Psalm 74

 
Psalm 74
The Reaction of the Faithful Remnant to the Desolation of the Temple
 
Psalm 74. This is a Psalm of Asaph, and it is also a Maschil psalm, and likely will give special instruction to the remnant in a coming day. Psalm 74 describes the reaction of the faithful remnant to the desolation of the temple. In Psalm 79 we have a focus on the destruction of the city and people. Prophetically, this would place Psalm 74 shortly after the first attack of the Assyrian.
 
PSALM 74
An instruction: of Asaph.
1 Why, O God, hast thou cast off for ever? why doth thine anger smoke against the sheep of thy pasture?
2 Remember thine assembly, which thou hast purchased of old, which thou hast redeemed to be the portion of thine inheritance, this mount Zion, wherein thou hast dwelt.
3 Lift up thy steps unto the perpetual desolations: everything in the sanctuary hath the enemy destroyed.
4 Thine adversaries roar in the midst of thy place of assembly; they set up their signs for signs.
5 A man was known as he could lift up axes in the thicket of trees;
6 And now they break down its carved work altogether, with hatchets and hammers.
7 They have set on fire thy sanctuary, they have profaned the habitation of thy name to the ground.
8 They said in their heart, Let us destroy them together: they have burned up all GOD’s places of assembly in the land.
9 We see not our signs; there is no more any prophet, neither is there among us any that knoweth how long.
10 How long, O God, shall the adversary reproach? Shall the enemy contemn thy name for ever?
11 Why withdrawest thou thy hand, and thy right hand? pluck it out of thy bosom: consume them.
 
vv.1-11 Consternation at the Destruction of Temple. The faithful remnant have witnessed the destruction of the temple; which refers to attack of the king of the north, the overflowing scourge. Although the temple will be in the hands of Antichrist, with the Abomination of Desolations standing in the holy place, the remnant still associate the temple with Jehovah’s name, and with the nation in the counsels of God. When the attack of the Assyrian decimates the land of Israel, it appears that God has forsaken His people. This produces great consternation in the remnant, who are perhaps slow to understand that the Assyrian is the rod of God’s judgment on the apostate Jews. “Why, O God, hast thou cast off for ever? why doth thine anger smoke against the sheep of thy pasture?” The remnant call on God to remember His people, and His goodness to them in times past. They speak mournfully of the destruction of the temple: “everything in the sanctuary hath the enemy destroyed” (v.3). The ensigns of the enemies wave victoriously in very sanctuary of God (v.4, c.p. v.9)! They speak of the armies breaking down the carvings with hatchets and hammers, and of the the sanctuary being set on fire. The prophets are also perished, and the assault seems to carry on endlessly without a word from the Lord as to how long. They ask God, “How long, O God, shall the adversary reproach? Shall the enemy contemn thy name for ever?” They know that God has the power to consume the enemies with one swipe of His hand… why then has God not brought out His hand in judgment? It is the classic question: I know God can deliver me, but why hasn’t He? There is a moral reason for it.
 
12 But God is my king of old, accomplishing deliverances in the midst of the earth.
13 “Thou” didst divide the sea by thy strength; thou didst break the heads of the monsters on the waters:
14 “Thou” didst break in pieces the heads of leviathan, thou gavest him to be meat to those that people the desert.
15 “Thou” didst cleave fountain and torrent, “thou” driedst up ever-flowing rivers.
16 The day is thine, the night also is thine; “thou” hast prepared the moon and the sun:
17 “Thou” hast set all the borders of the earth; summer and winter — “thou” didst form them.
 
vv.12-17 Confidence in God’s Unlimited Power. The faithful remind themselves of God’s unlimited power, reflecting on His acts of power over the forces of nature in history, particularly in Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. Whether it be dividing the Red sea, breaking the heads of sea monsters , leviathan (Gen. 1:21; Job 3:8) being a type of Egypt or Pharaoh, feeding Israel in the desert, or openning a passage through the overflowing Jordan, God’s power is evident. Moreover, as Creator He has dominion over all things, including times and seasons; “The day is thine, the night also is thine; thou hast prepared the moon and the sun: Thou hast set all the borders of the earth; summer and winter — thou didst form them” (see Genesis 1, 8). The faithful reflect that not only is God’s power unlimited, but the times and seasons are fully under His control.
 
18 Remember this, that an enemy hath reproached Jehovah, and a foolish people have contemned thy name.
19 Give not up the soul of thy turtle-dove unto the wild beast; forget not the troop of thine afflicted for ever.
20 Have respect unto the covenant; for the dark places of the earth are full of the dwellings of violence.
21 Oh let not the oppressed one return ashamed; let the afflicted and needy praise thy name.
 
vv.18-21 Calling on Jehovah to Intervene. The faithful call on Jehovah to intervene, and remind Him that the invaders (the Assyrians, prophetically) are enemies and that they have insulted Jehovah’s name (v.18). They beg Him not to give Israel into the hand of these enemies to be consumed; describing themselves as Jehovah’s beloved, though small and weak “turtle-dove” and the invading armies as “the wild beast”. They ask Jehovah – invoking His name of covenant relationship with Israel – to remember His covenant which He made with Abraham, that “Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God, etc.” (Gen. 17:6-8, see also Ex. 6:2-8). But now, the realization of the covenant seems so far away, because “the dark places of the earth [or, land] are full of the dwellings of violence”. The remnant cries out to the Lord to allow them, the “oppressed one… the afflicted and needy”, to return to the land and city unashamed, that they might praise Jehovah’s name.
 
22 Rise up, O God, plead thine own cause: remember how the foolish man reproacheth thee all the day;
23 Forget not the voice of thine adversaries: the tumult of those that rise up against thee ascendeth continually.
 
vv.22-23 Calling on God to Rise Up. The faithful cry out to God to rise up and deliver them. They construe the invasion of the land as an attack against God Himself; and there is some truth in that, and this is an expression of faith. They ask God to defend Himself; “Rise up, O God, plead thine own cause”. The attacks of the enemy are presented to God as reproaches against Him, the enemies as His personal adversaries, the sounds of their defeat like a foul odor ascending continually before Him. They call God to action!