The desolations of the sanctuary. (1-11) Pleas for encouraging faith. (12-17) Petitions for deliverances. (18-23)
Verses 1-11 This psalm appears to describe the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the Chaldeans. The deplorable case of the people of God, at the time, is spread before the Lord, and left with him. They plead the great things God had done for them. If the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt was encouragement to hope that he would not cast them off, much more reason have we to believe, that God will not cast off any whom Christ has redeemed with his own blood. Infidels and persecutors may silence faithful ministers, and shut up places of worship, and say they will destroy the people of God and their religion together. For a long time they may prosper in these attempts, and God's oppressed servants may see no prospect of deliverance; but there is a remnant of believers, the seed of a future harvest, and the despised church has survived those who once triumphed over her. When the power of enemies is most threatening, it is comfortable to flee to the power of God by earnest prayer.
Verses 12-17 The church silences her own complaints. What God had done for his people, as their King of old, encouraged them to depend on him. It was the Lord's doing, none besides could do it. This providence was food to faith and hope, to support and encourage in difficulties. The God of Israel is the God of nature. He that is faithful to his covenant about the day and the night, will never cast off those whom he has chosen. We have as much reason to expect affliction, as to expect night and winter. But we have no more reason to despair of the return of comfort, than to despair of day and summer. And in the world above we shall have no more changes.
Verses 18-23 The psalmist begs that God would appear for the church against their enemies. The folly of such as revile his gospel and his servants will be plain to all. Let us call upon our God to enlighten the dark nations of the earth; and to rescue his people, that the poor and needy may praise his name. Blessed Saviour, thou art the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. Make thy people more than conquerors. Be thou, Lord, all in all to them in every situation and circumstances; for then thy poor and needy people will praise thy name.
Psalms 74:1-23 . If the historical allusions of Psalms 74:6-8 , &c., be referred, as is probable, to the period of the captivity, the author was probably a descendant and namesake of Asaph, David's contemporary and singer (compare 2 Chronicles 35:15 , Ezra 2:41 ). He complains of God's desertion of His Church, and appeals for aid, encouraging himself by recounting some of God's mighty deeds, and urges his prayer on the ground of God's covenant relation to His people, and the wickedness of His and their common enemy.
1. cast . . . off--with abhorrence (compare Psalms 43:2 , 44:9 ). There is no disavowal of guilt implied. The figure of fire to denote God's anger is often used; and here, and in Deuteronomy 29:20 , by the word "smoke," suggests its continuance.
sheep . . . pasture--(Compare Psalms 80:1 , 95:7 ).
2. The terms to denote God's relation to His people increase in force: "congregation"--"purchased"--"redeemed"--"Zion," His dwelling.
3. Lift . . . feet--( Genesis 29:1 )--that is, Come (to behold) the desolations ( Psalms 73:19 ).
4. roar--with bestial fury.
congregations--literally, "worshipping assemblies."
ensigns--literally, "signs"--substituted their idolatrous objects, or tokens of authority, for those articles of the temple which denoted God's presence.
5, 6. Though some terms and clauses here are very obscure, the general sense is that the spoilers destroyed the beauties of the temple with the violence of woodmen.
was famous--literally, "was known."
6. carved work--( 1 Kings 6:29 ).
thereof--that is, of the temple, in the writer's mind, though not expressed till Psalms 74:7 , in which its utter destruction by fire is mentioned ( 2 Kings 25:9 , Isaiah 64:11 ).
7. defiled--or, "profaned," as in Psalms 89:39 .
8. together--at once, all alike.
synagogues--literally, "assemblies," for places of assembly, whether such as schools of the prophets ( 2 Kings 4:23 ), or "synagogues" in the usual sense, there is much doubt.
9. signs--of God's presence, as altar, ark, &c. (compare Psalms 74:4 , 2 Chronicles 36:18 2 Chronicles 36:19 , Daniel 5:2 ).
no more any prophet--( Isaiah 3:2 , Jeremiah 40:1 , 43:6 ).
how long--this is to last. Jeremiah's prophecy ( Jeremiah 25:11 ), if published, may not have been generally known or understood. To the bulk of the people, during the captivity, the occasional and local prophetical services of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel would not make an exception to the clause, "there is no more any prophet."
10. (Compare Psalms 31:1 ).
how long . . . reproach?--us, as deserted of God.
blaspheme thy name--or, "perfections," as power, goodness, &c. ( Psalms 29:2 ).
11. Why cease to help us? (Compare Psalms 3:7 , 7:6 , 60:5 ).
12. For--literally, "And," in an adversative sense.
13-15. Examples of the "salvation wrought" are cited.
divide the sea--that is, Red Sea.
brakest . . . waters--Pharaoh and his host (compare Isaiah 51:9 Isaiah 51:10 , Ezekiel 29:3 Ezekiel 29:4 ).
14. heads of leviathan--The word is a collective, and so used for many.
the people . . . wilderness--that is, wild beasts, as conies ( Proverbs 30:25 Proverbs 30:26 ), are called a people. Others take the passages literally, that the sea monsters thrown out on dry land were food for the wandering Arabs.
15. cleave the fountain--that is, the rocks of Horeb and Kadesh; for fountains.
driedst up--Jordan, and, perhaps, Arnon and Jabbok ( Numbers 21:14 ).
16, 17. The fixed orders of nature and bounds of earth are of God.
18. (Compare Psalms 74:10 , Deuteronomy 32:6 ). The contrast is striking--that such a God should be thus insulted!
19. multitude--literally, "beast," their flock or company of men ( Psalms 68:10 ).
turtledove--that is, the meek and lonely Church.
congregation--literally, "the company," as above--thus the Church is represented as the spoiled and defeated remnant of an army, exposed to violence.
20. And the prevalence of injustice in heathen lands is a reason for invoking God's regard to His promise (compare Numbers 14:21 , Psalms 7:16 , 18:48 ).
21. oppressed--broken ( Psalms 9:9 ).
return--from seeking God.
ashamed--( Psalms 35:4 ).
22, 23. (Compare Psalms 3:7 , 7:6 ). God hears the wicked to their own ruin ( Genesis 4:10 , 18:20 ).