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The Anguish and Assurance of Aspah:
Psalm 74 – a meditation

By Nelson Thomas Mumbai

Asaph was a Levite who led the choirs during the days of King David.  1Chro 16:37.  In the book of Psalms, we have 12 Psalms that are attributed to him. (Psa 50, 73 – 83). We are not aware of the exact time when Aspah wrote Psalm 74. Some Bible scholars believe that there is a possibility that someone wrote it for Asaph, so that a choir in his name could sing. In spite of the obscurity in connection with the historical background, the contents are very much relevant for the time we now are in.
Here we see the prayers of a godly man for His people. He begins and concludes with a petition. cf. vs 1, 2a, 22, 23a

Psa 74:1  O God, why have You cast us off forever? Why does Your anger smoke against the sheep of Your pasture? 2a  Remember Your congregation, which You have purchased of old...”
Psa 74:22  Arise, O God, plead Your own cause; Remember how the foolish man reproaches You daily. 23  Do not forget  the voice of Your enemies; The tumult of those who rise up against You increases continually. 

In between these prayers we see:

    •  The reasons why Asaph makes such an appeal.
    • And the truths that encourage him to trust the Lord in prayer.

Thus we can notice three main sections in this Psalm.
(a). The Agony of  a Godly Man: His Pain
(b). The Appeal of a Godly Man: His Prayer
(c). The Assurance of a Godly Man: His Ponderings

  • I. The Agony of a Godly Man: His Pain.

We see here that Asaph was worried and troubled over the poor condition of Jerusalem. He refers to three specific things that caused distress in his heart.

  • a. God’s house was under attack. vs. 3 -  6

Psa 74:3. Lift up Your feet to the perpetual desolations.The enemy has damaged everything in the sanctuary. 4  Your enemies roar in the midst of Your meeting place; They set up their banners for signs5  They seem like men who lift up Axes among the thick trees. 6  And now they break down its carved work, all at once, With axes and hammers. 8  They said in their hearts, "Let us destroy them altogether." They have burned up all the meeting places of God in the land. 

The enemy attacked their temple and the city of Jerusalem. Prayer halls – synagogues – were burnt down. Banners referring to God and His people were replaced with those of the enemy. The Psalmist was anguished over the sad, terrible state of the house of God —the sanctuary - the place where God dwelt and used to meet them.
     Today, we know the church is the temple of God. “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?1Cori 3:16. Don’t we see a similar Satanic attack against the local assemblies today? Yes, the Lord said, “gates of hades will never prevail”. This means that Satanic forces will try their best to destroy and deform the Lord’s assembly.
Notice what the enemy did according to Psa. 74:

  • v. 3bdamaged everything in the sanctuary’.
  • v. 4b. ‘Set up their banners for signs’. Cf. v.9a ‘we do not see any signs’

The enemies not just destroyed everything in the temple, they replaced the banners that signified the Jewish ownership of the temple with their own banners.
      Both these incidents can be noticed among the people of God even today. There is an overall spiritual deterioration and declension. Apart from that, the enemy is trying his best to destroy the distinguishing features of the people of God. The wicked one has successfully set up his signs and banners among the saints! Without any hesitation, many gladly imitate the world, thinking that to be progress and modernity.
      Remember how Daniel and his friends responded to such efforts. Cf. Dan 1:7ff.  They did not object to the name change, but strongly withstood against the change of food, style of worship, etc. They were even willing to pay the price for their commitment to protect their identity and devotion. Dan 3:17, 18

  • v. 6. ‘They breakdown its curved works’

Another vicious work of the enemy was the removal of the works of art that gave beauty and splendor to the temple. Th ese works of art w ere the work of skilled men in the past. The enemy destroyed them at once.
      Today we can notice exactly the same: the work of the great men of God in the past that gave beauty and shape to the local assemblies is being broken down. The distinctive marks of the people of God, their unique lifestyle, pattern of ministry, name and shape - are all being disappeared.
     Like the godly psalmists, are we troubled seeing such a state of affairs? Are we concerned about the degeneration that is taking place in the house of God? Are we concerned about the local assemblies everywhere? 
“Besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.” 2Co 11:28 
Why is it so serious?
Why should we feel pained in such circumstances? Cf. 2, 7, 18

Psa 74:2  Remember Your congregation, which You have purchased of old, The tribe of Your inheritance, which You have redeemed—This Mount Zion where You have dwelt. 
Psa 74:7  They have set fire to Your sanctuary; They have defiled the dwelling place of Your name to the ground. 
Psa 74:18  Remember this, that the enemy has reproached, O LORD, And that a foolish people has blasphemed Your name. 

Asaph makes it very clear. When God’s house is defiled and destroyed, it’s God’s name that is defiled and blasphemed. Remember, failure of God’s people is not just a loss to the saints, but a defeat and shame for God’s name, for they are His sheep and inheritance.
Yes, the Psalmist understood the value and the greatness of the house of God. So, he is disturbed and pained and at the attack of the enemy.

  • b. God’s people are ignorant. v. 9b

       “There is no longer any prophet; Nor is there any among us who knows how long". 
Another reason for his worry is that there is no prophet to communicate God’s word for th at time. There could be somebody, but the Psalmist finds none. So the general condition of God’s people is ignorance and indifference.
        There were such occasions in the history of Israel when there was no divine revelation. There was famine for the bread of life. Cf. 1Sam 3:1b; Jer 5: 4, 5; Amos 8:11. Jeremiah says the poor as well as the great men of Judah are ignorant of the ways of God. The Lord rightly spoke through Hosea, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge.” Hosea 4:6. In fact, it was their deliberate refusal to be aware of the things of God.
In the New Testament also we see a similar indictment of the Lord against the ignorant local church.
“Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing'—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.”   Reve 3: 17
       What a pity, they were unaware of their wretched, poor state. Is it not the same situation we see around us? Even the so-called evangelical born again Christians have no idea on many contemporary issues. They are so confused and unable to make conclusions on what is right and what is wrong especially with certain church doctrine and practices.
There is no dearth of experts and even ‘doctors’, yet the common people find no proper answer. Godly men like Asaph should be concerned and distressed over this scenario.

  • c. God keeps quiet. vs. 1, 10, 11

Psa 74:1  O God, why have You cast us off forever? Why does Your anger smoke against the sheep of Your pasture? 
Psa 74:10  O God, how long will the adversary reproach? Will the enemy blaspheme Your name forever? 

More than anything else Asaph is disturbed at the silence of God. He is aware of the anger of God. v.1 “your anger’. God disciplines His people when they go against His way. God will allow the adversary to deal with His own people to chastise them and to teach and train them up etc. cf 1Peter 4:7
God’s anger towards the wicked is one thing and towards His own is another thing. The Psalmist kn ew this. What troubles him is the fact how long would  God be angry? Why is there no stop to God’s anger? Cf. v. 10, 11
Notice 4 questions in vs. 10, 11.

    • ‘how long’ – v. 10
    • ‘will the enemy blaspheme forever’ – v. 10b
    • ‘why do you withdraw’ – v. 11
    • ‘why right hand hidden’ – v. 11b cf. v. 1
      • God’s hands are not working to restore and give relief to His people.
        • Thus we see, psalmist is worried over three things:
          • God’s people under attack.
          • God’s people are ignorant.
          • God is silent over the struggles of His people…

The sad state of the people of God always troubled the heart of God’s servants. Godly people like Nehemiah, Jeremiah, Daniel etc. are best examples. The Lord Jesus wept over the state of Jerusalem. What about us?

  • II. The Appeal of a Godly Man: His Prayer. vs. 1, 2, 22, 23

With all his questions, pain, and troubles, Aspah comes to God in prayer.  That’s what we ought to do. Troubles should not make us depressed; instead it should always take us to God’s presence, closer to Him to pray and plead.  Remember, God alone patiently listens to our troubles.  Often there is no use of sharing our troubles with people.
       Notice how many times Asaph questions God and repeatedly reminding Him. vs. 2,  23. Nothing wrong with presenting our perplexing questions with God and repeatedly reminding Him of His promises.
 “On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have set watchmen; all the day and all the night they shall never be silent. You who put the LORD in remembrance, take no rest.” Isaiah 62:6
Three things about his prayer are noteworthy:

    • It was a passionate prayer.
      • Not just a casual prayer.  ‘Oh, God…Arise’…
    • It was a selfless prayer.
      • Not for him but others
    • It was a spiritual prayer.
      • For the cause of God, His glory, and His people.

  • III. The A ssurance of a Godly Man: His Ponderings.

In between His prayers the Psalmist refers to few truths that encourage and reassure him. As he pondered upon his troubles, he also began to remember few realities that comforted and challenged him to pray and trust in the Lord.

  • a. God is on the throne. v. 12a         For God is my King from of old”

Whatever may happen around us and whoever may claim to be the ruler, our God is still on the throne. This fact is so comforting, challenging as well as encouraging. In Isaiah 6, we find a worried and troubled Isaiah. He sees the King of kings enthroned and glorious. It was this vision that changed Isaiah.
       Today, the world is not recognizing this true King —the Lord Jesus. When the King appeared, He was rejected, despised and crucified. Yet we who love the Lord Jesus know for sure that He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Without any failure, His purposes will be accomplished.
       “Nathanael answered and said to Him, "Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!"  John 1:49

  • b. God is at work. V. 12b      “Working salvation in the midst of the earth.”

Asaph also understood that when the enemy works relentlessly against God’s people, God also is at work to save, deliver and protect His people.  Cf. 57:2; Mark 7:37.

“I will cry out to God Most High, To God who performs all things for me.” Psa 57:2 
“And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, "He has done all things well.” Mar 7:37 

The   Psalmist now realized God was not hiding, nor was He silent, rather He was carefully watching, waiting, and working. How did he know that? The Psalmist recollected the past work of God for Israel. Cf. vs. 13 – 15.

vs. 13 – 15:  You divided the sea by Your strength; You broke the heads of the sea serpents in the waters. 14  You broke the heads of Leviathan in pieces, And gave him as food to the people inhabiting the wilderness. 15  You broke open the fountain and the flood; You dried up mighty rivers. 

Israel could always remember God’s works in terms of the deliverance they got from Egypt. For us today, the greatest work is the work of salvation accomplished on the cross of Calvary. God, who graciously saved us from eternal condemnation when we were unworthy and cursed sinners, will definitely save us, even to the uttermost. Paul puts it poignantly in Romans 5: 10 and 8:32:

“For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Rom 5:10 
“He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” Rom 8:32 

  • c. God controls all seasons. vs. 16, 17

Psa 74:16  "The day is Yours, the night also is Yours; You have prepared the light and the sun. 17  You have set all the borders of the earth; You have made summer and winter."
Finally, there is one more truth that assures the Psalmist, that is, the sovereignty of God. Not only is He on the throne, the Lord controls everything whether it is day, night, summer and winter. He allows various seasons and times. We should patiently wait for His time.
       The present unfavorable, difficult days will be over. Today we see darkness all around, especially in the context of the Covid - 19 pandemic. Trust and hope that our God controls the seasons, and He will see to it that it is changed at the right time.
Let us be aware of the present trouble God’s people are facing, not just from a human point of view, but from a divine viewpoint. Be concerned about the needs of His people everywhere. Let us continue to plead with God Almighty with full conviction and assurance of His greatness and His marvelous works.




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