952313_79933908Many of us are very upset and pained by the recent decision of the Malaysian apex court on the “Allah” issue.

Malaysians are urged to pray for protection of freedom of religion in Malaysia.

This follows the Federal Court verdict to deny Catholic publication The Herald leave to appeal a ban on the use of the word ‘Allah’.

The Malaysia Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) said that this is as the verdict leaves minorities “vulnerable”.

“The majority decision leaves minority faith communities vulnerable and disregard [sic] clear protection granted to all Malaysians…

“The MCCBCHST calls on the people to say prayers so that the religious and other rights of all Malaysians are protected,” council president Jagir Singh (right) said in a statement late yesterday.

Expressing “dismay” over the 4-3 decision, he also said that the verdict has shut out all avenues for minority Christians to seek redress.

“The application for leave to appeal had raised 26 grounds of legal and constitutional issues and minority rights issues to be decided.

“Now, with the Federal Court shutting out this avenue of Appeal it may result in grave injustice to minority rights which were hitherto protected by the Constitution,” he said.

Jagir, however, lauded the dissenting judgements by Justices Zainun Ali, Richard Malanjun and Jeffrey Tan Kok Wha. (https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/266602)

We see this decision not so much as a loss for Malaysian Christians but as a betrayal by the government of the day and the highest court of the land — well, at least four of the seven judges — to protect and apply the constitution, which in this case leaves non-Muslim minorities in the land vulnerable to the dictates of the increasingly aggressive Islam championed by growing numbers in the country. How do we respond when evil wins?

This is a question the Bible takes seriously. It is the focus of Psalm 73. In the face of the triumph of evil, the Psalmist says:

Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
and have washed my hands in innocence.
All day long I have been afflicted,
and every morning brings new punishments.
(Psalm 73:13–14 NIV)

Here is Craig C. Boyles’ useful introduction to the Psalm:

This Psalm is a favourite for many because it rings so true to our feelings and experience. Many of us have felt disappointed in God. When we feel life has treated us unfairly, we often betray our belief in the sovereignty of God by blaming and abandoning him! The psalm confesses what we are afraid to admit, and so helps us to be honest before God about life’s temptations and our readiness to sell out. (Craig C. Boyles, Psalms  [Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1999], 299.)

But something happens in the Psalm. As the Psalm progresses, the Psalmist moves from a negative frame of mind (verses 1–14), to a stance of renewed faith (verses 15–28). Among the things the Psalmist learns or relearns:

1. Evil, which often looks so strong and unbeatable is but a bad dream. It will cease at the dawn of God’s day. God will judge and evil will lose in the end.

Surely you place them (the wicked) on slippery ground;
you cast them down to ruin.
How suddenly are they destroyed,
completely swept away by terrors!
They are like a dream when one awakes;
when you arise, Lord,
you will despise them as fantasies.
(Psalm 73:18–20 NIV)

2. Even when God seems absent or helpless, He is still upholding us and guiding us.

Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
(Psalm 73:23–26 NIV)

How did the Psalmist move from doubt to faith? We want to know. We need to know. The Psalmist moved from doubt to faith because he had a fresh encounter with God.

When I tried to understand all this,
it troubled me deeply
till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny.
(Psalm 73:16–17 NIV)

 Marvin E. Tate comments:

The crucial point of the psalm is found in v. 17, which recounts in a very brief statement that the speaker attained a Godward orientation during a time in the sanctuary . . . We are not told how the new insight happened. Perhaps the speaker was a participant in the worship at the temple in Jerusalem on one of the high days of festival time, where, like Isaiah of Jerusalem, a vision appeared of Yahweh high and lifted up upon his great heavenly throne. . . (Marvin E. Tate, Psalms 51–100 [Dallas, TX: Word Books, 1990], 238.)

These are disturbing times in Malaysia. We are torn and distracted by many feelings and many ideas. Some of us may be tempted to give up. Others may just be paralysed, not sure as to what we should do next. Many of us want to carry on in our desire to work for what is right and fair for all, but we are tired. For followers of Jesus, our next step is clear. We come afresh before God, we come seeking a fresh encounter that will remind us of what is right and wrong, of what is true and false, and the ultimate victory of God and good. We come before the Lord so that we can see things afresh from His perspective. We come before Him to find fresh wisdom, faith and courage. We will not be shaken. We will press on. Truly, “my flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”