Weds 15 March - Psalm 74
1 O God, why have you rejected us for ever?
Why does your anger smoulder against the sheep of your pasture?
2 Remember the nation you purchased long ago,
the people of your inheritance, whom you redeemed –
Mount Zion, where you dwelt.
3 Turn your steps towards these everlasting ruins,
all this destruction the enemy has brought on the sanctuary.
4 Your foes roared in the place where you met with us;
they set up their standards as signs.
5 They behaved like men wielding axes
to cut through a thicket of trees.
6 They smashed all the carved panelling
with their axes and hatchets.
7 They burned your sanctuary to the ground;
they defiled the dwelling-place of your Name.
8 They said in their hearts, ‘We will crush them completely!’
They burned every place where God was worshipped in the land.
9 We are given no signs from God;
no prophets are left,
and none of us knows how long this will be.
10 How long will the enemy mock you, God?
Will the foe revile your name for ever?
11 Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand?
Take it from the folds of your garment and destroy them!
12 But God is my King from long ago;
he brings salvation on the earth.
13 It was you who split open the sea by your power;
you broke the heads of the monster in the waters.
14 It was you who crushed the heads of Leviathan
and gave it as food to the creatures of the desert.
15 It was you who opened up springs and streams;
you dried up the ever-flowing rivers.
16 The day is yours, and yours also the night;
you established the sun and moon.
17 It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth;
you made both summer and winter.
18 Remember how the enemy has mocked you, Lord,
how foolish people have reviled your name.
19 Do not hand over the life of your dove to wild beasts;
do not forget the lives of your afflicted people for ever.
20 Have regard for your covenant,
because haunts of violence fill the dark places of the land.
21 Do not let the oppressed retreat in disgrace;
may the poor and needy praise your name.
22 Rise up, O God, and defend your cause;
remember how fools mock you all day long.
23 Do not ignore the clamour of your adversaries,
the uproar of your enemies, which rises continually.
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Meditation on Psalm 74
Michael Wilcock says of this psalm: ‘it is one of the bitterest complaints, arising from one of Israel’s bitterest experiences; the destruction of Jerusalem in 587BC, which brought the Hebrew kingdoms to an end.’
Just look at the questions that the psalmist asks in verse 1 and verses 10-11:
- ‘How long?’
In the NIV Study Bible there is a cross reference to Psalm 6:3 – ‘My soul is in deep anguish. How long, LORD, how long?’
The notes in the Study Bible say …’such language of impatience and complaint is found frequently in the prayers of the Psalter. It expresses the anguish of relief not yet granted and exhibits the boldness with which the psalmists wrestled with God on the basis of their relationship with Him and their conviction concerning His righteousness.’
Before arriving in Littlehampton, we had a number of years when we asked exactly the same questions. We didn’t get many answers during those times. When we did get answers, they raised more questions.
In the middle of our psalm we have the pivotal verse 12 … ‘But God is my (our) King from long ago; He brings salvation on earth.’
Another verse which meant so much to me is Psalm 71:20 … ‘Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.’
I have no doubt that there are many Ukrainian and Russian people asking the same questions of God - ‘Why?’ ‘Why?’ ‘How long?’ ‘Why?’
Let’s not give up in praying for them as we watch the news and hear from people on the ground.
Our psalm this week has a pattern:
- An appeal
- A reminder
- An appeal
- A reminder
- An appeal
- AN APPEAL – GOD, DON’T FORGET US Verses 1-3
God’s people felt rejected as God’s flock. What a contrast to one of the salvation-history psalms where we read, ‘He brought His people out like a flock; He led them like sheep through the wilderness. He guided them safely, so they were unafraid.’ Psalm 78:52-53
What a contrast here. Have God’s people been rejected forever?
The very centre of worship – the Tabernacle – has been left in ruins. Mount Zion is the place where God dwells but it is in ruins.
Their cry was not only not to be forgotten but for God to remember. The psalmist takes us back to
Genesis 48:15 and further back to Genesis 18:19. ‘The God who has been my shepherd…’
- A REMINDER – GOD, LOOK WHAT THE ENEMY HAS DONE Verses 4-9
What devastation and destruction the Babylonians wrought amongst God’s people.
See how the psalmist describes their actions>
- they roared
- they raised their flags
- they behaved with violence
- they smashed
- they burned
- they defiled
- they wanted to crush God’s people
- they burned
What scenes of horror. Come to today and see the scenes of horror across Ukraine.
No wonder there are those who are crying out, “God, don’t forget us” and “God look what they have done.”
- AN APPEAL – GOD, DESTROY THEM! Verse 10-11
Wow! This seems a very harsh demand. Perhaps the psalmist goes back to the Exodus when the people of God looked back to see the Egyptian army following them into the dry land.
But in the song that Moses led the Israelites to sing, we read, ‘you stretch out your right hand and the earth swallows your enemies.’ (Exodus 15:12)
As it was then, so now, the survival of God’s people is paramount.
Desperate times, desperate measures.
- A REMINDER – GOD, WE REMIND OURSELVES OF WHAT YOU HAVE DONE Verses 13-17
Back comes the psalmist to three events which focus on God’s dealing with His people.
- the parting of the Red Sea
- the provision in the wilderness
- the crossing of the Jordan into the Promised Land
Notice that the psalmist is not now exclaiming, ‘they’; ‘they’; ‘they’ but ‘You’; ‘You’; ‘You’.
You are the Creator God.
You are the Provider God.
You are the Sovereign God.
The NIV Study Bible notes this: ‘He is able to overcome all hostile powers to redeem His people and establish His order in the world.’
- AN APPEAL – GOD, DO SOMETHING Verses 18-23
No more questions from the psalmist. Just desperate cries for God to act.
- ‘do not hand over the life of your dove (Israel) to wild beasts’
- ‘do not forget the lives of your people’
- ‘do not let the oppressed retreat in disgrace’
- ‘do not ignore the clamour of your adversaries’
“O God, in all that’s going on, remember your covenant with your people; remember us, your people; help us to praise you even when the going gets tough.”
Hang on in there – remember the words of the chorus: ‘Faithful One, so unchanging, Ageless One, you’re my Rock of peace; Lord of all I depend on You, I call out to you again and again. You are my Rock in times of trouble, You lift me up when I fall down, All through the storm your love is the anchor, my hope is in you alone.’
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