Go Sic ‘Em God! (Psalm 79)

Our Jack Russell Terrier hates rabbits. To her, a rabbit is the bane of animal life on this planet. To see it is to want to kill it. It must die! When she sees one in our yard, she claws and yelps at the door to be let out to go get it. So it is great fun to pump her up a little bit before opening the door with a “go sic ‘em” instigation. I’m not sure she has ever actually caught one, but running and chasing it is 99% of the fun.

Yes Dave Hadigian, I realize this is a Baylor U. slogan!

Yes Dave Hadigian, I realize this is a Baylor U. slogan!

A lot of folks look at the Imprecatory Psalms as writers who are encouraging God to “go sic ‘em!”  And there is some truth to that. The desire of these writers is to see God execute righteous judgment on those who have been evil.

That seems very cold and not in keeping with the concept of divine love. But who would want a God who just loved and loved and never judged or brought retribution upon those who have committed evil deeds? A loving God would display that love through judgment on wrong-doers.

For example, what would you think of our government and country if we never investigated and sought to bring to justice the parties responsible for the 9/11 attacks? Would you have supported our leadership saying something like, “Well, let’s just love them more and not do anything to make them any angrier at us. Let’s send them some more international aid.”

We can see in this Psalm a sort of two-sided problem on the matter of judgment. From a national standpoint, the nation of Israel was being pounded in the days of this writer … by nations surrounding Israel who were committing atrocities and waging war as well against the God of Israel. The writer desired to see God intervene and prove and glorify Himself as the one true God.

But God didn’t seem to be showing up very quickly, and this was unsettling and confusing for the writer. And so, the Psalmist here is speculating that God is angry at the nation of Israel and is thus not defending his own people. As you read the Psalm, it would help to put verses five and eight together. The writer is asking how long will God continue in his anger at his own people – who had broken the terms of their covenant with God, and were thus experiencing his wrath.

As parents, we have all had those occasions where we made a conscious decision to not rescue our children from a problem in their lives, but rather, for their own good and learning, we allowed them to experience the consequences.

The problem in this Psalm is not a lot different than in the book of Habakkuk … when the prophet found out that God was going to use the evil Babylonians to judge his own people. This confused the prophet who simply asked (in so many words), “Why are you using them for judgment? We may be bad, but they’re far worse! How can you use the bully on the block to judge and beat up your own children?”

Whether it be then or now, it is appropriate and proper for a loving God to exhibit love by judging those who are opposed to truth and the building of God’s kingdom. And it is appropriate for us to speak to God about our perceptions of the prevalence of evil in our world and in our lives.

Yet at the same time, we should always remember that we have him to talk to and to trust in confidently because we have been, in spite of our sinful rebellion against him, a people who have been forgiven and redeemed through the blood of Christ. We did not earn it; we did not deserve it. We only even know about it because of his grace and work; we were not looking for it and are not to be credited because we were smart to accept a great deal. It was all of grace.

Even in difficult times, we must pray in trust that God is faithful and true … that he will ultimately judge evil. And in the meantime, we should grow in trust and come to know Him more, learning lessons that are often only learned in the crucible of life’s experiences.

Psalm 79

A psalm of Asaph.

1 O God, the nations have invaded your inheritance; they have defiled your holy temple, they have reduced Jerusalem to rubble.
2 They have left the dead bodies of your servants as food for the birds of the sky, the flesh of your own people for the animals of the wild.
3 They have poured out blood like water all around Jerusalem, and there is no one to bury the dead.
4 We are objects of contempt to our neighbors, of scorn and derision to those around us.

5 How long, Lord? Will you be angry forever? How long will your jealousy burn like fire?
6 Pour out your wrath on the nations that do not acknowledge you, on the kingdoms that do not call on your name; 7 for they have devoured Jacob and devastated his homeland.

8 Do not hold against us the sins of past generations; may your mercy come quickly to meet us, for we are in desperate need.
9 Help us, God our Savior, for the glory of your name; deliver us and forgive our sins for your name’s sake.
10 Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” Before our eyes, make known among the nations that you avenge the outpoured blood of your servants.
11 May the groans of the prisoners come before you; with your strong arm preserve those condemned to die.
12 Pay back into the laps of our neighbors seven times the contempt they have hurled at you, Lord.
13 Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will praise you forever; from generation to generation we will proclaim your praise.