Plight, Prayers, Promise

Psalm 74 and Psalm 79 are companion psalms in that they express the plight of God's people Israel during their time of greatest trial in the Babylonian exile. However, as we read these two psalms we can see an up-to-date, modern, outstanding situation in our own time in history.


As we refer to Psalm 79 particularly, we can put a heading to the first four verses: PLIGHT. "O God, the nations have come into your inheritance; your holy temple they have defiled; they have laid Jerusalem in heaps. The dead bodies of your servants they have given as food for the birds of the heavens, the flesh of your saints to the beasts of the earth.

"Their blood they have shed like water all around Jerusalem, and there was no one to bury them. We have become a reproach to our neighbours, a scorn and derision to those who are around us."

The daily news we receive from Israel via the media keeps us constantly in touch with the problems that are there, in the city of Jerusalem particularly. Well informed friends too – people who live in Jerusalem and have lived there for many years – speak of the battle for the holy city which is gaining momentum with sad and frightening signs.

We know from the word of God that Jerusalem is no ordinary city, and extraordinary events of world-shattering consequences are predicted by the prophets in His word concerning Jerusalem. The opening verses of Psalm 48 make it absolutely clear that this city is the city of God:

"Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God . . . the city of the great King. . . . the city of the LORD of hosts . . . God will establish it for ever" (Psalm 48:1, 2, 8).

Also Jerusalem was, and still is, the city that is the joy of God's people Israel, and yet when Asaph wrote Psalms 74 and 79 he was writing at a time when Jerusalem was devastated by the Babylonians and was in ruins.

Jeremiah the prophet had warned of this day; we can read of it in chapter ten verse twenty-five when he called upon God to "pour out your fury on the Gentiles, who do not know you, and on the families who do not call on your name; for they have eaten up Jacob, devoured him and consumed him, and made his habitation desolate."

And now Asaph is burdened with this terrible prophecy – the enemy did not even bury the dead, and the slaughter was so great that the blood appeared as abundant as water throughout the city. The nations also ridiculed them in their dire tragedy: "We have become a reproach to our neighbours, a scorn and a derision to those who are around us."

This indeed was the PLIGHT .

Realizing the present day situation, in every photograph we see of Jerusalem we see clearly the abominations standing on the holy place, the Temple Mount. Where once stood the beautiful Temple that Solomon built to the glory of God, where God's glory dwelt among His people, now stand the Dome of the Rock and the El Aksa mosque, and the followers of this religion number a quarter of the world's population.

All these Moslem eyes are upon Jerusalem, and recent press reports of the nations' intentions to take Jerusalem under their control if they deem it necessary (!) have brought the conviction to those who read and believe God's Word that they are on a terrible collision course with the Almighty.

World leaders often connive to threaten Israel's leaders against their stand for Jerusalem as Israel's eternal and indivisible capital. Events can unfold swiftly – today's headlines can be tomorrow's out-of-date news – but surely in the plight of Israel in the day of which Asaph speaks in the psalms we can see Israel's PLIGHT today.


And as we look further into Psalm 79 we can see an undertone of a confidence in God who is dealing with His people by their suffering. It is God after all who turns man to repentance, as Moses wrote in his psalm: "You turn man to destruction (brokenness, contrition), and say, 'Return, O children of men'" (90:3).

Isaiah also speaks of a God who answers the prayers of repentant people: "For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: 'I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones'" (57:15).

In his prayers the psalmist has a sevenfold emphasis as he prays for pardon, for help and for deliverance: "Oh, do not remember former iniquities against us! Let your tender mercies come speedily to meet us, for we have been brought very low.

'Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; and deliver us, and provide atonement for our sins for your name's sake. Why should the nations say, 'Where is their God?' Let there be known among the nations in our sight the avenging of the blood of your servants which has been shed" (Psalm 79:8-10).


However, the psalm ends, not in the spirit of bargaining with God, but rather with a promise of dedication to God. After all, vengeance belongs not to us but to God. "So we, your people, and sheep of your pasture, will give you thanks for ever; we will show forth your praise to all generations."

The prophet Joel reveals that God surely will defend His people and His city Jerusalem. "The LORD also will roar from Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; the heavens and earth will shake; but the LORD will be a shelter for his people, and the strength of the children of Israel" (3:16).

So in this Psalm 79 we see the expression of the PLIGHT, the PRAYERS and the PROMISE of God's people, which surely we can apply in our day and generation as we look forward with anticipation to the fulfilment of all the promises of a great, indeed an Almighty God.