Theme: The Need for Confession
In this week’s lessons we learn that when hard times come, we are to wait upon and praise the Lord with expectant hope.
Scripture: Psalm 79:1-13
We continue looking at the four important questions, confessions or statements in this passage of Psalm 79. Yesterday we looked at the first two, and today we pick up with the second two.
3. Forgive us our sins. Every true prayer should have within it a confession of the worshipper’s sins. This is not some morbid preoccupation. It is an inevitable result of prayer that is truly prayer to God. This is because God is holy, and we are not. So if we are really praying to him, we will be aware of his holiness, and his holiness will convict us of our sinful state. This is how we know that the prayer of the tax collector in Jesus’ parable was a true prayer and the prayer of the Pharisee was not. The Pharisee began his prayer with God but he went on to talk about himself and how good he was. Jesus said he was praying “to himself.” The tax collector prayed, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner,” and Jesus said that he was heard and went home justified (Luke 18:9-14).
This has bearing on Psalm 79, for one of its most important features is an acknowledgment of sin. There is an acknowledgment of the sins of the fathers, since it was for their sins that Judah was overrun and Jerusalem destroyed (v. 8). But there is also acknowledgement of the people’s own and present sins, for the psalmist prays, “Deliver us and atone for our sins for your name’s sake” (v. 9).
This is important. The people were suffering the destruction of their entire civilization—politically, economically, socially and religiously, as I said earlier. Yet there is not the slightest suggestion that they did not actually deserve it, or even that they did not deserve having it continue as long as it had. Instead of excusing their sins, the psalmist acknowledges them and pleads for an atonement to be made by God.
What is he thinking of when he mentions atonement? The only atonement he knew was that made at the temple by the high priest when sacrifices were offered up, particularly on the Day of Atonement. That temple was now gone. How could atonement for sin now be made? I do not know what the psalmist was thinking of, but I do know how God did it. God did it, not by causing the temple to be rebuilt and the sacrifices to be reinstituted (though the temple was rebuilt in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, and the offerings were begun again), but rather by sending Jesus Christ to be the perfect and only sufficient sacrifice. That is why, when Jesus died, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, indicating that the way into the presence of God was now open for all who would come through faith in his sacrifice; and why, shortly after this, the temple of Herod, which replaced the temple of Ezra and Nehemiah, was destroyed for the final time.
4. Glorify your name. In his brief commentary, G. Campbell Morgan notes three great themes in this psalm, one of which is “passion for the glory of the Divine Name.”1 This is wisely noted, for the fourth of the most important questions, confessions or statements in these verses is the appeal to God on the basis of the glorifying of his name: “Help us, O God our Savior, for the glory of your name” (v. 9).
This is the strongest appeal anyone can make, for God says that he has set his glory above all else. He has declared, “I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another” (Isa. 42:8). Moreover, when we begin this way, that is, with the glory of God as our aim, then other things tend to fall into place naturally and we pray for what is right. The Lord’s Prayer begins, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matt. 6:9). Petitions follow. Then, in the most quoted version, it ends, “For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” Have you made God’s glory the number one priority in your life?
1G. Campbell Morgan, Notes on the Psalms (Westwood, NJ: Revell, 1947), p. 149. The others are “the sense that all the calamity which has overtaken them is the result of their own sin” and an “underlying confidence in God.”
Why must our prayers contain a confession of sin?
Why is it important to start prayer by giving God the glory?
Compare the prayers of the tax collector with that of the Pharisee.
Reflection: Reflect on your sins you have committed this week, or even this day, and repent of them.
Application: In your life, how can you seek the glory of God? Be specific.