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Psalm 79 - Jerusalem In Mockery

INTRODUCTION: This Psalm is attributed to Asaph, and it contains some very dramatic content about devastation and massive slaughter in Jerusalem. I wanted to consider the expressions of anguish, and the manner in which the appeal for relief and restoration was made to Yahweh. I did not try to determine which king would have been reigning at the time, but even trying to relate to the horrible content has been quite a challenge for me. I have referred to other passages that may serve to consider the purposes Yahweh could have for Israel to be subjected to such devastating events.

NOTE: Bible passages are from the World English Bible (WEB).

A - THE TEMPLE WAS DEFILED AND MANY PEOPLE SLAIN

Psalm 79 "1 {A Psalm by Asaph.} God, the nations have come into your inheritance. They have defiled your holy temple. They have laid Jerusalem in heaps. 2 They have given the dead bodies of your servants to be food for the birds of the sky, the flesh of your saints to the animals of the earth. 3 Their blood they have shed like water around Jerusalem. There was no one to bury them. 4 We have become a reproach to our neighbours, a scoffing and derision to those who are around us."

COMMENTS: There is no actual description about the manner in which the temple was defiled, when other nations mercilessly slaughtered so many who were in Jerusalem at the time. The author of the Psalm seemed to be writing from a perspective as one who had personally observed what he has described. For a psalmist who was a servant of Yahweh at the temple, it must have been very painful to write these words, even though he knew that Yahweh is righteous in His judgments when sin has overflowed. The psalmist is well aware that Israel has become a reproach to neighboring nations, who can scoff and deride them and their God after having inflicted this overwhelming devastation upon them. Chapter 1 of Isaiah begins to describe righteous acts of judgment by Yahweh for the repetitive unrighteous lifestyle in Judah and Jerusalem over a period of many years; but I did not choose that passage to imply that the book of Isaiah covers the time of the writing of this particular psalm with Jerusalem being devastated. The wording in Isaiah is blunt and uses very derogatory terms of comparison for a people who could have chosen to genuinely serve Yahweh.

Isaiah 1 "1 The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. 2 Hear, heavens, and listen, earth; for Yahweh has spoken: "I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. 3 The ox knows his owner, and the donkey his master's crib; but Israel doesn't know, my people don't consider." 4 Ah sinful nation, a people loaded with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children who deal corruptly! They have forsaken Yahweh. They have despised the Holy one of Israel. They are estranged and backward. 5 Why should you be beaten more, that you revolt more and more? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. 6 From the sole of the foot even to the head there is no soundness in it: wounds, welts, and open sores. They haven't been closed, neither bandaged, neither soothed with oil. 7 Your country is desolate. Your cities are burned with fire. Strangers devour your land in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers. 8 The daughter of Zion is left like a shelter in a vineyard, like a hut in a field of melons, like a besieged city. 9 Unless Yahweh of Armies had left to us a very small remnant, we would have been as Sodom; we would have been like Gomorrah. 10 Hear the word of Yahweh, you rulers of Sodom! Listen to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah! 11 "What are the multitude of your sacrifices to me?," says Yahweh. "I have had enough of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed animals. I don't delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of male goats. 12 When you come to appear before me, who has required this at your hand, to trample my courts? 13 Bring no more vain offerings. Incense is an abomination to me; new moons, Sabbaths, and convocations: I can't bear with evil assemblies. 14 My soul hates your New Moons and your appointed feasts. They are a burden to me. I am weary of bearing them. 15 When you spread forth your hands, I will hide my eyes from you. Yes, when you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood."


B - HELP US FOR THE GLORY OF YOUR NAME

Psalm 79 "5 How long, Yahweh? Will you be angry forever? Will your jealousy burn like fire? 6 Pour out your wrath on the nations that don't know you; on the kingdoms that don't call on your name; 7 For they have devoured Jacob, and destroyed his homeland. 8 Don't hold the iniquities of our forefathers against us. Let your tender mercies speedily meet us, for we are in desperate need. 9 Help us, God of our salvation, for the glory of your name. Deliver us, and forgive our sins, for your name's sake."

COMMENTS: The psalmist does not make an appeal to Yahweh with the claim that his generation has not sinned, but he does plea that the history of sinning through Israel's forefathers not be carried forward to add to those of that present generation. He asks how long Yahweh's anger will burn against Israel, then he makes his appeal that Yahweh would turn His wrath against the nations that have devastated Jacob, and have no respect for the true God. The psalmist asks Yahweh to quickly give His own people His tender mercies for they are in desperate need. He asks Yahweh for deliverance, and to forgive their sins, because He is the God of their salvation; and this would bring glory to the name of Yahweh. The record of a prayer by Daniel while he was in Babylonian captivity has those three elements of confession of sin, appeal for mercy from Yahweh, and that the answer would bring glory to the name of Yahweh. Daniel makes note that the judgment for a stiff-necked and rebellious people was written in the law of Moses.

Daniel 9 "9 To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgiveness; for we have rebelled against him; 10 neither have we obeyed the voice of Yahweh our God, to walk in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. 11 Yes, all Israel have transgressed your law, turning aside, that they should not obey your voice: therefore the curse and the oath written in the law of Moses the servant of God has been poured out on us; for we have sinned against him. 12 He has confirmed his words, which he spoke against us, and against our judges who judged us, by bringing on us a great evil; for under the whole sky, such has not been done as has been done to Jerusalem. 13 As it is written in the law of Moses, all this evil has come on us: yet have we not entreated the favour of Yahweh our God, that we should turn from our iniquities, and have discernment in your truth. 14 Therefore has Yahweh watched over the evil, and brought it on us; for Yahweh our God is righteous in all his works which he does, and we have not obeyed his voice. 15 Now, Lord our God, who has brought your people forth out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and have gotten yourself renown, as at this day; we have sinned, we have done wickedly. 16 Lord, according to all your righteousness, let your anger and please let your wrath be turned away from your city Jerusalem, your holy mountain; because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become a reproach to all who are around us. 17 Now therefore, our God, listen to the prayer of your servant, and to his petitions, and cause your face to shine on your sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord's sake. 18 My God, turn your ear, and hear; open your eyes, and see our desolations, and the city which is called by your name: for we do not present our petitions before you for our righteousness, but for your great mercies' sake. 19 Lord, hear; Lord, forgive; Lord, listen and do; don't defer, for your own sake, my God, because your city and your people are called by your name."


C - PRESERVE ACCORDING TO THE GREATNESS OF YOUR POWER

Psalm 79 "10 Why should the nations say, "Where is their God?" Let it be known among the nations, before our eyes, that vengeance for your servants' blood is being poured out. 11 Let the sighing of the prisoner come before you. According to the greatness of your power, preserve those who are sentenced to death. 12 Pay back to our neighbours seven times into their bosom their reproach with which they have reproached you, Lord. 13 So we, your people and sheep of your pasture, will give you thanks forever. We will praise you forever, to all generations."

COMMENTS: The psalmist requests that Yahweh repay those who have mocked by saying "where is their God?" And he desires that the retribution by Yahweh takes place before their eyes, so they would know that Yahweh had heard and answered the plea. He characterizes his plea as the sighing like a prisoner before Yahweh in hope that God will preserve those who are sentenced to death. The psalmist does not ask Yahweh to equip Israel to pay back the nations for their reproach to the name of God, but instead he asks the Lord to do so According to the greatness of His power. Then the people who are the sheep of the Great Shepherd will praise the Lord forever, to all generations.

I have included portions of two other Psalms that have similar entreaty to Yahweh to give a strong answer to those who mock and say "where is your God?" And when Yahweh answers the mockers, it is not just to rescue the people, but because the name of God deserves glory for His loving kindness, and for His truth's sake: for our God is in the heavens, and He does whatever he pleases.

Psalms 42 "1 {For the Chief Musician. A contemplation by the sons of Korah.} As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants after you, God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? 3 My tears have been my food day and night, while they continually ask me, "Where is your God?" 4 These things I remember, and pour out my soul within me, how I used to go with the crowd, and led them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, a multitude keeping a holy day. 5 Why are you in despair, my soul? Why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God! For I shall still praise him for the saving help of his presence."

Psalms 115 "1 Not to us, Yahweh, not to us, but to your name give glory, for your loving kindness, and for your truth's sake. 2 Why should the nations say, "Where is their God, now?" 3 But our God is in the heavens. He does whatever he pleases. 4 Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men's hands. 5 They have mouths, but they don't speak. They have eyes, but they don't see. 6 They have ears, but they don't hear. They have noses, but they don't smell. 7 They have hands, but they don't feel. They have feet, but they don't walk, neither do they speak through their throat. 8 Those who make them will be like them; yes, everyone who trusts in them."


D - CHRIST JESUS BROUGHT JEW AND GENTILE BELIEVERS TOGETHER

I finished my review of Psalm 79, then added this section to develop my way of applying that content to myself as a Christian today. In the present times, the children of God are not defined by nationality, society, ethnicity, or church denomination; nor is there a physical temple where services prescribed by the law must be conducted by men of a priestly line. The children of God now have Christ as their high priest, who serves in heaven at the right hand of the Father. But that does not assure that all people who identify themselves as Christians in various manners are more genuine in their faith than the Jews had been during the period of the kings in Israel. Christians can experience joy before the Lord, but there also can be great times of suffering. And there can be many who are thought to be Christians, but live in a manner that does not give the glory to the Savior and Lord. Yahweh rules from Heaven and will do as he pleases in both mercy and justice.

Romans 8 "35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Could oppression, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Even as it is written, "For your sake we are killed all day long. We were accounted as sheep for the slaughter." 37 No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Romans 9 "22 What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath made for destruction, 23 and that he might make known the riches of his glory on vessels of mercy, which he prepared beforehand for glory, 24 us, whom he also called, not from the Jews only, but also from the Gentiles? 25 As he says also in Hosea, "I will call them 'my people,' which were not my people; and her 'beloved,' who was not beloved." 26 "It will be that in the place where it was said to them, 'You are not my people,' There they will be called 'children of the living God.'" 27 Isaiah cries concerning Israel, "If the number of the children of Israel are as the sand of the sea, it is the remnant who will be saved; 28 for he will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, because the LORD will make a short work upon the earth." 29 As Isaiah has said before, "Unless the Lord of Armies had left us a seed, we would have become like Sodom, and would have been made like Gomorrah." 30 What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, who didn't follow after righteousness, attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith; 31 but Israel, following after a law of righteousness, didn't arrive at the law of righteousness. 32 Why? Because they didn't seek it by faith, but as it were by works of the law. They stumbled over the stumbling stone; 33 even as it is written, "Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and a rock of offense; and no one who believes in him will be disappointed.""

--- REFLECTIONS IN PRAYER ---

Yahweh my God, I believe there is not even one unspoken inner thought that can be hidden from you by any person, and therefore you know my struggle about the devastating and horrible slaughter you permitted in Jerusalem, as described in this Psalm. It has caused me to think about other passages about rebelliousness by those who had opportunity to choose to serve you with their lives. My thoughts first went to the record of forty years in the wilderness for the children of Israel who repeatedly provoked the God who had freed them from bondage in Egypt. This pattern of repeated rebellion to a merciful God underscores the sin nature of mankind, and I then considered how often I fail to patiently keep my focus on bearing fruit for my Savior until my time comes to be with you in heaven. Then my thoughts also went back to the Garden of Eden where Satan used the deception that still prevails in the tendency that man can become their own God; or that some will mock believers with the phrase "where is your God?" Thank you Lord Jesus that you opened my heart, mind, and soul with the truth that you are the Creator God, and the only way to eternal life! Hallelujah, amen.

Published 30 August 2020