Scripture Focus: Psalm 44.23-26
23 Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.
24 Why do you hide your face
and forget our misery and oppression?
25 We are brought down to the dust;
our bodies cling to the ground.
26 Rise up and help us;
rescue us because of your unfailing love.
Reflection: A Hymn of the Oppressed—Throwback Thursday
By John Tillman
When the founding documents of the United States were written, the chief form of religious persecution with which the founding fathers were concerned was not an encroachment of Islam, or secularism, or Marxism. They had in front of mind religious persecution of Christians by Christians.
Despite his popularity as a hymnist, Isaac Watts was a nonconformist who suffered persecution by the Church of England. Like other nonconformists, he suffered exclusion from the best universities and from many employment opportunities, both secular and religious. Watts’s poetic rewrite of Psalm 44 reveals hints of the kinds of persecution he patiently endured.
Psalm 44, Isaac Watts.
Lord, we have heard thy works of old,
Thy works of power and grace,
When to our ears our fathers told
The wonders of their days.
How thou didst build thy churches here,
And make thy gospel known;
Amongst them did thine arm appear,
Thy light and glory shone.
In God they boasted all the day,
And in a cheerful throng
Did thousands meet to praise and pray,
And grace was all their song.
But now our souls are seized with shame,
Confusion fills our face,
To hear the enemy blaspheme,
And fools reproach thy grace.
Yet have we not forgot our God,
Nor falsely dealt with heav’n,
Nor have our steps declined the road
Of duty thou hast giv’n;
Though dragons all around us roar
With their destructive breath,
And thine own hand has bruised us sore
Hard by the gates of death.
We are exposed all day to die
As martyrs for thy cause,
As sheep for slaughter bound we lie
By sharp and bloody laws.
Awake, arise, Almighty Lord,
Why sleeps thy wonted grace?
Why should we look like men abhorred
Or banished from thy face?
Wilt thou for ever cast us off,
And still neglect our cries?
For ever hide thine heav’nly love
From our afflicted eyes?
Down to the dust our soul is bowed,
And dies upon the ground;
Rise for our help, rebuke the proud,
And all their powers confound.
Redeem us from perpetual shame,
Our Savior and our God;
We plead the honors of thy name,
The merits of thy blood.
When we read of persecution, either in the scriptures or in history, we tend to think we ought to learn to be like the heroic victims. This is a worthy goal. However, history might be very different if rather than idolizing the martyrs, we could study how not to become the oppressors.
*Poem from The Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament:
Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
My mouth shall recount your mighty acts and saving deeds ll day long; though I cannot know the number of them. — Psalm 71.5– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle
Read more about What Is Persecution?
It is a sign of great uncharitableness and cruelty, when men can find in their hearts to persecute others for little things — Richard Baxter
Read more about Complete Our Joy — Guided Prayer
Joy permeated the church despite the pervasiveness of persecution and the pressures of the surrounding culture.