Psalm 79: On the Other Side of the End

Read Psalm 79.

We all have them—tragedies in our imagination so vivid and cruel that they cause us to utter, “Please, God, no! Don’t let that happen, Lord,” whenever they enter our thoughts. It could be the sudden death of a loved one, the loss of something we cherish, or financial ruin. It’s hard to consider such a world, and so we push it out of mind and ask God to keep it in the realm of hypothetical, worst-case scenarios.

But what do you do when you’re faced with that very thing you’d hoped would never come? What do you do when it’s as real as the breath in your lungs and the heartbeat in your chest (both of which you are now very conscious of as your world comes to a stop)?

This was Asaph’s vantage point when he penned Psalm 79. Jerusalem and the temple had been laid waste, reduced to rubble. The people of Judah had passed the point of no return with the Lord, and His judgment fell swiftly. For the faithful remnant who had prayed, “Please, God, no!” the unthinkable was now real life.

To understand the immensity of the loss, we must go back to Eden. There, in the midst of a paradise designed and shaped by God, the first human beings enjoyed an unbroken and beautiful relationship with their Creator. They lived with Him, walked with Him, and talked with Him. They shared life with Him, and it was a life of joy and purpose, without any of the heartache we experience today. This was the soil in which the human race grew at the beginning of the world—and it is also our hope for the future. All of redemption history is bending toward this outcome: God living with His people (Revelation 21:3).

With the temple, the people of Israel had received a down payment and a preview of that future glory. The temple was more than a building; it was Eden in miniature, because God dwelled with His people from that sacred spot atop Mount Zion. The loss of the temple, then, would have seemed like the end of a dream, one for which there could be no consolation.

Still, Asaph pleaded with God. “Help us, God our Savior, for the glory of your name; deliver us and forgive our sins for your name’s sake. Why should the nations say, ‘Where is their God?’” (Psalm 79:9–10).

God, of course, answered Asaph. The exile in Babylon did not last forever. God brought the Jewish people back into the land after some seventy years. The temple was even rebuilt. But the problem of sin could not be fixed through a construction project. Therefore, “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Jesus was the final answer to Asaph’s prayer of deliverance in Psalm 79. What’s more—Jesus told people, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” (John 2:19). He was speaking not of a building, but of His own body, a truer temple of the Lord standing in their midst in which “all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9).

On the morning of the resurrection, when Jesus stepped out of His borrowed tomb, a new age dawned. The worst thing that could ever happen in all of human history—the murder of the Son of God—did not bring hopelessness. Instead, it brought peace with God and the assurance that there is life beyond the worst tragedies. Death and destruction do not get the final say in God’s kingdom.

Dark days may come our way, but they will not last. Because the temple of Jesus’ body has been raised—because death gave birth to life—the way back to paradise has been opened. We can live with God once again. The end is no longer the end.

What’s this all about?

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