Lament to Praise: Trusting God’s Vindication

Psalm 79

O God, the nations have come into your inheritance;
    they have defiled your holy temple;
    they have laid Jerusalem in ruins.
They have given the bodies of your servants
    to the birds of the heavens for food,
    the flesh of your faithful to the beasts of the earth.
They have poured out their blood like water
    all around Jerusalem,
    and there was no one to bury them.
We have become a taunt to our neighbors,
    mocked and derided by those around us.

How long, O Lord? Will you be angry forever?
    Will your jealousy burn like fire?
Pour out your anger on the nations
    that do not know you,
and on the kingdoms
    that do not call upon your name!
For they have devoured Jacob
    and laid waste his habitation.

Do not remember against us our former iniquities; 
    let your compassion come speedily to meet us,
    for we are brought very low.
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!
10 Why should the nations say,
    “Where is their God?”
Let the avenging of the outpoured blood of your servants
    be known among the nations before our eyes!

11 Let the groans of the prisoners come before you;
    according to your great power, preserve those doomed to die!
12 Return sevenfold into the lap of our neighbors
    the taunts with which they have taunted you, O Lord!
13 But we your people, the sheep of your pasture,
    will give thanks to you forever;
    from generation to generation we will recount your praise.

Psalm 79 is another in the long list of Psalms of lament. Asaph finds himself in a hopeless landscape. The only thing he knows to do is to cry in a song. 

The song describes the fall of Jerusalem after 586 BC when the nation of Israel was laid waste by the Babylonians. When things go horribly wrong, the first human reaction is to play the blame game. Who’s fault is this catastrophe? The Psalmist doesn’t accuse God of being at fault, but he also clearly recognizes that all of this is happening because of the jealous anger of God (v. 5).

The lament in Psalm 79 now becomes a plea. God, will you take the anger that has been against us and turn it toward our enemies (v. 6)? The reasoning behind the appeal to God is not because we deserve it, but for his own name’s sake (vv. 6-12). The taunts are against us are actually against God. The appeal is to God to defend God’s honor.

The psalm of lament ends with a praise (v. 13). Despite the catastrophe, we have not lost our identity. We belong to God. He keeps his watchful eye on us, his sheep. We can praise God, but also lead our grandchildren to do the same. All of this is because we know God’s nature and his character.

Questions for Reflection

  • What would you say to God if faced with the worst calamity your nation could imagine?
  • How can you lament and recognize God’s hand in a calamity without blaming God?
  • What role does repentance play in dealing with calamity?
  • As God’s children, how do we trust that God’s glory is for our good?
  • Why do we have to have patience in waiting for God to vindicate our enemies?