Asaph calls for the Lord’s mercy and his vengeance. The wrath and grace of God are often juxtaposed in our images of the almighty. Today we look into the past and yet also into the future where we see the mercy of God desiring for all mankind to be saved and know him…
5 How long, Lord? Will you be angry forever?
How long will your jealousy burn like fire?
6 Pour out your wrath on the nations
that do not acknowledge you,
on the kingdoms
that do not call on your name;
7 for they have devoured Jacob
and devastated his homeland.
8 Do not hold against us the sins of past generations;
may your mercy come quickly to meet us,
for we are in desperate need.
9 Help us, God our Savior,
for the glory of your name;
deliver us and forgive our sins
for your name’s sake.
10 Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
Psalm 79 lays the mercy of God and the wrath of God side by side. Asaph calls out to God to have mercy on Israel, and in doing so bring glory to himself among the nations; and at the same time, Asaph calls upon God to issue retribution toward the foreign nations which have poured out the blood of Israel like water.
Forgive us for your name’s sake, and make your name unmistakably powerful by crushing the opponent. This is a difficult scripture to embrace and understand. At the very highest level of metaphor, we will see this play out in the end times. The enemy will, indeed, be crushed, and God will have immeasurable mercy on those who call upon his name. This is the final outcome in Revelation.
Yet in time, before the advent of the returning Jesus, the enemy are people who reject God. Yet they are people. Asaph desires for them to be crushed, and glory to God as they are crushed. This sentiment probably makes more sense in war time. Perhaps if this was 1943 in Europe, in which Hitler’s forces were the enemy, spilling the blood of God’s people (which has direct relation to this story in light of the holocaust), we might cry out with Asaph.
In 2014, though, when our world has too much fighting already, wouldn’t we prefer to call and cry for peace and harmony rather than vengeance? We are a product of our times, and we are influenced by our pacifist brothers and sisters who remind us that ‘turn the other cheek’ and ‘love your neighbour’ replaced ‘pillage your neighbour’ in the teachings of the Lord Jesus.
It’s worth remembering, however, that God loves each person in the world. And if he is the Almighty and Only God, then he doesn’t reject people – people reject him. He is unchanging and immovable, and people move away from him, setting themselves up in opposition. Psalm 79 is a reminder that this doesn’t end well, and it isn’t God’s first choice. He desires for all people to come to repentance and relationship (1Timothy 2:4).
May we not see vengeance, but more mercy,
As people turn toward their Maker.
May people respond to the Love of God,
And not stand back from the Father who gave his Son for them…