Daily Family Worship

Psalm 74: The Cry of the Suffering Church

by | May 21, 2024

psalm 74

There is a singularity in this Psalm which reminds one strongly of Psalm 44; for there is not one mention of national or personal sin, there is no allusion to the people’s affliction being a punishment for iniquity, and there is no supplication for pardon and forgiveness. Although there is expostulation with the Lord in this sorrowful composition, yet there is no complaint against Him. There is mourning, but there is no murmuring. These words are far more like the cry of a smitten child – wondering and grieving that his father’s face is turned away from him in such displeasure, and that his hand is so heavy upon the child of his love. Or, as we might almost say, this Psalm is like the cries of one of those martyred ones beneath the heavenly altar – wondering at the Lord’s continued allowance of His heritage being thus trampled underfoot by marauders and oppressors, and exclaiming, “How long, O Lord; how long?”

In the first 11 verses of this Psalm, the deplorable case of the people of God is spread before the Lord, and left with Him. They plead the great things that Jehovah had done for them in bygone days. If the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt was encouragement to hope that He would not cast them off, much more reason do we have to believe that God will not cast off any whom Christ has redeemed with His own blood! Infidels and persecutors may silence the children of God and faithful ministers, they may shut up places of worship, and they may say that they will destroy the people of God and their religion entirely. For a long time, they may even prosper in these attempts, and God’s oppressed servants may see no prospect of deliverance. But there is always a remnant of believers, who are the seed of a future harvest! The despised Church has always survived those who once triumphed over her – and she always will! When the power of enemies is most threatening, it is a great comfort to be able to flee to the power of the Lord by earnest prayer.

The main emphasis of this portion of the Psalm lies in the argument which arose from Israel’s close relationship with God. Were they not His own people? Was not the Temple His own chosen sanctuary? Did not these facts alone constitute the reason why He should come, with swift footsteps, to undo the evils that their foes were inflicting? The invaders were not directly Israel’s adversaries; they were the Lord’s enemies. The Temple was the dwelling-place of His name. The whole Psalm is dominated by this note. It makes a point of constantly recurring to the insults and reproaches that were being done to God.

When we live only to please the Lord Jesus, so that our case and His have become inseparably united – then we can use language like this! But this position is not acquired lightly, nor without much watchfulness and prayer. By nature, we tend to watch out for our own dignity and well-being much more quickly than we keep our eyes alert for the interests of Christ’s Kingdom and glory. However, when we are absolutely identified with the Kingdom and glory of Jesus, our argument for deliverance is omnipotent!

What God had done for His people in the past, as their King, encouraged them to depend upon Him now in their present distresses (verses 12-17). Those great and marvelous works that He had performed throughout His people’s history were things that none other could do. His mighty acts of Providence were food to the faith and hope of His people, to support and encourage them in their current difficulties. He Who is faithful to His covenant concerning the regular return of the day and the night will never cast off those whom He has chosen and redeemed. As believers, we have as much reason to expect affliction as we do to expect night and winter. But we have no more reason to despair of the return of comfort than to despair of day and summer! And when we finally reach the heavenly world above, we shall have no more of these changes.

In the concluding verses (18-23) of this composition, the Psalmist begs the Lord to appear on behalf of the Church against her enemies. And when He does so, the folly of those who revile His Gospel and His servants will soon be plain to all! Let us take up the Psalmist’s words into our own mouth, and call upon our God to enlighten the dark nations of the earth and to rescue His people, so that the poor and needy may praise His name! Blessed Savior, You are the same yesterday, today, and forever. Make Your people more than conquerors now, just as You have done for all Your saints in ages past!

O Lord, we give You thanks for the assurance that we have in times when the altars of truth are defiled, and Your ways of holiness are forsaken, and we weep with bitter sorrow – for we do not need to despair, since even the darkest eras are governed by You, and shall come to their end at Your bidding! Amen.

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