Psalm 79:1, 9 O God, the nations have invaded your inheritance; they have defiled your holy temple, they have reduced Jerusalem to rubble. … Help us, O God our Saviour, for the glory of your name; deliver us and forgive our sins for your name’s sake.
Asaph was writing this Psalm under the shadow of the destruction of Jerusalem and God’s sacred Temple by the marauding power of the mighty Babylonian Empire. That such a catastrophe was ever possible was completely alien to Jewish thinking – but, inexplicably, it HAD happened. They were in desperate need of God’s comfort and help!
The New Testament makes it clear that these Covenant people of the Old Testament are a foreshadowing of the Church of which Christ is the head and cornerstone. Hebrews, especially Chapter 8, spells this out in detail. The Church is the New Jerusalem, the Holy City of Zion, and the people of God are the ‘living stones’ of the new Temple (Galatians 4:21-31; Hebrews 12:22-24; Revelation 21; 1 Corinthians 3:9-17; 1 Peter 2:4-10).
The way that Asaph felt about the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 586 BC, and particularly his response to it, can inform, and even encourage, us today as we see the way the opponents of Christ and his Church are orchestrating their attacks on the Gospel and its witness to the Lord Jesus Christ. Throughout the Middle East and northern Africa it is taking the form of physical persecution and destruction of people and property; in the West it is more subtle with constant media criticism and censure of the claims and public stance of Christians on various issues like marriage, gender orientation and differentiation, God’s sovereign control of the climate, Jesus as the ONLY Saviour from an eternal separation from God, etc.
How did Asaph respond to his situation? By crying out to the LORD his God in humble and earnest prayer. He reminds God that his people, his Church, are HIS inheritance; and that his enemies are defiling all that is holy. He calls on the God who is the Saviour (the Hebrew word has the root from which the name ‘Jesus’ is derived), and he is desperately concerned for the glory of his name, that the LORD’s character will not be maligned or brought into disrepute by what is happening. He cries out to God for deliverance. And he recognises that there is need for confession, repentance and forgiveness ‘for your name’s sake’.
Is our prayer life permeated by all these things as we seek to uphold God’s truth in all our circumstances, and as we pray that his Kingdom will come and his will ‘will be done on earth as it is in heaven’? Asaph DOES this because he KNOWS that God hears and answers prayer, and is ABLE to fulfil ALL his purposes. Do WE share this confidence? Does our prayer life reflect such confidence?