Psalm 74 Commentary
The timing of this psalm is obviously some period after the reign of King Solomon. For during the reigns of David and Solomon, Israel was prosperous.
The destruction of the Sanctuary may refer to one of the many times when the Temple was ransacked by Israel’s enemies. It may even refer to the famous exile of 587 BC when the Temple was completely burnt down.
We are hearing from one of the saints who lived through it all. Of course, this is a godly man’s reaction to the destruction and apparent abandonment of Israel by the LORD God. Standing a little further in time, several prophets would have easily provided the psalmist with sure answers to his questions. Israel is in this state of her own making.
But the psalmist isn’t writing an academic thesis on the destruction of Jerusalem. He is praying. Back in the day, each community had its own god responsible for protection and prosperity. Like many other communities, Israel’s God was housed within the Temple. The defeat of Israel by her enemies was in essence the pagan god’s victory over the God of Israel. He had failed to protect them. There was no end to shame. Things like this shouldn’t happen.
The day is yours, and yours also the night; you established the sun and moon. Verse 16. Is the psalmist referring to God’s power over both light and darkness? Probably yes. If the enemy won the battle, it was probably owing to God’s decision. The psalmist is aware of God’s veto power over all and above all.
There is a better version of what the psalmist is saying: “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above,” said the LORD Jesus Christ as recorded in John 19 verse 11.
Yet the psalmist prays: “Do not hand over the life of your dove to wild beasts; do not forget the lives of your afflicted people forever.” It’s the audacity of prayer. The LORD leads us to such moments of faith in spite of judgment.
No sinner can be too sinful and no saint can be too backslidden to pray their way back to compassion. When punishment is deserved and you know it, this psalm stands as a reminder to all. “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.” So we can still seek the LORD even from a position of extreme weakness.
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