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.
Reading Psalm 79, you can envision the author, Asaph, staring at a scene of devastation. Jerusalem had been conquered by the Babylonians and everything was destroyed, including God’s holy temple. Asaph describes not only God’s people being mocked, but the horror of dead bodies strewn through the streets without even respect for a proper burial. In the midst of Asaph’s grief, he cries out to the Lord in complete transparency. He proceeds to beg God for forgiveness as the Israelites were far from Him and Babylon’s invasion was a direct consequence of their sin. Asaph pleads, “Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name, deliver us, and atone for our sins, for your name’s sake!” (v. 9). He knows God alone is their Rescuer. However, in the midst of sorrow, he is able to close with rejoicing. “But we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever; from generation to generation, we will recount your praise.” (v. 13) How? Asaph remembers who God is (their Shepherd) and who they belong to.
Can we not relate to Asaph? We may not be sitting in the midst of war ruins but we have most likely all been in the midst of what feels like ruin through destructive sin, loss, sickness, anxiety, grief, etc. Just like Asaph, we can pour out our hearts to a God who loves us and says we can cast all of our cares and anxieties on Him (1 Peter 5:7). We, too, can ask God for forgiveness. The best news is that Psalm 79:8-9 has been answered through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He has rescued us! Because of Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice for us on the cross, He has atoned for our sins, setting us free. “In Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us” (Ephesians 1:7).
Psalm 79 transitions from hopeless to hopeful! Because God is our shepherd and we are His sheep, we too can praise Him in midst of the storm. When we spend time with God, we begin to remember who He is and who we belong to. Throughout Psalm 79, Asaph’s circumstances did not change but his demeanor did. This is because he was comforted in our God who never changes! (Revelation 1:8, Hebrews 13:8, Malachi 3:6, Isaiah 40:8).
- What do you find yourself immediately turning to in the midst of hardship or stress instead of God? Confess those things to God and to your community! Ask them to hold you accountable to seeking Him above all else!
- What are ways you consistently remind yourself of God’s character, so when the hard times do come, you can easily reflect and remember who your God is? Check out this simple way: “30 Days of Praying the Names and Attributes of God”
- What Scripture do you have memorized that would come to your mind when disaster strikes? If you can’t think of anything, here are some ideas to get you started: Psalm 46:1, Psalm 3:3; Psalm 62:5-8 , Nahum 1:7, Psalm 121, Isaiah 41:10, Psalm 23.
Did you know that sheep are mentioned far more than any other animal in the Bible? Throughout Scripture, God’s people are usually compared to sheep and He is our shepherd! Check out these reads to learn more:
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