Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Psalm 74 – Prayer for Help from Destruction

Times occur when we sit incredulous at what has just taken place, the destruction of something dear, and, but for the confusion overwhelming us, we want to scream ‘Why?’ The only emotion more prevalent than anger, here, is disbelieving numbness.

In the opening to this Maskil of Asaph the psalmist leaves nothing of their bitterness at the door:

“O God, why do you cast us off forever?

Why does your anger smoke against the sheep of your pasture?”

~Psalm 74:1 (NRSV)

Such Psalms as this one make a mockery of anyone who despoils the human need to vent before God. The mere fact that this Psalm is retained within God’s Word indicates such language is right to be spoken, cried, and even screamed by us in our lament.

Evidence Of The Destruction – And God’s ‘Lack Of Action’

The first half of the Psalm presents as a prosecution counsel rolling exhibits as evidence, one by one, before the impartial Judge. The prosecution fumes as it locates and shows off ample evidence of the wrongdoing at the hand of the accused—those, in the original setting, who have desecrated and destroyed the Temple.

As each piece of evidence of the damage and destruction is displayed, the case is even more compelling to the prosecution; but the Judge remains silent. The Judge, here, of course, is the Lord.

Many times in our lives things have been damaged or destroyed and God has remained silent, too. We can connect intimately with the sentiment portrayed so far; that feeling of abandonment.

Then... Remembrances Of God’s Intervention

This Psalm turns on a dime at verse 12. There is remembrance of the Exodus, where the people of God were permitted safe passage to freedom. There is remembrance of the Lord’s provision in the wilderness years. There is remembrance of the miraculous nature of the Divine. This leads, eventually, to remembrance of Divine character in omnibenevolence, omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence; the Creator will deliver.

The heart of the psalmist has softened in cognisance of these things. Faith is fortified.

Whenever our faith fails for vision only of things devoid of God, we’re reminded, as we read our Bibles, what the Lord has done, and will do again.

Faith Persists In The Insistent Plea

A more consistent thread of mood persists in the final few verses of this Psalm. The psalmist, presumably, has calmed their nerve at the freshened knowledge of the faithfulness of God. Perhaps they reflect on how faithful God has been, personally, within their life. Such thoughts are bound to provide some relief from chastening anxiety.

The faithful are seen by their persistence to insistently plea; what sounds desperate isn’t just an exhibition of doubting—it’s important in the proving of faith. When we cry out before God to help us we agree it’s only God that can help.


Learning to pray and to not give up is the most important action of faith. No matter how desperate our cries become, if we keep praying, our faith will be vindicated.

© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

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