“Help us, O God of our salvation,
for the glory of your name;
deliver us, and forgive our sins,
for your name’s sake.”
~Psalm 79:9 (NRSV).
Loss is an abjectly horrible thing. In context, the Israelites in exile had lost three fundamental things—the land, the king, and the temple—and to say they’d been spun into an endemic crisis of faith would be the supreme understatement. Psalm 79 is part lament and part petition.
It’s no different for us, albeit it’s on a micro scale. We struggle with our losses whenever life threatens to, or does actually, change with permanence.
It is times like this that we cling to the promise of Jeremiah 29:11 and the like, as perhaps the exiles might have eventually done in their day. We do this if we’re fortunate enough to have those words whispered into our spirits.
Lament – When Things Are Just Too Much
We all have times when our emotions tip over the edge and plunge us into the abyss.
Thanks be to God for the abundance of grace that heals us during, and quickly afterward, these painful times! We only know this afterwards, after the healing has been effected within us. Some are fortunate, however, to know God’s healing Presence in the depths. This is something we can all come to know.
The laments expressed in verses 1-5 of Psalm 79 remind us of this sort of mood. And they remind us—as God’s people—that the Lord seeks for us to pour out these types of prayers to him who can help us. The prayer of lament is a godly prayer as we bark out our emotional complaints before an ever-listening God.
It is okay for us to cry out, “How long, O Lord?” (Verse 5a)
Petitions – To Seek God for Reparation
When we’re up to it, we quickly convert our moods of misery and bitter complaints into something that’s roundly requesting.
We, at times, bring about our messes upon our very selves. Yes, we’re not always perfectly innocent when it comes to our own living situations. Like these exiled Israelites, we too have been known to sin. Indeed, we’ll continue to.
It’s a biblical fact that God judged the nation of
The petitions, therefore, have a note of repentance that’s clung to them. It is necessary to repent when we’re in a dark place. To repent is simply to turn back or return to God. It’s a movement we all find rather unnatural, but it’s essential as we prepare for blessing.
Visions of Hope
What are we, truly, without hope for the future?
Laments and petitions are really full of hope—veiled, repressed hoped-for hope. There’s something about vocalising our problems to God that just endears us to him; our hearts communicating we really do hope in the Lord, our God.
Even though we do not see the hopes we wish to know most personally, God sees these rather desperate prayers of ours as hope engendered. We will know God’s silent and incomprehensible Presence. We will.
And, God will redeem us once more.
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.
General Reference: Craig C. Broyles, Psalms – New International Biblical Commentary (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1999), pp. 327-29.