May 2: Psalm 79

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May 2: Psalm 79

A lament for God’s vindication

87.85 D                     St. Leonards (May the Mind of Christ My Savior)

God, into Thy holy temple heathen hordes have entrance made.

They defiled Thy house, Jerusal’m they in ruins laid.

They have cast Thy servants’ bodies to the fowls of heav’n for meat;

Flesh of Thy dear saints they’ve given to wild beasts to eat.

Round Jerusalem like water they Thy servants’ blood have shed.

There was no one there to bury bodies of the dead.

We’ve become to all our neighbors a derision and reproach.

We are scorned by those who, laughing, on us now encroach.

Lord, how long wilt Thou be angry? Will Thy wrath forever burn?
Will Thy blazing, jealous anger firelike on us turn?

Pour Thy wrath on heathen kingdoms who know not nor call Thy name,

Who devour and swallow Jacob, waste His land in flame.

Count not sins of all our fathers which upon us guilt bestow;

Let Thy mercy rush to meet us, now brought very low.

God of our salvation, help us! To Thy name the glory take.

Rescue us! Our sins forgive us for Thine own name’s sake.

“Where’s their God?” exclaim the nations. Make them with us see instead

How Thou justly art avenging blood Thy servants shed.

O let pris’ners’ sighs ascending come before Thee there on high.

By Thy mighty power preserve them who are doomed to die.

Pay back to our neighbors’ bosom seven times what they deserve

For reproaches they’ve been casting on Thee, Whom we serve.

We Thy flock of sheep, Thy people, then our thanks to you will raise.

On through every generation we’ll proclaim Thy praise.

In a holy impatience that the truth of God should be vindicated, “How long?” is a cry and a question often heard from the lips of the psalmist as well as the prophets. “How long?” is not a petition for personal vengeance…it is a prayer, rather, that God’s own justice be validated by decisive fact and that a very important article of the Creed be vindicated with utterly determined finality: “He will come again in glory to judge.” This “How long?” prayer also finds expression in Psalm 79: “Help us, O God our Savior; for the sake of the glory of Your name, O Lord, deliver us, and forgive us our sins for the sake of Your name, lest the nations say: ‘Where is their God?’ Let the vengeance of the blood of Your servants, which was poured out, be known among the nations in our sight.” Therefore, as our psalm surveys the ravages and wastes of our sinful history, with God’s house laid in ruins and the holy city reduced to a market, with the corpses of God’s servants given as food to the fowl of the air and the beasts of the field, and “their blood poured out like water round about Jerusalem,” we join our voices with the martyrs who cry aloud in Rev. 6:10, “How long?” to the Lord holy and true. (Reardon, p. 155-156)

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