Psalm 44 -

God’s People Under Heavy Trial - I

For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. A maskil.

1We have heard with our ears, O God;

our fathers have told us what You did

in their days, in days long ago.

2With Your hand You drove out the nations

and planted our fathers;

You crushed the peoples

and made our fathers flourish.

3It was not by their sword that they won the land,

nor did their arm bring them victory;

It was Your right hand, Your arm,

and the light of Your face, for You loved them.

4You are my King and my God,

who decrees victories for Jacob.

5Through You we push back our enemies;

through Your name we trample our foes.

6I do not trust in my bow,

my sword does not bring me victory;

7But You give us victory over our enemies,

You put our adversaries to shame.

8In God we make our boast all day long,

and we will praise Your name forever. Selah

9But now You have rejected and humbled us;

You no longer go out with our armies.

10You made us retreat before the enemy,

and our adversaries have plundered us.

11You gave us up to be devoured like sheep

and have scattered us among the nations.

12You sold Your people for a pittance,

gaining nothing from their sale.

13You have made us a reproach to our neighbors,

the scorn and derision of those around us.

14You have made us a byword among the nations;

the peoples shake their heads at us.

15My disgrace is before me all day long,

and my face is covered with shame

16At the taunts of those

who reproach and revile me,

because of the enemy, who is bent on revenge.

17All this happened to us,

though we had not forgotten You

or been false to Your covenant.

18Our hearts had not turned back;

our feet had not strayed from Your path.

19But You crushed us

and made us a haunt for jackals

and covered us over with deep darkness.

20If we had forgotten the name of our God

or spread out our hands to a foreign god,

21Would not God have discovered it,

since he knows the secrets of the heart?

22Yet for Your sake we face death all day long;

we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.

23Awake, O Lord! Why do You sleep?

Rouse Yourself! Do not reject us forever.

24Why do You hide Your face

and forget our misery and oppression?

25We are brought down to the dust;

our bodies cling to the ground.

26Rise up and help us;

redeem us because of Your unfailing love.

Neither the inscription, nor the contents of this psalm suggest who the author was. And it is just as well, for this psalm is representative of the words that any of God’s people may speak under heavy trial. This psalm is a structured, well-argued appeal to God for help in time of trouble. First, the speaker recalls the testimony of the history of God’s intervention for His people (vss. 1-3); then, the Psalmist points out that God’s people have trusted in Him (vss. 4-8); next, he asks God why He has deserted them (vss. 9-12), bringing to God’s attention the reproach they face for His desertion of them (vss. 13-16); the psalmist then makes the case to God as to why His people do not deserve the affliction they are facing (vss. 17-22); finally, he prays that God return to His people (vss. 23-26). The inclusion of this psalm in the inspired Word of God is evidence that God’s people will face persecution. Also, I believe that God has inspired this psalm in order to encourage believers to wrestle with Him in prayer during times of affliction. We should wrestle with God as vehemently as Jacob wrestled with God: through the night, not letting go until we receive a blessing.

The Psalmist begins by recalling God’s work in the past: "We have heard with our ears, O God; our fathers have told us what You did in their days, in days long ago. With Your hand You drove out the nations and planted our fathers; You crushed the peoples and made our fathers flourish. It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was Your right hand, Your arm, and the light of Your face, for You loved them" (vss. 1-3). The Psalmist gives special emphasis here to the miraculous intervention by God on behalf of His people. The Psalmist does this because, as we shall see later in the psalm, he does not see that God is working for His people in his present circumstance. It is an effective argument before God to use examples from His Word. "We ought diligently to study God’s mercies to others in times past; for though the memory of them may cast us down if we presently experience no deliverance, yet a mind rightly guided by faith will be led to say, ‘He, who helped others, will in His time help me’; and so hope and courage will both be revived." [Plumer, 511].

It is well worth noting that the Psalmist heard the testimony of God’s past work from "our fathers". If you are a parent, it is a duty of yours to educate your children concerning the works of God. "They could not have had better informants. Schoolmasters are well enough, but godly fathers are, both by the order of nature and grace, the best instructors of their sons, nor can they delegate the sacred duty… When fathers are tongue-tied religiously with their offspring, need they wonder if their children’s hearts remain sin-tied?" [Spurgeon, 299].

The Psalmist gives strong emphasis that it was the power of God, not the people, that did those great works. He says: "…what You did", "…With Your hand You drove out…", "…You crushed…", "…It was not by their sword…", "…It was Your right hand, Your arm…". "The Lord’s part in a work is best seen, when man’s part and all that he, as an instrument, hath done, or could have done, is all declared null; being considered as separate from God, who moved the instruments, and wrought by them what He pleased" [Dickson, 244].

The Psalmist next points out that, at the time of writing, he and the rest of God’s people facing affliction have responded to the testimony of God’s work in the past by trusting in God: "You are my King and my God, who decrees victories for Jacob. Through You we push back our enemies; through Your name we trample our foes. I do not trust in my bow, my sword does not bring me victory; but You give us victory over our enemies, You put our adversaries to shame. In God we make our boast all day long, and we will praise Your name forever" (vss. 4-8). The testimony of the Psalmist’s fathers has shaped his relationship to God, as well as shaping his attitude toward everything that happens to him. He states: "You are my King and my God." For the Psalmist, this statement is not merely an abstract statement about his relationship to God, but he sees his whole life as a reflection of God’s Kingship. He is nothing without God. He cannot trust in his own abilities to accomplish anything. It is God who works through him. "The less confidence we have in ourselves or in anything beside God, the more evidence have we of the sincerity of our faith in God" [Dickson, in Spurgeon, 308]. The Psalmist does not boast in his own abilities. Rather: "In God we make our boast all day long, and we will praise Your name forever" (vs. 8). This is the only sort of boasting that is right and proper.

Verse 8 ends with a "Selah". Many commentators believe that this was a musical term, possibly denoting a pause or interlude. Here, the "Selah" is quite appropriate, because after verse 8, the tone of the psalm noticeably changes. The first eight verses speak of God’s favorable intervention on behalf of His people. In the rest of the psalm, the Psalmist expresses to God that he feels rejected and forgotten by Him.

(We will continue our study of this psalm in the next issue.)

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