Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Asaph's "Occupy" Moment

Psalm 73:12 – Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches.

'Building Trades Unemployment Insurance Rally' photo (c) 2009, Bernard Pollack - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ On my way to the bus stop this morning, I heard an NPR story about the latest Occupy protests in California.

It was like I was really there. 

The correspondent was on location, narrating the whole chaotic scene. A group of protesters were dragging shards of sheet metal and wood palettes onto the only access road leading to a main port of entry. The road began to clog with tractor trailers. The correspondent struggled to be heard over the hoots and hollers, car horns and cheers.

Like most, I've been observing the Occupy demonstrations from a distance. I'm also employed, which colors my outlook on what's going on.

It's not productive for me to dissect the inner workings of Occupy, and the chief motives of its organizers. My responsibility is to examine my heart to discern how I would respond if I ever had to walk the path of extended unemployment, or financial ruin, in today's rattled financial climate.

I'm sure that, like them, I would be driven to tearfully ask God in the night watches, "Why does Wall Street wallow in prosperity while the honest, hard-working citizens suffer?"

The Bible is not silent on this kind of complaint. In Psalm 73, Asaph articulates a similar inner turmoil that the 99% are experiencing today. And what's best, he responds to it in a beautiful, God-centered way that serves as a model for how we as Christ's people should respond.

In the first half of the psalm, he describes a very Occupy-esque scene. It's his raw, naked complaint about the inequity he sees between the disproportionate prosperity of the wicked and the tooth-and-nail struggles of the upright.

"They are not in trouble like others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind."

"Their eyes swell out through fatness; their hearts overflow with follies."

Then about halfway through, Asaph reaches a stunning turning point. He goes "into sanctuary of God," and it changes his entire outlook. Through communion with God, the scales start to fall from his eyes and, by faith, he sees more clearly.

Communion brought clarity to Asaph's confusion, and moved him to a spontaneous overflow of worship. His concluding words coming out of that communion are some of the most beautiful words in the Bible:

Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.

None of us are immune to joblessness. Financial woes do not discriminate, and can strike at any moment. I could be out of work tomorrow. We're all one conversation away from this path. Or perhaps one shadow on the X-ray away.

But O God, before I hurl that first shard of sheet metal into oncoming traffic, may I run to your Word and rehearse Asaph's  progression from complaint to communion to clarity to worship. And may I find worship to be the far sweeter alternative to bitter public protest.

I thank God for the priceless gift of Psalm 73. In it, He reminds me that I am not alone, He is still on His throne, and is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Do you believe this?

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