Daybreak: Psalms 79:1 through 80:19
“Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of thy name: and deliver us, and purge away our sins, for thy name’s sake.” (Psalm 79:9)
“Need help!” came the call. Then louder, “Need help!” The persistent little voice that claimed my attention was the call of my three-year-old nephew. When my assistance did not arrive quickly enough to satisfy him, he called even more urgently, “NEED HELP!” Since these repeated cries came in rapid succession, by the time I had dropped what I was doing and crossed the room, the request had been shouted at least four times. Happily, his problem was easily solved. Although he had managed to open the door to the art supplies closet, his little legs and arms were not long enough to reach the “needed” item. His insistent pleas to the one he knew could help brought him a solution.
On a daily basis, adults also encounter situations in which we “need help” for circumstances beyond our control. These range from insignificant, soon-forgotten needs to life-altering dilemmas. We pray for a parking place, misplaced keys, lost paperwork, guidance in a purchase, or ability to solve a computer problem. We also look heavenward with urgent appeals for wisdom in raising our children, help in resolving relationship issues, healing for serious illness, or comfort in the death of a loved one. These major, real-life concerns can distract us, and at times impact our ability to concentrate, because a portion of our brains continually seem to be grappling with the problem. How wonderful in such situations to remember that our Helper is closer than a brother (or auntie!) and hears even our first cry! And not only is He readily available, He can do anything! No circumstance is too difficult for Him to handle.
In today’s focus verse, the psalmist Asaph cried out to God on behalf of his nation, urgently voicing the cause of his distress: their fractured relationship with God. As a result, enemies had come into his city, defiled the Temple, and slain great numbers of the people. What a desperate situation! No wonder Asaph pleaded, “Help us, O God of our salvation!”
What a great blessing it is to know that God is standing by, waiting for us to turn to Him, ask Him, and trust Him. As we do, we can be assured that His solutions are exactly right for our spiritual development, and that His timing is impeccable.
Psalm 79 was authored by Asaph, although many scholars believe it was a later Asaph than the contemporary of David (perhaps one of his descendants). If written during the time of David, the author was speaking prophetically; a later Asaph would have been giving a historical account.
Psalm 79 is considered a companion to Psalm 74 in that both psalms lament the destruction of Jerusalem and beseech God to render vengeance. Since Jerusalem was destroyed more than one time, opinions differ concerning the exact historical setting, though many believe the psalm referred to the destruction of Jerusalem during the Babylonian captivity. Verses 1-4 reflect the horror the inhabitants of Israel felt as their territorial boundaries were obliterated and their holy places desecrated by the “heathen” (or “foreign nations”). So many were slain that it was impossible to give all the bodies a proper burial, and God’s people were mocked and disdained by the surrounding nations because of Jerusalem’s defeat.
The request that God’s tender mercies would “speedily prevent us” in verse 8 was a plea that God would not remember Israel’s previous transgressions, but would quickly impart His mercies and deliverance on their behalf. He also requested that God would render to Israel’s invaders seven times more retribution than the reproach they had heaped upon God’s people. The number seven symbolized “completeness,” so verse 12 denotes the psalmist’s desire for total vengeance upon Israel’s enemies. The psalm concludes with a proclamation that God’s punishment on the nations responsible for Jerusalem’s reproach would cause His people to offer praise and thanksgiving for generations to come.
Psalm 80, also ascribed to Asaph, is a plea for God to manifest His power and bring restoration to Israel. The word Shoshannim in the superscription means “lilies,” and may refer to an instrument or style of music. Eduth means “testimony.” While classified as a lament, this psalm differs from the majority of other psalms of its type in that it focuses more on God than on circumstances.
In the first verse, the phase “Thou that leadest Joseph like a flock” alludes to the ten northern tribes after Israel’s division into two kingdoms. “Thou that dwellest between the cherubim” refers to God’s presence upon the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant. Although the tribe of Benjamin remained with the southern kingdom, it may have been mentioned in conjunction with Ephraim and Manasseh because of their relationship to Jacob’s beloved wife, Rachel, and their being placed together behind the Ark of the Covenant during Israel’s wilderness trek.
In verse 5, the Hebrew word translated “measure” actually refers to a specific amount: the third part of an ephah, which was an amount several times larger than the average drinking glass could contain. Used thus, it indicates the abundance of tears shed by the people. The psalmist bemoaned that Israel’s calamities had caused them to become an object of mockery by their enemies.
From verse 8, the remainder of the psalm compares Israel to a vine. In verses 8-11, the psalmist rehearsed how God brought Israel out of Egypt, drove out the Gentile nations in Canaan, and planted Israel in the midst of the land. As Israel’s roots grew deep, the thickness of the vine shaded the hills and appeared like majestic cedar trees. Eventually, Israel’s descendants spread from the Mediterranean Sea to the Euphrates River. In verses 12-13, the psalmist mourned because God had allowed Israel’s walls to be broken down, making the nation vulnerable to the “plucking” of her oppressors. The “boar out of the wood” may refer to the savage armies who came to devour Israel.
The psalm concludes with the repeated plea for God to turn Israel back to Him, and grant them His favor, so they would be saved from oppression.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines – Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I. Book I (1:1 — 41:13)
II. Book II (42:1 — 72:20)
III. Book III (73:1 — 89:52)
IV. Book IV (90:1 — 106:48)
V. Book V (107:1 — 150:6)
A Closer Look
- According to Psalm 79:1, what serious problem prompted the psalmist to cry out to God for help?
- Why do you think the writer of Psalm 80 pleaded with God three times to “turn us again” (verses 3,7,19)? What occurs when people turn to God?
- Asaph anguished over the fact that the heathen were mocking God. In our day as well, sinners at times scoff at us and scorn our beliefs. How should we respond when that happens?
When we face perplexing or troubling situations in life, we can and should always turn to the One with real answers to life’s challenges.