(Today’s post by Wayne Bunting)
Psalm 74 revolves around the destruction of the temple by Nebuchadnezzar in 587 B.C. The psalmist wonders why this is happening in verses 1-11, and reminds God of what he has done for Israel during the Exodus: That He has bought them and lived with them on Mount Zion (the temple in Jerusalem). In verse 11 he asks, “Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand?” The right hand is the hand of power. In other words he is asking God why He will not help Israel and use the power that He definitely has to do it. In 12-17 he brings up the fact that God is strong and perfectly able to intervene. This is reinforced by the seven times he uses “it was you” in this section. “It was you” meaning that the events described in 13-17 that God did were specifically done by God and not other deities. He is above and beyond all else and is perfectly capable of conquering. He conquered Leviathan, a monster whose existence finds its way into a lot of ancient writings. Here God is the one who truly conquered it, so why would He not be able to stop the invasion of Nebuchadnezzar? This section seems to reflect the book of Job in its display of God as Creator. Job held similar frustrations about his life. He didn’t understand why disaster came on him either. In Job we find that because God is Creator He wisely knows the plan that He has for the world. It may be that the psalmist is saying that he trusts in God’s ultimate plan. This, coupled with the fact that he reminds God of His covenant with Israel in verses 2 and 20, shows that the psalmist doesn’t understand how the invasion of Nebuchadnezzar and the destruction of the temple falls in line with God’s plan, especially God’s plan for Israel, whose covenant with God included her protection by God.
In 18-23 the psalmist asks why. Why is God allowing Israel to be invaded and the temple destroyed? He asks God to do something about it, to do what He is perfectly capable of doing. But more than this, what He should be doing because of His covenant with Israel. Obviously the one who wrote this psalm was a faithful follower of God. He knew of many things that God had done in the past and held them in high regard, mostly because He held God Himself in high regard. Knowing this, it does not seem that we could lump him in with the unfaithful Jews who ultimately brought this destruction on Israel. He was faithful and understood the covenant that Israel had with God, and therefore was confused and frustrated with why things were now falling apart. Its hard to grasp why he could not understand that the rampant idolatry of Israel broke the covenant that He calls on God to defend. This covenant was not kept by Israel, and so God was not obligated to defend them. In doing so He was disciplining them. But this poor psalmist seems to be unaware of why any of this is happening. He doesn’t understand why sheer destruction is coming on God’s people. Furthermore the character of God is at stake in the heart of this psalmist. Why would a faithful God not live up to His promises to His people? This has led the psalmist to write a psalm of frustration and grief, petitioning God to do something about the crazy situation around him.
Sometimes we face this same situation. We wonder why God doesn’t intervene and do things in this world, and in our own lives. A million situations could be said to parallel what was going on with the psalmist, but what is significant is that we all face times where we don’t understand and are confused. We don’t know what is going on around us and we are left in a pile of confusion, grief, and sometimes doubt. Many times these situations cause us to question what we thought about God or who we thought God was. I sure know I have, many times. I’ve faced situations that caused me to question who I thought God was. Disaster fell and I didn’t understand why God didn’t step in and do what I knew He was capable of doing. Things like this can sometimes break a Christian’s will to keep going. But we must understand that although we might not fully understand the situation, and as chaotic as it might seem from our perspective, God is weaving His purpose through every part of our lives, including the parts that are full of utter chaos.
Have you ever felt this way?