In reducing the frequency of my Blogs to two per week it was my intention to write one Devotional and one focussing on a Christian response to an item in the news. However there are some further Devotionals on Romans 8 from Dr Eryl Davies to add too those we shared in October and November and the first of these final pieces is printed below.
Over the next two weeks we will finish the series of devotions on the eight chapter of Romans and today we look at these unexpected but amazingly relevant verses. I would have expected the apostle to move immediately from verse 35 to verse 37 to strike the note of victory immediately, whatever our trials may be. However he does not do that and for a good reason, as we’ll see. He quotes from Psalm 44 verse 22 and it’s helpful in highlighting the apostle’s conclusion, namely, that Christians can never be separated from Christ’s love, no matter what they suffer or encounter in their lives. I invite you to walk with me briefly through this Psalm to see its immediate relevance for ourselves and appreciate Paul’s use of it.
A strong faith (Psalm 44:1-8)
The church in the Old Testament period is here recalling in worship the great works of God in the past when he delivered his people from danger. Though they recognised that they faced dire trouble and danger, nevertheless, they began by praising their covenant God for his great faithfulness. Their attitude was one of faith and gratitude (vs 5-8), boasting in God. We can certainly learn from this example – before sharing our great need for the Lord’s help, we ought to worship God and acknowledge the ways he has prospered and delivered the church in the past. Today we have a lot to be grateful for as we look back.
The great need (Psalm 44:9-16)
This corporate prayer of praise now expresses an urgent sense of need. To the church, it seemed as if God had deserted, even ‘rejected’, them as he did not help them in their battles with the enemy. Defeat stared them in the face with the enemy responsible for plundering, slaughtering and deporting many of God’s people. They experienced shame and the contempt of nations. Paul quotes verse 22 from this Psalm in Romans 8 for the purpose of confirming that suffering, even martyrdom, are an integral part of following the Lord over the centuries, serving as evidence of faith and loyalty to Christ. All Christian sufferings – including our own – are not unique or isolated but a feature of Christian discipleship. We must recognise this fact rather than indulging in self-pity and a complaining attitude.
Perplexed by events (Psalm 44:17-22)
We can sometimes struggle to see what God is doing in our lives and fail to understand His providence. Without claiming to be blameless, the church in these verses declare that they don’t understand what is happening for they ‘have not forgotten’ God, neither have they disobeyed him, nor turned their hearts away from him, nor had they been guilty of idol worship. God knew this for He ‘knows the secret of the heart’ (v.21). Then in verse 22 we find the verse Paul quotes in Romans 8 verse 36.
We must notice then that the church here recognises they were suffering for ‘Your sake ‘, that is, for the Lord Jehovah and because of their loyalty to him rather than because of their own sin. The language is strong – while God allows the enemy to succeed against his people, it seems like he is doing nothing to help them with the result they feel like animals continually being killed and sacrificed. This was a dreadful predicament for them. We can therefore see that Paul uses the quotation to establish that God’s people have suffered across the centuries in their obedience to the Lord and that suffering for our faith in the Lord should not be a shock to us. Nor is it evidence we are chastened because of our sin. Often our suffering and problems have no relation to our unfaithfulness or unbelief but rather point to our love for Christ and his hold of us. The world in which we are called to witness is a world in rebellion against God and his people. This then is not a personal or local phenomenon but a cosmic one in which unbelievers in many nations rise up against God and those who serve him. Suffering and martyrdom therefore are inevitable in Christian discipleship (Hebrews 11:32-12:2).
Turning to prayer (Psalm 44:23-26)
The church’s language of prayer here is bold, earnest, specific and urgent but also believing, reaching a climax in verse 26 with an appeal to God’s ‘mercies’ or steadfast covenant love. The need is desperate, and it is time for the Lord to ‘awake’ and ‘arise’ and vindicate the church in its suffering. Let’s not lose sight of God’s glory and his sovereign purpose even in our troubles and suffering. He rules and he will always uphold his people. Prayers are answered but in God’s time and in God’s way. Let’s give prayer a more central place in our lives and churches but urgent believing prayer as in these verses.
As we finish and return to Romans 8, it is not surprising that immediately after quoting the verse from Psalm 44, Paul strikes the note of victory and assurance: ‘Yet in all these things’- that is, all the trials and suffering referred to in verses 35-36 – ‘we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us’.
No trial or suffering, not even martyrdom, will ever separate us from God’s love in Christ. The claim is a daring one: ‘we are more than conquerors’, but it is true and certain for all Christians. However the basis of this claim is not our love or faithfulness to Christ. Far from it. We triumph only ‘through Him who loved us’. Here is the second reference (see also v.35) to Christ’s love and here the aorist past tense points to Calvary where Christ demonstrated his enormous and eternal love for his people by dying for their sin. The pronoun ‘us’ appears again, referring to those in the golden chain of salvation (vs.29-30) who are ‘God’s elect’ (v.33). It is an absolute secure position and relationship to be in; the Christ who died for us, now ruling the world but also interceding for us, makes us ‘more than conquerors’. He will never let us go.
Dr Eryl Davies (Heath Church Cardiff)