How Much Longer, Lord? – Part 1

Fredy Peter

“What will become of me?” This is the question many people are asking themselves in the midst of misery, suffering, and injustice in their marriages, families, relationships, neighborhoods, at work, or in society. Psalm 94 provides the answers we all need today.

How can we reconcile God’s omnipotence with rough personal experiences, societal developments, and the situation in the Middle East and around the world? We ask, “Lord, where are you? Why are your godly ones helpless and suffering, while the ungodly are strong and prosperous? Why is there so much injustice instead of justice? How much longer, Lord?”

This question is as old as mankind itself and is explicitly asked in Psalm 94. This psalm is the heart’s cry of all generations of believers suffering injustice. It also contains a description of society that couldn’t be more fitting for our 21st century. Psalm 94 shows the apparent triumph of the unjust over the just. But it then gives reasons why the children of God can be confident despite incomprehensible suffering. As we read it, we must not lose sight of the fact that this psalm is intended primarily for Israel, since the Psalms are Israel’s songbook.

Psalm 94 is a song that is both personal and prophetic. It depicts the end-time conditions that will prevail shortly before Jesus’ return and the establishment of His reign on earth. The afflicted, believing remnant of Israel will sing this psalm with pleas and supplication during the Great Tribulation: How much longer, Lord?

Who is this believing remnant? And how do we know that this psalm is describing the time leading up to Jesus’ return? In order to answer these two questions, we’ll have to dig a little deeper.

The next event on God’s prophetic agenda is the Rapture. Paul describes this glorious event in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 as follows: “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”

After that, the seven-year Tribulation will begin with the Antichrist’s reign of terror, followed by unprecedented judgments from God. Jesus describes this in Mark 13:20: “And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days.”

The “chosen ones” or “elect,” of whom the Lord speaks in this passage, are the believing remnant. They are people who come to a living, saving faith in Christ during this time of judgment. Because they follow Jesus, they will refuse to worship the Antichrist or to accept his “mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name” (Rev 13:17). As a consequence of rejecting the mark, they are no longer able to buy or sell anything and are viciously persecuted. This era of total control and its consequences is just around the corner.

A television program recently showed how China is monitoring the population of Shanghai and other test cities using countless cameras on streets and homes: “If someone crosses an intersection and runs a red light, for example, their name and picture will appear in real time on a digital pillar nearby as a means of shaming them. China hopes this will bring more security and order. And what the camera misses, the cell phone sees [...] In China, there is a ‘social credit rating’ system. The state determines, by secret criteria, how honest, wealthy, trustworthy, and politically correct someone is and awards them correspondingly with digital credit points (resulting in a score between 350 and 950 points). [...] With China’s 1.8 billion cell phone users reserving, ordering, and paying for everything via apps, this is a frightening development, because those with low credit scores are restricted in their freedoms of movement and action. [...] One of the few remaining independent journalists there confirmed that he was no longer able to travel by air or train. When he attempts to make a reservation, the following message appears on his cell phone: ‘You are registered as a dishonest person. You are temporarily unable to purchase a ticket.’ He can no longer buy an apartment or start a business” (from news program “Review,” April 25, 2018).

It’s easy to say, “Well, that’s China. It’s so far away and doesn’t affect us.” But is that really true? The report also showed that more and more other governments are participating in this system. For example, if a Chinese citizen with a social credit score of more than 700 points enters Luxembourg today, it is easier for them to obtain a Schengen visa (enabling them to travel freely through most of Europe).

The Antichrist’s rule is casting its shadow! And so, we anxiously ask: How much longer, Lord?

The seven-year Tribulation will ultimately end with the Lord Jesus’ visible return in great power and glory, to judge and establish the millennial kingdom of peace.

How do we know that Psalm 94 is primarily intended for the Jewish remnant and describes that awful time before Jesus’ return? As previously mentioned, the Psalms are the song and prayerbook of the people of Israel. This is corroborated in the psalm by the Lord’s people being mentioned twice (vv. 5, 14) and the God of Jacob once (v. 7). Additionally, Psalm 94 is part of a series of eight so-called “Homage Psalms,” beginning with Psalm 93 and ending with Psalm 100.

Incidentally, in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament), all of these Psalms except for Psalm 100 are attributed to David. There is no reason to doubt this information from Jewish translators, who began their fundamental work in Alexandria as early as 280 BC.

Psalms 93—100 describe the establishment of Jesus Christ’s millennial kingdom and, according to Arno Gaebelein, sing “mostly about His rule as Judge and the blessings of the coming age.”

Jesus Is the King of Israel and the Ruler Over All Nations
– Psalm 93 describes the Lord as King.
– Psalm 95 describes the worship of the King.
– Psalm 96 describes the majesty of the King.
– Psalm 97 describes the power of the King.
– Psalm 98 describes praise for the King.
– Psalm 99 describes the holiness of the King.
– And finally, Psalm 100 describes enthusiastic thanks to the King.

In the midst of this series about God’s coming sovereign rule over Israel, sits Psalm 94. How does it relate? Psalm 94 is about the King’s righteous judgment that precedes the establishment of His kingdom! And that brings us to the first stanza of this prophetic and very personal song. It is the introduction to the whole topic and consists of three verses. It’s about:

Burning Questions
“O LORD, God of vengeance, O God of vengeance, shine forth!” (Ps 94:1). Quite a remarkable beginning, because this is the only place in the whole Bible where the Lord is named “God of vengeance.”

We like to refer to the Lord using such expressions as “God of love” (2 Cor 13:11); “God of peace” (Phil 4:9); “God of endurance and encouragement” (Rom 15:5); “God of all grace” (1 Pet 5:10); or “God of all comfort” (2 Cor 1:3). But “God of vengeance,” and twice at that? That’s almost unbearable in our tolerant time! Isn’t it?

A. W. Pink once wrote in this regard: “It is sad indeed to find so many professing Christians who appear to regard the wrath of God as something for which they need to make an apology, or who at least wish there were no such thing. [...] Others harbor the delusion that God’s wrath is not consistent with His goodness, and so seek to banish it from their thoughts. [...] But what saith the Scriptures? As we turn to them we find that God has made no attempt to conceal the facts concerning His wrath. He is not ashamed to make it known that vengeance and fury belong unto Him. [...] Now the wrath of God is as much a divine perfection as is His faithfulness, power, or mercy. [...] The very nature of God makes Hell as real a necessity, as imperatively and eternally requisite, as Heaven is” (from Attributes of God, chapter 18, “The Wrath of God”).

God is holy, which means separate. From what? Completely separate from sin. This attribute also requires that He hate sin. “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil” (Hab 1:13a). How then are we to stand before this holy God and have fellowship with Him for eternity? That’s why we need someone to remove our guilt. And that’s precisely what Jesus did on the Cross!

God isn’t just holy, but also omniscient. He knows the motives behind every action. He is the only One who can truly judge fairly. However, God’s vengeance has nothing to do with an uncontrolled fit of rage, and everything to do with just retribution for every injustice. When the psalmist cries out for vengeance, he’s calling down God’s intervention where earthly justice has failed. 

Vengeance and retribution were appropriate for the people of Israel in the Age of the Law. However, they are out of place for believers living in the Age of Grace. We are urged under the New Covenant to love our enemies (cf. Matt 5:44), to overcome evil with good (cf. Rom 12:21), and to suffer and endure (cf. Eph 4:1ff.; Col 3:13). Of course, we’re not meant to just turn a blind eye to injustice, but “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God” (Rom 12:19a). Naturally, providing aid to those under threat and self-defense are excluded. This is our innate duty as Christians.

“No man may take revenge, only He to whom all judgment is entrusted. The Psalms of Vengeance are songs of the time of the Lord’s return, when He will exact His terrible vengeance on all who have persecuted His people” (Dr. G. Wasserzug).

We can only understand this psalm’s choice of words when we recognize its prophetic meaning: “Rise up, O judge of the earth; repay to the proud what they deserve! O LORD, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked exult?” (Ps 94:2-3).

Who is this “judge of the earth”? The Gospel of John answers the question this way: “For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22). So, the psalmist is speaking prophetically of Jesus Christ! In that dreadful time of trouble, the persecuted believers will cry out for the Judge: for Jesus, for His shining forth, His manifestation, His second coming. “Lord Jesus, come! How much longer, Lord?”

In the syntax of the Psalms, the proud are those who consciously rise up against God, rejoicing when they transgress His divine ordinances. Jesus’ appearance in great power and glory will end the rejoicing of all the ungodly.

Then all the sighs of lament—which have risen to God’s throne from the oppressed, persecuted, and afflicted for generations—will be heard. The blasphemies of the most godless of all the godless—Antichrist—will also stop. Paul describes this dramatically in 2 Thessalonians 2:8: “And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming.”

The next stanza is about:

Oppressive Conditions
Next, David gets very specific describing the character and deeds of the ungodly. “They pour out their arrogant words; all the evildoers boast” (Ps 94:4).

Isn’t that what we see on a daily basis in the media, in particular against Israel? How the Islamic world and the media get away with such brazen speech and arrogant boastfulness is grotesque.

As we covered earlier, verse 5 proves that this Psalm is about Israel. David knew exactly what he was talking about when he said, “They crush your people, O LORD, and afflict your heritage.”

Even if the New Testament speaks of our inheritance as Christians (e.g., Eph 1:11), this particular passage isn’t about the Church but about Israel. Hebrew poetic convention makes this clear. Poetry in English is primarily based on rhythm—on an equal number of stressed and unstressed syllables: “Let faith, not fear nor fretfulness / Awake the cry, How long? / Let not faintheartedness of soul / Damp thy aspiring song, / Right comes, truth dawns, the night departs / Of error and of wrong” (from “How Long?” by Horatius Bonar).

Poetry in Hebrew is based on stress and accentuation of important words, and most importantly, parallelism. Parallelism means that a verse consists of two or more parallel lines (which, unfortunately isn’t visible in many English Bible translations). The thought from the first line is repeated or complemented in the second with a related word, or contrasted with a contradictory thought. Verse 5 serves as a convenient example. The first line: “They crush your people, O LORD,” is repeated using other words in the second line: “and afflict your heritage.” Spiritualization is excluded here.

David is not only speaking prophetically of Israel’s external enemies, but also of godless people in Israel itself. It’s a distressing situation: “They kill the widow and the sojourner, and murder the fatherless” (v. 6).

Godless people always target the weakest and most vulnerable: elderly women, foreigners, widows and orphans. David gives the reason for their perverse wickedness in verse 7: “And they say, ‘The LORD does not see; the God of Jacob does not perceive.’” 

When fear of God decreases and knowledge of God declines, mankind does not develop for the better, but the worse. Because if there is no God, then I can do what I want. Without God, I’m not accountable to anyone. This opens the door to every kind of depravity. The seed takes root, and the fruits are becoming more and more visible in society.

Midnight Call - 03/2023

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