“O God, why have you rejected us so long? Why is your anger so intense against the sheep of your own pasture? Remember that we are the people you chose long ago, the tribe you redeemed as your own special possession! And remember Jerusalem, your home here on earth.” — Psalm 74:1-2
The Promised Land, once so full of promise, was now “full of darkness and violence” (74:20). The temple so beautifully designed and exquisitely crafted was no more, and the walls of the city lay in ruins, the gates chopped down like so much firewood (74:3-8). The people of the land languished far away in exile, mourning their fate, weeping bitter tears of regret, and praying deep prayers full of longing. All that they had hoped for had failed, and they had only themselves to blame.
This one thing bothered the exiled of Israel (74:1): Had God finally abandoned them permanently? There were no miracles to suggest the Lord was still interested, no powerful prophets presenting words from God’s throne (74:9). The heavens were silent and the earth was desolate. Had God finally and irrevocably abandoned them?
The question is a valid one. Does there come a point in a nation’s history where the Lord says, “Enough is enough! I’m through with those people?” The history of God’s people, which the psalmist mentions, strongly suggests that God is willing to forgive and restore a nation in response to the prayers of his people (see 2 Chronicles 7:14).
The writer of this psalm reminded the Lord that He had a great history of deliverance (74:2), that His holy name was being abused (74:7, 10), that his people were in dire straits (74:19), that His enemies were having a field day (74:18), and that He had mad certain promises that He must not forget to fulfill (74:20).
So what of the nations of the world? Are there dark places where light should be shining? Does violence prevail where people should be living in peace? Of course! What, however, should God’s people be doing? They should be calling on the Lord, reviewing the history of God’s workings, counting the promises of His grace, and rebuking His enemies.
Like humble doves among predators, God’s people should be living wisely and winsomely in His power, ready not only to pray but also to play an active part in the answers to their own prayers. It is the “poor and needy ones” who will eventually give praise, it is the weak and foolish ones through whom God works (1 Corinthians 1:26-29), and it is those who call on His name who become the agents of His working (see Nehemiah 1:11).
When God moves in a dark and violent land, He begins with his people and works through them. So instead of cursing the darkness, let us call on the Lord and gear up for action–for Him!