What or who is the “glue” that holds everything together in your life? If that “centre” or “anchor” or “symbol of meaning” suddenly disappeared for some reason, how would you cope?
Now, Australians love their sport. It will often take up many hours during the week in training or in playing on weekends. Either personally, or through encouraging and supporting their children or in folowing their favourite club.
In April 2020, the Australian Football League (AFL) were meant to commence their season, just like they had done every year for the last 30 years (and for the previous 100 years as the VFL and WAFL, etc). But, as it did with so many other things, Covid-19 restrictions disrupted this and in fact it appeared for some time that the season would be totally cancelled.
For many people (not just the many employed by the industry), this was devastating. For these people the winter season in Australia meant AFL. Many just could not imagine life without this activity.
This seems a bit of a trivial matter compared to so many other health and economic impacts upon our lives that this pandemic has had, but for some it was big! It certainly is a minor setback compared to why the psalmist wrote Psalm 74.
In the words of Brueggemann, concerning the subject of this psalm, “The temple had been violated. The key symbol of life has been lost. Things in all parts of life fall apart – precisely because the centre has not held. This psalm of protest and grief does not concern simply an historical invasion and the loss of a building. It speaks about the violation of the sacral key to all reality, the glue that holds the world together.” (# 2)
The psalmist, talking to God about it, describes it in this way:
3 Turn your steps toward these everlasting ruins,
all this destruction the enemy has brought on the sanctuary.
4 Your foes roared in the place where you met with us;
they set up their standards as signs.
5 They behaved like men wielding axes
to cut through a thicket of trees.
6 They smashed all the carved paneling
with their axes and hatchets.
7 They burned your sanctuary to the ground;
they defiled the dwelling place of your Name.
8 They said in their hearts, “We will crush them completely!”
They burned every place where God was worshiped in the land.
Most scholars agree that this psalm was written after the invasion of Israel by the Babylonians in 586 BC as recorded in 2 Kings 25:8-17. Here we read that “Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon…came to Jerusalem. He set fire to the temple of the Lord, the royal palace and all the house of Jerusalem…broke down the walls…[and] carried into exile the people…”
Certainly, a devastating and perplexing event in the life of God’s chosen people. To enter into just how devastating, sit down one day and read through the Book of Lamentations where the writer says, “…I weep and my eyes overflow with tears [and] no one is near to comfort me, no one to restore my spirit.” (Lam. 1:16)
In a later psalm speaking of the same event, also attributed to Asaph, the psalmist writes:
O God, the nations have invaded your inheritance;
they have defiled your holy temple,
they have reduced Jerusalem to rubble.
But in this psalm, he also reveals the sad reason why God had allowed this to happen when he says:
How long, Lord? Will you be angry forever?
…Do not hold against us the sins of past generations;
may your mercy come quickly to meet us,
for we are in desperate need…
deliver us and forgive our sins
for your name’s sake. (Psalm 79:1, 5, 8, 9)
The author of Lamentations makes it quite clear when he says:
The Lord has brought her [Israel] grief
because of her many sins. (Lam. 1:5)
Even sadder was that Israel had been warned so many times by God through people like Moses and the prophets that this would happen if they strayed from his ways and moved into idolatry and other evil practices.
And now, as a result of their disobedience, “Israel faces a new chaos with the lack of a centre.” Thank God, that as we continue to read this psalm, we realize that all is not lost. Their situation is not hopeless after all. In fact, “Yahweh is known to be the answer to [their] chaos.” (# 2)
And, the same is true whenever we find that the “centre” or the “glue” has gone from our fragile lives and we seem to be all alone. Then, it is time to rediscover the One who should always have been in that place from the beginning. The One the psalmist refers to as “…you God, [who] are my king from of old.” (74:12)
Father, too often in life we are dependant on other things/people who will eventually let us down, and this present pandemic has revealed to us just how vulnerable we really are. Enable us to constantly seek you and know true security in life. In you alone “we have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” (Hebrews 6:19) Amen.