Today’s text is Israel’s cry for deliverance. This community lament, similar to Psalm 74, follows a great disaster that fell upon Jerusalem (most likely the Babylonian destruction). After lamenting this destruction (v. 1-5), the psalmist petitions God for deliverance of His people, but also for retribution on their enemies (v. 6-12), before ending with praise in anticipation of His response (v. 13).
The nations had defiled God’s holy temple (treating something holy as unclean), “laid Jerusalem in ruins”, and slaughtered God’s people. The psalmist’s response to this reality is a series of questions for God.
How long, O Lord?
Will you be angry forever?
Will your jealousy burn like fire? (Psalm 79:5)
As part of this plea, three reasons are cited for God to act swiftly; the misery His people are experiencing (v. 1-4), His compassion (v. 8), and the humiliation brought to His name (v. 10).
As believers, when we struggle or find ourselves in crisis, it may seem as though God is aloof or slow to respond. However, we know His ways and timing are perfect, regardless of our perspective.
The psalmist rightly blames this ruinous condition on the heathen nations. We know that this destruction does not come about apart from God’s sovereign purposes. However, at the same time he points out that God is also angry with His people as a result of their continued unfaithfulness. Israel has sinned against God. While the worldly influences that corrupt the people of God will bear consequences, the ultimate problem lies in the hearts of the people who have rebelled against God – the reason for His righteous anger! The psalmist pleads for God’s forgiveness on behalf of the nation.
God’s jealousy is a passionate commitment to receiving exclusive loyalty from His people – a commitment for their good. The mention of God’s jealousy in this passage is an acknowledgement of unfaithfulness and led to the plea for forgiveness.
After praying for rescue, protection, and vengeance, Asaph ended this psalm with grateful dependence upon God. He properly recognized God’s place as Shepherd over His people and sheep.
1. Jerusalem is a figure of the Church of Christ. As we look at the Church today and see the devastation (materialism, intellectual pride, lack of fear of God), does our heart ache, do we grieve, can we feel the pain of this Psalm? Are we on our knees in prayer, pleading with God for the health and devotion of the Church?
2. With every believer being “a temple where God dwells”, perhaps we have been “defiled” and are losing the battle with temptation, anger, speech, or apathy. Although our salvation is secure in Christ, God can use these attacks to convict us of our sins and bring us to a place of repentance. Pray through this Psalm, call out the devil’s schemes and plead with God to do a work.
3. Bitterness and our desire for revenge can cause great damage in our lives as believers. As Asaph called out to God to avenge the destruction before him, we are reminded that we do not need to defend our personal reputations, right every injustice, and seek vengeance for every offence (Romans 12:18-21).
4. Finally, are we grateful people filled with praise, recognizing and embracing our position as “sheep of His pasture”?
But we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise. (Psalm 79:13)
Lord, what a privilege it is to be loved and cared for as Your sheep, fully dependent on You. You rescued us from a world of sin, deceit, and destruction. We find freedom and rest in your goodness, protection, and justice. Root out in us any sin that still entangles us so that we can more accurately reflect who You are. Give us genuine grief for the lost, a heart for the world, and love for our neighbour. Help us be a more praise-filled, thankful people who live in anticipation of eternity. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.
Originally written May 2021