The puzzlement, pain and desperation that exudes from this Psalm is palpable. The writer (attributed to Asaph) just cannot believe that his God would allow this to happen to His people. This is a desperate Psalm, but not the song of someone who does not believe in God, but the wail of a believer.
Historically, this Psalm seems to describe the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by an unknown enemy. The writer beseeches God for an explanation. He reminds God of all the great things He had done for them. They had come to rely and depend upon God to protect them.
He asks how God can be angry with his own people forever. He does not question the correctness of his judgment but uses the question and the lament as the basis for an appeal to God’s fatherly heart. He points out that their enemy has completely destroyed Mount Zion for all time– God’s house on earth, where His people came to kneel. The people who He himself had chosen.
It wasn’t just that Asaph felt that God had stopped caring for Israel, he sensed that God was angry at them, and in some sense working against them.
I think we can all remember times in our own lives when we have felt that God has abandoned us but even in our own sorrow and desperation, we know that Christ is with us, walking every step – and I am reminded of the poem entitled the ‘The Footprints in the Sand’ where Christ carries all whose burden is too heavy for them to carry alone.
Lord, when we feel abandoned and alone, and we can no longer hear you speaking to us, guiding us and comforting us, help us to know that even though we walk ‘through the valley of the shadow of death’, you are there with us in the midst of our sorrow and will bring us out into the sunshine again, re-made and rededicated to you, as a child of Christ our Saviour. Amen
Ann Barton, Lay Leader at Whittlesford URC in the Eastern Synod