Have you ever noticed that life isn’t always fair? After all, if it was fair, people who believed in Christ would never suffer and evildoers would always be punished. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and we saw a good example of this in the reading from Psalm 79:1-9.
The psalmist wonders why it is that those who don’t acknowledge God are not punished immediately while those who know God and acknowledge him suffer. God will punish evildoers in His own time and in His own way. God hates evil, but he allows it, especially when it serves his purpose In the case of the Israelites, he allowed Jerusalem to be destroyed because the Israelites turned their backs on God. God wants to lead his people to a safe place, but he also passes judgment on his people when they turn away from Him.
The people of Israel expected God to treat them differently than he treated other nations and in return Israel was to live faithfully to the covenant. God doesn’t work that way, especially when sin is involved. The Israelites turned their back on God, and so they had to suffer the consequences of their actions. God was jealous. Human jealousy can be irrational, but God’s jealousy is a practical commitment to receive the exclusive loyalty of his people.
Even the temple was destroyed. The temple was the centre of Israel’s religious life. It was the place where God lived according to the Jews. It gave meaning to and an anchor for Israel’s faith. The temple’s destruction was a desecration. It threw the Israelites into a pit, but God was with them in the pit. Psalm 79 is a prayer from that pit. It addresses God. It also expresses the contradictions of our human hearts to God. He’s the only one who can sort out these contradictions.
The psalmist prayers for divine vindication for his people, not in a spirit of vengeance but in a spirit of justice. Without any regard for God, the heathen desecrated God’s land and left His people desperate. After a severe blow-the sacking of the temple-the people did not ask “why?” They asked God how long they must suffer. The question serves as a transition from a lament in verses 1-4 to a prayer in verses 6-9. In the end, the Israelites wanted God’s forgiveness. The people cried for relief. They wanted God to be honoured in the world. We want the same thing today. God’s reputation is tied to our well-being, and our well-being is tied to our faithfulness.
Sometimes we have the same desires for revenge today, and we want God to unleash his wrath on someone who has done a great evil. These feelings are a natural part of our human nature. The appropriate response for us as Christians is to bring these feelings to God in prayer.
Israel’s destruction was seen as a consequence of the disregard for God’s kingdom, moral order and authority. God’s anger is real. God is urged to turn his wrath to the nations that attacked Israel, and then he is asked to change his relationship with the Israelites. They asked for forgiveness and mercy. When we pray for something in God’s name, we urge him to act in order to defend his reputation, to make his glory known, to honour him and let others see his majesty and greatness. When God acts, he will vindicate His name before those who oppose him. A landmark of spiritual maturity is concern for God’s reputation.
The consequences of sin are hard. The price is heavy. It’s time to plead for God’s mercy. It’s time to confess our sins and ask God to restore and rebuild us. We must not give up on God, because he does not give up on us. God can break the cycle of sin. God wants us to come to him because we love him, and not because we think God will bring us good things.