We often hear Psalm 11:3 quoted in despair.
If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?
People repeat this one verse as if all hope will be lost if we don’t defeat this new law, win this election, save this marriage, but how many of us have read the entire chapter? It doesn’t say what we often seem to think it says.
David wrote of what appeared to be a hopeless situation, “The wicked are ready to destroy all those who are pure of heart. If all support is gone, what can the righteous do to prevent it?” But he didn’t stop there. He followed that with an observation on the reality that is hidden behind what we see and a profound statement of faith. To paraphrase, he wrote,
Adonai is still on His throne in Heaven and, although it appears that He has closed His eyes to our suffering, this is only a test for our benefit. He will destroy the violent and the wicked; a violent end is their inescapable destiny. But He loves the righteous and He is always watching over them.
Whatever you may be suffering, however evil your circumstances might appear, God still sees you. The sense of abandonment that you are experiencing is a test. Hold fast to your faith, because God has promised that the end of the faithful will be glory and life, while the ultimate demise of all oppressors, no matter how powerful they appear to us right now, will always be an ignoble and permanent grave.
For the righteous ADONAI loves righteousness and His countenance is toward the upright.
This week, most Jewish and Messianic congregations around the world are reading the Torah portion known as Vayechi (pronounced vah-yeh-khee), which is Genesis 47:28-50:26. This passage describes Jacob’s blessing of Ephraim and Manasseh and his prophecies over all twelve of his sons. Reading it put me in mind of an ancient document known as The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, which most Christians have never even heard of.
The Testaments is a collection of the last wills and testaments of the twelve sons of Jacob. Each contains a summary of the good and bad deeds of the author, moral homilies, prophecies of the Messiah and the tribe’s future, and a final exhortation to good deeds and national cohesion. They were written in Hebrew, most likely in the second or third century BC, and probably include edits made by a Priest sometime during the period of Herod’s Temple before Yeshua (Hebrew for Jesus) was born and by a Messianic Jew sometime in the first century after Yeshua’s resurrection. Although they were almost certainly not written by Reuben, Simeon, Levi, etc., they are still very interesting for their moral and historical content.
One interesting thing to consider is the influence of history and perspective in the emphasis of each brother’s moralizing. For example, Reuben’s great failing was in his inability to control his physical passions, and so he cautions the reader to maintain strict boundaries between the active spheres of men and women so as to avoid being tempted to fornication. Considering his perspective, when he says “Women are evil,” what he really means is that a man with his weaknesses must be on his guard around women, especially those women who themselves might be tempted to stray. Reuben knew that he was an easy mark for a flirtatious woman and so calls all women “evil” in self-defense. I think most of us have this tendency to inflate our own flaws to the level of a universal principal. We need to keep this in mind when we are tempted to judge another person harshly for what might actually be a fairly minor offense.
You can read more about the Testaments here and read the full version here.
I’ll be tweeting quotes and paraphrases from the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs with the hashtag #12Patriarchs all this week. Follow me on Twitter and join in the conversation!