Sheep for the Slaughter

Yet for Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter” (v. 22).

- Psalm 44

Psalm 44 contains three principle parts that are designed to increase the faith of God’s people while they are enduring affliction. First, the writer makes a record of the great mercy of God toward His people throughout history. Because God is faithful to the church in all ages, it is helpful to remember how He has delivered the saints of the past from the clutches of calamity. The author of this psalm may have been a prophet during Israel’s captivity in Babylon and penned this record to remind the people of the faithfulness of God to the nation of Israel.

The second part of this psalm presents a complaint to the Lord. The writer is complaining that God has not been favorable toward His people as He had been toward their fathers. The psalmist emphasizes that despite the persecutions of the faithful, they had not turned aside from the worship of God, that the trials they were suffering were due to their love and faithfulness to the Lord. Likewise in any age, believers who hold fast to true religion are oftentimes subject to persecutions for Christ’s sake. Christ Himself promises that this will happen when He encourages the faithful to remember the prophets who were persecuted in the same way and to remain steadfast in righteousness (Matt. 5).

The third part continues the theme that God’s people had been unduly persecuted because they had kept the covenant God had made with Abraham. While the psalmist claims no perfection, he emphasizes that the afflictions they faced were due to their steadfast devotion to the Lord and not to any particular sin such as idolatry. While many in Israel often abandoned God’s covenant, the faithful remnant remained true to God.

God’s people in all ages are called to faithfulness in the face of suffering. The church should expect affliction and realize that we suffer for Christ’s sake. Paul, in quoting this psalm in Romans 8:36, affirmed that this is the state of the church in all ages. Because we are one with Christ, we, too, are like sheep to the slaughter and we must endure this suffering in patience. The cup God has given us to drink contains suffering, and we must be willing to drink it or prove ourselves to be goats among the flock of God.

Coram Deo

Read 1 Peter 2:20–21; 4:12–16; 5:10. Have you ever suffered for Christ’s sake? What promise has God given His people regarding suffering? If you must suffer, strive to suffer not for wrong doing but for righteousness’ sake. When this happens, thank God for giving you the honor of suffering with Christ.

Passages for Further Study

Matthew 10:32–39
2 Corinthians 4:1–12
Romans 8:12–17

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 500 physical copies. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred (where applicable). If no such link exists, simply link to www.ligonier.org.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved. Website: www.ligonier.org | Phone: 1-800-435-4343