Psalm 74

April 03, 2024

1 O God, why hast thou cast us off for ever? why doth thine anger smoke against the sheep of thy pasture?

2 Remember thy congregation, which thou hast purchased of old; the rod of thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed; this mount Zion, wherein thou hast dwelt.

3 Lift up thy feet unto the perpetual desolations; even all that the enemy hath done wickedly in the sanctuary.

4 Thine enemies roar in the midst of thy congregations; they set up their ensigns for signs.

5 A man was famous according as he had lifted up axes upon the thick trees.

6 But now they break down the carved work thereof at once with axes and hammers.

7 They have cast fire into thy sanctuary, they have defiled by casting down the dwelling place of thy name to the ground.

8 They said in their hearts, Let us destroy them together: they have burned up all the synagogues of God in the land.

9 We see not our signs: there is no more any prophet: neither is there among us any that knoweth how long.

10 O God, how long shall the adversary reproach? shall the enemy blaspheme thy name for ever?

11 Why withdrawest thou thy hand, even thy right hand? pluck it out of thy bosom.

12 For God is my King of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth.

13 Thou didst divide the sea by thy strength: thou brakest the heads of the dragons in the waters.

14 Thou brakest the heads of leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness.

15 Thou didst cleave the fountain and the flood: thou driedst up mighty rivers.

16 The day is thine, the night also is thine: thou hast prepared the light and the sun.

17 Thou hast set all the borders of the earth: thou hast made summer and winter.

18 Remember this, that the enemy hath reproached, O LORD, and that the foolish people have blasphemed thy name.

19 O deliver not the soul of thy turtledove unto the multitude of the wicked: forget not the congregation of thy poor for ever.

20 Have respect unto the covenant: for the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty.

21 O let not the oppressed return ashamed: let the poor and needy praise thy name.

22 Arise, O God, plead thine own cause: remember how the foolish man reproacheth thee daily.

23 Forget not the voice of thine enemies: the tumult of those that rise up against thee increaseth continually.

The Point:

As the people of God face great desolation and ruin at the hands of the wicked, they are still impressed with the sovereignty of God, and cry out for his deliverance.

How do we feel in the recitation of this psalm? The desolation of war is devastating. If we were to walk through war-torn streets strewn with dead bodies and lined by blown-apart buildings, our minds would grow numb, and we would barely be able to comprehend what had happened. This is how the psalmist feels as he views the “sanctuary” of the people of God. We understand “sanctuary” to mean the church or assembly of God, and it applies just as much to the church in the New Testament as it did to the church in the Old Testament. With the church in shambles around us, we turn to God Who is the omnipotent Sovereign of heaven and earth. For a brief moment, we wonder if He cares about His beloved people. By the end of this contemplation we are certain that He most certainly will do something about the tragic state of the church.

What does this psalm teach us?

Verses 1–11. How could God do this to us? This question pierces to the very soul of the believer who sees the devastation of the church before him. Of course, the psalmist attributes the destruction to the enemy in verses 3–8, but it would not have happened had it not been for God’s sovereign purpose. God is in control, and if the church has been utterly decimated by the enemy, it could not have happened had not God purposed it. Therefore, Asaph is convinced that God is displeased with his people, and, as a son who appeals to his father on the basis of his relationship, he cries out, “Why have you rejected us forever, O God?” He cries out on the basis of the investment God has put into His people. After all, God redeemed His people from slavery in Egypt—not to mention redeeming them by means of the death of His own Son. Why should He neglect the investment that cost Him the death of His eternally begotten Son?

But the church sits in ruin, and those who cannot see the corruption and the weakness of the church will never feel the true import of this psalm. This psalm speaks powerfully to the church in every age. Consider the ruin of the church in the Middle East and North Africa as the Muslims overwhelmed the initial breadbasket of the faith in the 7th and 8th centuries. Or think about the almost complete ruin of the Christian church in Germany, France, England, and Scotland today. What about the many challenges the church faces in this country? We see modernism’s rejection of supernaturalism and evangelicalism’s compromise with man-centered ways of thought and life. There is chaos in the local church, with discontentment among the members, frequent church splits, and pastors who have to resign from office after they are discovered to have been living in adultery or homosexuality for twenty to thirty years. Practically every sincere believer alive today can repeat the words of this psalm as one who has firsthand experience with these circumstances. He prays these words through the tears that pour out of his aching heart, knowing that the old Christian church is dying in the Western world. Almost every mainline denomination has capitulated to the ordination of homosexuals. Among the faithful few left, there is constant schism, mistrust, academic pride, and confusion. The layers of decay, corruption, and weakness are too many to count.

So the Psalmist cries out to God, “Take a look at it! Dear God, pick through the ruins of the razed sanctuary and look at what your enemies have done!” The intent of the following verses is to incite God to love His people and to take vengeance upon the enemy who has destroyed the church. The psalmist interprets what he sees in the body of the church by way of metaphor, and his descriptions are poignant and painful: malicious vandals are viciously attacking the church, smashing the furniture, the walls, and the décor. They are burning the whole structure to the ground. In the same way, evil forces have broken the church of Jesus Christ to pieces. In such a weakened state, the church is utterly incapable of proclaiming the truth of God’s Word against the antithesis of the world; it is a church that is split a thousand ways by internal dissension and filled with leaders without character who are taken by homosexuality and other vile sins. The ideas and institutions of men destroy the church by corrupting it and compromising it from the inside. What destroys the church is the orthodox and orthopraxic compromise that begins in the personal lives of those who come from within the church.

In verses 10 and 11, the psalmist appeals to God on the basis of His love for His people and His antipathy towards His enemies. “How long are you going to let the enemy mock you?” Asaph asks. He could hardly be more insistent. He verges on audaciousness in his appeal.     

Verses 12–17. This second part of the psalm turns to a contemplation of God’s greatness in creation, providence, judgment, and redemption. These are comforting words indeed, as we recall that God is both our King and Savior. The Old Testament saints have a vivid mental image of God parting the Red Sea and destroying the enemy. But salvation is far more than the destruction of Pharaoh and the great and powerful Egyptian empire. Verse 14 says that God destroys the leviathan, the dreadful serpent in the waters. We see that this prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus crushed the head of all evil principalities and powers at the cross.

Verses 15–17 speak of God’s providential control over the weather patterns, the rivers and oceans, the sun and moon, and the seasons. Such language is comforting to those of us who find ourselves sitting in the ruins of His precious church. If God were not all-powerful over this world in all of history, then there would be no hope for us in these ruins.

Verses 18–23. Now Asaph appeals to God again on the basis of His justice and mercy. Would not a just God wish to deal with those who are destroying His church? Would not a merciful God care for His tender dove as she is being ripped to shreds by a wild beast? Asaph’s words show that he is assuming that God can be provoked to action and that the fervent prayers of a righteous man do avail much. These prayers may be emotional pleadings, but they are based in truth and come as a result of our confidence in God’s covenant relation with us, for we know His commitment to mercy and justice. If a father happened to see a horrible ruffian on the street attacking his precious child, don’t you think he would be anxious to save her from the man’s hands? “Do not hand over your tender dove to the wild beasts,” says Asaph to our Father in heaven.

In verse 20, Asaph adds yet another appeal, calling God to act on the basis of His long-standing covenant with His people. A covenant is an agreement and a promise, and it is sealed in blood. If God has promised to Himself and to us that He will have a people for Himself and that He will be a God to us and we will be His people, then we can hold Him to that promise. Of course, the promise itself is a gracious promise. But it is still a promise.

The final verses of the psalm encourage us to boldly draw near to God as poor and needy because God resists the proud but draws near to the humble. Therefore, as we acknowledge our weakness and our need, and as we call God to help us in our disgrace and oppression at the hands of the enemy, we can count on His deliverance.

How does this psalm teach us to obey God?

1. Now we are in the early years of the 21st century, and Muslims are purchasing church properties in Europe to build their mosques. Yet it is not the Muslims who have destroyed the church in Europe. Christian churches were destroyed long before the Muslims came—when the church leaders stopped loving God and His holy law and turned to serve other gods, the chief of which were the gods of self and materials. This is the enemy we ask God to destroy! It is anything and everything that tempts us away from God whether it be our own flesh, false teachers within the church, or forces outside of the church such as ungodly education, media, or government.

2. This psalm also assumes a love for the church of Christ. We cannot read this precious psalm with passion and fervor unless our hearts are first broken by how pitiful and weak the church is in our own times.

How does this psalm teach us to worship God?

Fervent prayers are essential in worship, and this psalm is an excellent example of that. These prayers begin with a deep sense of our need and our helplessness without God’s intervention. Fervent praying is also persuasive praying. We persuade God in worship when we form arguments based on our knowledge of the nature of God and His covenant with us.


1. Give several examples of Deliverance Psalms.

2. What is the psalmist concerned about in this psalm?

3. What does he want God to do?

4. How does he attempt to persuade God to action?

5. How does he describe God’s sovereignty and power in verses 12–17?

6. Who or what is the leviathan?

Family Discussion Questions:

1. Do we love the church of Jesus Christ? Are we deeply concerned with the decline of the church in our country? How might we pray to God concerning this?

2. How fervent are we in our prayers? Do we just say things we have memorized without thinking about what we are saying? Do we really desire the things that we pray for, and are we sensitive to our own great need before we begin to pray?