A Forsaken Moment? Psalm 10:1-11
Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor; let them be caught in the schemes that they have devised. For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul, and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord. In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, “There is no God.” His ways prosper at all times; your judgments are on high, out of his sight; as for all his foes, he puffs at them. He says in his heart, “I shall not be moved; throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity.” His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression; under his tongue are mischief and iniquity. He sits in ambush in the villages; in hiding places he murders the innocent. His eyes stealthily watch for the helpless; he lurks in ambush like a lion in his thicket; he lurks that he may seize the poor; he seizes the poor when he draws him into his net. The helpless are crushed, sink down, and fall by his might. He says in his heart, “God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”
The writer didn’t understand God’s absence from his experience. In this lament, he records situation after situation where it appeared the wicked was unhindered in his evil. One poignant reference is “…in hiding places [the wicked] murders the innocent. His eyes stealthily watch for the helpless…”
It’s true: when righteousness wanes and wickedness waxes, the righteous can be bewildered. Let’s jump ahead: rampant sexual immorality flows through our culture unchecked, unhindered. The Bible is clear in its condemnation of the behavior while holding out hope in Christ for those who perpetrate it. Let’s call it what it is: evil.
In this social-media saturated environment, it certainly seems that we are in our own version of a forsaken moment. Where is God in this confusing cultural moment? How do we live in the “forsaken-ness” of it?
The goal of this White Paper isn’t yet to lay out our moment, but rather our approach to it. Unless we are certain ofhow to approach our moment, we may certainly not live in it as we should before the Lord. Here are a few preliminary principles.
First, only the kingdom of this world—common to all mankind—is in decline. Even as immorality seems to be running the place, it has not and will not penetrate the redemptive kingdom. That is not to say the church is immune for we are not; simply, the gates of sexual hell will not prevail against the church.
Second, when God made the covenant with Noah, He did not promise to save the common kingdom but to preserve it until the return of Christ. As we see in the steady circular movements of history John records in the Revelation, we inch closer and closer to the return of the Lord. In other words, the degradation is part of the birth pains the Lord promised (Matt. 24:8).
Third, for a long time in the West, Christendom influenced the cultures of the West—there was a shared sense of morality. This is a large topic that is beyond the scope of this paper. As Aaron Renn wrote recently in First Things, (“The Three Worlds of Evangelicalism,” Feb. 2022) and as Carl Trueman has written in his latest book, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, the trappings of Christendom that had given the Western world a common moral lexicon, is dimmed.
Fourth, the influence of Christianity over culture is declining but its power to grow the redemptive kingdom is not—the power of the gospel to save is not weakened. This might seem like a contradiction. But the more Christendom is stripped from our culture, the more the real thing will shine. We don’t need to lose hope that things are beyond the reach of God and the gospel—indeed, they are not.
Lastly, sexual brokenness is not new. Our cultural moment is new to us but as we see from the Scriptures, sexual brokenness seems to define every age in some way.
Governing our Approach: Jesus with the Samaritan Woman
These preliminary principles lay out some of the landscape of our approach. Still, we have to be careful and compassionate upon those who are lost or wayward as seen in their sexual choices. Dr. Gary Yagel, in his book, Anchoring your child in God’s Truth in a Gender Confused Culture, began his study very helpfully in John 4:7-26, the Samaritan woman. Some of what follows will resemble his work.
What we see with the Lord’s interaction with the Samaritan woman is at least five things that should mark our approach to the sexually broken.
First, His willingness to engage her (John 4:7). He didn’t turn away from her but took the initiative to engage her. It is quite likely this took her by surprise given what she said about the standard interactions between the Jews and the Samaritans, “How is it that you, being a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?”
Second, His willingness gave way to His interest: He spoke to her. In speaking to her, He dignified her—he treated her as an image-bearer worthy of the Lord’s interest. Indeed, by speaking to her He transgressed a number of cultural taboos that John even mentioned (John 4:27).
Third, His discipling: He cared for her soul. It was evident very quickly that He was prepared to present to her living water even if she didn’t quite grasp the concept (John 4:10, 13). He preached the good news to her before addressing her sexual sin and situation in life.
Fourth was His honesty: called her out for her failure to live by the law of God: she had five husbands and the one she was with was not her husband (John 4:16). He didn’t do it to win points or prove Himself but because her sin was enslaving. He accepted her with an agenda.
Fifth, His commitment was her true worship. He didn’t ask her to leave the man she was living with but rather leave the false religion she was committed to. All of the sexual brokenness will come to an end if she turned to embrace the gospel. It might not come to an end in her lifetime—like Gomer the harlot, she may return to sin again and again—but its grip on her, broken by the gospel, will be weakened over time by the Spirit.
In all of these ways, we see the Lord Jesus model for us how to approach those who are broken and lost in sin, specifically sexual sin. Our mission field has changed—now our “new” cultural field is sexual.
Sinners and Sufferers
The last part of our approach is to recognize two truths about those we may strive to serve and help. Our attention is to people who are, at the same time, sinners and sufferers.
First, they are sinners, indeed, they know the truth and choose to suppress it (Romans 1:18ff). As sinners they need to repent of their rebellion against God that is witnessed in their lifestyle choices and embrace freedom from sin and judgment by faith. We have a duty to share the converting and free gospel of grace.
But secondly, they are, at the same time, sufferers. They are blinded by the prince of the power of the air (2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:1-4). They do not know what they are doing. They are captive to do the devil’s will (Romans 7:5-6) and so they need to be rescued. In this way, the sexually broken and wayward are the new “widows, orphans and sojourners” who need protection from those who would subjugate them further.
In this way, they are subjects of our mercy and our interest—just as the Lord modeled with the woman of Samaria. We cannot categorize the sexually broken and wayward as untouchable outcasts; they are not. They are suffering at the hands of their sin and our enemy.
In a word, our approach is grace and truth (see John 1:14).