A Season of Psalms - Psalm 79:5-6
“How long, O Lord? Will you be angry forever? Will your jealousy burn like fire? Pour out your anger on the nations that do not know you, and on the kingdoms that do not call upon your name.”
English Standard Version (ESV)
“When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are. Anything your heart desires will come to you.” Jiminy Cricket sang those words long ago as Pinocchio sought the fulfillment of his greatest wish: to be a real boy. Apparently Pinocchio didn’t understand (or didn’t know) the phrase “Be careful what you wish for; you might just get it.” He got a taste of the unforeseen and unpleasant consequences of his wish to be a real boy. I wonder if he was more careful about his wishes in the future?
In the midst of their distress, Israel wished for punishment on the nations responsible for her downfall. Asaph, the author of the psalm, recounts what Israel’s enemies have done to God’s inheritance: defiling of the temple, destruction of Jerusalem, genocide. Jerusalem is in a state of abject disaster; her people are dazed, confused, disoriented. They can only raise their eyes heavenward and shout, “How long, O Lord? Will you be angry forever?” That is, until another thought comes to mind: as you’ve punished us, “pour out your wrath on the nations who do not know you, and on the kingdoms that do not call upon your name!” That’s the pot calling the kettle black. Wasn’t this Israel’s failure that caused their destruction, a failure to remember God? But it was Israel’s fervent wish that God’s compassion would rain upon Israel while a torrent of destruction fell on their enemies. And we know the rest of the story: God ultimately restored His people.
We can relate to Psalm 79, especially in times of national distress. Wars, terror attacks, mass killings, and horrific natural disasters have caused all of us to cry out to God in the midst of national and global mourning. We all know the cries for rescue from our plight mixed with desires for payback. But it also provides a way of looking beyond fear and a desire for retribution. It tells of praise and it encourages us to make praise the last word to God (verse 13), despite the dire circumstances. When praise is our last word, we find that it replaces the words of hurt and pain. And we know this because our God is faithful. Trust Him, hope in Him, today.
Further Reading: 1 Peter 4: 12-19; Judges 6:1-10
Pray with me:
Father, whenever I’m afraid and don’t know what to do, may I trust in You. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing and acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. In Jesus’ name, Amen.