If Asaph was writing this psalm today, many people from Syria and surrounding countries might think that he was writing a song for anti-ISIS demonstrators to sing. Although we have heard firsthand stories from our refugee family in Strathmore, it is still hard to comprehend the tragedies that families face who have seen their communities in ruins as “Barbarians have broken into your home, violated (our place of worship), left (Aleppo and Damascus) a pile of rubble! They have served up the corpses of your servants as carrion food for birds of prey…dumped out their blood like buckets of water. All around (Syria) their bodies were left to rot, unburied.” (vs. 1-3, The Message)
This psalm is part of a group of songs of disorientation. We hear hearts crying out to God for mercy on His chosen people who are “nothing but a joke to our neighbors” (vs 4). The writer calls on God to curse the Barbarians. He sees the Lord’s anger as a possible punishment for “the sins of our parents” (vs 8) but also confesses and asks “forgive us our sins” (vs 9). Next he suggests that God’s reputation is at stake. The destruction of their holy city has brought shame on God’s people, but also on God’s holy name!
At the end, the author moves from disorientation to re-orientation. The psalm’s pendulum has swung back and forth between prayers and cursing. The imagery of the survivor’s condition is very vivid “Give groaning prisoners a hearing; pardon those on death row from their doom” (vs 11). When God’s justice is served, then “The ones you love and care for, will thank you over and over. We’ll tell everyone we meet how wonderful you are, how praiseworthy you are!” (vs 13)
Lord, help us to experience your abundant mercy every moment, even when we don’t understand your timing. Amen.