O God, the nations have come into your inheritance;
they have defiled your holy temple,
they have laid Jerusalem in ruins.
They have given the corpses of your servants
as food to the birds of heaven,
the flesh of your faithful ones to the beasts of the earth.
They have poured out their blood like water
round about Jerusalem,
and there is no one to bury them.
We have become the reproach of our neighbors,
the scorn and derision of those around us.
O LORD, how long? Will you be angry forever?
Will your jealousy burn like fire?
Remember not against us the iniquities of the past;
may your compassion quickly come to us,
for we are brought very low.
Help us, O God our savior,
because of the glory of your name;
Deliver us and pardon our sins
for your name’s sake.
(Psalm 79:1-2, 3-5, 8, 9)
79:1 the nations Throughout this psalm, the psalmist focuses on foreign powers around Israel (vv. 6, 12). your inheritance This may refer to God’s temple, the land of Israel, or the people of Israel (compare 94:5, 14).
79:2 the corpses of your servants Unburied corpses represented total military defeat. Corpses were understood to defile people, land, and sacred spaces (e.g., Num 19:11–22). Scattering bones around a sacred site also defiled it (e.g., Ezek 6:5).
79:3 They have poured out their blood Blood was understood as defiling the land (Num 35:33). Jerusalem The location of the temple and also the center of the land of Israel. If Jerusalem and the temple are defiled, all of Israel has been defiled.
79:5 Will you be angry forever The psalmist views God’s failure to punish Israel’s enemies as His displeasure and judgment (Deut 28:15–68).
79:8 iniquities of the past The psalmist depicts Israel’s suffering at the hands of foreigners as God’s judgment on their sins. He pleads for forgiveness. See Deut 5:8–10.
79:9 the glory of your name Israel will praise God after He rescues them. Then Israel’s proclamation of His goodness will strengthen His reputation. pardon our sins The psalmist asks that God not hold Israel’s sin against them. The Hebrew word used here, kaphar, means “to cover.” It has the sense of covering iniquities or sin to avert punishment. for your name’s sake The psalmist pleads that God defend His reputation by delivering His people. Emphasizes intimate knowledge of God rather than a particular label for God.
The psalmist acknowledges that the evils that have befallen them are due to God’s anger at their sins, both their own sins and those of their forebears; but he argues that the worst sin is that of the Gentiles in not acknowledging God and in laying Israel to waste. Therefore, he asks God to re-direct his wrath. He pleads for forgiveness on the grounds that things have reached their limit, appealing to God’s fidelity to his love as manifested in the Covenant, in his ‘name.’
In the history of salvation, God was not content to deliver Israel ‘out of the house of bondage’ by bringing them out of Egypt. He also saves them from their sin. Because sin is always an offense against God, only he can forgive it. For this reason, Israel, becoming more and more aware of the universality of sin, will no longer be able to seek salvation except by invoking the name of the Redeemer God.
– James Gavigan
May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.