Psalm 83 is the last psalm of Asaph in the Hebrew songbook. Verse two seems to indicate that this composition was written right before the temple’s defilement and Jerusalem’s unexpected overthrow by her enemies as described in Psalm 79:1-4. This psalm and its setting may explain why Asaph wrestled so frequently and feverishly with the question of “Why?” (Psalm 74:1, 11; 77:7-9; 79:5; 80:4; 82:2).
Sometimes, like Asaph, we are confident that God will deliver us from evil and its unpleasant circumstances, and it does not happen. A loved one still dies. Chronic pain increases instead of subsiding. Corrupt and ungodly politicians get re-elected and are emboldened. Ruthless dictators win the power struggle. Societal and moral decay continues unabated.
Sometimes, we pray: “Do not keep silent, O God! Do not hold Your peace and do not be still, O God!” (Psalm 83:1), but God is silent, He does hold His peace, and He is still.
Sometimes, our “enemies make a tumult; and those who hate You have lifted up their head” (v. 2), and God permits them to succeed.
Sometimes, the foe has “taken crafty counsel against Your people and consulted together against Your sheltered ones. They have said, ‘Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation that the name of Israel may be remembered no more.’ For they have consulted together with one consent; they form a confederacy against You” (vv. 3-5), and their plans have been achieved.
Sometimes, our prayer that God “Deal with them as with Midian, as with Sisera, as with Jabin at the Brook Kishon” (v. 9), is not answered as we envisioned that it should be.
Sometimes, our desire that God “make them like the whirling dust, like the chaff before the wind! As the fire burns the woods and as the flame sets the mountains on fire, so pursue them with Your tempest and frighten them with Your storm. Fill their faces with shame that they may seek Your name, O Lord. Let them be confounded and dismayed forever; yes, let them be put to shame and perish that they may know that You, whose name alone is the Lord are the Most High over all the earth” (vv. 13-18) is not granted.
To Asaph’s everlasting credit, he appears to have persevered in his faith. Like his victorious struggle with envy (Psalm 73) in which he almost stumbled and fell (vv. 2-3), there is reason to believe that Asaph’s faith persevered when wrestling with the question of “Why?” (see Psalms 81 and 82).
If Asaph can continue to walk by faith when assaulted by difficult, unanswered questions, so can you and I.
We must, because “the just shall live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4).