Psalm 74

74:0The temple was the house of God. It was the place where people came to pray to God, and to worship him. (Worship means that you tell someone how great they are, and that you love them.) The Israelites made several temples. The most important one was in Jerusalem. Enemies destroyed it twice. The second time, it was the Romans, 70 years after Jesus came to the earth. Jesus had said that this would happen. Look at the top of this psalm for what Jesus said. But about 600 BC, Nebuchadnezzar also destroyed the temple. He was King of Babylon. He took many of the Israelites to Babylon. We call this ‘the exile.’ BC means years Before Christ came to the earth.

Psalm 74 is about when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the temple. The psalmist asks God to think again! ‘Keep your promise’ in verse 20 is ‘remember the covenant’ in Hebrew. The covenant was when God and the Israelites agreed. God would protect them if they obeyed him. The trouble was that they did not obey him. So God let Nebuchadnezzar destroy the temple. He also took the Israelites to Babylon. There they had to do what he told them to do. They were in exile. Really, they were in a prison a long way from home.

Psalm 74 tells us what Nebuchadnezzar did to the temple. The Israelites were sorry because Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the temple. They were not sorry that they had not obeyed God. That is why God did not have to keep his promise. So he let Nebuchadnezzar and his army destroy the temple.

Keep Your Promise!

This is a special song that Asaph wrote.

74:0The psalm is in three parts:

Verses 1-11: The psalmist writes about Nebuchadnezzar destroying the temple in Jerusalem. He asks why God is so angry that he lets it happen. He asks why God does not do something.

Verses 12-17: The psalmist remembers that God is very strong. He made everything! (Some Bible students think this part is about the Exodus. This was the time when Israel went out from Egypt.)

Verses 18-23: So the psalmist asks: if you are so strong, why do you let people destroy your temple?

1 God, will you never think about us again?

Why are you burning with anger against the people that belong to you?

74:1Because God let Nebuchadnezzar destroy the temple, then God was very angry (‘burning with anger’) with the Israelites.

2 Think again about:

· your people that you bought a long time ago,

· the people that you chose and saved,

· Mount Zion where you lived.

74:2This is about God taking the Israelites from Egypt. He bought them, chose them and saved them. He took them to Zion. Zion was the hill in Jerusalem where they built the temple about 1000 BC.

3 Go and look at everything that the enemy broke.

He destroyed your temple!

74:3Verses 3-8: The enemy destroyed the temple (and the city of Jerusalem). They cut it up with axes, and they burned it. They ‘put their own flags there as signs.’ Their flags were bits of cloth with pictures on them. They showed everyone that they had won the fight – they were ‘signs’ of this.

4 Your enemies have made an angry noise inside your meeting place.

They have put their own flags there as signs.

5 They seemed like wild men!

They used axes to cut the temple into pieces!

6 They used hammers and axes to break the doors

and other things made from wood.

7 They burned your temple to the ground!

They said that the place where your name lived was rubbish!

8 They said in their hearts, ‘We will completely destroy them.’

So they burned every meeting place of God in the land.

9 Nobody gives us signs that are miracles.

There are no prophets with us.

Nobody knows how long this will continue.

74:9Verses 9-11: Here the signs are different. In verse 4 they were flags that people could look at. In verse 9 they are things that only God can do, we call them miracles. But there are no miracles! There are no prophets! (Jeremiah Ezekiel and Daniel lived at this time, but maybe the psalmist did not know them.) The enemy was laughing at God and his people. Why does God hide his right hand, verse 11? This means, why does God not do something? His right hand is his strong hand. The psalmist asks God to destroy the enemy.

10 God, how long will the enemy laugh at you?

Will the enemy always laugh at your name?

11 Why do you hide your hand from us, even your right hand?

Take it out from your pocket! Destroy them!

12 For you, God, have been my king from the beginning.

You have done great things in the earth.

74:12Verse 12: ‘From the beginning’ may mean ‘when God made heaven and earth.’ Then the great things that he has done include:

13 It was you that divided the sea, because you are so strong.

You broke the heads of the monsters in the waters.

74:13Verse 13: dividing the sea. This means making the sea separate from the waters above the earth, like rain and mist (water in the air).

14 It was you that broke the heads of Leviathan.

You gave him as food for the animals in the desert.

74:14Verses 13 and 14: the monsters and Leviathan. Leviathan is the name of an old sea-monster. Very old stories (that we call legends) tell about God destroying Leviathan when he made the sea.

15 It was you that made springs and streams.

It was you that made quick-moving rivers dry!

74:15Verse 15: This may be about the Exodus (when Israel came out from Egypt). A spring is water coming from the ground. God then gave his people water in this way. Also, he made both the Red Sea and the River Jordan dry when the Israelites went from Egypt to Israel. But maybe it is also about when God made the world. He made springs and streams. He made rivers dry.

16 You made both day and night.

It was you that put the moon and the sun in their places.

74:16Verse 16: The Hebrew says ‘the day and the night belong to you.’ If verses 12-17 are about God making heaven and earth, then he also made day and night. ‘The moon’ may mean ‘all the stars.’

17 It was you that said where the dry land must be.

It was you that made both summer and winter.

74:17Verse 17: God decided where the dry land should be. He also made the seasons, like summer and winter.

If you read verses 13-17 in a careful way, you will find ‘it was you’ 7 times. This translates one Hebrew word, ‘atta.’ It comes in an important place each time. Bible students think that it means this: ‘It was you, God, that made everything. It was not the false gods that some people worship.’

18 Lord, think about this:

· an enemy has laughed at you

· and stupid people have insulted your name

74:18Verses 18-23: finish the psalm with prayer. (A prayer is what you say when you ask or thank God for something.) Remember what the psalm has said:

– The enemy has destroyed the temple and God has done nothing (verses 1-11);

– God is so great that he made everything (verses 12-17).

So the psalm finishes with:

– So, God, do something! (verses 18-23).

19 Do not give the life of your dove to wild animals.

Do not always forget the lives of your poor people.

20 Keep your promise

because the earth is full of dark places where bad men hide.

21 Do not let oppressed people become ashamed.

Let the poor people that need help say how great you are!

22 Stand up, God! Tell everyone that you are right.

Remember that fools are laughing at you all the time.

23 Listen to the noise that your enemies make.

The sound of people fighting against you goes on all the time!

74:23The problem with this psalm is this. The psalmist did not know why God let Nebuchadnezzar destroy the temple. He did not know what the prophets had said, verse 9. Jeremiah said that it was because the Israelites had not obeyed God. But the psalmist did not know that there were any prophets! Jeremiah even said that God would do something in 70 years time. Again, the psalmist did not know this (verse 9). To us this is all very strange. We can explain it two ways:

– The psalmist was so busy working for God that he did not know what was happening

– The psalm is about another temple, when there were no prophets (the Jews had 7 or more temples)

Bible students do not know. Maybe there is a third way to explain it that we have not found.