A Song of Praise. Of David.
I will extol you, my God and King,
and bless your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless you
and praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
and his greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall commend your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds,
and I will declare your greatness.
They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness
and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.
The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
and his mercy is over all that he has made.
All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord,
and all your saints shall bless you!
They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom
and tell of your power,
to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds,
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures throughout all generations.
[The Lord is faithful in all his words
and kind in all his works.]
The Lord upholds all who are falling
and raises up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food in due season.
You open your hand;
you satisfy the desire of every living thing.
The Lord is righteous in all his ways
and kind in all his works.
The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
he also hears their cry and saves them.
The Lord preserves all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.
My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord,
and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.
“History is written by the victors” – Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill is right. How many American History books are written by men whose ancestors came from Europe as opposed to Native Americans? When was the last time you saw a book on the history of WWII written by a former Nazi? How many Canaanite authors can you recall? Standing in a bookstore with entire sections devoted to Christian literature and Bibles might give Christians cause to believe that Jesus took over the world the day He rose from the grave and that nothing can stand against us anymore. We can even pull out Scripture verses like Philippians 4:13 in an attempt to see Christ as our source of success and good fortune in life. We read Psalms like the one above, comparing it with Romans 8 and ask ourselves with Paul, “if God is for us, who can be against us?”… and the whole concept blurs into the idea that we are untouchable and guaranteed success in life simply because God loves us.
That is a viscous, twisted misunderstanding to untangle, and for those who do not find success in their lives… for those who are very touchable and know suffering firsthand, the idea is offensive. Indeed, has there ever been a greater cause that drove people away from church and away from faith in Christ than the broken promise that Jesus would make everything better? The idea that Christianity is that God works to help us become successful has been coined, “The Prosperity Gospel”. From what I have read from the four Gospels in the Bible, I’m not sure if the disciples, who walked with Jesus in the flesh and were trained by Him in person, would want to laugh or cry at this notion. Only one of the twelve died of “natural causes”, the rest were tortured and executed for their faith. Indeed, many of the first Christians had their lives shortened, were cast out of their homes and families, and were thrown in prison with their belongings sold away or stolen… all because of their faith in Christ. That doesn’t sound like success to me. What about the Jews, who upheld this Psalm for perhaps 3,000 years? Was this psalm sung or recited in the concentration camps during WWII – that “the Lord preserves all those who love Him, but all the wicked He will destroy.” If I read my history books right, the Jews did not win WWII. From what I have read, the Russians out-wintered a Nazi Army whose grasp had overextended it’s reach, and Japan was brought low by two gigantic bombs, but not before millions of Jews were systematically executed and worse. Even before that, Israel, the nation God chose to be His personal lighthouse was a force to be reckoned with under the latter years of King David and Solomon, but within two generations, was brought low by civil war, and has never fully recovered that heritage or prominence. Instead, Israel has spent most of its history as the underdog.
Perhaps God does love the underdogs of the world though. Most of the heroes in the Bible were plagued with weaknesses that were only overcome by God’s help. David was the last one to be picked. Samson was arrogant and prideful. Moses had a temper problem. Aaron was a people-pleaser. Peter was over-confident. Paul was an over-zealous legalist… and while each of them may have had strengths and talents in certain areas of their lives, they could never have accomplished what God had meant for them, without God’s help – but I doubt that they would have chosen the lives God meant for them. You see, we chase after the Prosperity Gospel like moths to the flame, but true Christian faith follows Christ through the cross before we get to heaven. True faith follows regardless of success or failure, regardless of pain or fortune, and it finds a deeper reward in the suffering knowing that it draws closer to Christ. Certainly, God loves the underdogs of the world, but He loves the rich and famous as well, and sees them all as His creation, His precious children, therefore will not allow anything to come between Himself and us – be it foreign armies, natural disasters, or even our success.
Looking back over the ages, I suspect that life is less about learning to be right so that we are worthy of God’s love, and more about learning to be loved so God can make us right. How does that play out in our fellowship, our Koinonia? We rejoice with those who are rejoicing and we weep with those who weep. We stand with them through the storms and we let others stand with us through our own – remembering that we are no more or less loved than those that we serve. We can chase after success and fulfillment our whole life and miss out on the most important love right in front of us. Oddly enough, I cannot recall a single Scripture verse or story that talks about chasing after God, and yet some of the most famous stories are about God chasing after us. We have only to turn and face Him, and in doing so, in being honest in our own faith and faith struggles, we bear witness to the God Who is, Who was, and Who is to come rather than a false idol used to prop ourselves up a little higher.
Winston Churchill was right. History is written by the victors. It will not be written by Christians who conquer and colonize the world in their own image though. It will be written by Christ, whose love cannot be stopped.