Psalm 79: Brought Low, O Lord!

Tuesday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 28, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 79, which is identified as “a psalm of Asaph”. The Psalms of Asaph are the twelve psalms numbered as 50 and 73–83 and either transcribed by Asaph or sung by the Asaphic choir. So Asaph is a bit like the Andrew Lloyd Weber of the Psalms, absorbing David’s prayers and rendering them in song.

One of the most important aspects of the Psalms is the deep honesty of their prayer. Those praying do not pretend to be anything but what they are: frightened, bereft, angry, delighted, grateful beyond words – whatever the situation of their lives.

Psalm 79 is a particularly moving hymn of communal lament. The psalmist prays for all the People with a nearly startling honesty:

Remember not against us the iniquities of the past;
may your compassion quickly come to us,
for we are brought very low.

Each evening, in this pandemic time, I find myself saying a very similar prayer.

Dear God, please be merciful to all our world.
We are in terrible trouble.

Help us to hold on and lead us out of darkness.

Psalm 79 compares the troubles to being imprisoned… trapped, no escape. Certainly, that is the feeling for many of us during these days when “we are brought very low” by a global disease and a dysfunctional political culture.

Let the prisoners’ sighing come before you;
with your great power free those doomed to death.

Ah, there is the hinge for our faith to hold on to … God’s great Power in all things. That merciful Power is at work despite appearances. God is able and will bring Light out of darkness, Life out of destruction.

One day – perhaps not now – but one day, we will recognize that Power. The waiting is called Faith.

Then we, your people and the sheep of your pasture,
will give thanks to you forever;
through all generations we will declare your praise.

Poetry: Prayer by John Frederick Nims

Music: Psalm 79 by Psalms Reborn

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