July 11 2023
Today, Tuesday July 11
“O God, Why Have You Cast Us Off…”
A Contemplation of Asaph
“O God, why have You cast us off forever? Why does Your anger smoke against the sheep of Your pasture? Remember Your congregation, which You have purchased of old, The tribe of Your inheritance, which You have redeemed-- This Mount Zion where You have dwelt. Lift up Your feet to the perpetual desolations. The enemy has damaged everything in the sanctuary. Your enemies roar in the midst of Your meeting place; They set up their banners for signs. They seem like men who lift up Axes among the thick trees. And now they break down its carved work, all at once, With axes and hammers. They have set fire to Your sanctuary; They have defiled the dwelling place of Your name to the ground. They said in their hearts, "Let us destroy them altogether." They have burned up all the meeting places of God in the land.
We do not see our signs; There is no longer any prophet; Nor is there any among us who knows how long. O God, how long will the adversary reproach? Will the enemy blaspheme Your name forever? Why do You withdraw Your hand, even Your right hand? Take it out of Your bosom and destroy them.”
Today, we will begin to look at Psalm 74. The title tells us that this one of the twelve Psalms that Asaph wrote and that is credited to him. We are pretty sure that the previous Psalm, 73 was written by the Asaph who was appointed by King David to be chief musician and worship leader in the Worship Center there in Jerusalem.
But we are not sure that the Asaph who wrote Psalm 74 is the same one. Especially when you read the contents of this Psalm, either “David’s Asaph” was writing prophetically, looking forward to a time in the future that the Tabernacle or the Temple would be destroyed by foreign invaders, or this Asaph was a descendant of “David’s Asaph” who lived during the time of the destruction of the Solomon’s Temple by the Babylonians.
Most commentators lean toward it seeming more likely that this was a future Asaph who wrote this Psalm. Psalm 73 deals with a personal crisis of faith, but Psalm 74 moves to the national scene and focuses on the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 587-86 B.C. Even though the prophets had warned that judgment was coming (2 Chron. 36:15-21), the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple were catastrophic events that shook the people's faith. As Asaph surveyed the situation, he moved from despair to confidence and in the end affirmed that all was not lost.
The title of Psalm 74 also tells us that it is a “Contemplation of Asaph” or a “Maschil of Asaph”. Which means it was an instructive Psalm written by Asaph. The Psalm teaches us how to pray when calamity strikes, when it seems as though God is blind and deaf to what is going on. This psalm deals with disaster of no small measure: the enemy has come into the sanctuary with fire and axe.
You also cannot help but think that this Psalm could have been written about the terrible time we are living in today. The immorality, the perversion, the evil, the wickedness, the corruption, the violence and hatred of God and His church that we see all around us today makes us think that God has abandoned us! Innocent women and children are being killed in a senseless war in Ukraine. Children are starving in India and parts of Africa. Vicious gangs are murdering and ruling the streets in Haiti. Elderly people are being shot in the back by drive by shooters in New York. The church and people of God are suffering persecution all around the world like no other time in history.
When we see all this, like the Psalmist here in Psalm 74, we cry out, “O God, why have You cast us off forever? Why does Your anger smoke against the sheep of Your pasture? (v. 1). “O God, how long will the adversary reproach? Will the enemy blaspheme Your name forever? Why do You withdraw Your hand, even Your right hand? Take it out of Your bosom and destroy them.” (vv. 10-11).
We might rightly despair, but we work on in despair! We still know that God is on His throne and that this old world is preparing for the end times!
My friend, Jesus is coming soon with “healing in His wings”!