HOW LONG, O LORD?
Lord, remember the violence of the nations against Your people.
Read PSALM 79
A psalm of Asaph.
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 neighbors,
of scorn and derision to those around us.
5 How long, Lord? Will you be angry forever?
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 Savior,
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 neighbors seven times
the contempt they have hurled at you, Lord.
13 Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture,
will praise you forever;
from generation to generation
we will proclaim your praise.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matt 16:18, ESV)
This psalm is a lament: a song pleading for God’s intervention. The setting is exilic: the Babylonians have destroyed Jerusalem and the temple. (1). The psalm moves from a vivid description of their plight to an appeal for vengeance, repentance, another request for retribution – and, lastly, praise.
The first picture is of a nation destroyed by war, as many of them have experienced (1–4). In verse 5, the psalmist cries out, “How long, LORD?” He pleads for God to intervene and bring restoration (5,6). In verse 8, he shifts to repentance, asking God to show mercy by not remembering the nation’s former sins. He knows who God is: “our Savior” (9). Amen! Knowing this, he calls out to God to help those left behind after the exile. He proceeds to ask God why the nations question his existence (10) – has anything changed today? – and then yearns for God’s sevenfold vengeance on these nations (cf., Genesis 4:15; Leviticus 26:18; Proverbs 6:31). Knowing that God is their shepherd (cf., Psalms 23:1), he promises to praise him forever (13).
Today, across God’s world, Christians gather as God’s people: to remember, lament, love, praise, and hear the Word. Many western churches are in a moribund state: almost empty, aging and declining – perhaps headed toward becoming museums or remodeled restaurants. We have become a taunt to our neighbors (4). We yearn for God’s renewal – “how long, Lord?” Knowing that Jesus is returning to judge the nations, we no longer need to cry out for the destruction of the ungodly: that is assured (though God wants all to repent – 2 Peter 3:9). We can take our cue from this psalm, especially verses 8 and 9, pleading for God to meet us with compassion to for-give and renew us. We do so trusting that God will build his church! So, let us give thanks and praise to our Shepherd-King for ever.
Pray the psalm. Lament our state. Ask for forgiveness, deliverance. Bless our enemies. Pray for renewal. End with praise.
Lord, like Asaph, we ask that You not remember our iniquities but deal with us according to Your mercy.
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