Bible Reading: Psalm 79

“How long, O LORD? Will you be angry forever? Will your jealousy burn like fire? Pour out your anger on the nations that do not know you, and on the kingdoms that do not call upon your name!...Do not remember against us our former iniquities; let your compassion come speedily to meet us, for we are brought very low. Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name” (Psalm 79:5-6,8-9)

Have we ever felt like evil always seems to prevail in our lives and our surroundings? We constantly fall back into sin. Satan successfully lures us in. Wickedness surrounds us and is very prevalent in our communities. Whenever we want to obey God or follow Him, we fail again and again because Satan tempts us. We know we have sinned, but we aren’t strong enough to overcome evil. What is worse is that whenever evil prevails in our lives, God is shamed by us. What do we do? 

Psalm 79 was a community lament of the Israelites. Most likely, it was written when the Israelites were sent into Babylonian exile. They were God’s people, but because of their rebellion and unfaithfulness to God, God let the wicked Babylonian nation destroy Israel and take them captive. Imagine being an Israelite in this situation. You’ve disobeyed God, and you’ve shamed God. Also, the Babylonians have taken over Israel, so God’s people no longer have any dignity or honour. All the nations start to mock the Israelite God because, to them, Israel was a failed nation. What do you do? 

This psalm was what they did. They prayed and cried out to God, “How long, O LORD? Will you be angry forever? Will your jealousy burn like fire?” Hidden in these words is Israel’s trust in God’s faithfulness despite their unfaithfulness. Israel does not ask God, “Will you be angry forever?” in the sense that they didn’t deserve this kind of anger from God. They knew full well that they deserved God’s wrath because they had sinned. Evil deserves to come upon them. 

However, they ask God, “Will your jealousy burn like fire?” Israel trusted that their God was a jealous God. They trusted that God was faithful to His people and was jealous of His people the way a husband would be jealous of His wife. Jealousy is different from envy. Envy is wanting something that is not yours. Jealousy is protecting something that rightfully belongs to you. A husband would be jealous of his wife; he will fight for his wife if another man tries to take her. Similarly, God is jealous of His people and will not let evil take over them forever. 

So Israel prays, “God, is your faithfulness to us just going to burn up like fire?” Israel tugs at God’s faithfulness to them as their chosen people. This is such a powerful way to pray. We must learn to pray like this. Whenever we fall into temptation, Satan will continue to tempt us with thoughts like, “you sinned, you are not good enough for God anymore, God doesn’t love you”. However, God is faithful to His people even though they fall into sin. Once you are God’s, there is no way He will let you go. With that, we humbly ask for God’s forgiveness and that God would be glorified again through our lives. We humbly wait for Him to restore us, not because we deserve to be restored, but because God is faithful to His people. We can ask and wait for God, “How long, O LORD? Will you be angry forever? Will your jealousy burn like fire?”

Lord, thank You for Your faithfulness to us even when we are not faithful to You. Please forgive us for our sins and unfaithfulness to You. You are faithful to us because of what You have done on the cross. You have defeated evil for good, and so evil will not ultimately reign over us. How long, O Lord? Restore us according to Your faithfulness and teach us to walk in Your paths and to glorify You. In Jesus’ name, amen.