Monday, September 10, 2012

Psalm 74 & 79 - Destruction and Crying Out to God

LINK: Psalm 74 & Psalm 79

BACKGROUND

The attributions for these psalms say they were written by Asaph. In previous psalms, we have learned about an Asaph in David's time yet this Psalm refers to the destruction of the temple, and the only historical event that matches this is the destruction when the Babylonians invaded in 586 B.C.  Maybe this Asaph is a "later member of the Asaph musical guild" (Bible Knowledge Commentary: Vol 1, p. 848).

These psalms appear to be strongly connected to the events in 2 Kings 25. To review, in January of 588 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia besieged Jerusalem. On July 16, 586 B.C. they broke down the wall. On August 16, 586 B.C., they burned down every important building in Jerusalem, including the temple and royal palace which had stood for four centuries. Following this, seventy-two leaders were executed. All this made Israel an object of scorn to the surrounding nations.

Psalm 74

In this Psalm, Asaph lamented over the destruction of the sanctuary by an enemy, and he appealed to God for help by showing His right hand which is a symbol of His power. He reminded Him of the past when He helped Israel across the Red Sea (74:12) and His power over nature (74:15-17). He also referred to having crushed Leviathan, a seven-headed monster that symbolized Egypt's power. He finally appealed to God to "consider the covenant" and that His name was being spurned because of the triumph of the pagan enemy.

Psalm 79

This Psalm of Asaph is an appeal to God not to remember their sins and to deliver them "for the glory" of His name. The psalmist sees the destruction of God's people as a blot on His reputation. In ancient times, when a nation conquered another nation, it was proof that its gods were stronger than the gods of the conquered nation. Asaph knew this was not true and did not want God's name dishonored. If God would answer, His people would praise Him forever. It is similar to Psalm 74.

God had chosen Babylon to chasten Judah for her sins, but Asaph was more burdened about how Babylon had slandered God's name. 

God did answer Asaph's prayer because the Persians conquered Babylon in October 539 B.C. Then, King Cyrus of Persia issued a proclamation in 538 B.C. that allowed the Israelites to return to Judah and rebuild their temple. The sons of Asaph were among those who returned to praise the Lord (Ezra 2:41; 3:10; Nehemiah 7:44; 11:17, 22: 12:35-36)!

REFLECTION

I have never been in the midst of a city burning, but I visited Fallbrook, California after the devastating wildfires in October of 2007

DSC_0113


(See here for the whole set)

We listened with horror to the story of our friend, Jerome Marroquin, who, literally, had to flee for his life along with his kids.

So, I cannot even begin to imagine the utter despair of being a resident of Jerusalem, like Asaph, and seeing the temple, that had stood there for centuries, burn to the ground!

When outraged by tragedy, some of us cry out to God, like Asaph, and some of us cry against God. Jerome cried out to God in the midst of this tragedy, and it was really wonderful to hear about how he trusted in Him through the whole ordeal.

I hope and pray I can respond to tragedy like Asaph and Jerome!

APPLICATION

How have you responded to injustice and tragedy in the past? It is OK to be angry, but do you blame God and rail out against Him or do you cry out to Him for help?

Enjoy some worship and recall God's power in the past just like Asaph did!

PRAYER

Lord, we praise You for Your power. Your right arm is not too weak to save, and we give You praise for that even though sometimes we must wait for Your long arm of deliverance to come. Help us to know that You are in sovereign control of all things, and that Your timing is absolutely perfect. Allow us to press into You in our trials rather than rail against You. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.
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