Psalm 74:4

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 4. Thine enemies roar in the midst of thy congregations. Where thy people sang like angels, these barbarians roar like beasts. When thy saints come together for worship, these cruel men attack them with all the fury of lions. They have no respect for the most solemn gatherings, but intrude themselves and their blasphemies into our most hallowed meetings. How often in times of persecution or prevalent heresy has the church learned the meaning of such language. May the Lord spare us such misery. When hypocrites abound in the church, and pollute her worship, the case is parallel to that before us; Lord save us from so severe a trial.

They set up their ensigns for signs. Idolatrous emblems used in war were set up over God's altar, as an insulting token of victory, and of contempt for the vanquished and their God. Papists, Arians, and the modern school of Neologians, have, in their day, set up their ensigns for signs. Superstition, unbelief, and carnal wisdom have endeavoured to usurp the place of Christ crucified, to the grief of the church of God. The enemies without do us small damage, but those within the church cause her serious harm; by supplanting the truth and placing error in its stead, they deceive the people, and lead multitudes to destruction. As a Jew felt a holy horror when he saw an idolatrous emblem set up in the holy place, even so do we when in a Protestant church we see the fooleries of Rome, and when from pulpits, once occupied by men of God, we hear philosophy and vain deceit.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 4. Thine enemies roar, etc. The word gaf is used especially of the roar of the lion... In this place we may justly extend the application of the verb to those noisy words, whether mirthful or boastful, blasphemous against God and calamitous to his people (Ps 74:10), breathing terror and threatenings through edicts; or rude and senseless, as in their idolatrous worship; or in their prayers and thoughtless songs. As in Isaiah 52:5 , its meaning is to howl. Hermann Venema.

Verse 4. They set up their ensigns for signs. The meaning is, that the enemy, having abolished the signs of the true God, of his people and religion, such as circumcision, the feasts, sacrifices, the other ordinances of religion, and other marks of liberty, substituted his own idolatrous signs, as the signs of his authority and religion. Hermann Venema.

Verse 4-7. (The persecution under Antiochus. B.C. 168.) Athenaeus proceeded to Jerusalem, where, with the assistance of the garrison, he prohibited and suppressed every observance of the Jewish religion, forced the people to profane the Sabbath, to eat swine's flesh, and other unclean food, and expressly forbade the national rite of circumcision. The Temple was dedicated to Jupiter Olympus: the statue of that deity was erected on part of the altar of burnt offerings, and sacrifice duly performed... As a last insult, the feasts of the Bacchanalia, the license of which, as they were celebrated in the later ages of Greece, shocked the severe virtue of the older Romans, were substituted for the national festival of Tabernacles. The reluctant Jews were forced to join in these riotous orgies, and to carry the ivy, the insignia of the god. So near was the Jewish nation, and the worship of Jehovah, to total extermination. Henry Hart Milman (1791-1868), in "A History of the Jews."

(Under Titus.) And now the Romans, upon the flight of the seditious into the city, and upon the burning of the holy house itself, and of all the buildings lying round about it, brought their ensigns to the temple, and set them over against its eastern gate; and there did they offer sacrifices to them, and there did they make Titus imperator, with the greatest acclamation of joy. Josephus.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 3-4. The power of prayer.

  1. On one side were,
    1. Desolation: perpetual, etc.
    2. Desecration.
    3. Declamation: enemies roar.
    4. Demonstration: they set up.
    5. On the other side is,
    6. Supplication.
    7. This brings God to the rescue effectually and quickly.

Verse 4. Ensigns for signs. The craft of Satan is supplanting truth with deceptive counterfeits.