Psalm 79. When Hope Is Nearly Gone.

Today’s Lectio Divina: Excerpts from Psalm 79. (MsgB)

An Asaph Psalm.

God! Barbarians have broken into Your home, violated Your holy temple, left Jerusalem a pile of rubble! How long do we have to put up with this, God? Do You have it in for us for good?
Will Your smoldering rage never cool down?

Don’t blame us for the sins of our parents. Hurry up and help us; we’re at the end of our rope.
You’re famous for helping; God, give us a break. Your reputation is on the line.
Pull us out of this mess, forgive us our sins—do what You’re famous for doing!

Without a doubt, there have been times in the history of God’s people when God-followers have suffered to such an extent that it seems as though the only logical explanation is that the God we love has walked away permanently, leaving us to make it on our on.

Asaph’s song, the tune we call Psalm 79, represents one of those times.

Historians believe that Asaph might have written many of his tunes during the years of decline, when the divided tribes of Israel and Judah were being invaded by their long-time enemy, the Babylonians. As we discussed back on Psalm 74, by 582 BC, Israel was, for the most part, non-existent. Jerusalem had been sacked, the Temple destroyed. Asaph’s Psalm 79 includes some pretty gruesome details from those years…

(Our enemies have) served up the corpses of Your servants as carrion food for birds of prey,
Threw the bones of Your holy people out to the wild animals to gnaw on.
They dumped out their blood like buckets of water.
All around Jerusalem, their bodies were left to rot, unburied.
We’re nothing but a joke to our neighbors, graffiti scrawled on the city walls.

Sadly, accounts like these are recorded again in 70 AD when Roman armies surrounded Jerusalem, murdering thousands, destroying all that God’s people had rebuilt after the first exile.

Once again, in our generation, God’s people experienced what historians now call The Great Holocaust. Millions of innocent men, women and children rounded up from across Europe and gruesomely murdered by those who thought they were doing the world a favor.

Unspeakable crimes. Horrific injustice. Our world at its very worst.

My God, my God. Why hast Thou forsaken me?

Recent acts of random terrorism remind us of the senseless violence that man can commit against man. And through it all, we all wonder…where is God?…how can these atrocities happen?…oh God, when will You stop the madness?

The only ray of hope that I can offer, when it seems that all hope is gone, is this…

Asaph still sings. He still writes out his prayers. He still looks upward. He still calls out to God. He still believes that there will be a day of redemption. Yes, the heavens seem like brass. But still Asaph sings…

Give groaning prisoners a hearing; pardon those on death row from their doom—You can do it!
Give our jeering neighbors what they’ve got coming to them; let their God-taunts boomerang and knock them flat. Then we, Your people, the ones You love and care for, will thank You over and over and over. We’ll tell everyone we meet how wonderful You are, how praiseworthy You are!

Thanks, Asaph. I needed that reminder!

My prayer: My God, my God, when it seems that You’ve forsaken Your people, please give us the gift of hope. Let us be found still singing to You when all else has failed. Let Your people, despite the horror and terror of this fallen world, still hope in a Rescuing King who will not tarry forever. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: While we may never face the horrific terror that other brothers and sisters in God have, how can I still learn from their lessons? How can I be more like Asaph, who refused to stop singing, even when everything in his world was falling apart around him? Still praying, even when it seemed as though God was a million miles away?

So what is God speaking to you today as you ponder the Psalms?

Over a 50-week period, you and I will take a deeper look at The Psalms: God’s Songbook of Prayers. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Contemplating the Psalms home page for ease of use. Keep in mind that one of the best ways to explore the on-going applications of this blog series is to walk alongside a biblically-based, Christ-centered spiritual director who is familiar with how to make material like this part of your overall spiritual formation in God. Many of our directors in our Sustainable Faith-Heartland network are available to companion you in your journey with Jesus. Click here for more info.

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