Psalm 79: Plans, Purging, and Prisoners

I am not skilled to understand
What God hath willed, what God hath planned;
I only know that at His right hand
Is One Who is my Savior!

I take Him at His word indeed;
“Christ died for sinners”—this I read;
For in my heart I find a need
Of Him to be my Savior!

That He should leave His place on high
And come for sinful man to die,
You count it strange? So once did I,
Before I knew my Savior!

And oh, that He fulfilled may see
The travail of His soul in me,
And with His work contented be,
As I with my dear Savior!

Yea, living, dying, let me bring
My strength, my solace from this Spring;
That He Who lives to be my King
Once died to be my Savior!

Dorothy Greenwell, 1873

The words of this old hymn sum it up well. I am not skilled to understand what God has willed and planned. I only know that all the Old Testament points to Jesus, who in His death and resurrection, took my place so I could chose to live a life related in righteousness to God. I am not ever rightly related to God because I can live this type of life of my own strength of will, but I can chose to be rightly related because of God’s provision of His own son who stands in my place. If I foolishly believe I must just live “good enough” to obtain heaven, then I am most certainly eternally doomed.

There is also the opportunity for earthly doom, if I persist in working at my salvation in my own measly effort and strength. If I focus on life with my name as my foremost thought, then I am likely to fall into an experience similar to the one God’s people in Psalm 79 were facing. They were suffering an earthly doom, described in this logically explicable scene. How bizarre does it seem for God to allow His people to suffer at the hands of those who did not even believe in Him? According to Asaph, the Psalm writer, God’s jealousy over His people’s divided allegiance led to this predicament.

Asaph refers to this in verse 5 when he writes, “How long, O lord? Will You be angry forever? Shall Your jealousy (which cannot endure a divided allegiance) burn like fire?”

The inability of God’s people to be faithful is brought up again in verse 8 when Asaph pleads, “O do not earnestly remember against us the iniquities and guilt of our forefathers! Let Your compassion and tender mercy speedily come to meet us, for we are brought very low.” He begs forgiveness in verse 9, “Help us O God of our salvation, for the glory of Your name! Deliver us, forgive us and purge away our sins for Your name’s sake.”

When I look at the history of God’s people, and then when I look at the current hour of my own failings, what more proof is needed of my ultimate destiny? If I live without accepting God’s provision of Christ, and let my salvation and heaven occupancy depend on my goodness then I am destined for hell. Everyone is. No one can be good enough.

Like the Psalmist, I depend on God’s mercy. I say aloud with Asaph in verse 11, “Let the groaning and sighing of the prisoner come before You; according to the greatness of Your power and Your arm spare those who are appointed to die!” (me)

Because I have accepted God’s sparing of my life through Jesus, then I can also say like Asaph imagined….
Verse 13
“Then we Your people, the sheep of Your pasture, will give You thanks forever; we will show forth and publish Your praise from generation to generation.”

God’s plan purges me of my sin and I am no longer a prisoner. My relationship to God can never be because of what I accomplish. It is all His accomplishment. I just accept what He has done. All glory and praise for any good done belongs to Him. Amen

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