It is not clear when Psalm 79 was written, but from the description of the apparent destruction of Jerusalem, it may have been written after the attack and sack of the city by the Babylonians. The shock and horror of the writer can be easily seen in the first three verses, “O God, the nations have come into Your inheritance; Your holy temple they have defiled; they have laid Jerusalem in heaps. The dead bodies of Your servants they have given as food for the birds of the heavens, the flesh of Your saints to the beasts of the earth. Their blood they have shed like water all around Jerusalem, and there was no one to bury them.”
The city of Jerusalem had served as the capitol of the Kingdom of Israel, and later the southern Kingdom of Judah, centuries longer than the United States has even existed. The great buildings, the Temple, and palaces had weathered over the centuries, and probably looked like they would survive forever. Yet, that reassurance, that permanence was gone. It was like the world had come to an end!
In spite of the events of 9-11, most people in this country cannot visualize a time when war and destruction from an enemy would occur here. The idea is seen as laughable that one would look at Washington and see all the familiar buildings and monuments destroyed and the nation brought down in defeat. “We have our armed forces and we are protected by the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. No one can defeat us!” It is true that the United States has been blessed by God with wealth and power. It is also true that the oceans do create a great protective barrier from foreign enemies. But those realities can never lead any nation to arrogance and sin. That attitude certainly did not help Jerusalem and Israel.
The Jews viewed the Temple as their ultimate protection. God dwelled with them, so their safety was guaranteed, and if Israel had been faithful to God, that confidence would have been valid. But Israel had repeatedly ignored God and turned to paganism. The nation was warned time and again that their rejection of God would lead to their punishment, and that time had arrived.
In verses 5-8, the Psalmist prayed for God’s forgiveness, “How long, LORD? Will You be angry forever? Will Your jealousy burn like fire? Pour out Your wrath on the nations that do not know You, and on the kingdoms that do not call on Your name. For they have devoured Jacob, and laid waste his dwelling place. Oh, do not remember former iniquities against us! Let Your tender mercies come speedily to meet us, for we have been brought very low.”
When the enemies were swarming the walls, and the gates were being shattered, how many people ran to the Temple imploring God for protection? How many of those same people had not even given God a passing notice the day, the week, the month before? How many people flooded churches after 9-11, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Ike, and other disasters? How many stayed “faithful”?
God and His Will are not an insurance policy that is stored away unless something bad happens. God and His Will are not a security blanket or a crutch that is used then cast aside. The God of the Old and New Testaments is the same God. He is the Creator of the Universe. He is the Supreme Being who loved mankind enough to allow His Son to die for the sins of the world. His love and forgiveness should bring everyone to their knees in thankfulness and praise. In Christ, there is hope! In Christ there is the promise of eternal life! Ignoring God and His Will has always, and will always, lead to punishment and destruction.
In verses 9-13, the cry of help from of the Psalmist on behalf of the people was heart-felt. “Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Your name; and deliver us, and provide atonement for our sins, for Your name’s sake! Why should the nations say, ‘Where is their God?’ Let there be known among the nations in our sight the avenging of the blood of Your servants which has been shed. Let the groaning of the prisoner come before You; according to the greatness of Your power preserve those who are appointed to die; and return to our neighbors sevenfold into their bosom their reproach with which they have reproached You, O Lord. So we, Your people and sheep of Your pasture, will give You thanks forever; we will show forth Your praise to all generations.”
God would hear their pleas. Jerusalem would be restored, and many of the people would return. But the real answer would come centuries later when the Word became flesh and dwelt among men. Through Jesus Christ would come the real, final answer.
Jesus said that Christians are the salt of the earth. The salt purifies. Christians have the responsibility to grow in knowledge of God’s Word. With that growing knowledge, Christians are expected to grow and mature spiritually. From that maturity, Christians are expected to stand against sin – period. Being a faithful follower of God has never been a spectator activity. It did not work in the Old Testament, in the times of the New Testament, and it does not work today. According to God’s expectation, “Christian” is a verb!