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Psalm 79

Racheal Arteaga

O God, the nations have invaded your inheritance; 

they have defiled your holy temple, they have reduced Jerusalem to rubble.

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.

They have poured out blood like water all around Jerusalem,

    and there is no one to bury the dead.

We are objects of contempt to our neighbors, of scorn and derision to those around us.

How long, Lord? Will you be angry forever? How long will your jealousy burn like fire?

Pour out your wrath on the nations that do not acknowledge you,

on the kingdoms that do not call on your name;

for they have devoured Jacob and devastated his homeland.

Do not hold against us the sins of past generations;

 may your mercy come quickly to meet us, for we are in desperate need.

Help us, God our Savior, for the glory of your name;

deliver us and forgive our sins for your name’s sake.

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.

May the groans of the prisoners come before you;

    with your strong arm preserve those condemned to die.

Pay back into the laps of our neighbors seven times the contempt they have hurled at you, Lord.

Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will praise you forever;

from generation to generation we will proclaim your praise.

A common thought (especially among the polytheistic societies of David’s time) was that if a nation was in trouble, it must mean their god was weak and unable to help. It must have been alarming (to say the least) to watch in horror as another nation fiercely attacked, deeply shamed, and brutally murdered the people of Israel. Where was God? 

This psalm is considered one of the most tragic chapters in the Bible, as there is a true feeling of defeat of God’s people. It’s almost as if the psalmist is crying, “has it really come to this?” Israel doesn’t even have enough power to bury their own dead, a sign of true brokenness in a culture so committed to honor and care in death. 

What a far cry this is from other details we know of Israel with her tendency toward hard-heartedness and rebellion. Here we see a totally broken cry for mercy, not because of deservedness but out of total lack of other options. We know that God ultimately rescued His people from captivity and brought people to restore the temple and the city walls, but in the middle of total destruction, the people are hopeless. 

I pray we never find ourselves, either as individuals or as a group, in such a crisis. When I have had days/weeks of very serious difficulty and darkness, when my own sins have brought crushing consequences and sorrow, the only thing that brought me through was the presence of God with all of His unending mercy. As I weep over the consequences of my rebellion, then cry to God for mercy, I find a God who is nothing close to weak, but instead is merciful and eventually vindicates me. 

God, save Your people. Prevent us from ever coming back to a place of such brokenness. Thank You for releasing Your captive people and rescuing us from the darkest places of our lives. We trust You and know that You will come through.

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