The Book of Psalms

Thursday: Prayer amid the Ruins of Jerusalem


Theme: The Sovereign God
In this week’s lessons we see the need for continual trust and worship, even during times of trouble and uncertainty.
Scripture: Psalm 74:1-23
At the end of the previous stanza the psalmist addressed himself to God, protesting that the offenses he saw were directed not so much against himself and his people, but against God. In their wanton destruction of the temple, Israel’s enemies were actually mocking God. This led him to think how great the God of Israel, whom they are mocking, really is (vv. 12-17), and this started him on the uphill path mentioned yesterday. Earlier he had asked God to remember Israel; here he himself remembers God.
In the commentaries there are two main ways of looking at these verses. Most of the older commentators saw them as containing poetic references to God’s delivering the Jews from Egypt and bringing them into their own land. The “monster in the waters,” Leviathan, was understood to be a crocodile and thus a symbol of Egypt. Many of the modern commentators take a quite different direction, supposing Leviathan to be the mythical monster overcome by Baal in Canaanite religious legends. They see the psalmist saying that it is Jehovah, not Baal, who has won such victories for his people.
Actually, there are quite a number of diverse poetic images in these verses, and in my judgment the best parallel to what is going on here in found in Job, where God questions the patriarch about his mighty acts in heaven and on earth. If we just look over these verses in the psalm, and give them the most natural explanation, they seem to refer to salvation acts in history (v. 12), miraculous delivering interventions (vv. 13, 14), provision of life-giving water (v. 15), and the governing of night and day and the seasons (vv. 16, 17). The bottom line of this recitation of God’s acts and remembrances of God’s power is something like the words of Job after God had questioned him. Job said, “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).
Not only can God do all things; he has. He ordains and accomplishes whatsoever comes to pass. Christians know that! They know that God is in charge of all life, and therefore, even though bad things happen and it might appear that God has forgotten them and no longer shows any interest in their welfare, they discover that they cannot deny what faith assures them they know. “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1). Believers know that God is in charge and that God is good. So they inevitably return to those convictions, even in the midst of great calamity, anchoring their hopes in God, as the psalmist does here.
Study Questions:

What change in focus signals the psalmist has reached a turning point?
Compare the different ways commentators look at verses 12-17.

Reflection: When thinking about the difficulties you have faced in your life, are you able to reach the same conclusions as Job?

Study Questions
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