Today: [Psalm 74] Does God’s Anger Smoke Against Us? In this chapter Asaph speaks prophetically of a time when Jerusalem is burned by fire and the temple is totally destroyed. His language suggests that he thinks that God has allowed this to happen. He goes on to cry out for God’s mercy for the people. He mentions several times that he intends to put God in remembrance of His promise to His people. Is it disrespectful to “remind God”? In this psalm we learn how to pray when all hope is gone and the hand of God is seemingly delayed to act in our behalf.
[Psa 74:1-23 KJV] 1 [[Maschil of Asaph.]] O God, why hast thou cast [us] off for ever? [why] doth thine anger smoke against the sheep of thy pasture? 2 Remember thy congregation, [which] thou hast purchased of old; the rod of thine inheritance, [which] thou hast redeemed; this mount Zion, wherein thou hast dwelt. 3 Lift up thy feet unto the perpetual desolations; [even] all [that] the enemy hath done wickedly in the sanctuary. 4 Thine enemies roar in the midst of thy congregations; they set up their ensigns [for] signs. 5 [A man] was famous according as he had lifted up axes upon the thick trees. 6 But now they break down the carved work thereof at once with axes and hammers. 7 They have cast fire into thy sanctuary, they have defiled [by casting down] the dwelling place of thy name to the ground. 8 They said in their hearts, Let us destroy them together: they have burned up all the synagogues of God in the land. 9 We see not our signs: [there is] no more any prophet: neither [is there] among us any that knoweth how long.
This psalm is attributed to Asaph as well but it’s content suggests that it is not the Asap appointed by David. The reason for this is because it describes the destruction of the temple which has no corresponding event in David or Solomon’s time. Some think that the psalm refers to the destruction of the temple at the beginning of the Babylonish captivity. Still others believe it was the persecution during the time of Antiochus Epiphanes. Christian scholars look at this psalm also as a foreshadowing of the persecution of the church in the latter days.
In suggesting that it wasn’t written by the Asaph who was a contemporary with David and Solomon we cannot leave out the possibility that this psalm WAS written by THAT Asaph under the inspiration of the spirit of prophecy. The assumption that it was written later could arise from the penchant of scholarship to reject prophetic inspiration. This is the case as well regarding Jewish scholars of Jesus’ time and theologians in our day as well that reject the book of Daniel as inspired because it was too accurate to the times and simply couldn’t (in their view) have been written before the days of Alexander the Great.
We see in verse 1 that the circumstances described by Asaph lead men to conclude that God has withdrawn from them. There are abysmal seasons in everyone’s life that it feels as though God cannot be found. We tempted to believe that He is angry at us for some reason and cry out to Him for relief.
Does God every count us or regard us as “sheep to the slaughter”? There are 4 references to this in the scripture. 2 of the references apply to God’s people who are regarded by the forces of the antichrist as worthy of torture and death. The remaining two verses apply directly to Jesus who suffers in our place being led to the cross as a “sheep to the slaughter”. It may feel as though God is aloof from us at times but we are never far from His heart. He is near to us even at times that we cannot sense His presence or see His hand in our situation.
In verse 2 Asaph puts the Lord in remembrance of His people. Is this an acceptable way to pray? Does God need reminding? Is He forgetful at times? In Gen. 8:1 we see that God remembered Noah was in the ark and delivered him to dry land. In Gen. 19:29 God remembered Abraham when He was about to overthrow the city of Sodom. In Gen. 30:22 God remembered Rachel and opened her womb to bear a son. In Isa. 43:6 God speaks directly to us an instruction that we should put Him in remembrance regarding His promises. The point is not that God forgets but that there is something in our prayers that activates His promise according to our faith. Outside of active prayer the promise of God becomes inert in our life in a way that causes us not to experience the blessing and favor of heaven even though it is available. So yes it is acceptable, commendable and helpful to put the Lord into remembrance of His promises that He has made in our behalf.
Verse 8 sums up the persecution of the wicked against the people of God. The antichrist spirit declares that they will destroy the people of God altogether until there is nothing left of the witness of God in the earth. You can see this throughout the world today. God’s people are increasingly being marginalized and rebuffed in the public square. Government organizations and programs are insisting that false religions and ungodly lifestyles be considered protected behavior all the while suppressing and penalizing sincere Christians in the practice of their faith. What is to be our response? Asaph sets the example for us. Put the Lord in remembrance. Politics will not save us. The next charismatic, narcissistic political candidate will not save us. Zech. 4:6 tells us that it’s not by might, nor by power but by the Spirit of the Lord that the impossible is accomplished and God’s people are defended and remain strong in the earth.
10 O God, how long shall the adversary reproach? shall the enemy blaspheme thy name for ever? 11 Why withdrawest thou thy hand, even thy right hand? pluck [it] out of thy bosom. 12 For God [is] my King of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth. 13 Thou didst divide the sea by thy strength: thou brakest the heads of the dragons in the waters. 14 Thou brakest the heads of leviathan in pieces, [and] gavest him [to be] meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness. 15 Thou didst cleave the fountain and the flood: thou driedst up mighty rivers. 16 The day [is] thine, the night also [is] thine: thou hast prepared the light and the sun. 17 Thou hast set all the borders of the earth: thou hast made summer and winter.
In verse 10 Asaph prays the prayer that comes to all our lips at some time or the other. How long oh Lord? He reminds the Lord of His greatness in creation. He speaks of deliverances of times past and asks the Father to lift His hand and act in the current crisis as He was known to act before. This was the prayer of Gideon when the angel found him threshing a few sheaves of wheat behind a winepress:
[Jdg 6:13-14 KJV] 13 And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord, if the LORD be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where [be] all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt? but now the LORD hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites. 14 And the LORD looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?
This prayer of Asaph and the prayer of Gideon above is not a prayer of unbelief. There is something very powerful in praying to God in transparency and honesty of heart. The Father says to us in our extremity what He declares to Gideon – “go in this thy mighty and Israel shall be saved…”
18 Remember this, [that] the enemy hath reproached, O LORD, and [that] the foolish people have blasphemed thy name. 19 O deliver not the soul of thy turtledove unto the multitude [of the wicked]: forget not the congregation of thy poor for ever. 20 Have respect unto the covenant: for the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty. 21 O let not the oppressed return ashamed: let the poor and needy praise thy name. 22 Arise, O God, plead thine own cause: remember how the foolish man reproacheth thee daily. 23 Forget not the voice of thine enemies: the tumult of those that rise up against thee increaseth continually.
Verse 18 continues the theme of putting God in remembrance. I remember a two year intercession initiative in a church I pastored in Louisiana. We took a passage from Isaiah as our watchword in special prayer services we conducted for many months:
[Isa 62:6-7 KJV] 6 I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, [which] shall never hold their peace day nor night: ye that make mention of the LORD, keep not silence, 7 And give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth.
The watchmen on the wall is not there to watch or put attention upon the enemy but to put attention upon the heart of God for His people. It may seem at times that this is an adversarial prayer but in fact it is a prayer of desperation and humility looking to none other than God Himself for answers. If we are watching we are not watching for the next political messiah to come into office and solve our problems. If the church should learn anything from the last 50 years it is the fact that righteousness and godliness in our land has never been brought about by political process. We should be responsible citizens to participate in the process of government but let us never forget that it is the hand of God and not the hand of man that brings about His purpose in the earth.
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