How do we engage with God when we are deeply wounded? According to the National Institute of Health, trauma can affect our “beliefs about the future via loss of hope.” Israel had been through a major trauma. Their cities had been plundered, portions of their population had been exiled, and the Temple had been destroyed.
In response, the Psalmist begins with a series of questions, “O God, why have you rejected us forever” (v. 1)? He reminds God that He had redeemed them from slavery (v. 2). God their Shepherd would protect and provide (v. 1). The Psalmist takes God on a tour of the Temple. He describes how the enemies had come in like lumberjacks, hacked down pillars, then burned and defiled the sanctuary (vv. 4–8). Isn’t the Temple where God dwelt? Was it right for God to move into a house and have it burned down? The issue for the Psalmist was not so much that God had judged Israel. Rather, his anxiety was that the judgment would be everlasting.
Adding to the torment was the fact that God was silent. He had ceased to speak through His prophets (v. 9). No one knew how long this would last. At this point, the Psalmist steps back and reminds himself that “God is my King from long ago; he brings salvation to the earth” (v. 12). He knew that God is capable of redeeming Israel. He draws on imagery from Creation and the Exodus to celebrate God’s power (vv. 13–17). If God can crush the heads of Leviathan, surely He could meet Israel’s needs. The psalm ends with seven imperatives begging God to remember His people (vv. 18–23). There was no answer yet.
>> We may often be in the position of waiting for God. But this psalm shows that our waiting does not need to be passive. It can be filled with lament, prayer, and reminding ourselves of what God has done in the past as a step toward hope for the future.
Lord, we often feel Asaph’s desperation in our own lives. When we are tempted to despair, remind us of Asaph’s prayer–just as You did not abandon Israel, You will not abandon us.