by Michelle Bauman
I don’t know about you, but I occasionally find myself being able to relate to the writer of Psalm 74. From the first verse, it’s clear the psalmist is tired of the suffering He is enduring, tired of the injustices he sees happening in his own life and in the lives of God’s people. He is ready for God to reign down with all His power and might on those who have persecuted Him, who have destroyed the temple, attacked His people, and silenced God’s message. Even though the psalmist wrote these verses more than 2,000 years ago, I’m pretty sure if he was transported to 2021, he’d cry out for the same thing today.
Society certainly hasn’t been accommodating to the Christian in recent years. Social media has worked to silence faithful voices and has consistently promoted death rather than life. The Government, meant to be a blessing to God’s people, has limited church gatherings and opportunities for worship in the last year. Even now, it is working to pass the Equality Act, legislation that could have serious repercussions on the ability to uphold life and share the Gospel. Things seem dire indeed.
But we know Satan’s attacks are not new to the church or to life. Last week’s readings proved that, didn’t they? In God’s perfect timing, Jesus answers the psalmist with action. He sees the desecration of the temple and cleanses it—casting out the money changers, the cheats, and the foes to God’s gifts of grace and mercy. Sadly, we know Christ’s actions will have severe consequences; He will pay for all of it. From this point on, Christ becomes the enemy of the Jewish leaders. His turning over tables in the synagogue causes a turning of tables for Him too: Jesus is on the road to death.
Psalm 74 calls out to the King who works “salvation in the midst of the earth” who “made the summer and winter,” pleading with God “not to deliver the soul of your dove to the wild beasts” (12, 17, 19). And God answers. What the Jewish “government” intends for evil, God will use for good. He sends Christ. Christ, who conquers the psalmist’s foes and brings justice to the earth. Christ, who destroys sin and death and brings evil to an end. Christ, who cleanses the temple and rebuilds it in us.
The temple, the place where God resides, has always been attacked, and it will be until that final day. We should not be surprised by this. But we can also be certain that our prayers for mercy are heard; they are answered by Christ Himself. Christ works quietly and boldly to rebuild His temple through Word and Sacrament. He resides in and among the community of believers, and His mercy is conveyed through you and me. Christ paid for all of it—all of the sin, evil, suffering, and death—so that we might have life.
May we, like the psalmist, be people of prayer. May we call out to Him with hope, reminding Him of His promises even as we recognize that He can and will use hardship and persecution for our good. Finally, may we recognize that because of Christ, we walk on the road of life rather than death. We will spend eternity with Him.