I’m not certain how to say this without sounding as though I’m a heathen, so I’ll just say it: I think it’s possible to trust God too much. But before you stop reading, let me explain what I mean.
We are told in Psalm 68 that God will help the fatherless, the widow, the lonely, and the prisoners, and also how he will do it, or rather, how he as done it. The psalm begins by praising God for his mighty works (1-4) and then tells that he will protect the helpless (5-6). The majority of the psalm following that introduction describes how he has done protected them, most notably by leading the Israelites through the wilderness (7-10) and conquering their enemies on the way to the promised land (11-14 and 19-23). Also included are references to God’s temple in Jerusalem where all can find refuge (15-18) and gather for worship (24-35). But upon careful reading, we find that this psalm has elements of the “already and not yet” theology as it sings of God’s work in the past and also alludes to a future time when he will set up his eternal throne.
The images in this psalm are wonderful images to be sure, but what I find interesting with this psalm, and in fact with nearly every “already and not yet” scripture, is that it doesn’t seem to address the present. Psalm 68 tells how God has provided for the fatherless, the widow, the lonely, and the prisoners during the time of the Exodus by sending ten plagues on Egypt, parting the Red Sea, and sending quail and manna from heaven. It also hints at how he will provide for them in the future with the images of his temple refuge and holy city. But seemingly, we are left to wonder how he will provide for the same groups of people in the world in which we presently live. I’ve often wondered if it’s possible for him to act today in ways that are similar to the past. Will he send a pillar of fire to guide them? Will he send quail and manna from heaven to feed them? Will he, like he did at Jericho, tear down the walls of their enemies to free them? Or, does he work in a different way now?
As have most people, I’ve heard and offered many prayers seeking God’s help, I’ve told friends I need their prayers, and I’ve been told the same, but it nearly always concludes the same way: two people huddled together in prayer who then stand up and walk their own separate ways. It’s almost as if both people believe God is going to somehow intervene and make things better, or at the very least, reveal his plan as to why the painful circumstances exist in the first place. But after years of this cycle, I’ve come to the conclusion that we place too much trust in God.
I am reminded James 2:14-17 which says,
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “God in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things they need for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
I assume many of us have prayed for the well-being of the fatherless, the widow, the lonely, and the prisoners mentioned in Psalm 68 hoping God will somehow provide, but how many of us have actively sought out ways to help them? I don’t mean solely by giving money to causes that support them, but I mean giving of your time, seeking them out, getting to know them, and learning how to best help them?
While most of us aren’t in one of those four groups we might miss seeing that the prayers of the righteous can often seem like a slap in the face. Imagine, just for a moment, what it really means to be fatherless, or a widow, or lonely, or a prisoner and then ask yourself how you would feel after hearing a hopeful prayer followed up quickly by the sound of disappearing footsteps? I believe, if you think about it for very long, you will conclude that you would prefer to have a real person with flesh to touch, a voice to hear, and eyes that shed tears to come and sit with you during your times of despair.
Does God help the fatherless, the widow, the lonely, and the prisoners today? Quite simply, yes. But I don’t think it’s through supernatural means such as pillars of fire or bread and meat falling from heaven. God helps the fatherless, the widow, the lonely, and the prisoner in this present time through the touch of a friend’s hand and the time from their day.
Can we trust God too much? You tell me. Do we really think our prayers will bring supernatural intervention, of should we just step out of our front door and seek out those who need some help?