How Long, Yahweh?
(46) How long, Yahweh? Will you hide yourself forever? How long will your wrath burn like fire? (47) Remember how brief my time is. For what futility you have created all the children of men! (48) What man can live and never see death? Who can deliver his soul from the power of Sheol? (Selah) (49) Where is your former steadfast love, Lord, which you swore to David in your faithfulness? (50) Remember, Lord, the reproach of your servants, how I bear in my bosom (the reproach) of all the many nations (51) with which your enemies reproach, Yahweh, with which they reproach the footsteps of your anointed one? (52) Blessed be Yahweh forever! Amen and Amen.
The last segment of this psalm begins with three questions each expressing the psalmist’s frustration and asking Yahweh essentially the same thing: “How long will you refrain from answering our prayers?” (vs. 46) The next verse sets forth the psalmist’s heartfelt request, “Remember (us),” given how brief and futile our lives are (vs. 47).
Three more questions follow, all bemoaning the deadly effects of Yahweh’s chastisement (vss. 48 & 49). Again, the psalmist appeals to the Lord, “Remember” (vs. 50), with the same imperative used previously (vs. 47). This time he asks God to consider the nation’s “reproach,” a word used once as a noun (vs. 50) and twice as a verb (vss. 51). The psalm closes abruptly with a brief word of praise, “Blessed be Yahweh, forever” (vs. 52).
I. Question #1: “How long, Yahweh?”
Request #1: “Remember our temporality.” (46-48)
II. Question #2: “Where is your former steadfast love?”
Request #2: “Remember our reproach.” (49-51)
III. Conclusion: “Blessed be Yahweh forever!” (52)
Yahweh’s chastening for our waywardness will eventually draw us back to seek his blessing and protection in our lives.
How can a psalm that begins so positively end so negatively? How could a people who had once been lavished with God’s blessings later experience his disfavor in such dramatic fashion? The answer is found in the Israelites’ deep-seated rebellion, their persistent sinning, their willful idolatry in spite of all the warnings from a succession of prophets whom God had sent to remind them of the chastisement they would experience if they did not turn from their evil ways. God had repeatedly admonished the nation to repent of her waywardness and return to him, but she would not listen.
The psalm ends without answering an obvious question: did God ever respond to the pleas of the psalmist to restore Israel to the place of his favor? Those who are familiar with the rest of the story as revealed in the New Testament know the answer. God did not hide himself forever. At just the right time and in just the right setting, he sent his Son in whom his steadfast love was revealed and in whose death on the cross his great purposes for Israel and for the whole world were fulfilled. In Christ’s life, death, and resurrection God finally provided the answers to the questions the psalmist had voiced hundreds of years previously (vss. 48 & 49): “What man can live and never see death? Who can deliver his soul from the power of Sheol? Where is your former steadfast love?” Because of what Jesus accomplished by his death and resurrection, we who are saved by grace can readily join in the praise of the final verse: “Blessed be Yahweh forever! Amen and Amen” (vs. 52).