Verses 18–23

The psalmist here, in the name of the church, most earnestly begs that God would appear fro them against their enemies, and put an end to their present troubles. To encourage his own faith, he interests God in this matter (Ps. 74:22): Arise, O God! plead thy own cause. This we may be sure he will do, for he is jealous for his own honour; whatever is his own cause he will plead it with a strong hand, will appear against those that oppose it and with and for those that cordially espouse it. He will arise and plead it, though for a time he seems to neglect it; he will stir up himself, will manifest himself, will do his own work in his own time. Note, The cause of religion is God’s own cause and he will certainly plead it. Now, to make it out that the cause is God’s, he pleads,

I. That the persecutors are God’s sworn enemies: “Lord, they have not only abused us, but they have been, and are, abusive to thee; what is done against us, for thy sake, does, by consequence, reflect upon thee. But that is not all; they have directly and immediately reproached thee, and blasphemed thy name,” Ps. 74:18. This was that which they roared in the sanctuary; they triumphed as if they had now got the mastery of the God is Israel, of whom they had heard such great things. As nothing grieves the saints more than to hear God’s name blasphemed, so nothing encourages them more to hope that God will appear against their enemies than when they have arrived at such a pitch of wickedness as to reproach God himself; this fills the measure of their sins apace and hastens their ruin. The psalmist insists much upon this: “We dare not answer their reproaches; Lord, do thou answer them. Remember that the foolish people have blasphemed thy name (Ps. 74:18) and that still the foolish man reproaches thee daily.” Observe the character of those that reproach God; they are foolish. As atheism is folly (Ps. 14:1), profaneness and blasphemy are no less so. Perhaps those are cried up as the wits of the age that ridicule religion and sacred things; but really they are the greatest fools, and will shortly be made to appear so before all the world. And yet see their malice—They reproach God daily, as constantly as his faithful worshippers pray to him and praise him; see their impudence—They do not hide their blasphemous thoughts in their own bosoms, but proclaim them with a loud voice (forget not the voice of thy enemies, Ps. 74:23), and this with a daring defiance of divine justice; they rise up against thee, and by their blasphemies even wage war with heaven and take up arms against the Almighty. Their noise and tumult ascend continually (so some), as the cry of Sodom came up before God, calling for vengeance, Gen. 18:21. It increases continually (so we read it); they grow worse and worse, and are hardened in their impieties by their successes. Now, Lord, remember this; do not forget it. God needs not to be put in remembrance by us of what he has to do, but thus we must show our concern for his honour and believe that he will vindicate us.

II. That the persecuted are his covenant-people. 1. See what distress they are in. They have fallen into the hands of the multitude of the wicked, Ps. 74:19. How are those increased that trouble them! There is no standing before an enraged multitude, especially like these, armed with power; and, as they are numerous, so they are barbarous: The dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty. The land of the Chaldeans, where there was none of the light of the knowledge of the true God (though otherwise it was famed for learning and arts), was indeed a dark place; the inhabitants of it were alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that was in them, and therefore they were cruel: where there was no true divinity there was scarcely to be found common humanity. They were especially cruel to the people of God; certainly those have no knowledge who eat them up, Ps. 14:4. They are oppressed (Ps. 74:21) because they are poor and unable to help themselves; they are oppressed, and so impoverished and made poor. 2. See what reason they had to hope that God would appear for their relief and not suffer them to be always thus trampled upon. Observe how the psalmist pleads with God for them. (1.) “It is thy turtle-dove that is ready to be swallowed up by the multitude of the wicked,” Ps. 74:19. The church is a dove for harmlessness and mildness, in cfb nocency and inoffensiveness, purity and fruitfulness, a dove for mournfulness in a day of distress, a turtle-dove for fidelity and the constancy of love: turtle-doves and pigeons were the only fowls that were offered in sacrifice to God. “Shall thy turtle-dove, that is true to thee and devoted to thy honour, be delivered, its life and soul and all, into the hand of the multitude of the wicked, to whom it will soon become an easy and acceptable prey? Lord, it will be thy honour to help the weak, especially to help thy own.” (2.) “It is the congregation of thy poor, and they are not the less thine for their being poor (for God has chosen the poor of this world, Jas. 2:5), but they have the more reason to expect thou wilt appear for them because they are many: it is the congregation of thy poor; let them not be abandoned and forgotten for ever.” (3.) “They are in covenant with thee; and wilt thou not have respect unto the covenant? Ps. 74:20. Wilt thou not perform the promises thou hast, in thy covenant, made to them? Wilt thou not own those whom thou hast brought into the bond of the covenant?” When God delivers his people it is in remembrance of his covenant, Lev. 26:42. “Lord, though we are unworthy to be respected, yet have respect to the covenant.” (4.) “They trust in thee, and boast of their relation to thee and expectations from thee. O let not them return ashamed of their hope (Ps. 74:21), as they will be if they be disappointed.” (5.) “If thou deliver them, they will praise thy name and give thee the glory of their deliverance. Appear, Lord, for those that will praise thy name, against those that blaspheme it.”