Psalms 79 and 80 appear to be companion psalms. In Psalm 79, Asaph focuses upon a recent calamity in Jerusalem; in Psalm 80, he petitions God to restore His people. Psalm 79 concludes with a reference to God’s people as “sheep of Your pasture”; Psalm 80 begins with “Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, You who lead Joseph like a flock.” Both psalms throb with the agony of the gnawing questions of “How long, Lord? Will You be angry forever?… O Lord God of hosts, how long will You be angry against the prayer of Your people?” (79:5; 80:4).
Like most thoughtful people of faith, Asaph wrestled mightily with unexpected, unanticipated circumstances. Clearly, “O God, the nations have come into Your inheritance; Your holy temple they have defiled; they have laid Jerusalem in heaps. The dead bodies of Your servants they have given as food for the birds of the heavens, the flesh of Your saints to the beasts of the earth. Their blood they have shed like water all around Jerusalem, and there was no one to bury them. We have become a reproach to our neighbors, a scorn and derision to those who are around us” (79:1-4) was not on Asaph’s radar.
Each psalm is dedicated to petitioning Jehovah. In Psalm 79, Asaph beseeches God to “pour out Your wrath on the nations that do not know You and on the kingdoms that do not call on Your name” (v. 6), to “not remember former iniquities against us” (v. 8), to “help us, O God of our salvation…and deliver us and provide atonement for our sins for your name’s sake” (v. 9), to preserve the groaning prisoners who are appointed to die (v. 11), and to recompense “sevenfold into their bosom” those who have reproached Jehovah (v. 12).
Psalm 80’s petitions are easily identified: “Restore us, O God; cause Your face to shine, and we shall be saved…Restore us, O God of hosts; cause Your face to shine, and we shall be saved!… Return, we beseech You, O God of hosts…Revive us, and we will call upon Your name. Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; cause Your face to shine, and we shall be saved!” (vv. 3, 7, 14, 18, 19).
Sometimes life’s unexpected, unanticipated circumstances require an extended amount of vigorous wrestling with stout questions like “How long?” and “Why?”. Faith in God is not a magic wand that instantaneously turns “Why?” into “happily ever after”.
To fight the good fight and finish the course, you must have a tenacious faith.