Today we conclude our long journey through this Psalm of confession.
‘’Many times he delivered them…’’ (43a). These words could be taken as a summary of Old Testament history in totality. Verses 40-43 refer not only to the period of the Judges (see the book of ‘Judges’), but also to the time of the monarchy (see the books of ‘1 and 2 Samuel’ and ‘1 and 2 Kings’.) For hundreds of years the Lord endured the Israelites’ recurring idolatry and rebellion. (There is a repetitive cycle in the Old Testament of sin leading to oppression leading to repentance leading to deliverance, and then more sin…and so on and so forth!!) Finally God’s longsuffering reached its limit and He ‘’handed them over to the nations (41) – especially Assyria and Babylon finally.
Like the Israelites, we too have a ‘’bent’’ toward rebellion by nature, and we need to learn from them the lesson that sin, unchecked, leads to wasting away (43). ‘’Over and over God rescued them, but they never learned – until finally their sins destroyed them.’’ That was their story. It could be ours, if we don’t heed the powerful lessons of Biblical history
But the captivity in foreign lands was not the end of the story! God preserved a remnant of His people, who, in their exile, sought Him and He heard them and remembered the covenant He had made with this people (44, 45). That doesn’t mean that God’s memory had been failing Him and He’d forgotten all about it for a time. He isn’t subject to our human frailties. Rather it means that He had regard to the covenant in what He did. So, some of the captives began to return (see the books of ‘Ezra’ and ‘Nehemiah’). ‘’ He remembered his Covenant with them, and, immense with love, took them by the hand. He poured out his mercy on them while their captors looked on, amazed.’’ The Message.
But there were others still exiled, like this psalmist (some think) and he cried out to God: ‘’Save us, O LORD our God, and gather us from the nations…’’ (47). (It’s important to say that not every commentator agrees that there is a reference to the great Assyrian/Babylonian captivity in verses 44-47)
‘’That is also our cry, the cry of the Church in our generation. We too stumble and sin and compromise. We too need to be continuously ‘’gathered from the nations’’ – consecrated, set apart – so that we might fulfil our calling to be Christ’s witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Tom Hale: The Applied Old Testament Commentary, p.903.
‘’The psalm is best simply heard as the song of the church in the world, subject to its enticements, overcome by its powers, losing its identity by compromise, but longing and praying for a better day and praising the God who, amid the fluctuations of his people, is the same from everlasting to everlasting.’’ J.A. Motyer: The New Bibkle Commentary, p.557
Prayer: Lord God, have mercy on your wayward and compromised people. Please forgive our sins, break our chains and restore us to fulfil our God-given destiny.