In God we boast all day long,
and we will continually give thanks to your name. (Selah)
But you rejected and embarrassed us.
You did not go into battle with our armies.
You made us retreat from the enemy.
Those who hate us take whatever they want from us. (Psalms 44:8-10 NET)
When my son was about 9 years old and in his second year of baseball, we were driving home as he dealt with feelings of disbelief and discouragement because his team lost the game. I tried to put things into perspective by stating that sometimes you lose; it’s part of sports, it’s part of life. He responded, “But Dad, I have never played a game where we lost!” As I thought about it, I realized that last season his team was undefeated. Winning was an expectation based on his limited baseball history.
I think of this when I read Psalms 44. This Psalms strips away the idea that when we have enough faith and enough trust, life will always go our way. We will never be on the losing end of a struggle, financial decision, or health outcome.
This Psalm begins with recounting the many times the Lord fought Israel’s battles for them. They had a “winning” history to reflect on and be thankful for. The present focus on the Lord is seen in these verses,
By your power we will drive back our enemies;
by your strength,we will trample down our foes.
For I do not trust in my bow,and I do not prevail by my sword. For you deliver us from our enemies; Psalm 44:5-7 (NET)
But when the battle took place, they not only lost the battle, but they were overwhelmed, retreated, and abused by their enemy. They just did not lose; they were devastated. This was only more confusing because the Psalmist declares,
All this has happened to us, even though we have not rejected you or violated your covenant with us. We have not been unfaithful, nor have we disobeyed your commands. Psalms 44:17,18 (NET)
When defeat comes instead of victory, we seek a rational explanation. Was it pride? Sin? Relying on ourselves and not the Lord? A lack of faith? Reflection is not bad, but what happens when to the best of our understanding, none of these are the case?
That is what we see in this Psalm. There is absolutely no reasonable explanation for why God’s people would or should have been defeated like this. But unlike many who face a situation like this and turn away from God, the Psalmist continues to turn his attention to the Lord.
Rise up and help us.
Rescue us because of your loyal love. Psalm 44:26 (NET)
Even when life brings defeat, the Psalmist realized that the Lord was still the One who could come to their rescue. His plea to the Lord is not based on what God’s people had done or who they were. It is solely based on the Lord’s faithfulness and love. In the words of the song by “Casting Crowns,” “It is not because of what I’ve done, but because of who you are!” That applies to our salvation from sin and our rescue from life’s most tragic defeats and darkest times.