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Psalm 74: Remember & Rise Up
Transcript of Psalm 74: Remember & Rise Up
'Why' opening as in Ps. 10; Ps. 22; see also Pss. 42:9; 43
Plea 1: Remember Your People! (1-3)
Lament: Your present foes have trashed your sanctuary (4-9)
Contrast of 'signs' with v. 4
'How long' dilemma of v. 9 and question of v. 10
Mockery of enemies links forward to vv. 18, 22-23.
The withheld hand (11)
Plea 2: Raise Your Hand for Action! (10-11)
Hymn: Your past foes were no match for You (12-17)
Plea 3: Recognize Their Mockery, Remember Your Covenant, and Rise Up! (18-23)
New Testament Appropriation and Contemporary Relevance
Synthesis of the Meaning of Psalm 74
Canonical Context of Psalm 74
The Genre of Communal Lament in Psalm 74
Historical Setting and Issues of Provenance
Key Theme Words in Psalm 74
adversaries, 4, 23 + 10
remember, 2, 18, 22
fools, 18, 22
day?, 16, 22
name, 7, 10, 18, 21
God (Elohim), 1, 10, 12, 22 (normally postpositive)
3-4x 'do nots', 19, 21, 23
do not forget, 19, 23
7x emphatic 'yous', 13-17
'from old times', 2, 12
forever, 1, 3, 10, 19
appointed place, 4, 8
signs, 4, 9
all/completely, 6, 8
dwell, 2, and dwelling, 7
ground/land/earth, 7-8, 12, 17, 20
sanctuary (sev. words), esp. 3, 7
how long, 9-10
mock/mockery/winter (sound), 10, 18, 22 + 17
revile, 10, 18
reject, 1 (esp. 42-44, 60, 77, 88-89, 108)
ruins, 3 (73:18)
'deliverances' pl., 12 (Pss. 42-44)
forever (see 77:7-8; 79:5; 89:46; 103:9)
Note esp. connections w. 42-44, 60, 79, 89, 103.
See some relationship patterns in the Psalms master diagram:
Communal lament elements in the Psalms
Initial address to God
Complaint (against God, or against the enemy)
'How long' question
Confession of trust
Pleas for retribution (imprecation) against enemy
Pleas for forgiveness and for deliverance
Wisdom meditation/protest at evil
Vow of praise upon deliverance
Taking our cues from the following list of potential features of communal laments, can we identify the major sections of Psalm 74?
Psalm 74 offers more clues to historical setting than most psalms. How many likely historical scenarios can we identify in Israel's history as possible settings for this psalm? Which one is the most probable?
For one suggestion (less likely, in my view), see Andrew E. Hill and John Walton,
A Survey of the Old Testament
(3rd ed.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009), 427-28, 431.
A maskil of Asaph.
O God, why have you rejected us forever?
Why does your anger smolder against the sheep of your pasture?
2 Remember the nation you purchased long ago,
the people of your inheritance, whom you redeemed--
Mount Zion, where you dwelt.
3 Turn your steps toward these everlasting ruins,
all this destruction the enemy has brought on the sanctuary.
4 Your foes roared in the place where you met with us;
they set up their standards as signs.
5 They behaved like men wielding axes
to cut through a thicket of trees.
6 They smashed all the carved paneling
with their axes and hatchets.
7 They burned your sanctuary to the ground;
they defiled the dwelling place of your Name.
8 They said in their hearts, "We will crush them completely!"
They burned every place where God was worshiped in the land.
9 We are given no signs from God; no prophets are left,
and none of us knows how long this will be.
10 How long will the enemy mock you, God?
Will the foe revile your name forever?
11 Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand?
Take it from the folds of your garment and destroy them!
12 But God is my King from long ago;
he brings salvation on the earth.
13 It was you who split open the sea by your power;
you broke the heads of the monster in the waters.
14 It was you who crushed the heads of Leviathan
and gave it as food to the creatures of the desert.
15 It was you who opened up springs and streams;
you dried up the ever-flowing rivers.
16 The day is yours, and yours also the night;
you established the sun and moon.
17 It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth;
you made both summer and winter.
18 Remember how the enemy has mocked you, LORD,
how foolish people have reviled your name.
19 Do not hand over the life of your dove to wild beasts;
do not forget the lives of your afflicted people forever.
20 Have regard for your covenant, because they fill
– haunts of violence – the dark places of the land.
21 Do not let the oppressed retreat in disgrace;
may the poor and needy praise your name.
22 Rise up, O God, and defend your cause;
remember how fools mock you all day long.
23 Do not ignore the clamor of your adversaries,
the uproar of your enemies, which rises continually.
Other 'maskil' psalms
Asaph psalms: 50, 73-83
ended on a note of almost complacent confidence in the covenantal privileges enjoyed by the royal son of David.
His rule is unlimited in time (72:5–7).
His rule is unlimited in scope (72:8–11).
It is characterized by justice (72:12–14) and prosperity (72:15–16).
The blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant attach to him (72:17b)!
opened first with a personal meditation on the psalmist's past 'worldview crisis' surrounding the 'prosperity of the wicked' (Psalm 73).
Then Psalm 74 and Psalm 89 form a frame for the rest of Book III that explores the question of the fate and future of the covenant (see 74:20; 89:4, 29, 35, 40) given the destruction of:
The Jerusalem sanctuary (74:3–9), and
The Davidic monarchy (89:38–45).
will show an Israel that is beginning to learn the painful spiritual lessons of the Babylonian conquest, but still ends with the plea to be "saved from the nations" (106:45).
will finally offer an answer to the question of the fate of the covenant: the covenant lives (111:5, 9), and though the Davidic Covenant turns out to be conditional (132:11–12), the LORD does indeed intend still to "set up a lamp for my anointed one " (132:17)!
This approach of finding the meaning of a psalm via its canonical context represents a biblical-theological (or 'concept album') approach to the book.
Psalm 74 is the object of no NT quotations or unambiguous allusions.
It is important for its biblical-theological significance in relation to covenant alone. But for the audience lacking the patience or interest to follow the 'Israel' part of the redemptive story prior to getting to the good bit about Jesus...
This psalm is a sobering lesson that a people who think they are sitting pretty in their relationship with God may find themselves out in the cold wondering what just happened.
We are reminded never to take even our New Covenant privileges in Jesus for granted, but cling to the cross and depend daily on the mercy of God. It is "through [Christ] we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God" (Rom 5:2).
If Psalm 73 is an opening wisdom meditation for Book III, Psalm 74 may introduce us to its core content.
(see 18:51; 28:8; 42:6, 12; 43:5; 44:5; 53:7; 116:13)
77:8; 79:5; 89:47
land/ground/ earth (
(2:1; 10:1; 22:2; 42:10; 43:2; 44:24-25; 49:6; 68:17)
43:2; 44:10, 24; 60:3, 12
77:7; 88:15; 89:39; 108:12
(see 73:18 only in Psalms)
land/ground/ earth (
those who rise
7x emphatic 'you' of God
Sevenfold emphatic 'you'
Potential centre to psalm: v. 12.
Mythic imagery of victory over chaos figures Yam, Tanninim, Leviathan applied to Yahweh's victory at exodus (13-15)
LORD's mastery and governance of creation (16-17)
'Remembering' (18, 22) v. 'forgetting' (19, 23)
Explicit 'covenant' ref (20)
Other inclusio features: fool(ish) and their mockery (18, 22)
Call to God to 'rise up' and plead His case against the 'uprisers' (23)
Compare the psalmist's situation at the end of the psalm to that relating to its beginning. What has changed?