The Psalms Book 3: 79-85

Psalm 79‑85  •  12 min. read  •  grade level: 6
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These psalms beautifully follow up the moral instruction of Psa. 78, for the whole people's interest Godward. In the first, Psa. 79, we have the desolating ruin of the city and the sanctuary, when the overwhelming scourge falls on Jerusalem as in Isa. 10; 28, Zech. 14:1, 2, and other scriptures. It sets before us the feelings and prayers of the righteous Israelites after the first Gentile siege which is partially successful, and before their leader, the king of the north, comes up a second time for his and their total destruction, Dan. 8; 11, &c.
Psalm 79
“A psalm of Asaph. O God, Gentiles are come into thine inheritance, the temple of thine holiness have they defiled, they have laid Jerusalem in heaps. They have given the dead bodies of thy servants for meat to the birds of the heavens, the flesh of thy saints to the beasts of the earth. They have shed their blood, as the waters, round about Jerusalem, and there was none to bury. We are become a reproach to our neighbors, a mockery and derision to those round about us. How long, Jehovah? wilt thou be angry forever? shall thy jealousy burn like fire? Pour out thy fury upon the Gentiles that have not known thee, and upon the kingdoms that called not on thy name. For they have devoured Jacob and laid waste his habitation. Remember not against (for) us iniquities of forefathers; let thy tender mercies speedily come to meet us, for we are brought very low. Help us, O God of our salvation, for the sake of the glory of thy name and deliver us, and forgive our sins because of thy name. Why should the Gentiles say, Where [is] their God? Let there be known among the Gentiles in our sight (eyes) avenging of thy servants' blood that is shed. Let the prisoner's sighing come before thee; according to the greatness of thine arm, preserve the sons of death; and render to our neighbors sevenfold into their bosom their reproach wherewith they have reproached thee, O Lord. And we, thy people and sheep of thy pasture, will give thee thanks forever; we will show forth thy praise to all generations” (vers. 1-13).
The second is a turning of their eyes upward to the Shepherd of Israel, and a binding together of their hopes as His people with the ark of the covenant as of old in the wilderness; owning His just anger, whilst entreating that His face may shine, and, most strikingly, that His hand may be upon His right hand man, and upon Adam's son Whom He made strong for Himself.
Psalm 80
“To the chief musician, on Shoshannim-Eduth (Lilies, a testimony) of Asaph, a psalm. Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, leading Joseph as the sheep, dwelling [above] the cherubim, shine forth. Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh arouse thy might and come for our salvation. O God, restore us, and cause thy face to shine, and we shall he saved. Jehovah God of hosts, how long wilt thou (will thine anger) smoke against the prayer of thy people? Thou hast caused them to eat bread of tears and to drink tears a large measure. Thou hast made us a strife to our neighbors, and our enemies mock among ourselves. O God of hosts, restore us, and cause thy face to shine, and we shall be saved. A vine out of Egypt thou broughtest: thou didst drive out Gentiles, and didst plant it. Thou preparedst [space] before it, and it took deep root and filled the land. Mountains were covered with its shadow, and its boughs, cedars of God (i.e., vast). It sent out its branches unto the sea and its shoots unto the river. Why hast thou broken down its fence, so that all who pass by the way shall pluck it? The boar out of the forest wasteth it, and the wild beast of the field feeds on it. O God of hosts, return, we pray; even from the heavens and see, and visit this vine, even the stock which thy right hand planted, and the plant (son) thou madest strong for thyself. [It is] burned with fire, cut down: at the rebuke of thy face they perish. Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand, upon the son of man thou madest strong for thyself. So will we not go back from thee. Revive us, and we will call upon thy name. Restore us, O Jehovah God of hosts, cause thy face to shine, and we shall be saved” (vers. 1-20).
Next comes the psalm of new year's day, when the trumpet sounds not for alarm but joy, the joy of gathering the people at the new moon. The full moon will shine in due time. This is the new moon after a long eclipse. Now Israel will receive and reflect light afresh from the Lord. It is clear progress as compared with the preceding psalm. It was Israel that would not hearken, Israel that would none of Jehovah. Oh, had they, how soon would He have subdued them, and blessed themselves in the grace that brought them out of Egypt, till at Sinai they preferred to stand on law, and fell as all must who so pretend!
Psalm 81
“To the chief musician, upon the Gittith, Asaph. Sing aloud unto God our strength, shout aloud unto the God of Jacob. Raise a song and strike the timbrel, the pleasant harp with psaltery. Blow the trumpet at the new moon, at the set time, on our feast day. For this [was] a statute for Israel, an ordinance of the God of Jacob. He appointed it a testimony in Joseph when he went forth over the land of Egypt, [when] I heard a language (lip) I knew not. I removed his shoulder from the burden; his hands were freed from the basket. In the distress thou didst call, and I delivered thee, I answered thee in the secret place of thunder; I proved thee at the waters of Meribah. Selah. Hear, O my nation, and I will testify unto thee, O Israel, it thou wouldest hearken unto me. There shall no strange god be in thee, neither shalt thou worship any foreign god. I [am] Jehovah thy God who brought thee up from the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it. But my people hearkened not to my voice, and Israel would none of me. So I gave them up to the revolting of their heart, that they might walk in their own counsels. Oh that my people would hearken unto me, that Israel would walk in my ways! I should soon have subdued their enemies and turned my hand against their adversaries. The haters of Jehovah should have submitted to him, but their time would have been forever. And he would have fed them with the finest (fat) of wheat, and with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee” (vers. 1-17).
The psalm that follows meets another difficulty of that day in particular. God is seen arising to judge the judges. How long His poor people had suffered oppression! Alas, Jewish rulers were no more righteous than Gentile! The rejection of Messiah proved His people inexcusably and excessively hostile to God. Judgment is at the door.
Psalm 82
“A psalm of Asaph. God standeth in the assembly of God (E1); he judgeth among the gods. How long will ye judge unjustly and respect the person of the wicked? Selah. Judge the poor (man) and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute. Deliver them from the hand of the wicked. They know not, nor do they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are moved. I said, ye [are] gods, and all of you sons of the most High; but ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes. Arise, O Clod, judge the earth, for thou shall inherit all the Gentiles” (vers. 1-8). Here it is not only those who had authority from God warned of His judging, and the Spirit in Israel calling on Him to arise for it, and those who had His word threatened with a fall like to mere men as alike without real understanding; but we have the last great confederacy, of which the Assyrian is the head, according to the prophets generally and here expressly named with others too familiar to the ancient people of God. It is by the final execution of judgments on the earth, however, overlooked by Christendom, and despised or censured by the vain mind of the flesh, that the inhabitants of the world shall learn righteousness and know the name of Jehovah. But thus shall they at the end of the age know that “Thou, Thy name Jehovah only Thine, art Most High above all the earth.” The Name regains its power for Israel's heart. Psa. 83 “A song, a psalm of Asaph. O God, keep not silence; hold not thy peace and be not still, O God (El). For behold thine enemies make a tumult, and those that hate Thee have lifted up the head. Against thy people they devise secret craft and consult against thy hidden ones. They said, Come, and we will cut them off from [being] a nation, and let the name of Israel be remembered no more. For they have heartily consulted together; against thee do they make a covenant: the tents of Edom, and the Ishmaelites, Moab and the Hagarenes; Gebal and Ammon and Amalek; Philistia with the inhabitants of Tire; Asshur also is joined with them; they are an arm to the sons of Lot. Selah. Do to them as [to] Midian, as [to] Sisera, as [to] Jabin, at the river Kishon. They were destroyed at Endor; they became dung for the ground. Make their nobles as Oreb and as Zeeb; yea, all their princes as Zebah and as Zalmunna; who said, Let us take to our inheritance the habitations of God. O my God, make them as the whirling thing, as stubble before the wind, as fire will burn a forest, and as a flame will set mountains on fire. So pursue them with thy tempest and with thy whirlwind trouble them. Fill their faces with shame, that [and] they will seek thy name, O Jehovah. They shall be ashamed and dismayed forever, and they shall be confounded and perish. And they shall know that thou alone, whose name [is] Jehovah, [art] Most High above all the earth” (vers. 1-19). Hence in the next psalm the joy of dwelling where Jehovah of host dwells, of the living God in His courts fills the heart with blessedness in contemplation; as also the blessedness of going there for those on the way: all summed up in the blessing of trusting Jehovah of hosts. Psa. 84 “To the chief musician, on the Gittith, for the sons of Korah, a psalm. How lovely [are] thy tabernacles, O Jehovah of hosts! My soul longeth, yea even fainteth, for the courts of Jehovah; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God (yea, the sparrow hath found a house, and the swallow a nest where she layeth her young), thine altars, O Jehovah of hosts, my king and my God. Blessed they that dwell in thy house! they will be still praising thee. Selah. Blessed the man whose strength [is] in thee, in whose heart [are] the highways! Passing through the valley of the weeping (Baca), they make it a well-spring; yea, early rain covereth [it] with blessings. They go from strength to strength; [each] will appear before God in Zion. O Jehovah, God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob. Selah. Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed. For a day in thy courts [is] better than a thousand; I had rather be at the threshold in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. For a sun and shield [is] Jehovah God; grace and glory will Jehovah give, no good thing will he withhold from those that walk uprightly O Jehovah of hosts, blessed the man that trusteth in thee!” (vers. 1-13). The following psalm, 85, looks rather at the blessing of the land and people than at the religious center of Jehovah's name or the way thither. Deliverance from external foes attests the people's forgiveness, and leads them to seek all favor in that place of blessing, above all in hearing what the God Jehovah may speak; for He will speak peace to His people and to His saints, publicly and individually, though they need to watch against folly, as becomes those who by grace now understand. It is instructive to note how truly the psalm speaks of Israel as contrasted with church or Christian blessedness. “Surely his salvation is near those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land,” not that we may “ever be with the Lord” in risen heavenly glory, as we rightly hope. But for them, as for us, it is the righteousness of God that gives stability, not their own (though they will be righteous then) but his, or more strictly have Jehovah their righteousness. Thus only are mercy and truth met together, and righteousness and peace embrace, as we now know in Christ yet more gloriously.
Psalm 85
“To the chief musician, for the sons of Korah, a psalm. Thou hast been favorable, O Jehovah, to thy land; thou hast turned the captivity of Jacob; thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people; thou hast covered all their sin. Selah. Thou hast taken away all thy wrath; thou hast turned from the fierceness of thine anger. Restore us, O God of our salvation, and cause thine indignation toward us to cease. Wilt thou be angry with us forever? Wilt thou draw out thine anger from generation to generation? Wilt thou not revive us again, that thy people may rejoice in thee? Show us thy mercy, O Jehovah, and grant us thy salvation. I will hear what the God Jehovah will speak; for he will speak peace to his people and to his saints; but let them not turn again to folly. Surely his salvation [is] near those that fear him, that glory may dwell in our land. Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed. Truth shall spring up from the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven. Jehovah also will give good; and our land shall yield its increase. Righteousness shall go before him, and shall set his footsteps in the way” (vers. 1-14).