1 O God, we have heard with our ears,
our fathers have told us,
what deeds you performed in their days,
in the days of old:
2 you with your own hand drove out the nations,
but them you planted;
you afflicted the peoples,
but them you set free;
3 for not by their own sword did they win the land,
nor did their own arm save them,
but your right hand and your arm,
and the light of your face,
for you delighted in them.
4 You are my King, O God;
ordain salvation for Jacob!
5 Through you we push down our foes;
through your name we tread down those who rise up against us.
6 For not in my bow do I trust,
nor can my sword save me.
7 But you have saved us from our foes
and have put to shame those who hate us.
8 In God we have boasted continually,
and we will give thanks to your name forever. Selah
9 But you have rejected us and disgraced us
and have not gone out with our armies.
10 You have made us turn back from the foe,
and those who hate us have gotten spoil.
11 You have made us like sheep for slaughter
and have scattered us among the nations.
12 You have sold your people for a trifle,
demanding no high price for them.
13 You have made us the taunt of our neighbors,
the derision and scorn of those around us.
14 You have made us a byword among the nations,
a laughingstock among the peoples.
15 All day long my disgrace is before me,
and shame has covered my face
16 at the sound of the taunter and reviler,
at the sight of the enemy and the avenger.
17 All this has come upon us,
though we have not forgotten you,
and we have not been false to your covenant.
18 Our heart has not turned back,
nor have our steps departed from your way;
19 yet you have broken us in the place of jackals
and covered us with the shadow of death.
20 If we had forgotten the name of our God
or spread out our hands to a foreign god,
21 would not God discover this?
For he knows the secrets of the heart.
22 Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.
23 Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever!
24 Why do you hide your face?
Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?
25 For our soul is bowed down to the dust;
our belly clings to the ground.
26 Rise up; come to our help!
Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!
Psalm 44 begins by describing who God is and what he has done in the past. It transitions then into “present troubles”, as the title refers to what is going on. Despite the gravity of this situation – verse 25 declares, “our soul has sunk down into the dust; our body cleaves to the earth.” - the psalmist still takes the time, first, to declare who God is. We, too, whether we are in the mountaintops or the valleys of life, begin with declaring who God is. Our troubles are never as great when we compare them to the power and faithfulness of the God who will never leave us nor forsake us.
To begin, the psalmist states, “ God, we have heard with our ears, Our fathers have told us The work that You did in their days, In the days of old. (v.1)” This reminds me of the beginning lyrics to Elevation Worship’s song “The King is Among Us”. It declares, “All the fathers saw in the days of old. Would you do it again? Would you do it again?” Both the psalmist and the worship song start with the faithfulness of God in the past before they extend in the future to focus on what God is going to do.
The first half of the psalm focuses on trusting in God’s strength and boasting in God alone. Verse 8 declares, “In God we have boasted all day long, and we will give thanks to Your name forever.” God is, of course, the only one can boast in; He is our strength, our breath, our love, the very life that we live. The New Testament emphasizes the importance of trusting only in God repeatedly (1 Corinthians 1:31; 2 Corinthians 10:17; Galatians 6:14); the Old Testament also references it (Jeremiah 9:23-24).
Yet, it is easy to boast in something else – our strength, our ability, the strength of whatever our idols are. It might not be with malicious intent, but to boast in anything else is to deprive God of the glory that He alone deserves – and that we, as His children and as passionate lovers of Him, should love to give back to Him. Boasting in God alone means we must start by relying on only His strength (verses 2,3,5,6,7); it is difficult to boast when you know that you were too weak to accomplish anything and that only God could have done it. This is why many who God picked throughout the Old and New Testaments were not the strongest, bravest, mightiest people, but rather those who would rely on God because of their weaknesses. When I try to rely on my strength to accomplish God’s tasks, I am trying to do it my own so as not to bother God; I want to impress Him by completing what He has set before me. I want Him to be proud of me. But if I then succeed, it is easy to deprive God of my boasting in Him and declaring that He has accomplished this mighty work through my weak body. Let the Lord be your strength, and when He accomplishes the task, declare the power, glory, and beauty of His name – for He is the only thing that will never fade.