247 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 79. Lord, have mercy!

I was talking to a man who had had quite a radical change in his career. He had enjoyed his previous role in a health-related industry but sensed that it was time for a change. So, he now works for a law-enforcement agency dealing first hand with things he previously thought probably only existed in crime dramas on TV. I asked him if was it an eye-opener to do the work he now does. He said it sure was. He gave the example of a syndicate led by a notorious criminal suspected of numerous crimes but up until recently never convicted. When finally convicted he was found to be guilty of money laundering, people smuggling and dealing in illegal drugs. Numbers of Asian women were discovered to have been illegally enticed to leave their countries and then used in prostitution and other activities, basically as modern-day slaves.

Considering situations like this, somehow make Asaph’s prayer in this lament psalm seem very relevant and applicable when he cries out to God against the injustices of his day inflicted upon his people. He says: 

Pour out your wrath on the nations
    that do not acknowledge you,
on the kingdoms
    that do not call on your name;
for they have devoured Jacob
    and devastated his homeland.

Do not hold against us the sins of past generations;
    may your mercy come quickly to meet us,
    for we are in desperate need.
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?”

Before our eyes, make known among the nations
    that you avenge the outpoured blood of your servants.
11 May the groans of the prisoners come before you;
    with your strong arm preserve those condemned to die.
12 Pay back into the laps of our neighbors seven times
    the contempt they have hurled at you, Lord.

Very tough words, but put yourself into his situation or even the situation of one of the women deceived by false promises of a better life, only to find themselves sex-slaves and in bondage with no foreseeable way out to return home. How applicable would it be for her to pray similar words for herself and the others with her, feeling devoured and devastated and in desperate need. How very relevant to cry out to the Lord, may your mercy come quickly to meet us.

I think that we also, who are not in such desperate circumstances, can intercede on the behalf of those who are refugees, the poor, the homeless, those living under oppressive governments, modern-day slaves, etc. Not only praying for their deliverance but that God would bring to justice those who do nothing to help, in fact, make the situation worse by their actions.

Other than love and compassion and concern for what is right and just, there is another motivation for such prayers. Asaph gives this to us here. He says:

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?”

Concerning this, Brueggemann says:

“All of these appeals are for God’s name sake, for the sake of his reputation, for the full announcement of who God really is… it is… a yearning that God should be fully God, to show God’s self to friend and foe for who God really is, not to be blasphemed or trifled with, but to be taken with utter seriousness.”  (# 2)

It is a longing also that lost people would come to know the joy, peace and forgiveness that can be ours in relationship with God through Jesus.

In the words of the prophet Micah:

 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humblywith your God.

Interceding for the desperate ones of the world for the glory of God’s Holy Name is one way to live justly and love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.

Asaph concludes:

13 Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture,
    will praise you forever;
from generation to generation
    we will proclaim your praise.

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