Psalm 74:9 – Seeing the Signs
We do not see our signs; there is no longer any prophet, and there is none among us who knows how long.Psalm 74:9
As the end of the decade draws near, the signs all around us indicate that the stability and prosperity promised by so many politicians cannot be guaranteed or taken for granted. The world has become a global village which is crumbling at many corners and seams, and politicians and governments are engaged in a constant battle of patchwork in order to keep the ship from sinking. With the dangers of increasing tensions and wars, with increasing economic instability, and with some perplexity about our time, we enter a new year of the Lord.
In such times we may also wonder with the psalmist, “How long can this go on?” Asaph witnessed the total destruction of God's people and their heritage all around him. He saw the desecration of the temple, and the annihilation of the temple service. Darkness had descended upon God's people. Worst of all, there was no longer any prophet or seer in order to give the people some encouragement in their predicament. As Asaph experiences it, the LORD had totally abandoned His people, and it appeared as if He had totally hidden Himself from human view.
Indeed, such was the way of the LORD with His wayward people. In the time of the judges, after the continued disobedience and apostasy of His people, the LORD as it were hid Himself from them so that, as Samuel says, “the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision,” 1 Samuel 3:1. And the awful effects of the loss of sign and vision is expressed by Eli to his sons when he says, “If a man sins against a man, God will mediate for him; but if a man sins against the LORD who can intercede for him?” 1 Samuel 2:25. If the priests and the sacrifices disappear, the way of mediation is closed, and the blessings of salvation and life are cut off from God's people.
This is also what Asaph laments. So deep is the darkness that has descended among God's people with the exile that all sign of favour and respite had vanished. The way of mediation was closed. Priest and altar had disappeared. And when sin cannot be taken away, how can the LORD address His people? With the removal of the sacrifices and feasts also came the removal of the prophets, seers, and visions. And the result is complete darkness, confusion and blindness. No one knew how long it would take before the LORD returned; no one knew what the future would bring. The way of the promise became a faint ray of hope in a dark tunnel.
And was not the LORD justified in His withdrawal? After such a prolonged period of calling His people with outstretched arms, the LORD again decrees an end to prophet and vision. This was the just punishment of the LORD upon the obstinate sins of His people. And although there were pockets of respite, this actually continued until the day light dawned for God's people in the birth of the Saviour.
And in Him the light rose never to disappear again! He is the Sun of righteousness, and in Him “their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world,” cf. Romans 10:18. Through His death and resurrection He established God's righteousness and truth on earth, and pours forth His Holy Spirit to guide the church. Since His coming and work, prophet and seer are no longer required, for He feeds and nourishes His people by His own Word, cf. Zechariah 13:3ff. The Lord sends out His ambassadors, and governs His church through His Word and Spirit. And He Himself has given to us the prophetic word, through which we are able to discern the times and the seasons. He has made known to His church the signs of His coming, and the signs of the close of the age, cf. Matthew 24. And in the Revelation to John, He told His church about the things that “must soon take place,” Revelation 1:1.
So we have much more today than Asaph had! To be sure, we do not know the times or the seasons which the Father has set by His own authority. But clear signs are given to us, and we have the enduring promise of Christ's presence with His people. The way of reconciliation is always open for him who seeks the Lord in true faith! And we are not alone, for even in heaven the saints pray in perfection,
O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before Thou wilt avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?Revelation 6:10
But the LORD's way of working as revealed in ancient times still holds true today. Where apostasy and hardness of heart prevails, there no one need expect the prophet's voice to be heard. Where increasing laxity and disobedience takes root, and impure motivations enter the church, the light of the gospel declines, and the message fails to benefit the hearers.
In the end of days there will be those who say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things have continued as they were from the beginning of creation.” 2 Peter 3:4
But we are called to pass the time of our exile in fear, 1 Peter 1:17. We are called to be watchful, and observe the signs of the times. We must endure in faith, and pray that the LORD may continue to guide His church through His living proclamation.
Then we may also be assured and sing:
Hallelujah! Praised be the Son,
For His redeeming work is done;
From sin He has untied us.
He died, was buried, but He lives,
And to His ransomed people gives
His blessed Word to guide us. Hymn 29:1