A Prayer for Your Nation
A Maskil of Asaph.
1O God, why do you cast us off forever? Why does your anger smoke against the sheep of your pasture?
2Remember your congregation, which you have purchased of old, which you have redeemed to be the tribe of your heritage! Remember Mount Zion, where you have dwelt.
3Direct your steps to the perpetual ruins; the enemy has destroyed everything in the sanctuary!
4Your foes have roared in the midst of your meeting place; they set up their own signs for signs.
5They were like those who swing axes in a forest of trees.
6And all its carved wood they broke down with hatchets and hammers.
7They set your sanctuary on fire; they profaned the dwelling place of your name, bringing it down to the ground.
8They said to themselves, “We will utterly subdue them”; they burned all the meeting places of God in the land.
9We do not see our signs; there is no longer any prophet, and there is none among us who knows how long.
10How long, O God, is the foe to scoff? Is the enemy to revile your name forever?
11Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand? Take it from the fold of your garment and destroy them!
12Yet God my King is from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth.
13You divided the sea by your might; you broke the heads of the sea monsters on the waters.
14You crushed the heads of Leviathan; you gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.
15You split open springs and brooks; you dried up ever-flowing streams.
16Yours is the day, yours also the night; you have established the heavenly lights and the sun.
17You have fixed all the boundaries of the earth; you have made summer and winter.
18Remember this, O Lord, how the enemy scoffs, and a foolish people reviles your name.
19Do not deliver the soul of your dove to the wild beasts; do not forget the life of your poor forever.
20Have regard for the covenant, for the dark places of the land are full of the habitations of violence.
21Let not the downtrodden turn back in shame; let the poor and needy praise your name.
22Arise, O God, defend your cause; remember how the foolish scoff at you all the day!
23Do not forget the clamor of your foes, the uproar of those who rise against you, which goes up continually!
What to make of this psalm? I confess that this is another one of those prayers that have me wondering how we can apply these words to our own lives. But God put this prayer here for our benefit and as such, it does have importance for our lives today.
The references throughout this prayer are focused on the history of Israel and the struggles that the Jewish people had with remaining faithful to God and the subsequent punishments they suffered because of their idolatry. Because the people were apostate, the Lord allowed stronger neighboring countries to sweep through the nation and carry the people off into slavery. This psalm refers to the time before, during, and after the Babylonian captivity. Those were terrible times for the nation of Israel because they lived as slaves and saw their Temple and homes burned to the ground. It took 70 years for God to return a remnant of His people to Israel to repair the damage and restore them to the land He had given them. This psalm encompasses that expanse of history.
As I read through the passage again and again I am struck by the fact that I could easily pray this prayer over my own nation on a daily basis and should probably do so with faithfulness. It doesn’t matter where you live. God is most certainly not the center of your nation anymore. But He is the One who establishes all nations and we would do well to bow down before Him and recognize that fact. Sadly, I don’t see that happening anywhere on a political level.
So - now go back and read Psalm 74 again and meditate on the verses that seem appropriate to your situation in the nation in which you reside. Personalize this passage and lift up your people to the Lord. He loves the nations He’s created and is worthy of praise from each and every one of them. As I pray through the psalm with these ideas in mind it suddenly explodes with impact.