Shepherd of Israel

Hear us, Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock.
You who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth  Psalm 80:1

Asaph used a phrase that has a strong parallel in the New Testament.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me…” John 10:14

But Asaph also reminded the worshipers (via this song) of God’s preeminence over creation.

Even today He’s still the Good Shepherd. He still has compassion for His children, and He’s still preeminent throughout the world. He’s compassionate and dominant, a very interesting combination of character qualities.

We can trust Him in the here and now to lead us. We can trust Him when this life is over.

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What’s It Like?

Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will praise you forever;
from generation to generation we will proclaim your praise. Psalm 79:13

From time to time on this site, I ask a question that will probably never be answered: what’s heaven going to be like all day every day?

It’s a simple question that will have as many different answers as there are people that get asked the question. We have glimpses and glimmers of what it wil be like. We have people who have died and come back to life and told us what it’s like (I don’t rely heavily on those stories but they do exist). We can read Scripture and the commentaries that talk about heaven, hell, judgement, streets of gold, no tears, crowns, thrones, praise, worship, angels, justice, and pearly gates, but very little about what the day to day life will be like.

We do know this, though, our Savior will be there. As Asaph said, “we will proclaim His praise.” What we’re surrounded with and how we go about it will be immaterial to the praise we have to offer.

So, what’s it like? I have no idea, but it will be infinitely better than what we’re experiencing here.

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Defending God

Pay back into the laps of our neighbors seven times the contempt they have hurled at you, Lord. Psalm 79:12

Notice Asaph didn’t say “the contempt they have hurled me us” but at “you.” In a sense he was defending God…or so it seems. But does God need our defense? Throughout the years I’ve pondered that same question. Does He need us to defend Him?

Obviously He doesn’t “need” anything because He’s God and is absolutely self-sufficient. Then the question becomes, does He want us to defend Him? Does He ever ask us in Scripture to defend Him?

Charles Spurgeon said this about the issue, “The Gospel is like a caged lion. It does not need to be defended. It just needs to be let out of its cage.” By extension, I believe it applies to God Himself.

God is more than able to take care of Himself (even as I read that I find it to be an amusing statement, and probably followed by a “well Duh!”). If He’s able to do that, why would we put unnecessary burdens on our shoulders trying to defend the Almighty?

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Heads Up!

11 May the groans of the prisoners come before you; with your strong arm preserve those condemned to die. Psalm 79:11

Asaph seems to be referring to the Israelites being in bondage to the Babylonians or Egyptians; it’s not clear. In any event, the prisoners were humbled through the experience as they cried out to God.

It has often been said, “Be humble before you are humiliated.” Those are strong words indeed. When you’re in captivity, you have nowhere else to look but up. When you are free, you can look all around in 100 different ways. That’s what free will is all about. We don’t have to look up, but we certainly can.

When we hear the phrase “heads up!” it usually is accompanied by something flying through the air and is very close to us. It’s usually a mistake of some sort. It’s a synonym for “Attention!” Normally when we hear Heads Up, we do the exact opposite and cover our heads because something could very easily hit is in a few seconds.

It’s too bad we don’t hear this phrase when we are becoming more prideful. Maybe there’s an app for it.

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Gawker’s Delay

Before our eyes, make known among the nations that you avenge the outpoured blood of your servants. Psalm 79:10

City rush hour traffic reports are frequently filled with accounts of accidents but those on the opposite side of the road slowing down to see the accident also slows down the traffic. Perhaps it’s the curious nature of people or perhaps it’s something else entirely, but highway speeds decrease considerably when there is an accident to be seen. They call it “Gawker’s Delay” because people like to gawk at the accident, and when they’re gawking at an accident they’re going slower.

Asaph in a sense wants to gawk at what he wants God to do. Or perhaps he just wants to be sure that God does something.

Whether it’s like that on the road or in life, we want God to move. We want to see His hand at work. Sometimes we want to see Him break down barriers, move mountains, and judge evil doers. Sometimes we just want to know He’s there.

Today as you begin this day, know that He loves you and wants what is absolutely best for you. Even if you don’t “see” Him today, He is there.

Sometimes that’s just the reassurance we need to go another day.

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A Trust Issue

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?” Psalm 79:9-10

When you’re being persecuted or when you see others being persecuted time and again without anyone stepping in, it’s easy to ask that last question ourselves, “Where is our God? Could He not have prevented this?” The same could be said of tragic events and natural disasters, “where is God? Where is God?” It’s a very real question under very real circumstances.

I cannot answer that basic question. Others have tried. No one really knows why He allows or even causes certain events in the lives of God-fearing Believers.

It ultimately becomes a trust issue.

Do you trust Him enough that He knows what He’s doing?

Can you trust Him to have the purest of motives in whatever He does or allows?

Suffice to say, sometimes the Lord God Almighty is truly baffling. That’s probably a good thing because if we had all the answers, we wouldn’t need God.

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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. Psalm 79:8

God does not hold us responsible for the sins of our forefathers. Thankfully. We are responsible for our own sins. Our sins and decisions can affect our children and grandchildren but they are not responsible for us.

As Asaph so succinctly said, “we are in desperate need.” Yes, our forefathers and our children are also in desperate need but much of that is out of our control.

Desperate, you say? How so?

We desperately need to be forgiven.
We desperately need love.
We desperately need saving.
We desperately need strength.
We desperately need Christ.

Desperation is a very good thing when it leads to Christ.

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Acknowledging Him

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. Psalm 79:6-7

If you made a list of the countries around the world today that do not acknowledge Him, it would be a fairly long list. There are people in every country that acknowledge Him, but kingdoms and leaders who openly call on his name are far and few. Also there are countries that are largely Christian but have very corrupt governments.

Fortunately, though, we don’t have to sort all of that out in the end.

We are charged with telling others, one by one.

We can’t work on entire countries or cities, but we can work to win the heart and soul of one here and one there.

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Rhetorical Questions

How long, Lord? Will you be angry forever? How long will your jealousy burn like fire? Psalm 79:5

All three are rhetorical questions but they are questions we ask quite often.

We see the nitty-grittiness of the world, the sin, the injustices the hatred.

We see good guys punished and horrible people living “high on the hog” as they say.

We see strife and chaos and corruption and extreme violence.

Even though we will never get those questions answered in this life, they are worth asking. If it means we will spend that much more time in prayer for those issues, that’s even better.

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