Rise up, O God, and defend your cause;
remember how fools mock you all day long. — Psalm 74:22
Today is the first day of the Jewish holiday, Shavuot. Because this is a non-working day for observant Jews, this devotion was prepared in advance for you.
Psalm 74 is a despondent psalm. Its writer, Asaph, perceived the future exile of the nation of Israel. He foresaw the destruction and contamination of God’s Holy Temple. He prophesized about the thousands of years of persecution that would befall the Jewish people. So he asked God: “How long will the enemy mock you, God?” and “Why do you hold back your hand?” (vv. 10–11). Asaph spoke to the seemingly eternal exile. Would it never end?
I think many of us have asked that very same question throughout our lives. It could be regarding the global situation of our broken world in desperate need of healing, or we may have asked that question regarding our own personal life challenges. Will they never end?
The psalmist then went on to describe the capabilities of our awesome God. In his words, our God does not lack power or ability. So why won’t He save us?
The unwritten conclusion is that we may not be worthy of having God miraculously intervene in our lives. As a collective faith community, we have much to do in order to improve. As a society we have a lot to answer for to God. As families and individuals, who can say that they have reached perfection, spiritually or otherwise?
Clearly, we cannot force God’s hand by pointing to our character alone. So are we doomed? Are we destined to continue through our struggles and challenges? Is the world fated to live at the murderous hands of the likes of ISIS and al-Qaeda? Will poverty be an eternal staple on the planet? Will we ever merit the advent of the messianic era?
The psalmist then pulled out the proverbial “ace in the hole.” He wrote, “Rise up, O God, and defend your cause.” Did you catch it? “YOUR cause.” Or as it is says in Psalm 31:3, “for the sake of your name lead and guide me.” In other words, we ask God that even if we are undeserving, He might save us for His sake, not our own.
You see, God has a stake in our own personal salvation. He is invested in the healing of our world, and a very powerful way to pray is to ask that God act for His sake. We can take comfort in knowing that although we may be imperfect, God is still interested in helping us out so that we might praise Him and add to His glory. We feel empowered by knowing that He will redeem the entire world, even if we are far from ideal. Let us pray with confidence knowing that God wants good things for us all – perhaps even more than we want them for ourselves!
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President