“O God, the nations have come into Your inheritance.” A psalmist in the line of Asaph recorded a lament to the Lord on the occasion of the destruction of the temple. Gentiles had come to Jerusalem, not to inquire after Israel’s God, but to assert their dominance over the people that the Lord had chosen as His own. Their armies destroyed the Lord’s sanctuary and left the city of Jerusalem in ruins.
God’s beloved people were scattered on the ground as casualties of war. Their blood had been spilled throughout the city. There was no one left who could provide a respectful burial for all of the people whose lives were gone. The remaining people in the land received the ridicule of their adversaries. They were destroyed and humiliated.
In this situation of utmost despair, they knew where to turn. “How long, O Lord? Will you be angry forever?” Though first the Assyrians, and then later the Babylonians, were pursuing the Lord’s people with vicious intent, the psalmist knew that the God of Jacob had His own purposes in the awful events that had transpired. God was angry with His people.
How could this anger be redirected? Did the Lord truly prefer the armies of Babylon to His own beloved flock? Had He forgotten His promises to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? May it never be! The people of God could sing this song with desperate confidence: “Pour out Your anger on the nations that do not know You!”
Why was God sending the Babylonians against His beloved people? The people of Judah had given themselves over to disobedience. But now they were coming to their God with repentance. Their sins were referred to here as “our former iniquities.” They looked for the Lord’s compassion to come to them speedily. Only then could they be lifted up again from the dust.
God would surely save Jerusalem for the glory of His own holy Name. This was the psalmist’s plea. The enemies from the Gentiles were not only speaking against the people of Judah, they were also blaspheming the Name of the Lord. Would God tolerate that? The God of Judah needed to vindicate His own Name.
Not only had young men died in battle, but many more had been taken as prisoners. Would their groans be ignored by God? Surely He would preserve the lives of those who now seemed to be doomed to die.
The Lord had not forgotten His sheep. He would discipline the nation for their persistent disobedience, but He would not ignore the cries of His children forever. At just the right time, the Almighty would send a Savior. Jesus would live and die, not only for the chosen people of Jerusalem, but for the elect from all the nations of the world. They would be brought into a new temple—the church. The faithful would take up this lament of Asaph in the day of their distress, and they would sing together about eternity. “We will give thanks to You forever; from generation to generation we will recount Your praise.”
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
God Almighty, our situation is critical. We need your help soon, or we die. We do not see how we can be rescued, but we count on Your compassion and Your great wisdom. There is surely a way of deliverance that we cannot see. We are Your people. We love Your Name. Help us, O Lord.