In this blog, my new 2011 adventure, I’m making my way through the book of Psalm in the Bible. This week I’m studying Psalm 74. Last week I met Asaph, the illustrious story weaver believed to be the author of a new cluster of Psalms starting with Psalm 73. Psalm 72, according to many, is the last Psalm attributed to David, shepherd, conqueror, king, and man after God’s own heart.
I know nothing about Asaph except that in this Psalm, he seems to be experiencing a “forever moment.” He’s imploring God, who he calls “my King of Old” in verse 12, to do something about the plight of God’s people.
What’s a “forever moment”? It’s described partly in the first verse.
“O God, why do you cast us off forever? Why does Your anger burn and smoke against the sheep of Your pasture?”
Asaph then describes the difficulties of the “moment”—horrendous problems at the hands of enemies, and God’s apparent abandonment. The serious effects of these problems give the offended the illusion of feeling as if the attacks go on “forever.”
For you or me, our problems of the “moment” might be the same as Asaph’s, or they might fall into another category. Events such as sickness, death of a loved one, losses—job, spouse, child, or relationships, deferred plans, mental illness, loneliness, infertility are just a few I can think of.
Some of the words Asaph used to describe the effects or actions of these experienced atrocities are ruin, desolation, devastation, desecration, battling, fire, profane acts against the people’s religious structures and customs, enemy rule, scoffing, reviling, and overall destruction of his known world.
Asaph sums things up saying in verse 9, “We do not see our symbols; there is no longer any prophet, neither does any among us know for how long.”
Prophets explained things to the people and often gave timetables for good and bad events. Even humans from Bible days seemed to better adapt to enduring situations if they knew the plan. Can you identify? Is your world crumbling about you? Are you in need of direction? Then read the rest of Asaph’s account.
Like a war journalist who’s been describing a battle site, he finally returns to his original question. He rephrases it in verse 10 & 11. (Notice the three parts)
“O God, how long is the adversary to scoff and reproach? Is the enemy to blaspheme Your name forever?
Why do You hold back Your hand, even Your right hand?
Draw it out of Your bosom and consume them—make an end to them!”
Then in verse 12 Asaph uses a tremendous three letter word, “Yet,” meaning, “in spite of everything,” or “nevertheless.” We know when we see this word we are about to get the rest of the story. The scales have been filled up on one side, but the opposite side, (also comprised of “forever moments”) has not YET been laid on the balance.
“Yet God is my King of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth.”
Then Asaph recites some of the history of God’s affirmative action towards His people, and the scales begin to lean away from the negative.
“You did divide the Red Sea by Your might; You broke the heads of the Egyptian dragons in the waters.
You did cleave open the rock bringing forth fountains and streams; You dried up mighty ever-flowing rivers. (the Jordan so they could cross over
As if these events aren’t enough, in verses, 16 & 17 Asaph cites features of nature, universal “forever symbols” that topple the scales to the side of God entirely.
“The day is Yours, the night is also Yours; You have established the starry light and the sun. You have fixed all the borders of the earth, the divisions of the land and sea and of the nations; You have made summer and winter.”
Finally, in complete humanness Asaph ends this Psalm with an example from nature and a return to his plea for God to act. His example involves a bird.
“Oh do not deliver the life of your turtledove to the wild beast (to the greedy multitude); forget not the life (of the multitude) of Your poor forever.”
My paraphrased plea? “God, please replace the “forever moments” that threaten to consume me, and give me a perspective, like Asaph, that reflects Your “forever moments” –Your salvation and plan for me.”
Do YOU know God as your “King of old”? Do you have a history of His work in your life? A history that you can draw on to gain perspective?” If you don’t, then I ask you to consider starting or reviving a relationship with Him. Ask Him to make a history with you. Find a church, find a friend of His, find a Bible (His words to you) and get going! Time’s a wasting.