Those two psalms will make you cringe in their horrific detail of destruction. Women and young girls raped, leaders' bodies hung up for all to see, the Temple in ruins, mutilated corpses lying everywhere, far too many for the few left alive to bury. Psalm 74 lists sacrilege after sacrilege: God’s enemies standing in the meeting place; the intricate and artistic carvings of the Temple chopped to pieces by heathen axes, the sanctuary on fire, the dwelling place of God razed to the ground. Psalm 79 uses opposites to the same effect: the holy defiled; Jerusalem, the city of God, in rubble; God’s servants as carrion; and blood flowing like water in the streets. Imagine seeing all this one horrible morning and then speaking to God these words: Help us, O God of our salvation, 79:9.
God of our salvation? How could the psalmist possibly use that description? Where in all this nightmare does he see salvation?
The poet understood this basic truth: even in this dreadful event, God is still seeking the salvation of His people. He could still see a Father’s love behind the most severe discipline.
Again in Psalm 74, the psalmist says, Yet God is my King of Old, working salvation in the midst of the earth. Not just in the midst of the earth, but in the middle of all this horror, he can still see the true nature of God.
Habakkuk in his lament ends with the same thoughts: For though the fig-tree shall not flourish, Neither shall fruit be in the vines; The labor of the olive shall fail, And the fields shall yield no food; The flock shall be cut off from the fold, And there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in Jehovah, I will joy in the God of my salvation. Hab 3:17-18.
What do we see when evil befalls us? If all we feel is the pain, if all we see is the sorrow, Satan already has a foothold. We must learn to use what happens in our lives as a steppingstone to Heaven, a lift to a higher plane of spirituality.
A single trial isn’t always punishment from God as it was for those people, but if not, it becomes even more important to see events in the correct way. We are in a world that is temporary, that is tainted with sin. Of course we will have problems. Are we so naïve as to think that something Satan has poisoned will ever be good? Jeremiah tells us in his lament, that if it weren’t for God there wouldn’t be anything good left in this world at all, Lam 3:22, and we have no right to expect it to be any different because "all have sinned."
If I cannot see the salvation of God even in the midst of trials as Jeremiah did, I am blind to who He is. He is there, helping us prepare for a world where those things will be no more. If I rail against Him when the trials come, I do not know Him. Illness and death are the tools of Satan to lure us away, but with faith and the proper perspective--seeing the God of our salvation instead of the God of our pain--we can use Satan’s own tools against him as a road to triumph.
It is better to depart and be with the Lord, Paul said, Phil 1:23. To die is gain for a Christian, v 21. “O death where is thy victory, O death where is thy sting? The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the Law, but thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” 1 Cor 15:55-57) If I see death as the victor, I am giving myself away—showing that my perspective is indeed unspiritual, immature, and faithless.
Is it easy to have this perspective, especially in the middle of a traumatic life event? If this past year has cost you a job, a home, a lifestyle you have grown so accustomed to you almost consider it deserved, or the lives of loved ones, no, reading through a psalm will not make the bad things go away and your mattress suddenly be filled with roses. We are still in this flesh and suffer that way. But while in this flesh the Lord Himself conquered all these feelings and temptations, and expects us to follow His example, as difficult as it may be. And He gives us the means to do it.
In the midst of trials such as the year we have just had, and which will not go away just because the calendar page turns to 2021, may we have the same insight that gave those ancient brothers and sisters of ours hope in the middle of a horror we can scarcely imagine: He is, and always will be, the God of our salvation.
But as for me, I will look unto Jehovah; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me, Mic 7:7.