DUNCAN/Brought very low

DUNCAN/Brought very low


Turn with me to Psalm 79. Let me remind you of the context for this Psalm. Jerusalem has been destroyed. Many of the children of Israel have been taken off into captivity. Hundreds – thousands – have been left dead in the streets. Yet like so many of the other Psalms, it is meant for public worship. That’s a striking thing, that even the destruction of Jerusalem would be a matter of public praise for the people of God.

I want to look at this passage in three parts. In verse 1 – 4 we will see the tragedy from God’s perspective. In verses 5 – 10a, we will see the psalmist confess sins and petition for God’s compassion. Lastly, in verse 10b – 13, we will consider God’s judgment and the psalmist’s praise. 

I. Tragedy from God’s Perspective

In verses 1 – 4 you see the psalmist’s lament for fallen Jerusalem. And the thing I want you to recognize is that this tragedy is seen from God’s perspective. The psalmist speaks of the blood of God’s people flowing in the streets. He speaks of dead bodies which have been left unburied in the city rows of Jerusalem. But the thing that strikes you here is that he is describing the tragedy from God’s perspective. It’s a cry of the heart; but ultimately it is a cry of faith in perplexity because the psalmist is horrified by the event which seems to call into question God’s sovereignty and seems to hinder the cause of His kingdom. The people that love the Lord are most deeply moved by those disasters that seem to hinder the cause of Christ, and it is this psalmist’s great love for the Lord that most deeply pains him as he looks on this scene of desolation.

This tragic scene also shows that God’s word always suits the situation of the church from age to age, and there is never a situation that the church faces for which there is not an applicable word of God. We enjoy relative security and prosperity, but thousands of our brothers and sisters around the world know just this kind of persecution. We could go into a nation hostile to Christianity and see the blood of God’s children running in the streets. We could see their dead bodies left unburied. Is there a song for them to sing? Yes, there is. It’s right here. God has provided a song for His children to sing on every occasion. May it be long before we have to sing this song ourselves, but if we should find ourselves in these circumstances, God has already written the song that we will sing. God’s word is excellent, and He supplies the words to say, the prayers to pray, the songs to sing in every situation of the church from age to age.

II. Confession and Petition 

Now in verses 5 – 10a we come to a prayer of confession and a petition for compassion. The psalmist admits that it is God’s just punishment, and he does it several times in the Psalm: “How long, O Lord? Will You be angry forever? Will Your jealousy burn like fire?” The psalmist knows that the people of God deserve this judgment because of their idolatry. God is doing what He promised He would do if His people went after other gods, which they did repeatedly! The psalmist knows that we need forgiveness of sins. He knows that this event is a judgment, a righteous judgment of God, and so it is only right to respond to this judgment with confession, and so he prays that God would forgive their sins.

But notice the arguments that he brings: “Let Your compassions come quickly to meet us, for we are brought very low.” He comes to God with arguments. When your friend has done you wrong, you come to your friend with arguments. When you disagree with your husband, you come to your husband with arguments. And the psalmist under the burden of God’s judgment comes to God with arguments, “Lord God, look at how low we are laid. We need Your compassion.”

The psalmist knows how great his need is. It’s a shame that we don’t see the greatness of our own need as often as we ought. And so the psalmist cries out, “Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Your name; deliver us, and forgive our sins, for Your name’s sake.” The appeal is rooted in God’s person, in God’s character, and the reasons are piled up, “Lord, hear us because You’re our salvation. Lord, hear us because Your essential glory is at stake. Forgive us our sins for Your name’s sake.” The cause of God’s mercy is always found in God Himself. When disaster strikes us, we ought to appeal to God for help on the basis of His name. 

III. Judgment and Praise 

I want you to think of something else from this passage as well. For it’s not only a prayer of confession and of petition for compassion, but also a picture of God’s certain judgment on the wicked. The psalmist asks God to avenge His servants. In our day and age one of the least popular teachings of Scripture is God’s final punishment of the wicked. But this Psalm shows that judgment is certain. In verse 12, he prays that God will return the reproach of the nations against Him on them. He’s asking that the blood of the innocents which had been shed in Jerusalem would be returned upon those who dealt with them wrongly. 

But it’s also a prayer of preservation for those imprisoned and awaiting death. So many had been carried off into exile, and the heart of the psalmist is for them. He asks that God would protect them and would spare them and uphold them in their trials. As we think upon those who have been persecuted in our own time, that’s a prayer we should remember for them.

But then he closes in a quite extraordinary way. Look at verse 13: “So we Your people and the sheep of Your pasture will give thanks to You forever; to all generations we will tell of Your praise.” When you consider where this Psalm starts, it leads you to wonder with amazement at the faith which enabled such a Psalm from such distress to end with thanksgiving and praise. This psalmist is looking at the destruction of the city of God, he is looking at the destruction of the temple of God, and he is concluding this Psalm with thanksgiving and praise, just as Job after the report of the loss of his goods and his children. He tore his clothes and said, “The Lord has given; the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” And like Job, this psalmist looks at the destruction of the city of God and decides to give thanks to God and to praise Him to the next generation. May we do likewise. 

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