No indeed, my dear friend, our God does not sleep. In Psalms 121:3-4 we read: “He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: He that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.”  Then again in Psalms 91:5 we see: “Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day…” (a full 24-hour period). So, how are we to understand Psalms 44:23? I believe that we must consider the context. This particular psalm is a prayer for Israel (and really, for the children of God of any generation), expressing their collective cries for deliverance from their enemies. I imagine that this psalm was set to music so the people could easily remember the words, then it could be sung by the congregation during worship, or to comfort themselves in times of trouble. Furthermore, I do not think it is a prayer for a specific historical time of trouble, but indeed, for any time of trial; and we know that there were many such in the history of Israel (consider the book of Judges or the Babylonian deportation. I also believe that this psalm has a prophetic quality, perhaps being the song of the faithful remnant of Israel in that latter day, during the Great Tribulation, just before the time when God’s people will finally recognize the Lord Jesus Christ as their Messiah and King and be healed (see Isaiah 53).

My dear friend, God’s love for His people and His purposes to one day restore Israel have never changed. But God has in fact, and many times, allowed troubles from enemies, famines, droughts, and the like to afflict His people, generally to return the hearts of His people to honor and serve Him. The recollection of God’s past deliverances should be remembered in order to encourage the people to have faith and above all, patience during times of suffering, so that God’s children will learn to wait on the Lord. This is as true for Christians today as it was for Israel of old. In Lamentations 3:1-20 we read about a specific time when God allowed the utter desolation of His people, and their 70 year captivity by  the Babylonians because of their sins, and that when they cried out for deliverance, God seemed not to hear them, as though asleep (Lamentations 3:8). In like manner, I believe that we hear (in Psalms 44:23) the voice of the faithful of Israel crying out to the LORD to awaken to their prayers for deliverance. It isn’t really a belief that God has gone to sleep, but rather that they are pleading with Him to act quickly to deliver them. Actually, this could be the voice of the children of God today, so in those times that try the soul, you and I might be praying like this: “O Lord, hear my prayers and awaken to act on my behalf soon,” even though we know that God’s deliverance may not always be according to our own time schedule (see Hebrews 4:15,16).

Now, going back to Psalms 44, the children of Israel, based on their recollection of God’s mercies in former days (verses 1-2), can say: “Thou art my King, O God: command deliverances for Jacob,” (compare with Lamentations 3:31-32). And yet, for the children of God, it can seem at times like the Lord isn’t hearing us, as if asleep to our cries, so there is a restatement of the cry with that sense of urgency that we humans always have when we are in trouble (Psalms 44:23-24; see also Psalms 34:15 and 50:15).

In closing, I’d like to share one further portion from Lamentations 3 which I believe will help Christians today to patiently and faithfully weather the storms that God allows into our lives: “It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in Him. The LORD is good unto them that wait for Him, to the soul that seeketh Him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD,” (Lamentations 3:22-26).  (SF)  (566.6)