Psalm 79 — Dealing With Devastation & Conflict
Psalm 79:1-13 NIV
What should we do when we are devastated by circumstances that do not result from our own errors? How do we confront them without causing harm to others?
As Christians, we are often caught in such circumstances. We may be asked to serve as the middleman to settle conflicts. We may see some wrongs and feel the need to take action. We may even suffer due to the sins of others. How do we include God in our decision making as we deal with these circumstances?
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.
The writer of this psalm, Asaph, could have witnessed the devastation of his nation and the temple of God. This happened around 586 BC when Neo-Babylonia conquered Jerusalem and part of its population was exiled to Babylon. The Assyrians invaded the northern kingdom of Israel in 732 BC.
Asaph described a very miserable sight. Jerusalem was totally devastated. The corpses of his people became food for scavengers. The once powerful nation of Israel was totally humiliated and became an object of ridicule for its neighbouring countries.
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.
Asaph asked God how long more it would take for their troubles to end. He also asked when would God’s anger dissipate.
What would we say to God if we were in Asaph’s shoes? Do we blame God or do we have faith in God? Asaph showed faith in God. Even though he asked God if He would be angry forever, he knew that God wouldn’t be. The very fact that he asked God to destroy His enemies showed that he knew God still listened to his prayers. It is important for us to know the fact that God is faithful. God will fulfil all His promises, and that includes His plan to save us and not to harm us.
Asaph called on God to pour out His wrath on those that devour His people. In our context today, Satan relentlessly attempts to devour our churches. How do we relate Asaph’s view of Jerusalem’s ruin with our view of churches today? Are there areas in our churches that are afflicted by Satan, and which we can pray for?
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.
Asaph asked God to forgive the sins of the past generations and his generation as well. He expressed their desperate need for God and sought His mercy.
The consequence of sins can be passed on to subsequent generations. We may suffer for the sins of others. But if we overlook the possible repercussions of our actions, others may suffer as a result of what we do too.
Can we blame those who cause our sufferings? While we may trace our sufferings to the wrongdoings of some people, we must remember that we are not perfect either and ask God to forgive our sins. We can learn from Asaph’s willingness to take responsibility for his own sins.
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.
Asaph did not just seek for salvation from God. He also wanted God’s deliverance to be made known to the invading nations. He wanted his people to be vindicated from the taunts of their enemies. He also wanted the enemies to see the power of God.
Our self-righteousness and bitterness blind us from seeing that those who have wronged us need God and salvation too. God is merciful and compassionate. If God can forgive our sins, He can forgive those who have caused us harm too. We must pray that they too can see God’s power and come to know Him.
Should we avenge ourselves or should we ask God to avenge us? Asaph chose the latter. We don’t necessarily need to clash with our adversaries, but we need to do the right things. Praying for our enemies to see God and repent aligns our hearts with God’s desire. Knowing God’s heart is important.
After removing Saul, He made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’” (Acts 13:22 NIV)
If we seek after God’s heart, we will do everything God wants us to do.
May the groans of the prisoners come before You; with Your strong arm preserve those condemned to die.
Asaph felt for the prisoners who suffered at the hands of their enemies and prayed for God to preserve them. God’s message to Jeremiah appears to be God’s answer to Asaph — He will watch over them:
“This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Like these good figs, I regard as good the exiles from Judah, whom I sent away from this place to the land of the Babylonians. My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them. I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.’” (Jeremiah 24:5-7 NIV)
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.
Asaph prayed for retribution for the enemies who have shown contempt to God. He believed that what the enemies did to them was not just an attack on his people but an attack on God.
Jesus paid the price for redemption of humanity, including us and our enemies. Even as we suffer for our sins, and sometimes even due to the wrongdoing of others, we must remember that God’s salvation is for them as well. Trust that God is in full control.
Andy is the head of compliance for an international bank and is happily married, with three daughters. He became a disciple of Christ three decades ago, and studies God's Word passionately. He desires to be constantly led by the Spirit. Andy joined the Central Christian Church in 1990.