Waiting—just waiting—can prove painfully difficult, especially when the anxieties of life pressure and surround us. Many can appreciate the stress of waiting for a doctor’s call following a test. Is it cancer? My heart? Or nothing that big at all? In the midst of a struggle, after bad news has come in wave after wave, a feeling of helplessness sets in, weighing heavily on the heart and encouraging doubt, so that the acceptance of dire circumstances begins to cause hope to waver. Such weariness had taken hold when Psalm 74 was penned, beginning with the cry, “O God, why have You cast us off forever? Why does Your anger smoke against the sheep of Your pasture?” (Psa. 74:1).
The nature of the circumstances described within this psalm speaks of no event during the lifetime of David and Asaph. Even the cry itself looks back in time (Psa. 74:2). But more than this, the situation speaks of “perpetual desolations” and damage to “the sanctuary” (Psa. 74:3) caused by enemies who raised their flag in Israel’s capital (Psa. 74:3-4), destroying the beauty of the temple (Psa. 74:5-7) and attempting to obliterate Israel’s memory of God altogether (Psa. 74:8). The ascribed authorship therefore must refer to the singers who followed Asaph, perhaps descended from him, and called themselves by his name, writing following the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians. As such, they had turned against all that God had said and no longer enjoyed His guidance and protection (Psa. 74:9). Is it then any wonder that they cried out in pain, “O God, how long will the adversary reproach? Will the enemy blaspheme Your name forever?” (Psa. 74:10). They finally realized that God had withdrawn from them, and realized just how much they needed Him (Psa. 74:11).
But here the psalm turns, growing more personal and reflective. Finally, after losing the kingdom, the psalmist realizes that God is his rightful King, and has been all along (Psa. 74:12). He proved it when He accomplished His salvation in parting the Red Sea, accomplishing in fact what other gods only claimed (Psa. 74:13-15). He proved it by His power over nature (Psa. 74:16-17). Thus, the psalmist recalls the great deliverance of the LORD and longs for a return of such feats (Psa. 74:18-19). However, rather than assume their right to His care, rather than presume their special character as His people, the psalmist appeals to the covenant the LORD made with them (Psa. 74:20), to their promise of returning their allegiance and love to Him and Him alone (Psa. 74:21), and to the cause of justice against an ungodly people (Psa. 74:22-23).
The exact circumstances of this psalm may seem remote to most people today; however, this is because we see this situation only from a physical rather than a spiritual standpoint. We identify too much with our country and not enough with our God. Therefore, we should re-read the psalm with a spiritual heart and consider the ramifications of spiritual captivity, living in a world that is openly hostile to Christ’s kingdom. When we see Satan on the march in the decisions made in government, when we see the destruction of morality in the direction of society, and when we see the cornerstones of spiritual freedom mocked, torn down, and burned one after another by a people declaring their moral, ethical, and sometimes even religious superiority, surely we can identify with the plea of the psalmist! How long must we wait until God is once more respected and acknowledged? How long must we wait to restore respect for God’s Word as truth? How long must we wait while enduring the scorn of the ungodly? How long indeed! The psalmist did not know the answer, and neither do we. But the enduring answer remains the same. We must come to our senses as a people, give ourselves wholly to our God, and let Him handle the timing while we devote ourselves to faithfulness. This was the answer for the Jews in Babylonian captivity, and it is the answer for God’s people today.