All this came upon us,
though we had not forgotten you;
we had not been false to your covenant. — Psalm 44:17
At the very foundation of the Jewish and Christian faith is the concept of the covenant, or brit In Hebrew. The Bible teaches us that God chose and initiated a covenantal relationship with us — one that defines events of the past and assures us of promises for the future. This is one of six devotions related to these divine contracts that eternally bind us with God.
Psalm 44 starts on a high note, but gets lower as it goes on. At first, the psalmist described how God would fight Israel’s wars and perform miracles on behalf of His people. However, the psalm then turned bleaker and recalled the time when God’s Divine protection had ended.
The psalmist never mentioned the sins of Israel that led to their lack of protection, but focused instead on the difficulties of exile for future innocent generations who had not caused the exile, but who bore the hardship. The psalmist extoled their virtues: “All this came upon us, though we had not forgotten you; we had not been false to your covenant.” However, despite the hardships, Israel had remained bound to God.
Israel’s situation can be likened to the experience of Job who was blameless before God, yet suffered at God’s hand. The psalmist was saying that although the current generation of Israel did not deserve the treatment it was experiencing, and although none of it seemed to make sense, the people of Israel still clung to God.
This reminds me of the story about the sacrifice of Isaac. Interestingly, in Hebrew, the incident is referred to as the binding of Isaac. The focus is on the fact that Isaac was bound. Why would this aspect seem more important than the actual sacrifice that Abraham was prepared to make?
The Jewish sages explain that Isaac asked to be bound. As the two approached the mountain, Isaac asked his father: “The fire and wood are here . . . but where is the lamb for the burnt offering? Abraham answered, ‘God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son’” (Genesis 22: 7–8). In other words, Abraham was saying, “My son, you are the offering provided by God.” However, Isaac didn’t run. He stayed in obedience: “And the two of them went on together” (22:8). Isaac didn’t fear death; he only feared that he might lose control over himself and try to run away.
We read this story on Rosh Hashanah, Judgment Day, in order to remind God of the great merit of Isaac. We also wish to remind God of our merits – that we have not run away in spite of the bad things that might have happened to us during the year. We have remained bound to God even when life doesn’t always make sense to us. Sometimes it’s seems like God was pushing us away, but even then we didn’t let go.
Friends, let’s refuse to let go of God no matter how confusing life may seem at times. As the psalmist prayed, in the merit of our loyalty, God will “Rise up and help us; rescue us because of your unfailing love” (v.26).
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