Lord, How Long?

Lord, How Long?

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Psalms 17:1 Hear a just cause, O LORD, Attend to my cry; Give ear to my prayer which is not from deceitful lips. 2 Let my vindication come from Your presence; Let Your eyes look on the things that are upright. 3 You have tested my heart; You have visited me in the night; You have tried me and have found nothing; I have purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.

15 As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.

Psalms 6 is A Prayer of Faith in Time of Distress from David.

Psalms 6:3 My soul is in deep anguish. How long, LORD, how long?

I am not sure what David was going through when he wrote Psalm 16, but whatever he was going through sounds a lot like where we are now. The song was written for an instrument in the bass range meaning that it was written to sound very somber and low. It was a Psalm for tough times, like now. Psalm 17 is similar in that it was written at one of David’s lowest points. To be honest about it, David’s life was filled with low points, but he is still regarded as a hero in the bible. I believe that this is because David learned from his many mistakes, and always kept God and his laws as a moral compass for his life.

The Psalmist Asaph also asked the same question in Psalm 79:5, How long?

The question that has been on the minds of many during this pandemic is ‘How long is this going to last’? Bob Marley said; “If you don’t know your past you don’t know your future’. Well, we do have some data on the pandemic of 1918, and a lot of history has been written on it. It was at least two years before the world returned to some kind of normalcy after that pandemic. So if this is similar we may not be even close to being out of the woods yet. (Let’s all hope and pray that I am proved to be wrong in that prediction).

Now don’t get me wrong. We are seeing some signs of hope with vaccines, and other solutions, but with a crisis like this there are always certain variables that we must consider other than science and technology. One of those variables is how quickly the masses of people can understand that all of us have a part in making things better. So the question of how long this will last might be directly related to how long we as human beings can learn what the best course of action is, and resolve to take those actions no matter how hard, or inconvenient they may be. (I am going somewhere with this).

A good example of this is the argument about whether churches should be exempt from shutdowns. History shows that in 1812 the world dealt with the same question with many priests and pastors also openly defying the law and continuing to gather large groups of people together during the pandemic. Their argument was the rights of separation of church and state, and that everyone should be praying even more during any global crisis.

In a CNN article it is reported that many church goers died at alarming rates due to the practices of church leaders during the last great pandemic.

Laura Spinney wrote about this in her book “Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World”.

She states that for example in In Zamora, Spain, “mass (church) gatherings were positively encouraged — and at 3 per cent, or more than twice the national average, Zamora had the highest death rate of any city in Spain,”.

Some Bishops even increased their services, and took no precautions when giving communion to believers. Of course the result of this was many people became ill or died needlessly. So here we are again in 2020 arguing again, all the way to the Supreme Court no less about our right to be Christians. I am going to make a bold statement here. This is not a good look for the church. With history on my side, I ask the same question that David asked in his Psalms. ‘Lord, How long? When will we learn from our mistakes?

During the pandemic of 1812 many churches did choose not to have services. And unfortunately many of them closed because of the lack funds brought in by weekly offerings. We need to say this out loud. The success of a church should never be judged by the same standards of a business, or a corporation using money as the bottom line. If we were truly one church, (like Jesus mandated us to be), missing a few services should not break us down. We should all be helping each other financially so that we can all come through crisis like these unscathed. Of course this pandemic will reveal that some churches were on shaky ground anyway, but if we are one church we should be able to merge congregations to make ourselves stronger. Problems that stand in the way of successful mergers are also underlying conditions that we also need to consider.

We can look at history and see that many churches, (and people for that matter), have not learned from our previous mistakes. Being in a crisis has a way of revealing deep rooted problems that were there all along. It is up to each of us to use difficulty as an opportunity to become more mature.

David said this is Psalm 17:3;

3 You have tested my heart; You have visited me in the night; You have tried me and have found nothing; I have purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.

David was faced with almost insurmountable crisis but after thinking about it, and praying about it he had an epiphany. He said that God was trying him in the midst of the crisis with the purpose of revealing what was inside of him. In this David passed the test because he had previously made a verbal commitment to God. “Lord, with your help I will not stoop to the level of the crisis, nor to the level of my enemies. I will not transgress your laws”.

What has God revealed to our nation through this crisis? What has God revealed about each one of us?

Throughout the Psalms David asks God to deal harshly with his enemies, but he ends this Psalm with a new commitment to God. Psalm 17:15;

15 As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.

David said live or die, when this is all over I know that I will be at peace, and I will have the satisfaction of knowing that I will have matured, and I will be more like the God that I serve. Yes I will be vindicated, but that is not my whole goal in my life. At the end of this crisis, at the end of this trouble, I will have grown into someone better than I was before.

It is natural to want to be vindicated when you feel that you are right. But I believe that God is calling the church to be something much more than a group of vindicated believers. He is calling on us to be more like Him.

Being like Jesus means much more than having church services, and defending our rights. It is much more than filling church buildings and taking offerings. Being like Jesus means having a reputation that is beyond reproach in every aspect of life. I think this pandemic is revealing that we are not there yet.

So, Lord, How Long? The answer to that question might depend more on you than you may realize. Could it be that this pandemic, or the trials that you may experiencing personally is another opportunity for us to be like Jesus? More emphatic. More caring. More loving. More gracious. More forgiving. More helpful.

Paul talked about spiritual rights and spiritual maturity and in 1 Cor. Chapter 13:

1 Corinthians 13:1-2 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

1 Corinthians 13:11 11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

Paul’s argument was that the God given gifts of the spirit were not given to us to vindicate ourselves nor to rise above our enemies with super human powers. The gifts were given to assist us to becoming mature, that is, being more like Jesus. He makes the same argument in Ephesians 4. Lord, how long?

Ephesians 4:13 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

So the word of the Lord for us today is this. “This too shall pass, but who will you have become when it is over”? It is my prayer that the true church of God will have matured due to this crisis, and will emerge looking more and more like our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Psalm 17:15 As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.

I pray that we will wake from this, and other trials. But Lord, how long?

Bishop Horace Ransom Jr.

Bishop Horace Ransom Jr.

Senior Pastor, Board of Directors

Bishop Horace Ransom Jr. is the Senior Pastor and Founder of New Covenant Church International in Detroit, Michigan. He is a Jurisdictional Bishop and serves on the Board of Presbytery for the Jabula International Network, North America. Bishop Ransom is an outstanding teacher of the Word of God with a passion for challenging believers to become the best that they can be. Faith, Purpose and the Kingdom of God are frequently the subject matter of his dissertation.