Sunday, September 4, 2022

Where is the Faithful, O Lord? (Psalm 12)

Solomon laments that it is rare to find a faithful man, perhaps at best one in a thousand that is 0.001% (Ecclesiastes). Say a city has 1,000,000 people which Kota Kinabalu including its surrounding suburbs would have, you have 500,000 men and only 500 are faithful men. It is a small number. Through these times of testing and pandemic, we see there are less and less faithful men. Men that would not or could not keep a promise. Some 10 years ago, I was promised by a friend that he would get back to me within one month. It was not casual talk, as he repeated his promise with a certain assuredness that he would do what he promised. In fact I met him in a Conference 5 years ago in a third country, but he simply shrugged it off when I reminded him of his promise.

Some promised to respond to messages but they never do. Some promised to do this or do that, but they never do. Where has the faithful gone, O Lord? There is no one faithful left in the earth, laments the Psalmist. Friendships are strained for the lack of faithfulness. In Malay, a beautiful word is "setia-kawan". It means loyalty to one's friends. 

Nowadays, those I thought are friends are no longer friends or there are serious doubts whether they mean well or ill. The Psalmist knows all these. Six years ago in Seoul, South Korea at a Society of Biblical Literature International Meeting, I presented a paper entitled, "Enemies Everywhere: The Psalmist Struggle for Survival in the book of Psalms". As it was on the first morning of the Congress, the hall was packed, and there are many scholars who stood at the back and some sat in the alley. My wife also attended. After the presentation, five or six people came to me and at least two of them including one South Korean Old Testament Professor asked whether my PhD was in the Psalms or OT. I was taken aback but felt a sense of pride that obviously my paper blessed many. But the substance of the paper was that David or the Psalmist had to contend with his enemies. In the Psalter, about 103 times, the word, "enemy" or "enemies" are found in the Psalms. Even in Psalm 23, it is written that the Lord set a table for the Psalmist in the midst of his enemies; he anointest my head and my cup runneth over. 

Can we stay faithful in the midst of unfaithfulness? Are we loyal to our friends? Are we fair-weather friends? We don't have to agree with everything with our so-called friends. But they can still treat them as our friends if we are large hearted, filled with love as the biblical concept of love, agape, the love of God for sinners, the love of Christ that is not dependent on the worthiness of the object of love, but it is agape because God can love without expecting anything in return and He can love us despite all our sinfulness and unfaithfulness. 

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