“O God, the nations have come into your inheritance;
they have defiled your holy temple; they have laid Jerusalem in ruins.
They have given the bodies of your servants to the birds of the air for food,
the flesh of your faithful to the wild animals of the earth.
They have poured out their blood like water all around Jerusalem, and there was no one to bury them.
We have become a taunt to our neighbors, mocked and derided by those around us.” (Psalms 79:1 – 4)
The people of Israel have suffered the consequences of broken relationships with the nations around them. It has been ascribed to a broken relationship with God, and without knowing the exact history I will not dispute that. But what occurs to me is that if the nation were honoring God and living as God wants them to live, won’t that mean they would be at peace with the nations around them?
“How long, O Lord? Will you be angry forever? Will your jealous wrath burn like fire?
Pour out your anger on the nations that do not know you, and on the kingdoms that do not call on your name.
For they have devoured Jacob and laid waste his habitation.” (Verses 5 – 7)
The cry and justification of the psalmist is that it was the other nations that made war on the children of Jacob, and destroyed them. They were completely innocent.
“Do not remember against us the iniquities of our ancestors; let your compassion come speedily to meet us,
for we are brought very low.” (Verse 8)
Or, the psalmist says, it was the generation before ours that incurred the sin; do not hold us responsible for their actions. Have mercy on us! Save us! Lift us up!
“Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and forgive our sins, for your name’s sake.” (Verse 9)
Finally, the psalmist admits, his generation may be guilty of some sins too. But to show that their God is a glorious God, God should forgive them!
This psalm is a very good example of the confession/penance/forgiveness theme. The progression from “it was them” to “it was their fault” to “it was our fault too” is a good move toward doing penance and being forgiven. It is also a very “human nature” progression of blaming others before being will to accept one’s own failing and sin. And thanks be to God that the Lord is patient and faithful! Selah!