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Psalm 74

Jorine Johnson

1 O God, why do you cast us off forever?

    Why does your anger smoke against the sheep of your pasture?

Remember your congregation, which you have purchased of old,

    which you have redeemed to be the tribe of your heritage!

    Remember Mount Zion, where you have dwelt?

Direct your steps to the perpetual ruins;

    the enemy has destroyed everything in the sanctuary!

Your foes have roared in the midst of your meeting place;

    they set up their own signs for signs.

They were like those who swing axes

    in a forest of trees.

And all its carved wood

    they broke down with hatchets and hammers.

They set your sanctuary on fire;

    they profaned the dwelling place of your name,

    bringing it down to the ground.

They said to themselves, “We will utterly subdue them”;

    they burned all the meeting places of God in the land.

We do not see our signs;

    there is no longer any prophet,

    and there is none among us who knows how long.

10 How long, O God, is the foe to scoff?

    Is the enemy to revile your name forever?

11 Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand?

    Take it from the fold of your garment and destroy them!

12 Yet God my King is from of old,

    working salvation in the midst of the earth.

13 You divided the sea by your might;

    you broke the heads of the sea monsters on the waters.

14 You crushed the heads of Leviathan;

    you gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.

15 You split open springs and brooks;

    you dried up ever-flowing streams.

16 Yours is the day, yours also the night;

    you have established the heavenly lights and the sun.

17 You have fixed all the boundaries of the earth;

    you have made summer and winter.

18 Remember this, O Lord, how the enemy scoffs,

    and a foolish people reviles your name.

19 Do not deliver the soul of your dove to the wild beasts;

    do not forget the life of your poor forever.

20 Have regard for the covenant,

    for the dark places of the land are full of the habitations of violence.

21 Let not the downtrodden turn back in shame;

    let the poor and needy praise your name.

22 Arise, O God, defend your cause;

    remember how the foolish scoff at you all the day!

23 Do not forget the clamor of your foes,

    the uproar of those who rise against you, which goes up continually!

This psalm has a lot to do with the sufferings and the afflictions of God’s people against the foes of their enemies while asking God why he doesn’t intercede or allow this to happen. The psalmist also invokes the reminder of God’s covenant and retells the deeds of the Lord in protecting His people. So this psalm is genuine outcry for the Lord, boldly asking the tough questions, but the answer is also in the psalm of God’s provisions to His people and faithfulness to the covenant. 

Verses 1-3 gives a plea and prayer to God to remember His people, His sheep, His congregation of old, who have been purchased by God. The ask of God to remember may be in connection to the Sinai covenant which the psalmist implores God to be faithful in answering and rescuing His people. In verses 3-11, the psalmist directs the attention to what has been done to them: they’ve destroyed everything in God’s sanctuary, tearing down the things they built, profaning the place of God — where God dwells in the sanctuary, possibly the temple or the tent of meeting. Verse 9 has a sobering feel to it that it seems that God has abandoned His people, and in verse 10 and 11, the psalmist asks the very question of why God allows this wickedness and the subjugation to happen.

Verses 12-17 answers their questions of why this happens, to who God is such as being the king, working salvation, bringing deliverance for His people, crushing the enemies of God and His people, displaying incredible powers over nature, being the creator of the heavens and the earth and the seasons. And based on God’s absolute rule and reign, His authority over kingdoms and leaders, and creation itself, the psalmist pleads again to God in verses 18-23 to remember the covenant, protect His people, and defend the cause of the righteous over the oppression of the wicked. 

There is incredible insights to this psalm: that we can truly approach the throne of grace with confidence, asking and pleading God for action, but also resting in the sovereignty of God that He is in control, creation depends on the Creator who is king, and that king is working for salvation for the nations.

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