“O God, why do You cast us off forever?” A psalmist in the line of Asaph (1 Chronicles 15:19) brought forth this great lament as he cried out to the Lord Most High. At just the right time, the exiles of Israel and Judah sang Psalm 74 knowing that they were “the sheep of Your pasture” and yet wondering why He was not coming to their aid. They asked Him to remember His commitment to His people, demonstrated of old in mighty acts of deliverance. They called upon Him to consider the temple, which lay in ruins. They cried out to the Lord in their distress.
Why was the temple destroyed? They had been overtaken by enemies. These foes “were like those who swing axes in a forest of trees.” They burned down the sanctuary of God’s people in Jerusalem, and sought to remove from the land any place where people gathered together in the name of the Lord. They replaced the banners of God with their own emblems of conquest.
Where could the people go to meet with the Lord? What had become of God’s Word? Were there no prophets left? Would this humiliation last forever? “How long, O God?” Why did the Lord not destroy these blasphemers with His mighty hand?
“Yet God my King is from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth.” The accounts of Old Testament history and the words of the Hebrew prophets assure us that the troubles that led to the destruction of the temple were expressions of the Lord’s discipline. It was the God of Israel who was using the Assyrians and Babylonians to accomplish His sovereign purposes. The God of creation and providence was still in charge of everything. His people now called to Him in faith, asking Him to take notice of the scoffing of enemies. Would the Lord tolerate their insolence forever?
The Lord loved Israel and Judah. They were His “dove.” They knew that their God would have mercy upon the poor and the oppressed. He had made covenant promises of old. He would not forget His people forever.
“Arise, O God, defend your cause; remember how the foolish scoff at You all the day!” Yet, the Lord was working out His secret purposes. Jesus was treated unjustly when He was dying on the cross, but there was no other way for our sins to be atoned for. Even in the lives of countless millions who serve God today, there are times when we just have to take the oppression that we face from those who hate our Lord.
We read today of churches throughout the world burned down by those who want Christians out of their neighborhoods. Even in Israel we hear of Jews killing other Jews simply for the offense of believing that Jesus is the Messiah. How are we to live in faith under these conditions?
We can cry out to the Lord about these horrible attacks against His living temple. We can ask Him to remember His covenant promises which are so secure for us in the resurrection of His Son. We can seek Him and find Him. And we can ask Him to come again in person to rescue His people in their day of distress.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
O Lord of Hosts, we are in great need. Is there any hope for us on this earth? Your church is in trouble. Enemies have come upon us and have overtaken us. From within our own number foes have arisen. They use Your Name and claim that they are with You, and yet they deny the truth of Your Word. They ignore Your great works of creation. They rail against Your Law, and would accuse You while claiming to be Your friends. Do not forget Your church, O Lord. Come quickly and deliver us.