Reading:                                      Psalm 79

Verses 8-13

Do not hold against us the sins of past generations;
may your mercy come quickly to meet us,
for we are in desperate need.
Help us, God our Savior,
for the glory of your name;
deliver us and forgive our sins for your name’s sake.
Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”

Before our eyes, make known among the nations
that you avenge the outpoured blood of your servants.
May the groans of the prisoners come before you;
with your strong arm preserve those condemned to die.
Pay back into the laps of our neighbors seven times
the contempt they have hurled at you, Lord.
Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture,
will praise you forever;
from generation to generation
we will proclaim your praise
(NIV).

Reflection

Psalm 79 began with the psalmist lamenting that Jerusalem had been invaded by foreign armies. Destruction and bloodshed were everywhere. O God, the nations have invaded your inheritance; they have defiled your holy temple, they have reduced Jerusalem to rubble (Psalm 79:1). Now at the conclusion of this psalm there is a plea for God’s help and mercy. Do not hold against us the sins of past generations; may your mercy come quickly to meet us, for we are in desperate need.

Ellis Island 2014-11-10

Ellis Island Immigration Center, New York, NY, — photo by David Kitz

It becomes clear from this psalm and other passages in scripture that there are personal sins and there are corporate or national sins. Here specifically the psalmist is reflecting on the sins of the nation. Both personal and national sins can be intergenerational. They are passed down from generation to generation with terrible consequences. The father who disrespects and abuses his wife is far more likely to raise a son who does the same to his partner.

The nation that mistreats racial, religious or ethnic minorities within its borders can expect dire national consequences. The LORD hears the cries of the oppressed. He heard the cries of the people of Israel when they were enslaved in Egypt, and the LORD hasn’t suddenly changed. His ears are still open to the cries of any people who cry out to Him for mercy.

But as for us, we need to recognize our collective or national sins even as we recognize and repent of our personal sins. Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” As always, our God is watching us. He is watching over the nations and He sees how we treat our neighbors here and around the world.

Response: LORD God, deliver us and forgive our sins for your name’s sake. Forgive the sins we have committed against minorities within our borders.  You hold us accountable. Show us your mercy.  Amen.

Your Turn: Does the LORD care only about us, or all people? How can we reflect God’s love for all?