The Word Made Fresh
(A hymn of Asaph.)
1O God, why have you shoved us aside forever?
Why is your anger hot against the sheep of your pasture?
2Remember the people you claimed as your own long ago,
the people you restored to be the keepers of your heritage.
Remember Mt. Zion, the place where you chose to dwell.
3Come and walk around the total ruin.
See how the enemy destroyed everything in the sanctuary.
4Your enemies have celebrated in your sacred place
and put up their own religious symbols there.
5They hacked away at the wooden latticework
framing the upper entrance.
6They battered all the carvings with axes and hammers.
7Then they set your temple on fire.
They desecrated the place in which your name lives,
and pulled it to the ground.
8They boasted, “We will destroy them!”
and they burned all God’s meeting places in the country.
9We can no longer view our symbols. There are no prophets left.
And none of us can tell how long this will be.
10How long, God? How long will our enemies boast?
Will they curse your name forever?
11Why are you holding back?
Why are your hands folded across your chest?
12Even so, God is my king from ages past,
doing works of deliverance over the earth.
13By your great strength you made a path through the sea.
You smashed the heads of the beasts in the waters.
14You crushed Leviathan’s head
and fed the creatures of the wastelands with him.
15You made ways for springs and rivers
and dried up other streams that were flowing.
16The day belongs to you, and the night also.
You made the place for the moon and the sun.
17You established boundaries for the lands.
You made summer and winter.
18But remember, LORD, how the enemy scoffs,
and an irreverent people make fun of your name.
19Don’t allow wild animals to devour the dove.
Don’t put aside the lives of your poor people forever.
20Don’t forsake your covenant.
There are dark places of violence in the land.
21Don’t allow those who are downtrodden to be put to shame.
Let the poor and needy continue to praise your name.
22Arise, O God! Defend your cause!
Take note of how the wicked scoff at you all day long!
23Don’t ignore the clamor being raised by your enemies,
their continuing uproar against you.
Superscription: this is the 3rd psalm ascribed to Asaph. See Psalm 32 for a note on the word “maskil,” which is often translated “hymn.”
1-3: The psalm addresses a situation in which the nation is in danger. There were several occasions when the temple in Jerusalem was sacked by enemies – see 2 Kings 18:16, 24:13, and 25:14.
4-8: The description given of the destruction of the temple might date the psalm to the the siege of Nebuchadnezzar and the subsequent exile to Babylon.
9-11: How long will God put up with the situation, the psalm asks.
12-17: There is no doubt that God can come to their rescue, for God is the creator who beat back the forces of chaos.
18-23: And so, the psalmist begs God to act on their behalf, to restore the ancient covenant that was made with God’s people, and to not allow godless enemies to prevail.
One prominent theme that occurs over and over in the psalms is that no matter how dire the situation, God is in charge. God can redeem any situation. God can conquer any foe. The lesson that we learn over and over in the Psalms is that we can take any threat, any danger, any failure to God and place any situation in God’s hands. Then comes the hard part – waiting for God’s action in response to our prayers, for God must take things of which we know nothing into account on our behalf.