God, the nations have invaded your inheritance, desecrated your holy temple, and turned Jerusalem into ruins.
Titles for Psalm 79:
Faith amid Confusion (CSB)
How Long, O Lord? (ESV)
A Prayer for Jerusalem (ISV)
A Lament over the Destruction of Jerusalem, and Prayer for Help. (NASB)
A Dirge and a Prayer for Israel, Destroyed by Enemies (NRSV)
Prayer in a Time of National Disaster (TPT)
In this national (communal) lament psalm. Asaph mourned Jerusalem’s destruction and pleaded with God to have mercy on His people, despite their sins, for His name’s sake.
The writer’s viewpoint seems to be that of the survivors left in Jerusalem.
This psalm repeats the themes of Psalm 74, but seemingly with more venom. The situation is the same: the temple is destroyed, Israel is bereft, and the conquering enemy gloats. Yahweh cannot afford to be a disinterested party.
Here is Psalm 79, set to music, by Chris Kopko (hat tip, Art Chartier)
The issue here is holding the pagans accountable for their desecration of God’s people and their temple, so that they may be restored.
-Willem A. VanGemeren
Psalm 79 in an imprecatory psalm.
Imprecatory Psalms, are those that invoke judgment, calamity, or curses, upon one’s enemies or those perceived as the enemies of God. These might include 5, 6, 7, 11, 12, 35, 37, 40, 52, 54, 55, 56, 58, 59, 69, 79, 83, 109, 137, 139, and 143. The spirit of resentment and revenge is a definite part of human nature.
It was not mere personal revenge or national hate, but jealousy for the honor of God’s Name, and therefore we say that, however wrong such sentiments would be for us, in them they were not wrong.
Praying curses on others seems unchristian.
What are we to do with such Psalms?
Turn all these prayers for the destruction of enemies against the hosts of spiritual wickedness, “the gates of hell” which do sore assail, and seek to prevail over the people of God.
Notes and quotes from “10 Things You Should Know about the Imprecatory Psalms” by Sam Storms:
1. Imprecations are found in high poetry and are the product of reasoned meditation (not to mention divine inspiration!). They are calculated petitions, not spontaneous explosions of a bad temper.
2. In Deut. 27-28 the Levites pronounce imprecations against Israel if she proves unfaithful to the covenant. We must never think that God is any less severe on his own covenant people than he is on the unbelieving nations who are regularly given to idolatry.
3. These prayers are not expressions of personal vengeance. There is a vast difference between vindication and vindictiveness. The OT was as much opposed to seeking personal vengeance against one’s personal enemies as is the NT (see Exod. 23:4-5; Lev. 19:17-18).
4. We also must remember that imprecations are nothing more than human prayers based on divine promises. One is simply asking God to do what he has already said he will do.
5. Imprecations are expressions provoked by the horror of sin. David prayed this way because of his deep sensitivity to the ugliness of evil. Perhaps the chief reason why he wasn’t bothered by prayers of imprecation and we are is that he was bothered by sin and we aren’t!
6. The motivation behind such prayers is zeal for God’s righteousness, God’s honor, God’s reputation, and the triumph of God’s kingdom. Is our willingness to ignore blasphemy and overlook evil due to a deficiency in our love for God and his name?
7. Another factor to keep in mind is that David, being king, was God’s representative on earth. Thus, an attack on David was, in effect, an attack on God. David’s enemies were not his private opponents but adversaries of God. David’s ire is aroused because they “speak against you”.
8. The prayers of imprecation are rarely, if ever, for the destruction of a specific individual but almost always of a class or group, namely, “the wicked” or “those who oppose Thee”.
9. We must keep in mind that in most instances these prayers for divine judgment come only after extended efforts on the part of the psalmist to call the enemies of God to repentance. These are not cases of a momentary resistance to God but of unrepentant, recalcitrant, incessant, hardened and haughty defiance of him. In other words, the psalmist calls for divine judgment against them so long as they persist in their rebellion. We love our enemies by praying for their repentance. But if they callously and consistently refuse, our only recourse is to pray that God’s judgment be full and fair.
10. David knows that he needs spiritual protection lest he “hate” God’s enemies for personal reasons. That is why he concludes Psalm 139 with the prayer that God purify his motives and protect his heart:
“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!”
Imprecatory examples in the NT: (Theopedia. Link below)
But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.
And he answered and said, He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me. The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.
1 Corinthians 16:22
If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
I would they were even cut off which trouble you.
2 Timothy 4:14
Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works:
And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?
God, the nations have invaded your inheritance,
desecrated your holy temple,
and turned Jerusalem into ruins.
We are supposed to change the world. We have let the nations change us, take us over. We acquiesced, became disenfranchised. “No offence”, became no defense.
God: Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit; rebuild your church that is in ruins.
Make it and make us to be the people and the place that is your design again.
(Psalm 79:1 paraphrase)
have not gone out,
and made disciples of the nations.
But we stayed in,
were passive and became ruined.
the nations have invaded your inheritance;
they have violated your temple;
they have crushed Jerusalem.
We were supposed to take God to the world,
but the world came to us,
polluted and destroyed us.
We are sorry.
(International Children’s Bible)
God, nations have come against your people.
They have ruined your holy Temple.
They have turned Jerusalem into ruins.
They have given the bodies of your servants
as food to the wild birds.
They have given the bodies of those who worship you
to the wild animals.
They have spilled blood like water
all around Jerusalem.
No one was left to bury the dead.
We are a bad joke to the other nations.
They laugh and make fun of us.
Lord, how long will this last? Will you be angry forever?
How long will your jealousy burn like a fire?
Be angry with the nations that do not know you.
Be angry with the kingdoms that do not honor you.
They have destroyed the people of Jacob.
Those nations have destroyed the people’s land.
Don’t punish us for the sins of our ancestors.
Show your mercy to us soon.
We are helpless!
God our Savior, help us
so people will praise you.
Save us and forgive our sins
so people will honor you.
Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
Tell the other nations in our presence
that you punish those who kill your servants.
Hear the moans of the prisoners.
Use your great power
to save those sentenced to die.
Repay those around us seven times over
for their insults to you, Lord.
We are your people, the sheep of your flock.
We will thank you always.
Forever and ever we will praise you.
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