Friday, July 29, 2016

Seeking God’s Help

Psalm 79:1-13

A Psalm of Asaph.

“O God, the heathen are come into thine inheritance; thy holy temple have they defiled; they have laid Jerusalem on heaps.  The dead bodies of thy servants have they given to be meat unto the fowls of the heaven, the flesh of thy saints unto the beasts of the earth.  Their blood have they shed like water round about Jerusalem; and there was none to bury them.  We are become a reproach to our neighbours, a scorn and derision to them that are round about us.” (Psalm 79:1-4)

Tradition assigns this Psalm to Asaph, but from this passage it is clear it could not have been written by the Asaph in David’s day.  Jerusalem did not become a Jewish city until after David became king, and the Temple was not built until after his death.  At no time during David’s or Solomon’s reign was Jerusalem attacked as described here so this Psalm had to be written at a much later date, after both Judah and Israel turned away.  In fact the description seems to be of the period shortly before Jerusalem was destroyed by Babylon.

Jerusalem had been attacked and thousands were dead.  The Temple had been desecrated, and there were not enough people available to bury the dead.  Judah and Jerusalem had lost all the respect the other nations had once had for them. 

“How long, LORD? wilt thou be angry for ever? shall thy jealousy burn like fire?  Pour out thy wrath upon the heathen that have not known thee, and upon the kingdoms that have not called upon thy name.  For they have devoured Jacob, and laid waste his dwelling place.” (Psalm 79:5-7)

When we are in trouble, we constantly ask how long it will last.  And here the Psalmist is asking how long God will continue to allow Jerusalem to be smitten instead of turning on those who have rejected God and destroyed Israel and Judah.  After all it seems unfair that God’s children suffer when the wicked do not.  We so easily forget God loves us and chastens us to bring us into obedience.  He gives the wicked enough rope to hang themselves, but when they are punished it is for their destruction.  They are not just corrected. 

“O remember not against us former iniquities: let thy tender mercies speedily prevent us: for we are brought very low.  Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of thy name: and deliver us, and purge away our sins, for thy name's sake.  Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is their God? let him be known among the heathen in our sight by the revenging of the blood of thy servants which is shed.” (Psalm 79:8-10)

He begs that God not continue to hold their past sins over them, but that he comes to their rescue because they have been severely embarrassed and humbled by what has happened.    He asks that God deliver them for his own glory and take away their sin to maintain his own reputation in the world.  Why should the unsaved be allowed to think God is powerless or doesn’t care?   By punishing those who have killed his servants, he can regain their respect. 

“Let the sighing of the prisoner come before thee; according to the greatness of thy power preserve thou those that are appointed to die; And render unto our neighbours sevenfold into their bosom their reproach, wherewith they have reproached thee, O Lord.” (Psalm 79”11-12)

He asks that God listen to the sighing and hopelessness of those who had been taken captive and intervene on behalf of those who were facing execution.   He asks that the neighbors who had been responsible for them being in their situation be repaid in full because by attacking his people they had implied he could or would do nothing.   

“So we thy people and sheep of thy pasture will give thee thanks for ever: we will show forth thy praise to all generations.” (Psalm 79:13)

As they saw his power and realized what he delivered them from, God’s people would be thankful forever, and try to ensure future generations knew his power and blessings by their teaching and leaving memorials.   God loves us immensely but sometimes our guilt makes us feel even he would not care about us anymore,  When we feel so guilty we can’t imagine him forgiving us, we can still trust God to act on our behalf simply to protect his own reputation and keep his promise.  Our hope is not dependent on our being good enough, but on God’s own nature.  He will not change or break his promise.

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