79:0Something bad had happened to the Jews. They had not obeyed God, so he let their enemies beat them. Bible students think that this happened 600 years before Jesus came to the earth. A country called Babylon destroyed Jerusalem and took many people away as prisoners. Maybe this psalm is by one of the prisoners. He asks God to do to the Babylonians what they had done to the Jews, only worse. We call psalms like this ‘Psalms of Imprecation.’ You can read about them at the end of Psalm 69 in this series of psalms. Psalm 69 is in Book 2 of The Psalms of David.
The reason that he gives is this. If God does nothing, people will think that God is weak, or even that there is no God! That is why he says in verse 9 ‘For the glory of your name, save us. So that your name will always be famous, forgive us our sins.’ And in verse 10 ‘Where is their God?’
‘The countries that do not love God’ in verses 1, 6, 10, 12 translates just one Hebrew word, ‘countries’ or ‘nations.’ Here it means just Babylon, but it could mean any country that hurts God's people.
For the Glory of Your Name
This is a psalm of Asaph.
1 God, countries that do not love you have attacked us.
They have taken away your land.
They have done bad things to your holy temple
so that we cannot worship you in it.
They have destroyed Jerusalem.
79:1Verse 1: The ‘bad things’ include foreign soldiers going into the temple. This meant that they had defiled it (made it dirty). That meant that Jews could not use it. Also, the soldiers knocked the temple down, so it could not be used anyway!
2 They have given the dead bodies of your people
to the birds that fly in the air for food.
They have given the bodies of your servants
for wild animals to eat.
3 They have poured out the blood of your servants
like water all round Jerusalem.
There was nobody to bury your people.
79:3Verses 2-3: One of the worst things that you could do to your enemy was not to bury him when he was dead. That is what happened here. Instead, wild animals and birds ate the bodies.
4 Our neighbours just laugh at us.
The people that live near us scorn us.
79:4Verse 4: The neighbours are the countries near Judah. They included Edom. The book in the Bible, ‘Obadiah’ tells us that the Edomites were very happy when Babylon destroyed Judah. Also, they took things that belonged to the Jews, and did not let some of them run away from the Babylonians to a safe place.
5 How long will this continue?
Lord, will you always be angry?
Will you be angry for ever, like a fire that continues to burn?
79:5When God is jealous, it is like he is angry. It is when you are angry because someone you love stops loving you and loves someone else. Or, when someone hurts someone that you love. Here it maybe means both. God is angry with the Jews for not obeying him and with Babylon for hurting the Jews.
6 Be very angry with the countries that do not respect you
and the nations that do not pray to you.
7 Because they have beaten Jacob
and destroyed the land where he lived.
79:7Verse 7: Jacob is another name for Judah or Israel. So ‘he lived’ means ‘where the Jews lived.’
8 Do not say that we are guilty
because of the wrong things that our fathers did.
Have mercy on us soon.
We have lost all our hope.
79:8Verse 8: The Jews had done wrong things for many years. Their fathers and their grandfathers (or their ‘ancestors’) had all done wrong things. They had not obeyed God. So God punished them. This means he let the Babylonians hurt them, even kill many of them. So the psalmist asks for mercy. He asks God to be kind to them again. They had done wrong things but he still wants God to be kind to them.
9 God, give us help! You are the God that can save us.
For the glory of your name, save us.
So that your name will always be famous, forgive our sins.
79:9Verse 9: The psalmist asks God to save them and forgive them. To Christians this means give our sins to Jesus and take us to heaven when we die. To the psalmist it did not mean this. It meant ‘Give us back our land.’
10 Why should the countries that do not love God say,
‘Where is their God?’
We want to see you become angry with these countries,
because they poured out the blood of your servants.
79:10Verse 10: ‘Poured out the blood’ means ‘killed.’
11 Listen to the prisoners that are crying!
By the power of your arm, save those that are going to die.
79:11Verse 11: The Babylonians took prisoners to kill some of them. ‘The power of your arm’ means God is showing his power on earth.
12 Lord, make the countries that do not love you
have seven times as much trouble as we have had!
Because they said bad things to you.
79:12Verse 12: ‘seven times as much’ means ‘a lot.’
13 Then we, your people who are as sheep in your field,
will always thank you.
So will our children and grandchildren.
79:13Verse 13: The psalmist sees God's people as a group (‘flock’) of animals together in a field. The Hebrew Bible says ‘flock’, not ‘sheep’, but we have translated it ‘sheep’ because Jesus said that he was ‘the good Shepherd.’ A shepherd keeps sheep.