March 9: Psalm 74
The silence of God in the midst of destruction
76.76 Passion chorale (O Sacred Head, Now Wounded), p. 140
Why, God, do you reject us? Why does Your anger burn
Against the flock of Your field You purchased but now spurn?
Remember Your own people, Your tribe and heritage,
And Zion’s mount where You dwelt, where endless ruin is.
Your foes laid waste the Temple, they shouted in Your halls;
They set up their own emblems, and let their axes fall.
With pikes they broke the carved work, the holy place they burned;
The place where once Your name dwelt, they have profaned and spurned.
They said within their cruel heart, “Let us their strength bring down!”
They burned the holy dwelling; there is no prophet now.
How long, O God, will foes scorn, and spurn Your name always?
Why do You hold Your hand back? Why not destroy their days?
Yet God from old has brought forth salvation in the earth.
The sea in strength divided, and crushed Leviathan’s girth.
You opened springs; You dried streams; both day and night are Yours;
You have set forth earth’s boundaries, giv’n heat and cold their stores.
Remember, Lord how foes mock, how fools have scorned Your name!
Give not your dove to wild beasts; nor leave your folks in shame.
O look upon the cov’nant! For darkness fills the land;
Let not oppressed be shamed, but again reveal Your hand.
Arise, O God! And plead for Your right and holy cause!
Remember how the foolish reproaches all Your laws!
Do not forget the voice of Your wicked enemies,
The uproar of all those who assail Thee endlessly.
The silence of God in the midst of destruction is a theme which the psalms are not afraid to address. Like Psalm 83, this psalm challenges God to address the victories of the enemies of God’s people, and to vindicate His own Name which has been scorned. However, the disillusionment and disappointment with God does not result in loss of faith for the Psalmist, but rather in the voice of lament—crying out for God to act, and remembering who God is despite the current apparent denial indicated by the circumstances around him. When God does not act or do as we think He ought to act, the psalmist models for us the cry of lament and determined remembrance rather than loss of faith.
“We live late in an age of intellectual rebellion, when darkened, unrepentant hearts stand defiant before the plain speech that the Creator has placed in the very structure of the world. Such is the strife of which we pray (sing) in psalm 74.” (Reardon, p. 146)