Scripture reading – Psalm 74; Psalm 79

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Today’s Scripture reading might seem to interrupt the flow of our studies in the Book of Jeremiah; however, you will notice Psalm 74 and Psalm 79 appear to be contemporary songs penned after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple and at the beginning of the Babylonian captivity.

Psalm 74

Psalm 74, titled “Maschil of Asaph,” is an instructive or reflective poem. It was attributed to Asaph, a musician during King David’s reign. Yet, because the psalm described the judgment of the LORD and the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple (74:3, 6-8), it was most likely authored contemporary with the siege of Nebuchadnezzar’s army. Therefore, the “Asaph” of Psalm 74 was most likely a descendant of David’s Asaph.

The focus of Psalm 74 was on the struggles of Judah as a country.  Reflecting on that nation’s sorrows and devastation (74:1-11), the psalmist recounted how the LORD delivered Israel in past days (74:12-17). He cried out for the LORD to deliver His people from “the multitude of the wicked” (Psalm 74:19) so that “the poor and needy” might praise His name (Psalm 74:21).

Closing thoughts –

Perhaps none of all the idioms in the English language is more tragic than the words “Too Late.” As we reflect on our recent studies of Jeremiah’s prophecies, we know it was too late for Judah to repent of its sins and turn to the LORD. Nevertheless, the LORD is just and merciful. He did give His people their due reward, for they had broken their covenant with Him. Yet, He did not forget them and promised to restore them to their land when seventy years of captivity were accomplished (Jeremiah 25:11; 29:10; Daniel 9:2).

A Cry for Pity, Mercy, and Vengeance

Psalm 79

The content of Psalm 79 strongly suggests that it was a song written contemporaneously with the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem and the destruction of that great city. Once again, one named Asaph is cited as the author.

The Destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple (Psalm 79:1-5)

The psalmist cried to the LORD, for there was no other to whom he could appeal (Psalm 79:1). Nebuchadnezzar’s army (“the heathen”) had invaded Judah, defiled the Temple, and left the bodies of the dead in the streets (Psalm 79:1-2). The blood of the slain flowed through the streets like streams of water. There were none to bury the dead and spare their loved ones the indignity of being carrion for birds and beasts (Psalm 79:3).

The psalmist complained that Jerusalem’s sufferings gave occasion for the heathen to mock God’s people, who had “become a reproach to [their] neighbors” (Psalm 79:4).

A Cry for Pity, Mercy, and Vengeance (Psalm 79:5-12)

The writer did not appeal as though God’s wrath was unjustified. However, he asked, “How long, Lord? Wilt thou be angry forever? Shall thy jealousy burn like fire?” (Psalm 79:5). Judah’s sins had brought God’s judgment upon the nation. Yet, Asaph made a case for God’s wrath to be poured out upon the heathen for their abuses and wickedness (Psalm 79:6).

The psalmist reminded the LORD how the wicked had “devoured Jacob” [slaughtered Israel and Judah] and “laid waste His dwelling place” (the Temple, Psalm 79:7). He begged for the LORD’s mercy (79:8) and appealed to Him to save His people, not because of their merit, but for the sake of His testimony among the nations (Psalm 79:9). He reasoned, “Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is their God?” (Psalm 79:10)

Calling for God’s vengeance, Asaph implored the LORD to hear the prisoners’ sigh and save those “that are appointed to die” (Psalm 79:11). Reminding the LORD that the heathen took pleasure in the travails of His people, he prayed God would exact vengeance “sevenfold,” saying, “They have reproached thee, O Lord” (Psalm 79:12).

Closing thought

What was the basis for the psalmist’s prayer for deliverance? It was the LORD’s covenant with Israel and Judah. He reminded the LORD, “So we thy people and sheep of thy pasture” (Psalm 79:13a; Psalm 95:7; Psalm 100:3). Confessing his humility on behalf of the nation, Asaph promised, “We will give thee thanks for ever: We will shew forth thy praise to all generations” (Psalm 79:13b).

The sorrows and sufferings that befell Jerusalem and Judah were because of their wickedness. Yet, the psalmist remembered the LORD’s promises of grace and mercy. He understood the LORD chastened Israel and Judah because they were His people, and whom He loves He chastens (Hebrews 12:6).

A personal invitation

Friend, you may be bearing the weight of God’s chastening. Remember, the LORD is gracious and merciful. Like a loving father who chastens a son, the LORD loves us, and He corrects us so that our lives might yield “[i.e., bear] the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised [trained; disciplined] thereby” (Hebrews 12:11).

Copyright © 2024 – Travis D. Smith 

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