Judah is in dire straits. The Temple has been burned, enemies surround the people, and God’s hand is absent. A cry goes out; “Help us O God!”
I am used to seeing David calling out for help from the Lord in the early verses of his psalms and singing of that help by the end. This psalm is a heart wrenching cry that goes on without resolution. Our author recognizes that God CAN save them but there is no singing of if God WILL save them. There is no ‘glorious’ conclusion; only more pleas.
This psalm had to have been written after Israel was broken into two nations. Our author speaks of the Temple being burned. That didn’t happen for quite some time. And by the time it did, Israel and Judah were both in captivity.
What surprises me most in this psalm is that the author doesn’t mention ANYTHING about how the people got to this place. He doesn’t mention the sin that BOTH nations indulged in. God waited patiently for His people to repent of their sins. He didn’t throw His hands up the first time they sinned and say, “That’s it. No more chances.” He called out to them through the prophets over and Over and OVER again. Judah had a few of her kings respond to God’s call but it never lasted. Israel NEVER came back to the Lord after splitting with Judah. So why does the author seem surprised by God’s absence?
Our author’s line “Have regard for the covenant” (verse 20a), to ME, sounds like he is blaming God for their state. God KEPT His side of the covenant LONG AFTER Israel and Judah broke their side of it. Does the author propose that those he is asking God to help will take up their side of it again? He doesn’t say so if he does. Even so, GOD NEVER BROKE COVENANT WITH HIS PEOPLE. Part of that covenant included punishment for disobedience. It included correction for sin.
If God were to simply ignore sin then what is the benefit of serving Him? God gave both blessings and curses as ‘reward’ to Israel that were dependent on their behavior and relationship with Him. “If you reject Me, you reject the good things I can bring to you. Blessed is he who keeps My commandments. Cursed is he who turns from them.”
There is no repentance in this psalm. And it breaks my heart! God WANTED to scoop His people back up and make everything good again; but He couldn’t. He could NOT reward their sin. Just as any earthly parent cannot reward bad behavior and expect their child to turn out as a good citizen. Only when repentance is expressed and reparations have begun can the relationship turn favorable again.
We aren’t under the original covenant any longer but there are still consequences for our actions. God is just as patient with us but also just as willing to set limits. We CANNOT continue to live in sin and expect Him to turn a blind eye to it. If you want His favor back, get back to living a life that is honoring to Him. Even the prodigal son had to get up and return to the father before he was restored. God is waiting with open arms!
Father God, I know I have cried out in times of what was probably well-deserved discipline too. I’ve had times when I also know You were being VERY patient with me and not giving me what I deserved. Thank You for that grace! Also, thank You for the discipline I have received over my life. I’m sure I will encounter more as the need arises. You discipline me because You LOVE me. That alone makes it worth the pain. Please pull me back before I go so far that I’m surrounded and drowning again. I have been to that place a couple of times in my life and I NEVER want to go back again!!! Your love keeps me striving to serve You with all my heart. I’m sorry I don’t always meet that goal. Help me get closer to that goal every day. THANK YOU that You NEVER give up on me!
The Repair Process:
Recognition: recognizing that you are in sin.
Regret: feeling remorse for your actions.
Repent: saying “I’m sorry” and stop doing it.
Restoration: Work on repairing the damage done to the relationship.