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God’s Cause for Our World
The other week I was forced to give careful consideration what the Psalmist is asking God to do, which in so many ways is or should be at the heart of our prayers to God.
“Arise, O God, plead Your own cause” (Psalm 74:22 NKJV)
Now this is something that is mostly foreign to us, that is, requesting that God plead His cause, because normally we ask God to plead our cause, and defeat those who come against us.
“Plead my cause, O Lord, with those who strive with me; fight against those who fight against me. Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for my help.” (Psalm 35:1-2 NKJV)
“Vindicate me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation; oh, deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man! (Psalm 43:1 NKJV)
But not so in our passage, here God’s people, who probably asked God to plead their cause when these foreign invaders came against them and took them captive, are now asking God to plead His cause, because they know that God’s promises stand, and so, they are basically saying, “Hey Lord, keep Your promise,” or, “Plead Your cause.”
At the end of our time together, I will clarify what this looks like.
Now, Psalm 74 is pointing to the time that followed the destruction of the nation Israel, which would include the northern ten tribes of Israel, and the two southern tribes of Israel known as Judah.
Assyria conquered the northern kingdom in 722 B.C., and Babylon conquered the southern kingdom during the years 605-587 B.C. The people were taken captive into foreign lands and at the end of 587 B.C. the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed (2 Kings 25:8-12). Now, with the center of their religious life gone, the people feel cut off and separated from God. Worse than that, the years of captivity led them to doubt God’s faithfulness.
But the faithlessness was not on God’s part, but rather it was on the peoples’ part. They were the ones who disobeyed God’s law and continued to rebel against Him. But even so, God’s promise has been and will always be His cause no matter what we do.
“If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13 NKJV)
Hence the Psalmist cry for God to arise and for Him to plead, that is, to defend His cause.
And this is the Psalmist prayer of Psalm 74.
· In verses 1-3 The people invited God to go and inspect the ruins of the city and the temple. Perhaps that would arouse Him to remember His covenant and bring them back to their homeland. And this is no different for us as we ask God to revive us, that is, the church once again, because as we so eagerly point out that evil is flourishing.
· In verses 4-9 the Psalmist describes the enemy’s defilement of the temple, as they set up banners to their gods and destroyed the temple, eradicating any hint of God, plus they removed all of God’s prophets.
· And then in verses 10-23 it is a call to act against these atrocities and silence those who dishonor His name. And he points out how powerful God is and that nothing can stop Him. Therefore, the plea for God to defend His cause and rescue His people.
And so, we get to our verse. “Arise, O God, plead Your own cause” (Psalm 74:22 NKJV)
Now, I’d first like to take a look at two words that are in this passage.
To Arise is a call to battle
The Psalmist is calling on God to go to battle for them, that is, to go to battle for His people, which is, at its heart, God’s cause, as seen in this Psalm as he says in the first few verses, “the sheep of Your pasture,” “Your congregation,” and “tribe of Your inheritance.”
The reality is that the battle, while we join in, is really God’s battle and He calls for us to move forward and to take possession of what He has already gained.
To King Jehoshaphat concerning the upcoming battle against Moab and Ammon, whose army was so much greater than Judah’s, the Lord said, “Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.” (2 Chronicles 20:15b NKJV)
In the end, the enemy fought against themselves, and Israel just waltzed on in afterwards and pick up the loot, and it says that it took them three days to do so.
We see this same thing throughout the Scriptures, that is, the battle is ultimately God’s, for the enemy isn’t coming against us as much as he is coming against God.
But this is clearly brought out through what the Lord said through the prophet Zechariah, in that it is no one less than the Lord who fights our battles.
“‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6 NKJV)
The next part of this verse I’d like us to pay attention to is when he asked God “To Plead” His cause.
To Plead means to strive or contend. One gets the idea of giving a defense for what you believe in.
But by asking God to plead His cause in the face of such devastation and destruction, basically means they are asking Him to defend His cause by whatever means are necessary.
That is why some translations read, “Rise up, O God, and defend your cause”
Why, because God’s honor is at stake. We see this very thing as the Lord said to the prophet Ezekiel, “Thus says the Lord God: ‘I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went.’” (Ezekiel 36:22 NKJV)
And so, the Psalmist asks God to plead His cause, that is, God’s cause because God’s honor and the honor of His name is at stake.
And God is looking to see if we will enter into His cause and to fight these battles. We see this and how pleased God was with David, and when David joined into God’s cause, a great victory was achieved. It was when David cried out when the giant Goliath challenged Israel, and hence challenged God.
David said, “Is there not a cause?” (1 Samuel 17:29 NKJV)
And then when he faced off against Goliath he said, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand.” (1 Samuel 17:45-46 NKJV)
When we look around and we see the things that are going on, like this COVID-19 Pandemic and the current war between Russia and Ukraine, there’s this unspoken question, and that is, “What is God up to?” “What is God’s cause?” And then “How do I fit into His cause for this world?”
What God will do is that when we come into faith in Jesus Christ, He’ll He place within us the Holy Spirit who will give us the courage and strength to follow His word and commandments.
“I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. (Ezekiel 36:27 NKJV)
And we see this very thing as Paul says to the Corinthian Church, “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NKJV)
This leads me into exactly what the Psalmist did, and that is prayer.
The wonder of this Psalm is the Psalmist prayer. Nothing was going right; it was one of the most painful periods of Israel’s history; but the Psalmist continued to appeal to God, right down to the very last word.
Looking at this consider Jesus’s parable of the unjust judge, which was meant to teach us to always pray and not lose heart in the process, that is, not to give up. A parable is about a widow who would come every day to plead here case before the judge, and eventually He granted her request.
In the story, the judge said, “‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’ Then the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily.’” (Luke 18:4b-8a NKJV)
And in like manner we need to continue to pray, to intercede for the cause of God, and that is for His honor, and for His glory to be revealed in our lives and in the world.
As I look at this plea on the part of the Psalmist, I think of what Jesus told His disciples about how to pray.
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” (Matthew 6:9-13 NKJV)
· Now, while our first response to God should always be to honor and glorify Him, and to seek His cause over our own “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Verses 9-10)
· There are many needs we have, and we are to ask God for them as well. “Give us this day our daily bread.” (Verse 11)
· We also see that we are to pray for those things that God has called for us to do. “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” (Verse 12).
· And there are many enemies that we are to seek God’s protection from and that He would overcome, which as we have seen is tied up in what the Psalmist says. But here Jesus tells us to pray, “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Verse 13)
In essence, the Lord is calling us to intercede on His behalf for His cause. It’s as I pointed out earlier that God calls us to be His instruments in this battle.
The strength to do all of this can only come through the power of the Holy Spirit, and the mercy and grace of God the Father, who is the God of all mercies.
Now, by His Creation I mean, you and me. This was the Psalmist cry to God, and in the beginning of the Psalm we see this cause.
“O God, why have You cast us off forever? Why does Your anger smoke against the sheep of Your pasture? Remember Your congregation, which You have purchased of old, the tribe of Your inheritance, which You have redeemed.” (Psalm 74:1-2 NKJV)
God’s cause was then for His people, that is, you and me, and we see this in what we read, “cast us off,” “the sheep of Your pasture” “Your congregation” “tribe of Your inheritance.” God’s cause is then for His people, even though they and we have disobeyed and rebelled against Him.
But as we see through God’s word, His cause was not only for His people and their protection from the evil one, as Jesus said in the disciple’s prayer, “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one,” but also for all of humanity, and that’s because we have all been made in His image and according to His likeness.
It was for this cause that God arose and sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for us so that we could have everlasting life with Him.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NIV)
And although Jesus won the battle there upon the cross, and sealed it at the resurrection, He still calls us to enter this battle with Him. And we see this in the Great Commission given by Jesus.
After His resurrection Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:18-20 NKJV)
And so, God’s Cause for His Creation is wrapped up in His covenant, both the Old and the New. We see this talked about in Psalm 74 as the people, in verse 20, asked the Lord to remember His covenant.
But the people couldn’t truly enter and keep God’s covenant.
“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant … not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke … But this is the covenant that I will make … I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (Jeremiah 31:31-33 NKJV)
Because the people broke the old covenant, the Law of Moses, God pleaded His cause by sending Jesus to be the mediator of the new covenant that He Himself enacted on our behalf, that is, for us.
“And for this reason He (Jesus) is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.” (Hebrews 9:15 NKJV)
Now, besides you and I and the New Covenant that God enacted, another cause was for His kingdom.
The kingdom of God is one of God’s main causes, which is seen in Jesus’s prayer. “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10 NKJV)
And so, for God’s kingdom to come is His will on earth as it is in heaven, and thus His cause.
Now, the kingdom of God is wherever God is. And when Jesus was here upon the earth, so then was God’s Kingdom.
Jesus said, “But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Luke 11:20 NKJV)
And Mark records for us that Jesus came preaching the gospel saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15 NKJV)
And that is key for us today, while Jesus isn’t with us physically upon the earth, God’s kingdom still is here. It is here in the hearts and souls of every believer, that is, God Kingdom is within us.
Jesus said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” (John 14:23 NKJV)
And once again, Jesus asks us to enter into this battle right after He taught the disciples how to pray.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Mathew 6:33 NKJV)
Now, there is something here that we need to see, and that is that righteousness is at the heart of God’s kingdom. But as we all know, since we have within us the sin nature, the righteousness that defines God’s kingdom isn’t our righteousness, rather it is the righteousness of Christ who resides within us.
Therefore, the Kingdom of God and the righteousness of Christ is alive within us, and what this means is that since the Kingdom of God is one of God’s main causes, we, in whom the Lord Jesus and His righteousness resides, we are God’s cause and therefore the cause we are asking Him to plead for.
The Apostle John reveals Jesus pleading His cause, which is our sanctification when he said, “These things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” (1 John 2:1 NKJV)
Now in the Greek language the word “advocate,” means one who comes along side, one who comes to the aid and intercedes for another, that is, they speak on another person’s behalf. And so, Jesus is the one who now speaks on our behalf against the accusations brought against us by Satan.
In essence, Jesus is pleading His cause, the cause He came to this earth for, and that is to die in order to put an end to sin and death, to die in our place. Hence, once again, we, that is, you and I, are God’s cause, for the Kingdom of God today resides within us.
And so, as we see within these first two causes, that is, God’s creation and God’s kingdom, we are at the heart of God’s cause that we are asking Him to plead for.
In our Psalm the writer asks God to walk through the ruins of the city and see how the enemy has destroyed God’s temple, the place where God’s people gathered to worship Him.
And for me this describes the church because the church is the place where God’s people gather to worship Him.
And this is the cry of God’s people today, that is, to restore the church to what God has called for it to be. This is what we are doing when we call upon God to revive us. And what we see is that it is within the church that God’s kingdom also dwells.
We see this in what Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20 NKJV)
Remember, where Jesus is, there is the Kingdom of God.
But not only is Jesus in the midst of the church, but He is the head of it as well. To the Colossians church the Apostle Paul said that Jesus is the head of the body, the church. And to the church in Ephesus, he said that God the Father has put all things under the feet of Jesus making Him the head over all things pertaining to the church. And to Peter, Jesus said that He, that is, Jesus, would build His church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
And so, the establishment of the church, and its function here upon the earth is another one of God’s causes.
And once again we as His people are called to the battle for it.
“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25 NKJV)
But what I’d like for us to see in this cause is that once again we as God’s people are God’s cause, because Jesus is in the midst of the church where we as believers come to worship Him.
And so, the Lord has called us all to prayer, especially seeing the time that we are in, with fear, deception, and war increasing around the globe. And in our prayer, we need to ask God to once again plead His cause, and that is for the redemption and protection of His people and His church.
And I love then what the Lord said to us through the prophet Jeremiah.
“Therefore thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will plead your case.’” (Jeremiah 51:36a NKJV)
And therefore, asking God to plead His cause is in essence asking God to plead our cause. And so, we don’t need to leave here today feeling guilty about asking God to plead our cause, because our cause is His cause, and then His cause is our cause.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study