V:1- 5. This psalm unavoidably leads our thoughts to the Babylonish captivity : yet some think that it was written long before; the Holy Spirit directing the Psalmist thus to furnish the church with proper meditations, in all such seasons of publick calamity. (Notes, 44: Ixxiv. Deut. xxxi, 14- 2332:) When Judah was desolated by hostile armies, the heathen possessed the inheritance which God had given his people. When Jerusalem was taken, the temple was profaned and destroyed; part of the inhabitants were buried in the ruins of the city; and others ot them, whose blood was shed abundantly on every side, were left to be devoured by birds and beasts of prey : thus the people of JEHOVAH were exposed to reproach and contempt, because they had provoked him to jealousy by their idolatries : and the pious remnant was led earnestly to enquire, " how long " these calamities, and this triumph of their blaspheming oppressors would continue; and was ready to fear, that the anger and jealousy of the Lord would burn like fire for ever. The case has often been similar, when persecutors and corrupters of the faith have profaned the church, and murdered the saints of God. (Notes, . Jeremiah 8:1-3; Jeremiah 26:16-19. Lamentations 2:11-12; Lamentations 4:16. Ezekiel 9:5-7. Micah 3:8-12. Romans 8:35-39. Revelation 11:1-12.) < To behold, or even to imagine, heaps of slaughtered bodies, " lying unburied and exposed to birds and beasts of prey, is inexpressibly shocking to humanity. But with what unconcern are we accustomed to view, on all sides of us, multitudes " dead in trespasses and sins," torn in pieces and devoured by wild passions, filthy lusts, and infernal spirits, those dogs and vultures of the moral world ! Yet, to a discerning eye and a thinking mind, the latter is by far the more melancholy sight of the two." Bp. Home. (Marg. Ref.)
V:6-, 7 The Jews deserved their sufferings from God; but their ravagers were extremely unjust, cruel, and impious. As the church cannot be delivered without the confusion and destruction of implacable persecutors; so we cannot pray for the one, without at least implying the other. (Notes, Ixix22- 28. Is. Ixiii17- 19.) Jeremiah has the same prayer with little variation; but it is not agreed whether he took it from this Psalm, or the Psalmist from him; though the .latter is most probable. (Note, .) The Chaldeans, whose destruction God had foretold, were especially meant : and, so far from worshipping JEHOVAH, they blasphemed him, and cruelly oppressed his worshippers. (Marg. Ref. Note, Lamentations 3:52-57
V:8- 13. The Psalmist does not plead, as in some other places, that his people, though oppressed and persecuted, were free from the guilt of idolaliy and other atrocious crimes : ( Note, :) but, allowing that they and their fathers had been so criminal as to deserve extirpation, (to which they seemed fast approaching,) he draws all his pleas from the compassion and tender mercies of God; from his regard, or rather zeal, for the honour of his name, which the idolaters-would insolently blaspheme, if Israel should be destroyed; from the abject condition to which they were reduced, in which, unless prevented by speedy help, they must perish; from the greatness of JEHOVAH"S power; and from the importance of his still having a people to praise his name, to the end of time. The word rendered " purge away our sins," means cover them with an atonement. No sacrifices were offered during the captivity; but this was a prayer for the restoration of the temple and those expiatory oblations, as typifying the great atonement of Christ, which purges away the guilt of all believers, to the praise of the glory of God. Some expressions towards the close, are like those used by the martyrs and saints in St. John"s prophetical vision, or revelation; and it seems obvious to conclude, that the captivity of the church, under the New-Testament Babylon, was specially intended by the Holy Spirit. (Notes, Revelation 18:4-8; Revelation 18:11-20; Revelation 19:1-6.) The plea, taken from the greatness of JEHOVAH"S power, exactly resembles that doxology which concludes the Lord"s prayer : " For thine " is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever " and ever. Amen." (Notes, Psalm 21:13. Matthew 6:13.)
We ought to be very thankful, that we are not called to " resist unto blood," and that the murderous rage of persecution is suspended for a season. Yet it is grievous to consider, how many, who are heathens in their tempers and conduct, and in their principles or instructions, occupy most important stations in the visible church, by which " the holy temple is defiled," and Christianity is exposed to the reproach and scorn of infidels. It is also lamenable, that the horrors and carnage of war are so much known among nations, professing themselves the disciples of " the Prince of peace;" and that ambition and avarice shed the blood of Christians like water on every side, and render Jerusalem, as it were, " a heap of ruins." (Note, .) The believer has also continual cause to Lamentations, that in-dwelling sin, and the incursions of temptation, often pollute his body and soul, which are " the " temple of God." But every trouble, personal or publick, springs from the anger of God, whom we often provoke to jealousy by our idolatrous attachments to earthly objects. We should therefore first deprecate his wrath, and seek forgiveness of our iniquities; and beseech " the God " of our salvation " to cleanse away the pollution and the guilt of our sin : and then he will prevent us with his tender mercies, and deliver us, however low we may be brought. When our calamities, or those of the church, give occasion to infidels and blasphemers to reproach the gospel, or to enquire, " Where is their God ? " we have got a prevailing plea in prayer j for wherefore should persons of this character have cause given them to triumph over the Lord"s servants? (Notes, Psalm 42:1-3; Psalm 42:9-10; Psalm 115:1-2.) But we have no cause to be uneasy on our own account, if we are reproached for our piety or our sufferings : we should chiefly fear being reproached for acting inconsistently with our profession. We ought, however, to pray for the deliverance of the church from the contempt, as well as oppressions, of her enemies; and in so doing, should our desires for their conversion not be granted, our prayers for the church will eventually be answered, in the ruin of all such as " devour Jacob, and lay waste his " dwelling-place." The blood of JEHOVAH"S servants will at length be avenged seven-fold upon those who shed it, and do not repent; and his wrath will be poured out upon all kingdoms, families, and persons, who have not known or called upon his name. But by the greatness of his power, and for the glory of his name, he will rescue his oppressed people : their sighing in captivity and in imprisonment comes before him; and he will either preserve the lives of those whom persecutors appoint to die, or he will receive them to glory. So that the harmless " sheep " of his pasture will give him thanks for ever," according to the desire of their hearts; a succession of believers shall praise him to all generations; and the cause of God,however now run down, will finally triumph upon earth, as well as eternally in heaven.
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Scott, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 79". Thomas Scott: Explanatory Notes, Practical Observations on the book Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/
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