Read Psalm 74
A maskil of Asaph.
1 O God, why have you rejected us forever?
Why does your anger smolder 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 toward 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 paneling
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 worshiped 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 forever?
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 forever.
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 clamor of your adversaries,
the uproar of your enemies, which rises continually.
In this psalm, we can see that Asaph and Israel as a whole are going through a tough time (a major understatement). This chapter is full of vivid, powerful imagery; as we read through it, the truths really sink in, as we picture in our heads everything described on the page. Reading verses 3 through 9, we picture walking through the ruins of a city, looking in the distance to see the church building burned to the ground, smoke pouring out of the place in which we would frequently meet (or maybe where we now wish we had visited more). Enemies come in with battle axes, yelling and destroying everything that is familiar to us. It feels like God is gone, and there is no longer anyone who speaks for Him (v. 9).
As we have seen in many of the Psalms so far, there is a clear shift, a move from despair to praise. Although the tone changes, the imagery continues. Instead of picturing a ruined city, we see God splitting the ocean and smashing the heads of sea monsters, letting desert animals eat them! He causes springs to gush forth and dries up rivers that never run dry! He creates everything, including the stars in the sky and the boundaries of the earth and the seasons we experience! People might come and ruin the temporary, worldly things that we have built, but God is in control, so powerful and mighty. People might come after us for our faith and take our sanctuary, but our Church was never a building, and our hope was never in the places where we worshiped. Our hope is found in the all-powerful, all-knowing, almighty God of the universe.
Israel was going through a tough time, and we might be, too. We might feel like we are under attack, either by loud men with battle axes or by work, school, other people, etc. Whatever comes after us, God is far more powerful. When we feel overwhelmed, we can follow the example of this psalm, remembering how God has been faithful in the past (v. 12) and how He has promised that He will triumph in His good and perfect timing (v. 20).
- When reading this psalm, what was the most powerful or surprising image you envisioned?
- Which are you most likely to do: think about the destruction and despair in the world around you or about God’s power and promises?
- What is your favorite story from the Bible (or your life) that has shown you God’s power? What is your favorite promise that God has made?
Did You Know?
In verses 13-14, we are told about God’s interaction with a creature known as Leviathan. The true identity of this creature is not fully known, with beliefs ranging from an earthly creature to a mythical sea monster. Either way, this description shows us God’s power and mighty strength over everything on Earth.
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