Psalm 79: Repent, Ask for Mercy, and Demand Vengeance

Psalm 79: Repent, Ask for Mercy, and Demand Vengeance

Psalm 79 is another imprecatory psalm. An imprecation is a curse that invokes misfortune upon someone. Imprecatory psalms are those in which the author imprecates; that is, he calls down calamity, destruction, and God’s anger and judgment on his enemies — aka vengeance. (Source)

Here, Asaph calls for vengeance against the pagan nations who have destroyed Jerusalem and the temple. Along with Psalm 74, this is a psalm of desolation and lament written in 586 BC, probably by someone who witnessed it all. Nevertheless, it’s a prayer that we can cry right now for Israel as they battle the pagan nations. Let’s dig in…

Psalm 79

O God, pagan nations have conquered your land,
    your special possession.
They have defiled your holy Temple
    and made Jerusalem a heap of ruins.
They have left the bodies of your servants
    as food for the birds of heaven.
The flesh of your godly ones
    has become food for the wild animals.
Blood has flowed like water all around Jerusalem;
    no one is left to bury the dead.
We are mocked by our neighbors,
    an object of scorn and derision to those around us.

O Lord, how long will you be angry with us? Forever?
    How long will your jealousy burn like fire?
Pour out your wrath on the nations that refuse to acknowledge you—
    on kingdoms that do not call upon your name.
For they have devoured your people Israel [Jacob],
    making the land a desolate wilderness.
Do not hold us guilty for the sins of our ancestors!
    Let your compassion quickly meet our needs,
    for we are on the brink of despair.

Help us, O God of our salvation!
    Help us for the glory of your name.
Save us and forgive our sins
    for the honor of your name.
10 Why should pagan nations be allowed to scoff,
    asking, “Where is their God?”
Show us your vengeance against the nations,
    for they have spilled the blood of your servants.
11 Listen to the moaning of the prisoners.
    Demonstrate your great power by saving those condemned to die.

12 O Lord, pay back our neighbors seven times
    for the scorn they have hurled at you.
13 Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture,
    will thank you forever and ever,
    praising your greatness from generation to generation.

Psalm 79 NLT

What’s Going On

I turn to the folks at Spoken Gospel for today’s lesson…

Israel is guilty of great evil and faithlessness. As a consequence, God sent Babylon to destroy Israel’s capital and temple (Psalm 79:1). But Babylon massacred Jerusalem’s inhabitants and left their bodies to be scavenged by wild animals (Psalms 79:2). There are not enough survivors left to bury the dead (Psalm 79:3). As the psalmist Asaph sees blood pooling in the streets, he realizes that his home has not only been destroyed, but humiliated. Jerusalem is a laughingstock and the world mocks Israel for ever trusting their God to protect them from harm (Psalm 79:4). 

Desperate for relief, Asaph asks God how long his anger towards Israel will burn (Psalm 79:5). After all, they are not the only guilty ones. The nations that have annihilated them have been merciless and cruel and deserve judgment for their atrocities too. But more importantly, Asaph reminds God that Israel is not just another nation but the descendants of Jacob (Psalm 79:6-7). God made an unbreakable promise to their forefather Jacob that he would be given a nation that would bless the world (Genesis 35:10-12). Asaph knows that even if Israel is guilty, God cannot always be angry with the same people he has promised to use for the world’s good.

So Asaph begs for mercy (Psalm 79:8). He begs God to save his people and to forgive them. And he begs that the nations that have celebrated their destruction would know that God has not abandoned his people (Psalm 79:9). Asaph wants God to avenge the blood Babylon has spilled. He wants God to shatter the bars that cage Israel’s prisoners-of-war and pay back seven times the hate God’s promised people have endured (Psalm 79:10-12). Asaph promises that if God proves he is their God by rescuing them, then God’s people will praise him forever (Psalm 79:13).

Where’s the Gospel?

When we think about vengeance positively we think about avenging the innocent and the powerless against the guilty and the powerful. But Asaph readily admits Israel is guilty. Their destruction was deserved. But he nevertheless asks God to avenge because of the unbreakable promise God made to bless the world through Jacob and his descendants (Psalm 79:6-7). This is the type of prayer we all need. If innocence is the only way to qualify for justice, we would never get it. We need songs like this one that admit guilt, ask for forgiveness, and demand justice at the same time. And ultimately, we need Jesus.

Jesus is Jacob’s final descendant and the one who can secure God’s unbreakable promise (Matthew 1:1-16). Through his death on the cross Jesus answered Asaph’s prayer to forgive Israel’s sins. Never again would God destroy his people because Jesus was destroyed in his guilty people’s place (Romans 3:25). Since Jesus has secured a way for all guilty people to be forgiven, that means even foreign armies guilty of atrocities can be forgiven (Romans 11:17). All people can be forgiven and blessed by Jesus’ death, which means God’s promise to Jacob has come true.

But this is only one of the ways Jesus avenges the blood spilt by the cruel and powerful. When Jesus died for his people he showed that while God’s mercy covers the earth, God does not pardon the guilty. He will avenge, even when it costs him greatly (Exodus 34:7). Jesus’ death is proof that there will be a final day of vengeance against all those who harm, hurt, and oppress God’s people. If God has willingly avenged the evil of others in himself, that means he will most certainly avenge those who continue to harm God’s own. So, like Asaph, pray for God’s forgiveness and wait in hope for God’s inevitable justice (Romans 12:19-21).

See for Yourself

I pray that the Holy Spirit will open your eyes to see the God who is both just and merciful. And may you see Jesus as the one who makes the justice of God and the mercy of God converge at the cross.

Spoken Gospel

Vengeance is God’s

Vengeance — God’s vengeance goes against human nature. When someone wrongs us, we immediately want revenge. When we do, we are disobeying specific instructions in the Bible.

Paul wrote…

18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

19 Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,

“I will take revenge;
    I will pay them back,” (Deuteronomy 32:35)
    says the Lord.

20 Instead,

“If your enemies are hungry, feed them.
    If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap
    burning coals of shame on their heads.” (Proverbs 25:21-22)

Romans 12:18-20 NLT

Can we apply this psalm to what’s going on in Israel today? Absolutely! Therefore, keep praying the psalms for Israel.

Unmistakably, our confident Hope is built on the solid faith that Jesus promised us. He assured us that He’d come back for us and save His born-again believers — His Church — from this evil world. God is a promise maker and best of all, He is a promise KEEPER! Herein lies our confidence.

Are you missing that confidence?

Are you confident that you’ll be going to heaven the moment you die?

If you’re not sure if you’re saved or not, if you truly want to be born again and have the assurance of salvation, receive the Holy Spirit, feel His Shalom — a peace that surpasses all understanding, and get a 1-way, non-stop ticket to Heaven after you die, or that you won’t be left behind at the Rapture, which can happen at any moment, this is what you have to do…

Believe. Repent. Be Baptized. Receive the Holy Spirit.

  • Believe — have Faith — that Jesus is the Christ and He died taking your sins away forever and that He rose from the dead 3 days later.
  • Repent of your sins — stop sinning! Do a complete 180-degree turn in your life and surrender your life to Him. When you ask Jesus to forgive you He will. ALL your sins will be wiped clean — past, present, and future! And All means ALL!
  • Be Baptized by water baptism — show the world and yourself that you have died to your old life and are born again in Christ.
  • Receive the gift of Holy Spirit in your heart.

Invite Jesus into Your Heart and Receive the Gift of Grace, Joy, Peace, and the Confident Hope of Eternal Life…

Hymn of Heaven

The Battle Belongs

Soli Deo Gloria — To God Alone Be The Glory!

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