I am a part of a small group Bible study that meets in my basement once a week. Recently, we have been using a guide which discusses prayer by studying examples given in the Psalms. This past week, we looked at Psalm 137, which is by far one of the more contentious Psalms in scripture, and rightly so. We are much more comfortable with the Psalms on either side, which begin with “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever” and “I will praise you o God with all of my heart”. Yet to acknowledge that God is good and worthy of praise, we must also acknowledge that goodness goes hand-in-hand with judgment. A good God cannot possibly stand for injustice or tolerate rebellion.
As we discussed Psalm 137, we talked about how the writer was praying for justice – praying that his captors would not have the final say. That they would be destroyed, even down to the youngest generation. The writer was appealing to God’s goodness and His judgment – the vindication of His chosen people.
Our discussion then turned to the 21st century. We are hardly held captive as a people quite like Israel was in Babylon, yet thanks to our global economy, we are surrounded by stories of things that God hates; things that oppress God’s people just as Babylon did. There is mass famine, war, climbing divorce rates, astronomical numbers of children born in poverty or born with disease or born unwanted, slavery is thriving, persecution is real. And yet I am numb to this. I read the paper every day, and hardly a day goes by when the front page story isn’t covering one of these topics. Yet I remain insular, doing nothing because of the sheer volume of need.
And then I turn to Psalm 137. The Psalmist was not afraid to pray against that which God opposed. He hated his oppressors – what they were demanding and what they stood for. Too often, I merely sit on the sidelines, afraid to act, afraid to say that something breaks God’s heart and take an active stand against it.
The day after our study exhorting us to pray against those things that the LORD opposes, the paper was full of images of Haiti – a tiny impoverished island nation that just suffered one of the worst earthquakes the world has seen in the last century. And my heart was sad. And at that moment, I realized that God was angry. He did not create this world to have natural disasters. We read in Romans 8 that even the creation is fallen and waiting for the total redemption of the world. Earthquakes, tsunamis, famine – all of these will be eradicated in the new heavens and the new earth. God hates these things, and it is right that we oppose them as well. This earthquake is holding the people of Haiti captive. Their very lives have been held by the power of the quake. Yet as the LORD reigns, the powers of this world will not have the final say.
We need to help the people of Haiti and pray for the recovery of the country. It is too easy to become overwhelmed by the volume of need and shut down. Yet we are called to oppose that which God is opposed to. Let us start today.
Yesterday, Pat Robertson made some ill-timed comments about Haiti deserving their fate due to an at-best shaky historical account of Haitians making a bargain with the devil generations ago. While I am not denying that scripture talks about God judging nations or generations, I do think that Robertson’s remarks were hugely inappropriate and lacked the counter-points of grace and humility needed to make such a sweeping statement, even if such a statement were merited. There are more thoughtful people who will write on this subject, and for now, I commend to you Don Miller’s reflections on this incident.