Psalm 74 is a Maschil (or Maskil) Psalm, meaning that it was written for learning and instruction. Likely written around 578 B.C., it focuses on the lamenting of the people over the destruction of God’s temple and the great loss at not having access to God’s Word or to have a prophet in the land. That said, the ongoing oppression of the Jewish people during that time would have been immense. Certainly, their identity was in their religion. God gave them their land, and after hundreds of years of failing leadership and warning, the Lord allowed the people to fall under the ownership of the Babylonian Empire. Hence, the remnant begin to seek God’s face once again, knowing that it was their own failure, not God’s, that took them to their present condition.
Being a Psalm of instruction, one can certainly find truths about God and how he or she ought to live in the present day. Here are a few snippets I found in my own study:
- God’s hand is at work. On its own, the statement is a “duh,” but as you think about it, the truth is quite powerful. Verse 12 says this, “For God is my King of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth.” Again, this is a nation in shambles, yet the writer recognizes that God is still working. God is the King, raising up who He wants and putting down who he wants, and through it all He is at work impacting the nations with His primary message – His love for all and the salvation available to all who will call upon Him. Did you ever stop to think that your present state of success or misery could be a tool for God to work through you? Rather than getting too cocky or feeling too low on yourself, how about setting your eyes on the Father and realizing that He is the one who gives and takes away in His providential and loving hand?
- God is powerful. Lest one think that God is incapable of working, a small demonstration of it is provided in verses 13-17. He divided the seas, broke the heads of mighty sea creatures, provided food for His people in the (forty year) wilderness journey, created floods and great waters, designated times of drought, created day and night, made the sun and stars, designated the earth’s orbit, and established the seasons. Can any human, or even the entire human race, do all of these things? If God is so powerful, then is He not worthy to be trusted in the great challenges of life?
- God will judge all wrong. Also noted in Psalm 73, wrongdoing is everywhere, but that does not mean God is blind or incapable of seeing it. God rewards all men for their choices. Do right, and even though you face dark days for seeking God’s honor over your own self-preservation, the Lord will honor you. Asaph notes in verse 20, “Have respect onto the covenant; for the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty.” This is so true, and God is at work both judging the wrong and in taking the light to expose it and to change lives. Are you living with God’s holiness and honor in mind?
You down and out? Don’t despair. Just as Israel faced hard times, your life journey isn’t guaranteed to be easy. God’s promise is to provide you rest as you allow Him to work through you and to impact your world with His power. Maybe life would be different if we all lived with an outlook where God’s glory was the ultimate goal, rather than our own happiness.