Day 22

How Long, O Lord?

Wisdom Psalm 13:1,5–6
New Testament Matthew 15:22–37
Old Testament Genesis 43:13–14

Introduction

Have there ever been times in your life when you have found yourself wondering, ‘How long, O Lord?’ How long will this pandemic last? How long will these struggles and disappointments last? How long will we have these financial difficulties? How long will these health issues persist? How long will the difficulties in this relationship last? How long will I struggle with this addiction? How long will these intense temptations last? How long will it take me to get over this loss?

Pippa and I sometimes visit St Peter’s Brighton, one of our church plants. At the end of one service, a woman came up to us and told us that for thirty-seven years she had been praying for her husband to find faith in Christ. For all those thirty-seven long years, she had cried out, ‘How long, O Lord, how long?’ (Psalm 13:1).

When St Peter’s reopened in 2009, her husband decided he would like to start coming to church with her. The moment he walked into St Peter’s, he felt he had come home and had been ‘reborn’. Now he loves the church and comes every week. Throughout our conversation she kept repeating, with a huge expression of joy on her face: ‘How long, O Lord, how long?’ God had heard. At last, her prayers were answered.

Four times in quick succession David cries out, ‘How long…?’ (vv.1–2).

There are periods when it appears that God has forgotten us (v.1a). It seems that he has hidden his face (v.1b). For some inexplicable reason, we don’t sense his presence with us. Every day seems to be a struggle – wrestling with our thoughts (v.2a). Every day brings sorrow (v.2b). We seem to be losing the battle and the enemy seems to be triumphing over us (v.2c).

How should you respond in times like these?

Wisdom

Psalm 13:1,5–6

1 How long, LORD? Will you forget me for ever?
  How long will you hide your face from me? …
5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
  my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing the LORD’s praise,
  for he has been good to me.

Commentary

Keep going

David’s example suggests four things that you should continue to do during difficult times:

  1. Keep praying

    David continues to cry out to God, ‘Look on me and answer, O Lord my God. Give light to my eyes’ (v.3). He pours out his heart to God. Don’t give up praying even when God seems far away.

  2. Keep trusting

    ‘But I trust in your unfailing love’ (v.5a). ‘I’ve thrown myself headlong into your arms’ (v.5a, MSG). It is relatively easy to have faith when things are going well, but the test of faith is when things do not appear to be going well.

  3. Keep rejoicing

    He does not rejoice in the trials, but in God’s salvation. He says, ‘my heart rejoices in your salvation’ (v.5b). ‘I’m celebrating your rescue’ (v.5b, MSG).

  4. Keep worshipping

    In spite of everything he has been through, David is able to see the goodness of God: ‘I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me’ (v.6). He remembers all that God has done for him.

As you begin to praise and worship God, it brings perspective to your problems. Sometimes, I find it helpful to look back on my life and thank the Lord for bringing me through so many of my own personal struggles, disappointments and bereavements, and to remember how, through it all, ‘he has been good to me’ (v.6).

Prayer

Lord, I worship you today. Thank you for your goodness to me. For all the battles ahead, I trust in your unfailing love.

New Testament

Matthew 15:22–37

22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, ‘Lord… have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly. ...

28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.

29 Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. 30 Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. 31 The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.

32 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry...”

35 He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. 36 Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. 37 They all ate and were satisfied.

Commentary

Keep following Jesus

Delay does not negate the promises of God. God does not always change our situations immediately. Sickness and suffering will not finally be eradicated until Jesus returns. These stories, and our experiences of miracles and healings, are a foretaste of what will happen then.

The goodness of God is revealed supremely in Jesus. Once again, in this passage, we see the amazing goodness of Jesus and how to deal with sin, sickness and suffering.

  1. Keep renewing your mind

    Jesus says that our problem is not about superficial things, such as what we eat (v.11). Food goes in and out of your body (v.17). The things that harm you come from inside – ‘what comes out of the mouth gets its start in the heart’ (v.17 MSG). The real issue is sin in the heart: ‘For out of the heart come evil thoughts – murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make you “unclean”’ (vv.19–20a).

    The challenge of Jesus’ words is that while we may not have committed murder or adultery, all of us fall at the first hurdle. The very first attribute that Jesus mentions is ‘evil thoughts’. The solution to our sin is not external rituals, as the Pharisees were suggesting. Only God can change my heart. I need the help of his Holy Spirit to transform and purify me.

  2. Keep praying for healing

    There are few things more painful than seeing your own children suffering. The Canaanite woman’s daughter was ‘suffering terribly’ (v.22). This mother must have cried out in her heart, ‘How long, O Lord?’ But she kept on asking for healing and refused to be discouraged by the fact that Jesus did not seem to be answering her request. ‘She came and, kneeling, worshipped him and kept praying, Lord, help me!’ (v.25, AMP).

    Jesus saw that she had ‘great faith’ and he healed her daughter (v.28). He went on to heal ‘the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others’ (v.30).

  3. Keep acting on behalf of the hungry

    Not only does Jesus deal with the issue of sickness (v.22 onwards), he also cares deeply about suffering caused by hunger. He says, ‘I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry’ (v.32).

    Jesus is able to do a lot with a very little. With the small amount of food given to him, he feeds the crowds. If you give him your life and resources, however small they may seem to you, he is able to multiply them and use them greatly.

    If Jesus cared so much about temporary hunger, how much more must he care about the hundreds of millions of people in the world today who are suffering from hunger and malnutrition. As followers of Jesus we are called to act on their behalf.

Surely everybody would approve of Jesus. But no. The Pharisees were offended (v.12) when they heard him. If even Jesus offended people by what he said, do not be surprised if some people are offended by what you say in his name.

Prayer

Lord, give me your compassion for suffering people. Come, Holy Spirit.

Old Testament

Genesis 43:13–14

13 ‘Take your brother also and go back to the man at once. 14 And may God Almighty grant you mercy before the man so that he will let your other brother and Benjamin come back with you. As for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved.’

Commentary

Keep hoping

Jacob could have cried out, like David: ‘How long, O Lord?’ (Psalm 13:1a). His sufferings seemed to go on and on. He had been grieving for his lost son for over twenty years. Now there was a severe famine (Genesis 43:1) and he faced the prospect of losing his much-loved Benjamin. He asked, ‘Why did you bring this trouble on me...?’ (v.6). He says, almost in resignation, ‘As for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved’ (v.14).

Eventually, Jacob simply had to trust God and let go of his son Benjamin. When he did so, things worked out. Very often it is not until we let go and commit a situation into the Lord’s hands – perhaps fearing the worst – that God works it all out.

The writer of this section of Genesis is a brilliant storyteller. He draws out the agony. Judah knows that if his father loses Benjamin – as well as Joseph – it would probably kill him. He speaks of the ‘misery that would come upon my father’ (44:34). All the while, we – the readers – know that Joseph is actually still alive and that through it all his dreams are being fulfilled (43:26–28). Joseph is ‘deeply moved’ and has to look for ‘a place to weep’ (v.30).

Joseph puts his brothers to the test. Judah is a changed man. Earlier he had callously sold his brother into slavery (37:26–27). Now he is willing to give his life to save his brother: ‘Let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy’ (44:33).

Through all the unexpected twists and turns of these events, God is at work, bringing about his purpose. He is always working on your character and enabling you one day to look back and say, ‘the Lord… has been good to me’ (Psalm 13:6).

Jacob had to send his ‘only’ (‘he is the only one left’, Genesis 42:38) son Benjamin to save the whole family. As we read this through the eyes of the New Testament we are reminded that God sent his only Son, Jesus, to save us.

Prayer

Lord, thank you for sending Jesus to save me. In the difficult times, when I am crying out, ‘How long, O Lord?’, help me to keep going, following Jesus, praying, trusting, rejoicing, worshipping and putting my hope in you.

Pippa adds

Genesis 43:1–44:34

This passage is very moving and leaves us on a cliff-hanger. So much hurt, jealousy, deceit and unkindness. Joseph tests the brothers to see what is in their hearts: Have they changed? Do they regret their actions? When Joseph saw his brothers bow down to him, it must have been so tempting to say, ‘Remember those dreams…? Didn’t I tell you…?’ But some things are revealed to us for our own encouragement and are better not said to others.

Verse of the Day

Psalm 13:5

‘But I trust in your unfailing love…’

Thought for the Day

Don’t give up praying even when God seems far away.
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References

The One Year® is a registered trademark of Tyndale House Publishers. Used by permission.

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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