Psalm 78 is one of those lengthy “historic” psalms that’s easy to look past. It rehearses Israel’s sojourn in the desert along with their frequent apostasies, punishments, and repentances. “Yeah, yeah. Out of Egypt… through the water… golden calf… thunder on Mt. Sinai. Got it.” The eyes glaze and we move on.
Of course, it’s much more and there’s a verse in it that recently caught my eye. Psa 78:33 says,
Therefore their days He consumed in futility,
And their years in fear.
We tend to think of God’s punishments in terms of famine, plague, fire, flood, and thunderbolts but not in terms of psyche, futility, and anxiety.
Futility and fear are a painful mindset, not a physical or financial pain. Psalm 78 says that God’s punishment was to give the Israelites a 40-year dose of futility and fear.
Futility: Wandering for forty years. Aimlessly. Sand to the left. Sand to the right. Just gotta keep moving around. Can’t quit. Even the sandals don’t wear out.
Fear: Knowing that none of the adults at the time of their refusal to enter the Promised Land would live to see it. Fear of what marauders might be over the next hill, what tribe might attack them in the wilderness. Fear of man and beast.
Their refusal to enter the land was a refusal to take dominion for God and they were punished for it. God made them unable to take dominion because that mandate cannot be fulfilled by a people having a worldview of fear and futility.
If our minds are not forward-focused and free from fear we will cower at every stray wind, doubt, or virus. Now, when we say “fear,” it’s not fear of the Lord we’re talking about.That’s a recognition of God’s sovereignty. When we properly fear God we are actually freed from all other fears (especially fear of man) because if God is for us, who can be against us?
As a matter of fact, Paul tells us in 2Tim 1:7 that God’s people have not been given a spirit of fear but one of power, love, and sound mind. Fear not, Jesus tells us again and again.
Do we embrace these verses? To the extent we do not, we are living in futility and fear. Do we see any of our civil authorities even making a wave at fearing God? Especially in these times of novel corona virus lockdowns, we do not. We do not see leadership,we see instead the exercise of raw power. No weighing of pros and cons but rushed, fearful, and futile responses.
The virus has turned out to be a political problem more than one of health. Because a virus death can be directly counted, but a death from economic consequences of lockdown is harder to pin the tail on, politicians have an easy choice: Avoid criticism by abusing power and “prevent” novel corona virus deaths.
True leaders would explain to their people the risks of each course of action (and all have risks) and then follow that which most closely conforms to biblical precepts. In this case, quarantine ofthose who exhibit sickness, would have been that course (Lev. Ch.13-14).
Our civil leaders, by abandoning God and His word, are living lives consumed by futility and fear. They have not been given spirits of power, love, and sound mind. They have no view to the dominion of God, but only their own.
Psalm 78:33 and 2Tim 1:7 are a point/counterpoint on display in our day. What a wonderful gift we have in the Scriptures where everything fits hand-in-glove.