Weds 11 November - Psalm 79
1 O God, the nations have invaded your inheritance;
they have defiled your holy temple,
they have reduced Jerusalem to rubble.
2 They have left the dead bodies of your servants
as food for the birds of the sky,
the flesh of your own people for the animals of the wild.
3 They have poured out blood like water
all around Jerusalem,
and there is no one to bury the dead.
4 We are objects of contempt to our neighbours,
of scorn and derision to those around us.
5 How long, Lord? Will you be angry for ever?
How long will your jealousy burn like fire?
6 Pour out your wrath on the nations
that do not acknowledge you,
on the kingdoms
that do not call on your name;
7 for they have devoured Jacob
and devastated his homeland.
8 Do not hold against us the sins of past generations;
may your mercy come quickly to meet us,
for we are in desperate need.
9 Help us, God our Saviour,
for the glory of your name;
deliver us and forgive our sins
for your name’s sake.
10 Why should the nations say,
‘Where is their God?’
Before our eyes, make known among the nations
that you avenge the outpoured blood of your servants.
11 May the groans of the prisoners come before you;
with your strong arm preserve those condemned to die.
12 Pay back into the laps of our neighbours seven times
the contempt they have hurled at you, Lord.
13 Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture,
will praise you for ever;
from generation to generation
we will proclaim your praise.
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Meditation on Psalm 79
We are now in Book III of the Psalms and Psalms 73-83 each have the title ascribing the Psalm to Asaph.
This group of Psalms has the main theme of God’s sovereign rule over His people and the nations. In Psalm 79 the psalmist is pleading with God against the horrendous attacks by Israel’s enemies. There is also a plea for God’s forgiveness for their sins. This Psalm cries out against the fall of Jerusalem in 587 BC. Jeremiah tells us why this happened - Jeremiah 52:1-3 ‘Zedekiah … did evil in the eyes of the LORD, just as Jehoiakim had done. It was because of the LORD’s anger that all this happened to Jerusalem and Judah and in the end, He thrust them from His presence.’
This reasoning is clear in verses 1-4 as the Psalmist tells God about what has happened. Of course God knows what has happened and why it has happened. If we try to bring it up to date, we think about what is happening in the Church of Jesus Christ for the people of God are subject to attacks from the evil ones and to humiliation and shame as the world watches on.
The invasion of the nations has involved attacking God’s house, desecrating His temple, destruction of the city, bringing death to the people and bringing scorn on the people.
These people were in covenant relationship with God even though their sins were the cause of this devastation.
Verses 5-12 turn from telling God what is happening to pleading with God for some answers – and quickly. ‘How long, LORD?’; ‘How long?’
The Psalmist pleads with God to judge those nations that have caused such havoc – these are nations who ‘do not acknowledge you’; ‘do not call on your name’.
Do we see this today? Are the people of God being attacked and left for dead as if they are of no consequence?
Is the name of God being mocked?
Why doesn’t God do something about it for the sake of His honour and His great Name?
Are there nations who would be happier if they could remove all Christians from their land?
All this is real to the Psalmist in his day and is real to the people of God today.
Then the Psalmist faces up to reality. In verse 8 he pleads with God not ‘to hold against us the sins of past generations.’
In verse 9 he goes one stage further – ‘deliver US and forgive OUR sins.’
Confession of sin is such a vital part of our ongoing relationship with God and we need to pray the same prayer as did the Psalmist – ‘deliver us and forgive our sins.’
As we recognise our weaknesses and our failures, so we come to plead with God for help.
Verse 8 ‘may your mercy come quickly to meet us, for we are in desperate need.’
Verse 9 ‘help us, God our Saviour.’
The surrounding nations may be asking ‘Where is their God?’
The Psalmist pleads, ‘let them know you are there.’ He longs for God to deal decisively with these nations. One day God will do just that but in His time and not ours. We may not see it in our lifetime but we have God’s assurance that ‘He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the Man He has appointed.’
Knowing and believing in the faithfulness of God, we, His people, respond in ‘praise for ever.’
Thursday 12 November - Psalm 80
Friday 13 November - Psalm 81
Saturday 14 November - Psalm 82
Sunday 15 November - Psalm 83
Monday 16 November - Psalm 84
Tuesday 17 November - Psalm 85