Read Psalm 69
Focus on verse 4 & 30
“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church”. I do not recall where I first heard the statement, but historically it seems to be verified. When the church of Jesus Christ faces persecution in order to eliminate it from the earth, historically the reverse has happened in nearly every case.
In today’s reading, David is expressing his distress at the persecution he seems to be facing. It seems to him as though the people who hate him are beyond counting, those who seek to destroy him seem like a legitimate threat, others are spreading lies about him and it is costing him both emotionally and literally as he spends his resources simply to keep from being killed.
For many years the church in America has enjoyed great freedom and security. America and her neighbor to the north Canada were considered “Christian nations”. Our laws, our practices, our civilization were all rooted in what we called a Judeo-Christian ethic. It would seem those days are coming to an end. Although the percentage of people who self-identify as Christian in America has remained well above 50%, those whose lifestyle and values reflect that they have a relationship with Jesus Christ appear to have fallen well below 10%. It would seem that though we still have an abundance of church buildings that fill with people on Sunday mornings, only a small percentage of those people understand what it means to follow Jesus. It would be interesting to see how many of the people who gather in any given Christian church on a Sunday morning would remain faithful to that church if attending could result in confiscation of their property, a prison sentence, or even execution.
Persecution has a way of separating the fakes from the faithful. Jesus told a number of parables in regard to the separation of those who are true to Him and those who are not. In Matthew 13 he tells a story of a farmer who plants a crop of wheat but when it sprouts he realizes that an enemy has scattered tares among the wheat. (tares are a type of weed that looks like wheat but produces no harvest) When the farmer is asked by his laborers what they should do, he tells them not to try to pull the tares out as that my uproot some of the wheat. Rather they should wait until harvest – then the wheat can be stored in the barns and the tares can be cast into a fire. He uses the metaphor of a shepherd separating the sheep from the goats in Matthew 25 to make a similar point.
It seems our culture of Christian prosperity and comfort may be coming to an end as laws are being passed that are making it more and more difficult to live and speak according to the truth of God’s word. The day may soon come when those who follow Jesus will face increasingly more severe persecution. We claim to have laws that protect freedom of speech and freedom of religion, but when we proclaim what we believe to be true about certain issues it is labeled hate speech and we face prosecution.
While it would be easy to become disheartened or defensive about this trend, I believe we have a better option. In verse thirty of today’s reading David writes; “I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.” A few verses later in verse thirty-five; “For God will save Zion and build up the cities of Judah, and the people shall dwell there and possess it.”
In other words, “Praise God, He has not lost control of anything, if we focus on continuing to be faithful to Him in all that we do regardless of what it costs us, I believe He will not only reward us in the life to come, but He will also take care of us here and now as long as He has a purpose for us to be here. When that purpose is fulfilled – Halleluiah! Its time to go home! Until then, whether it be in a palace or a prison, it will be my privilege and joy to serve Him.