Psalm Chapter 79 (KJV) Have mercy oh God!

#Heathen (Unless otherwise stated all Scriptures in this devotional are from the King James Version of the Bible.)

A Psalm of Asaph. (See Asaph was here.)


Psalm 79 is a collective lament. The community is calling on God to reinstate his relationship and protection of his people after an invader destroyed Jerusalem, killed many of its inhabitants, and defiled His holy temple. It appears that the historical record of the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 587 bc supports the background details of the psalm (see 2 Kgs 25; 2 Chr. 36:15– 23). The book of Lamentations also appeals to YHWH to restore Jerusalem to its glory days before its destruction at the hands of the Babylonians. Both Psalms 79 and the Book of Lamentations concede Judah’s blameworthiness [Judah sinned terribly in God’s sight] caused the problem in the first place. Even so, the books still appeal to God for pity on the nation. Both books think that the time of punishment should end. The author of the Psalm is noted as Asaph.

YHWH The heathen nations have invaded Jerusalem

1 O God, the heathen are come into thine inheritance; thy holy temple have they defiled; they have laid Jerusalem on heaps.  The dead bodies of thy servants have they given to be meat unto the fowls of the heaven, the flesh of thy saints unto the beasts of the earth. Their blood have they shed like water round about Jerusalem; and there was none to bury them. We are become a reproach to our neighbours, a scorn and derision to them that are round about us.

Remember that YHWH made this place his holy place and its people, his inheritance. (See Exodus 15:17  & 2 Samuel 21:3). Asaph identifies the people who destroyed the holy city, the heathen,”  and the action that they took the temple is defiled.” He also details that the holy city “Jerusalem” is a pile of rubbish. There are dead bodies everywhere. In fact, there are so many bodies that there are not enough people to bury them (2 Chron. 36:17).  Visualize something that we know today as a “Holy Place.” How about the Vatican?  Let’s say that non-Christians, or terrorists, have set off several  IED weapons all around the city and everything is demolished! Today, what would the outcry from Christians all over the world?  But, what was Asaph’s outcry? He acknowledged the reality of the situation by stating We are become a reproach to our neighbours, a scorn and derision to them that are round about us.” 

He remembered from scriptural references that the heathen enjoyed seeing God’s people suffer. Ps. 137:7; Jer. 49:7– 22; Lam. 4:22; Obad. 10– 14. It is as if Asaph was reminding God of the actions of the heathen.  Do you remember when God told Moses that he should step aside while he, God, wiped out the people and make Moses his chosen one? See Exodus 32:10. Now read Moses’ response. To me, Asaph is doing the same thing here. He wants God to remember what he thought about his people and his holy city. Now he wants God to restore it back to what it was before the destruction. He knew God was angry. So he begins to ask some questions.

Lord, hasn’t this been long enough?

How long, Lord? Wilt thou be angry forever? shall thy jealousy burn like fire? Pour out thy wrath upon the heathen that have not known thee, and upon the kingdoms that have not called upon thy name. For they have devoured Jacob and laid waste his dwelling place.

These questions are not new to the psalms. In fact, they are repeated in  Psalms 4:2; 6:3; 13:1– 2; 35:17; 62:3; 74:10  Asaph wanted God’s anger against his people to end. He was like “It’s payback time God. Wipe them out.!” We tend to say that too don’t we?  Verse 6Pour out thy wrath upon the heathen that have not known thee.”  See Jeremiah 10:15 where the prophet says almost the exact same thing.

Then he said something that I have heard a lot  these days and upon the kingdoms that have not called upon thy name.” Let me just add this. He is saying “God are you listening?” WHY? Verse 7For they have devoured Jacob and laid waste his dwelling place.”  Asaph is concerned that God has forgotten them.  Lamentations 5:20 states the same thing. “Wherefore dost thou forget us for ever, and forsake us so long time?” 

In today’s language, we would say something like this. “They are not Christians. Wipe them out, God! After all, we have been praying about this situation for the longest while!” Yes, Asaph did recall the sins of the people and why they got to the point where they are at the time of this prayer. The same thing applies to us now.

Forget our past sins and help us

Asaph is asking God not to hold the people’s sins against them. In Daniel 9:7 Daniel prays a similar prayer

There isn’t a single human being today who cannot pray a similar prayer. We sin, if only in our thoughts, every single day.  We also ask God to forgive us of our sins.  We are truly thankful that he does not pour out his vengeance upon us, even though we do deserve it. The cross freed us from the penalty of sin. So, we should follow the example of 2 Chronicles 7:14 “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

10 Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is their God? let him be known among the heathen in our sight by the revenging of the blood of thy servants which is shed. 11 Let the sighing of the prisoner come before thee; according to the greatness of thy power preserve thou those that are appointed to die; 12 And render unto our neighbors sevenfold into their bosom their reproach, wherewith they have reproached thee, O Lord. 

Now we may think that Asaph is buttering up YHWH when he asks, Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is their God? let him be known among the heathen in our sight by the revenging of the blood of thy servants which is shed.”

Go back and read about the time when the king of Assyria sent Tartan, Rab-saris, and Rab-shakeh from Lachish to taunt King Hezekiah in Jerusalem. They were so sure that they were going to rout Hezekiah that they claimed that God could not save them. Asaph is saying that the heathen will think the same thing if YHWH does not deliver his people. He was not praying for deliverance because the people were special, but he was praying”according to the greatness of thy power preserve thou those that are appointed to die.” Asaph prays for the restoration of God’s people, not because they are all that and some. He is not asking God to make his people as great as they were when they “took the land because they should be feared.” No, he is asking God to restore his people “according to the greatness of thy power!’ God does not need his ego stroked. Why? Because he is God and there is NOONE like him! People of “the Way,” we believe what Romans 12:19 declares “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but [rather] give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance [is] mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” So did Asaph. Asaph remembered the prophecy ended in Jeremiah 31:31-40Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:” Read the rest of the verses. It takes a lot of faith to trust God to keep his word.

Just an aside: 7 is the number of perfection and completion. (See the explanation here.)  When I read this verse my eyes literally popped out of my head. Verse12 “And render unto our neighbors sevenfold into their bosom their reproach, wherewith they have reproached thee, O Lord.” Asaph is basically saying, “Let your punishment of the heathen be perfect and complete oh God!”  Do you remember what Peter asked Christ? Matthew 18:21-22 

Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.

Did your eyes do the same thing? Our responses must be different from the expected norm. We can’t lay down the gauntlet when we have reached our limit? 

13 So we thy people and sheep of thy pasture will give thee thanks for ever: we will shew forth thy praise to all generations.

The final verse in the lament reiterates the sentiments of  Psalms 23.  The people of God are sheep and God is their eternal shepherd. Remember that the shepherds of the Ancient Near East were the providers and protectors of the sheep. (See this article on the roles of the shepherd in ANE times.)

Psalm 77:20  reminds us of Moses and Aaron’s title.  Thou leddest thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.”  We also know that  God chose David  to be the “Shepherd King of Israel.”  Psalm 78:70-72  “He chose David also his servant and took him from the sheepfolds: From following the ewes great with young he brought him to feed Jacob his people, and Israel his inheritance. So he fed them according to the integrity of his heart; and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands.”   In spite of the people’s sin, and yes they sinned terribly against YHWH, and regardless of the punishment that was exacted against them by the Babylonians [They did not carry out God’s punishment of his people for God’s benefit but they did do it for their own glory.] Asaph knew that God’s heart could be reached and that the people would be forgiven. 

Today, we [the people of The Way] know that Jesus is the shepherd of his people. John 10 tells us all about Christ’s role in our lives.  We will reap what we sow, but we do have an advocate, an intercessor who pray without ceasing for us. ” Hebrews 7:25  “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” I am thankful that I am his sheep.


Prayer: I am ever grateful Father that you sent your one and only Son to die in my place. I have earned eternal death and separation from you. But the cross freed me from the penalty of death and eternal separation from you.  As Asaph called out on behalf of his people who have sinned, I call out to you, Father.  Forgive us of our personal and national sins. Thank you for the covering of the Blood of Jesus. Guard our hearts and our lips that we may not sin against you and or cause someone to turn from you because of the words that have proceeded from our mouths. This world is not our home. We are just pressing on as you use us for your glory.  Holy Spirit control of thoughts, our mouths, and our fingers – in Jesus’ name – Amen!


Longman, Tremper, III. Psalms: An Introduction and Commentary, InterVarsity Press, 2014. ProQuest Ebook Central, Created from Liberty on 2020-02-05

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