1 O God, the nations around us have raided the land that belongs to You; they have defiled Your holy house and crushed Jerusalem to a heap of ruins. 2 Your servants are dead; birds of the air swoop down to pick at their remains. Scavengers of the earth eat what is left of Your saints. 3 The enemy poured out their blood; it flowed like water all over Jerusalem, and there is no one left, no one to bury what remains of them. 4 The surrounding peoples taunt us. We are nothing but a joke to them, people to be ridiculed.
The Book of Psalms records both the highs and lows in the lives of God’s covenant people. Psalm 79 is an example of a communal lament after the destruction of Jerusalem and the loss of God’s temple. Songs like these address God with a complaint resulting from some sort of national tragedy.
Communal laments share a common structure. First, the singers address God and tell Him of their problems. Second, they beg Him for help and express trust that He will answer them, often remembering how He has saved Israel in the past. Finally, the singers promise to praise God once He has resolved their problem. The specifics of the situation determine the thrust of the song. Communal laments are often the people’s poetic and practical response to their perception of God’s inaction in their affairs.
5 How long can this go on, O Eternal One? Will You stay angry at us forever? Your jealousy burning like wildfire? 6 Flood these outsiders with Your wrath— they have no knowledge of You! Drown the kingdoms of this world that call on false gods and not on Your name. 7 For these nations devoured Jacob, consumed him, and turned his home into a wasteland.
8 Do not hold the sins of our ancestors against us, but send Your compassion to meet us quickly, God. We are in deep despair. 9 Help us, O God who saves us, to the honor and glory of Your name. Pull us up, deliver us, and forgive our sins, for Your name’s sake. 10 Don’t give these people any reason to ask, “Where is their God?” Avenge the blood spilled by Your servants. Put it on display among the nations before our very eyes.
11 May the deep groans and wistful sighs of the prisoners reach You, and by Your great power, save those condemned to die. 12 Pay back each of our invaders personally, seven times for the shame they heaped on You, O Lord! 13 Then we, Your people, the sheep of Your pasture, will pause and give You thanks forever; Your praise will be told by our generation to the next.
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