(H) A psalm of Asaph. (1) God, the nations have invaded your inheritance. They have defiled your holy temple. They have made Jerusalem a heap of ruins. (2) They have given the corpses of your servants as food to the birds of the air, the flesh of your godly ones to the beasts of the earth. (3) They have poured out their blood like water all around Jerusalem, and (there was) no one to bury (them). (4) We have become a reproach to our neighbors, a mocking and derision to those around us. (5) How long, Yahweh? Will you be angry forever? (How long) will your jealousy burn like fire? (6) Pour out your anger on the nations that do not know you, on the kingdoms that do not call upon your name, (7) for they have devoured Jacob and despoiled his habitation.
This psalm opens with a heartbreaking description of Israel’s devastation which had resulted from invasion and plundering by her enemies (vss. 1-4). Three synonyms summarize the situation: “reproach...mocking...derision” (vs. 4). For this reason, the psalmist pleads with God to turn his wrath away from Israel and direct it instead against her enemies (vss. 5-7).
Note the repetition of “pour out” (vss. 3 & 6). Because Israel’s enemies, the “nations” mentioned twice (vss. 1 & 6), had “poured out” her blood when they defeated her, the psalmist pleads with God to “pour out” his wrath on her enemies.
I. Assessment of Israel’s appalling condition (1-4)
II. Appeal to Yahweh to turn away his wrath (5-7)
Now that our enemies have despoiled us for rebellion, may Yahweh’s wrath be poured out on them for the way they have treated us.
The chastening hand of God is never easy to endure. In Israel’s case, it meant defeat and disgrace at the hands of her enemies. For the believer, it can mean all kinds of reversals and difficulties, problems and frustrations. The author of Hebrews warned, “And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son’” (Heb. 12:5 & 6).
How can we know that what we are experiencing is the Lord’s discipline? A simple answer is, “Ask him.” He is certainly capable of showing us what he wants us to learn through what we are undergoing if our hearts are open to his instruction. Is it a sinful habit pattern he is seeking to break? Is it our lack of faith he is addressing? Is it a matter of mixed motives, doing the right thing for the wrong reason? Is it our character he is trying to shape? God has pledged that he will discipline us for our good in order that we may share in his holiness. It is never an easy process to undergo, but it is always beneficial. Through the process of discipline he is accomplishing his supernatural work of transforming us into the likeness of his Son.