Friday, July 1, 2022

Preparing for Persecution (Psalm 79)

"We have become a reproach to our neighbors, a scorn and derision to those who are around us" (Psalm 79:4).

Persecution against the people of God is ultimately rebellion against God. When someone wrongly criticizes the people of God, that person opposes the very glory of God. Therefore, because the natural man is at enmity against God and opposes God’s people, Christians should expect such opposition. The Israelites, as God’s holy people, have faced constant persecution because God set them apart to be His own.

Psalm 79 records the response of Israel when faced with ongoing persecution. They learned to expect such opposition, which would at times be severe. While the Old Testament church had periods of repose, it often faced dreadful attacks by its enemies. Likewise, the church today may have periods of relative peace, but there are times when the outpouring of wrath from the world reaches great heights. We should not be surprised but should humble ourselves and pray for vindication. We learn from the Israelites in this psalm that when facing persecution we should first seek reconciliation and forgiveness from the Lord for our sins. Secondly, we should pray that God overcome His enemies and deliver His people for His name’s sake. “The more proudly the ungodly mock and triumph over us, the more confidently may we expect that our deliverance is near; for God will not bear with their insolence when it breaks forth so audaciously; especially when it redounds to the reproach of His holy name,” Calvin wrote.

Our prayers for deliverance should always have in mind God’s glory and the vindication of His holy name. “From this we are taught that we do not pray in a right manner, unless a concern about our own salvation and zeal for the glory of God, are inseparably joined together in our exercise,” Calvin said. Because persecution is common to the church, we should learn to respond correctly. We should humble ourselves, seek forgiveness for our sins, pray that God overthrow His enemies, beseech God that He deliver His people for His name’s sake, and we should thank Him for His faithfulness in caring for His people: “So we, Your people and sheep of Your pasture, will give You thanks forever; we will show forth Your praise to all generations” (Psalm 79:13).

Bearing in mind the persecution of the apostles and their response to the threats of the Sanhedrin in Acts 5:17–42, how do you usually respond when people criticize you for being a Christian? In a day when most believers are “invisible” in society, humbly rejoice if your faith brings opposition.