A Psalm for the Waiting
Responding to conflict, war, and injustice in Israel & Palestine
Pastor Chris Lenhart | October 26, 2023
Our hearts break for the events occurring in the Middle East, most recently in Israel and Palestine. Sometimes, when events as these occur in our world, we are tempted to jump in with a hot take, or “arm-chair quarterback” a quick fix solution. Our national news media, much of which is designed to entertain rather than inform, does not have answers or solutions, and rarely provides helpful information for productive dialogue with family and friends who may have opposing perspectives and points of views on these matters.
As followers in Jesus, living in a country far removed from this war, with little we can think, say, or do to assist, resolve, or alleviate this conflict, the best, surest, and safest place we can turn is to God’s word. We can speak with the most wisdom, insight, and faithfulness when our words and thoughts are shaped through the lens of God’s perspective. And while it is best to shape robust views by parsing out and developing the congruence between the Old and New Testament texts related to Israel, conflict, war, and our response, the time and space we have right here will only allow us to share from one text in the Old Testament, a text that might inform our response.
Psalm 62 (A Psalm of David)
To say that David’s life was informed by conflict and violence may be an understatement. Scholars surmise that Psalm 62 flowed out of the toll that Absalom’s rebellion wrought on David’s spirit. David’s own son despised him, and he sought to mercilessly overthrow his father’s reign. David had all the reason in the world to anxiously await the arrival of his son and his son’s armies. Yet, as the Psalm opens, we find David waiting for something altogether different.
62:1 For God alone I patiently wait; he is the one who delivers me. 2 He alone is my protector and deliverer. He is my refuge; I will not be upended. 3 How long will you threaten a man like me? All of you are murderers, as dangerous as a leaning wall or an unstable fence. 4 They spend all their time planning how to bring their victim down. They love to use deceit; they pronounce blessings with their mouths, but inwardly they utter curses. (Selah)
David waits patiently for the deliverance that God provides, rehearsing that God alone can protect and deliver, that God is the true refuge that will not allow his people to be upended. David’s words are echoed in the New Testament words of Paul in his letter to the Romans; “Who can bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” When faced with war, the world cries out, “Hurry! Do something!” For God’s deliverance, David says “I patiently wait.”
62:5 Patiently wait for God alone, my soul! For he is the one who gives me hope. 6 He alone is my protector and deliverer. He is my refuge; I will not be shaken. 7 God delivers me and exalts me; God is my strong protector and my shelter. 8 Trust in him at all times, you people! Pour out your hearts before him. God is our shelter. (Selah)
And here, David makes a subtle move from his individual reliance on God, to a corporate admonition for the people to place their trust in him. He moves from “my shelter” to “our shelter.” It’s a hopeful reminder that as we abide within our Shelter, the events around us should not shake us. Rather than being shaken, the people of God should have our hearts stirred, ready to be poured out in prayer, supplication, and intercession before our God.
62:9 Men are nothing but a mere breath; human beings are unreliable. When they are weight in the scales, all of them together are lighter than air. 10 Do not trust in what you can gain by oppression. Do not put false confidence in what you can gain by robbery. If wealth increases, do not become attached to it. 11 God has declared one principle; two principles I have heard: God is strong, 12 and you, O Lord, demonstrate loyal love. For you repay men for what they do.
Justice in the hands of the people is unreliable, leading to oppression, robbery, and the increase of wealth for one party at the expense of another. David’s challenge here calls us to not rely on humanity to justly balance the scales, nor to falsely rely on or attach ourselves to wealth accumulated at the expense of another people. Instead, the people of God are to attach themselves to two principles. When conflict threatens, war rages, hostilities increase, and oppression, victims, and injustices mount, here is David’s hope, our hope: God is strong, and he demonstrates loyal love, as he rightly judges and repays men for what they do.
Our Appropriate Response: Persistent Prayer
- Pour out our hearts in prayer to God, our strength and shelter.
Our Father, we pray that you would judge injustice and bring a swift end to evil and all forms of terrorism and oppression. Lord, we ask that violence and aggression cease. For justice to quickly prevail. For life to be preserved. For all who intend evil to be thwarted, turned away, restrained, and convicted of sin. For repentance. Lord, we ask you to protect, sustain, and supply for those caught between warring governments. For Satan’s systems to be dismantled before our very eyes. For our brothers and sisters living in these countries to be spared. For your Church to stand as a light unto the nations.
- Lament, grieve, mourn, confess, and repent.
We mourn the loss of innocence. For children’s lives that have been disrupted, derailed by violence. For lives that have been lost and families grieving. We weep with those who weep. We lament unspeakable violence that begins in the heart and manifests itself in actions towards others. We decry the existence of hatred and condemnation in our own actions towards others. We repent of times we have demonstrated apathy or indifference towards those who suffer, victims, oppressed and marginalized peoples. We confess our sinful attitudes and behaviors, pointing our fingers at others while excusing, justifying, or ignoring our own sin. We search our hearts and minds for ways that we preserve and/or perpetuate injustice in our own lives.
- Wait patiently for the Lord’s deliverance.
In silence we wait, patiently listening for the still small voice of your Helper’s guidance. Father, we trust you, help our unbelief. Guide us in loving as if the end of all things is near (1 Peter 4). Press us towards dependence on you. Motivate within us a hunger for reflection, contemplation, and meditation on your words. Remind us of your history of faithfulness, from generation to generation. Hold us together in Christ, form us in the image of your Son. Glorify your name as we are obedient to walk by faith. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Amen.