never was, what else is there you can do?
We can look to the example that others have made before us. We can know we are not the first to feel this way and that many good men and women have long struggled before us. Yes, our struggle is the same as theirs and we can find hope in learning from them. We are still in the middle of things here, there is much to learn and much work yet to be done.
44. Remember the Stories
We have heard the stories, Lord, our fathers passed on to us what You did in their day, in the olden times. How You gave them land after You drove out the ungodly from it. You afflicted them until they left, then You established our people there.
They did not come into its possession by their own doing, not by their strength or their numbers; but You gave it to them with your hand and the power of your presence when You favored them.
You are my King, O Lord, command me as You did our fathers. With your power we will push down our enemies, through your name will we walk over them and rise up victorious.
I will not trust in my devices or my strength, they cannot save me. It is You that has saved us and put to shame those that hated us. In God will we boast all day long and we shall praise your name forever.
But now You have gone away and we are put to shame, You are not with us when we go out. We are made to turn back from our enemies and they that hate us are winning. We have become like cattle for the slaughter and are scattered among the ungodly. We have been sold out and have no value to ourselves or to You. The liars are scornful and make fun of us. We have become a byword for fools among the ungodly.
I am confused always now and my shame covers my face because of the voices of my blaspheming enemies. All this has come upon us and yet we have not forgotten You, neither have we forgotten your laws. Our hearts have not turned back nor have our steps gone off your appointed path even when we were broken down in the abode of dragons and covered with the shadows of death.
If we had forgotten our God and given Him over for a foreign one, wouldn’t He know all about it? Doesn’t He search the hearts of all men? Lord, for your sake we are killed all the day long, we are counted as sheep for the slaughter.
Awake now, why do You sleep? Rise up and don’t cast us off forever. Why then did You hide your face from us and forget our trouble and sorrow? Our soul is bowed down to the dust and our belly is on the ground. Rise up to help, redeem us for your mercy’s sake.
The action of the previous lesson gives way to the thoughtful logic of how the lessons of the old stories are passed on to us. Our ancestors believed and they were delivered from their tormentors and brought into a new place, the promised land. Their success was not due to their strength or numbers, but by a power greater than their own. We also want our God to show his power that we may overcome our enemies, that with his name we will triumph and praise Him forever.
God will triumph but it may take longer than we might wish. In the old stories, they suffered terribly. A whole generation passed away in the wilderness before they crossed the river Jordan. To us it may seem that our enemies are winning. We are confused and leaderless, accounted as fools among the ungodly. Yet we still remember the stories and the promise: we will not give up even in the face of death.
There is no turning back: there is nothing back there but false hope or worldly riches that contain no hope. We are committed to the Lord of history and whether our story is told in the next five minutes or the next fifty years hardly matters, we are going to see it through to the end. Wake up, the time is here: in this moment we call the present we need to see past our own troubles. We abase ourselves to the Lord and call out for mercy.