The Foe (Psalm 74)

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  • Driving can be stressful and strenuous on body (stiff legs & back; headache, etc.). On our trip back from Charleston, I shared driving with Tony so my weekend wasn’t overtaxed. If we want to feel less overwhelmed then we have to get out of the driver’s seat of our life.
  • Psalms point us to God as our Creator and one in control.

 

EXAMINE                       Psalm 74        The Foe

Psalm 14 The Fool

  • God is revealed but we are blind.
    • General Revelation
      • Causality: Atheists must answer why there is something rather than nothing.
      • Complexity/Design: Creator gives us purpose; the issue isn’t insufficient evidence but over-sufficiency of pride.
    • Special Revelation
      • Christ: Eyewitnesses and Evidence of the resurrection.
    • But there are also people who don’t necessarily doubt that God exists but they dismiss Him because they’ve been hurt.

2Kings 25:8-12
8  In the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month—that was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon—Nebuzaradan, the captain of the bodyguard, a servant of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem.
9  And he burned the house of the LORD and the king’s house and all the houses of Jerusalem; every great house he burned down.
10  And all the army of the Chaldeans, who were with the captain of the guard, broke down the walls around Jerusalem.
11  And the rest of the people who were left in the city and the deserters who had deserted to the king of Babylon, together with the rest of the multitude, Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried into exile.
12  But the captain of the guard left some of the poorest of the land to be vinedressers and plowmen.

 

  • Earlier in 2Kings 18 (722BC) Assyria invaded and exiled Israel, the Northern Kingdom. In a short time, the Southern Kingdom, Judah would also have land taken away and begin its downfall to Assyria. By 586BC, Babylon had grown in power over Judah and exiled 10K Jews.

    Their response to circumstances is bitterness rather than identifying God’s work to redeem the brokenness. And so, they view God not as friend but foe.

  • Psalm 74 The Foe_  

A Maskil of Asaph

1 O God, why do you cast us off forever? Why does your anger smoke against the sheep of your pasture?
2  Remember your congregation, which you have purchased of old, which you have redeemed to be the tribe
of your heritage! Remember Mount Zion, where you have dwelt.
3  Direct your steps to the perpetual ruins; the enemy has destroyed everything in the sanctuary!
4  Your foes have roared in the midst of your meeting place; they set up their own signs for signs.
5  They were like those who swing axes in a forest of trees.
6  And all its carved wood they broke down with hatchets and hammers.
7  They set your sanctuary on fire; they profaned the dwelling place of your name, bringing it down to the ground.
8  They said to themselves, “We will utterly subdue them”; they burned all the meeting places of God in the land.
9  We do not see our signs; there is no longer any prophet, and there is none among us who knows how long.
10  How long, O God, is the foe to scoff? Is the enemy to revile your name forever?
11  Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand? Take it from the fold of your garment and destroy them!
12  Yet God my King is from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth.
13  You divided the sea by your might; you broke the heads of the sea monsters on the waters.
14  You crushed the heads of Leviathan; you gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.
15  You split open springs and brooks; you dried up ever-flowing streams.
16  Yours is the day, yours also the night; you have established the heavenly lights and the sun.
17  You have fixed all the boundaries of the earth; you have made summer and winter.
18  Remember this, O LORD, how the enemy scoffs, and a foolish people reviles your name.
19  Do not deliver the soul of your dove to the wild beasts; do not forget the life of your poor forever.
20  Have regard for the covenant, for the dark places of the land are full of the habitations of violence.
21  Let not the downtrodden turn back in shame; let the poor and needy praise your name.
22  Arise, O God, defend your cause; remember how the foolish scoff at you all the day!
23  Do not forget the clamor of your foes, the uproar of those who rise against you, which goes up continually!

 

When God feels as foe, we must remember His redemption.

  • We are His congregation, purchased, redeemed as His heritage (Ps 74:2)

Psalmist feels cast off – forever – smoldering anger against God’s sheep. To him, his feelings are reality.
But Feelings < Faith.
[1] Robert E Lee with General Richard Ewell… he was trusted advisor but when Lee marched North to Gettysburg, Ewell did not follow orders leaving the Confederacy outnumbered by the heart of Union soldiers at Gettysburg.

Where were you?
It’s a question we’ve all asked of somebody. Their lateness makes us feel left alone. Their absence makes us feel abandoned. We wonder why the person is not present, and thoughts of anger, bitterness, confusion settle in. When friends hurt us, co-workers fail to deliver, or family members fail us, we despair. And when that one who disappoints is God, our faith is shaken. But our faith reminds us that God isn’t absent or late… He has a redemptive plan to transform suffering into stories that tell of His power.

When we are tempted to view our circumstances based on emotions of the moment, then we must find ways to remind ourselves truth – a foundation we can stand and move forward.

à Reading Scripture shapes your daily perspective of problems.
– How many times can we say, “I just read that this morning!” God’s perfect timing.
– Praying the promises of God’s word – He must answer bc He is faithful to do what He says!
à Trusted friends of faith can give you a constructive exhortation or rebuke.

  • We must ask God to direct His steps to the perpetual ruins of our life (Ps 74:3).
    • “the enemy has destroyed everything in the sanctuary… Your foes have roared in the midst of your meeting place” (Ps 74:4-8) Satan doesn’t scheme for nonbelievers or lukewarm Christians – he goes after one’s with faith and fire for God.
      à How do we know the difference between our enemy attacking and our sinfulness actualizing?
    • It’s not that God doesn’t know we are struggling or satan is scheming. The issue is that we don’t like to surrender. We say, “God, help me get this far but I’ll take it the rest of the way” or “God, change this but not that.”
    • We ask God for signs and newly spoken words (Ps 74:9), but God has already given us the cross and spoken unchanging truth. Often God will not give us something new until we obey the old.

When God feels as foe, we must pray for His justice

  • When our feelings of insecurity arise, we must evaluate if our frustrations and fears are based on our prideful reputation or God’s name being glorified (Ps 74:10).
  • Praying for God’s hand of justice/judgment can be appropriate (Ps 74:11).
    • Imprecatory Psalms: Prayers for God’s justice to prevail on earth; invoking judgment. These psalms can be perplexing, because these call for violence or destruction of God’s enemies. When psalms transition from humble praise to fierce judgment, that creates a tension, if not contradiction, for what is supposed to be the character of God’s people. Such psalms can be helpful for the following reasons:

 

  • Relatability: Psalms are descriptive of reality and not necessarily prescriptive for what you are to be or become. This principle is frequent interpretation issue!

 

  • Hopeful: Psalms point us forward to God’s final judgement of evil and correcting wrongs. The wicked enemies in context of the Psalms are those in stark opposition and rejection of God (cf. Ps 2:1). Further, the imprecatory psalms are the cries of victims, not merely spectators. In this sense, Psalms remind us faith in God is costly but worth it to persevere.

 

  • Redemptive: Psalms teach us to recognize our natural tendency is revenge, but Christ bared the brunt of punishment in the place of us, and offers us grace. Therefore, God’s people don’t have to respond in resentment or retaliation but with progressive revelation in Christ to love our enemies.
    • Ps 69:7-8, 21 “For it is for your sake that I have borne reproach, that dishonor has covered my face. I have become a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my mother’s sons. For zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me… They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink. Let their own table before them become a snare…”

 

  • The wicked will not escape.
    • God works salvation in the midst of the earth (Ps 74:12).
    • God breaks the heads of sea monsters and Leviathan(Ps 74:13-14).
      • Leviathan seems to be another name for the Sea-Monster OR serpent OR false gods of pagan nations (cf. Isa 27:1; Job 41:1; Ps 104:26).
        • Giant Squid[2] – 43’ long; 2k lbs; eyes size of plates; tire size calamari rings
      • If God overwhelms monsters, immoral man will not escape.
      • “While large, powerful creatures do exist in the world, the portrayals of the ancient monsters are primarily meant to be symbols of the uncontrollable power of nature. Unlike the gods of the ancient Near East, Yahweh does not need to battle these primordial monsters to gain control of creation; instead He effortlessly controls them because He created them.”[3]

 

God is always doing 10K things we cannot see… He’s changing seasons!

  • God splits open springs and brooks with ever-flowing streams (Ps 74:15).
  • God changes seasons – night to day, summer and winter (Ps 74:16-17).
  • God will sentence the soul of scoffers and fools to eternal judgment (Ps 74:18-19).

 

 When God feels as foe, we must hear His heart.

  • God will regard His covenant to protect His people (Ps 74:20, 22-23).
    • Context: Psalm 73:28 / 75:1 God is near even when feeling far; trust God is faithful.
    • Never gonna let you down
    • Psalm 105:8-9 “God remembers his covenant forever, the word that he commanded for a thousand generations, the covenant that he made with Abraham, his sworn promise to Isaac”

 

  • The psalmist trusts God’s heart for the downtrodden [dakah: afflicted & oppressed], the poor [awnee: depressed mind or circumstances], and needy [ebyone: destitute with material need] ( 74:21).
    • The expression: “God helps those who help themselves” has good intentions but misses the gospel. God’s mercy is immeasurable, and His grace is great for those who cannot help themselves.

 

à When we feel overlooked by God, one of the actions we can take is to serve and meet the needs of others. We must move beyond pity parties and allow our heart to connect outside of self. Bearing the burdens of others moves us beyond selfishness and transforms our brokenness to be mended with a love that passes understanding.

 

APPLY/THINK

God has arisen and our only foe is death, which has been conquered.

7x in psalm is address of God in the emphatic, implying the important role of prayer pursuit of God.[4] We can pray for God to treat us not as we deserve but according to His devotion to His own promises.

How long…

  • Personally
  • SPBC
  • Church Global until return of Christ

 

[1] Illustration from https://jdgreear.com/blog/god-wasnt-late/

[2] https://ocean.si.edu/ocean-life/invertebrates/giant-squid

[3] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ps 104:26). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[4] Marvin Tate, Word Biblical Commentary, Psalm 74:1.

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