Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament book of the Psalms—a collection of prayers, petition and praise which is found in the midst of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. More specifically, today’s passage is found in chapters seventy-eight through eighty of this Old Testament book. When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find the words of Asaph continuing within the book of the Psalms. As you read the words which Asaph writes and records within these chapters, however, you will come to encounter a man who was deeply grieved at the wickedness of the people of God, as well as the triumph and ease of the wicked. Upon reading the words which Asaph wrote and recorded within these chapters you will find that conflict and struggle begins with his own righteousness as viewed in light of the pride, the prosperity, the comfort and ease of the wicked. The entire seventy-eighth chapter is about the struggle Asaph had with the wicked in the midst his generation, as he beheld how the wicked seemed and appeared to be care free in this life without any concern whatsoever. Asaph viewed his own righteousness and holiness as a struggle in light of and against the backdrop of the seeming prosperity and ease of the wicked, and even made the declaration that he cleansed his heart and washed his hands in innocence in vain. The words which we find in this particular psalm are the beginning of a tremendous struggle Asaph had within this generation, as Asaph was not only a man who struggled with what he observed among the wicked in his generation, but also what he witnessed concerning the condition of the house of the LORD. It is absolutely necessary that we read the words which Asaph wrote within these chapters and understand that his words were a powerful statement and declaration of grief, of anguish, of sorrow, of despair, and of discouragement over the current landscape of his generation. I would dare say that the words we find written within these psalm are words written from a man who spent a considerable amount of time—not only being introspective and reflecting upon his own heart and soul, but also being observant of all that was taking place around him. It would be utterly impossible to say of Asaph that he was somehow disconnected from what was taking place before and around him, as the words found within these psalms express Asaph’s concern and care over what was taking place before and all around him. The seventy-third chapter of the book of Psalms reveals Asaph’s struggle with the wicked among that generation, while the words in the seventy-fourth chapter describe Asaph’s concern over the condition of the sanctuary and house of the LORD. Asaph was a man who deeply moved and deeply impacted at the prosperity of the wicked, and the devastation and desolation within the house of God, and he would and could not remain silent.
If there is one thing I so absolutely love and appreciate about the words which are found within these psalms of Asaph, it’s that Asaph was a man of discernment and understanding, as he knew and recognized what was taking place before and all around him within that generation. Asaph was a man who carefully observed everything that was going on in the generation in which he lived, and as a direct result of what he had seen and witnessed he would write the words we find within these psalms. The words which we find in these passages are words which describe the care and concern of one man who was very much in tune with the social and moral landscape of his generation, as well as the condition of the sanctuary and h Ouse of the LORD. Asaph wasn’t merely a man who was concerned with the pride and prosperity of the wicked, but he was also a man who was concerned with the havoc, the devastation, and the destruction and desolation the enemy brought upon and within the sanctuary of the living God. Asaph was a man who realized and recognized that the enemy had not only entered into, but also invaded the sanctuary and house of the LORD, and wreaked havoc in the midst of it. Asaph was a man who surveyed the sanctuary and house of the LORD and realized the great trouble the enemy had unleashed within and upon it. So disturbed and so distraught was Asaph over the condition of the sanctuary and the seeming triumph of the enemy and adversary that he took to the pen in order for him to express the care, the concern, the sorrow, and the anguish that was present within his heart and soul. Asaph was one who could not sit back and not do something about what he had seen and witnessed before and all around him—and although we might not find Asaph rising up to do anything in that generation, we find him taking up the pan that he might pour out his complaint and concern before the LORD his God. What would begin with a complaint as much about himself as it was about the wicked would quickly transition to a tragic declaration concerning the condition of the sanctuary and house of the LORD, for Asaph looked upon the sanctuary and saw that the enemy had wreaked havoc, and that the enemy was still wreaking havoc in the midst of the house of God. Consider if you will the words which are found within these chapters beginning to read with and from the seventy-third chapter:
“But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men. Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment. Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish. They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily. They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth. Therefore his people return hither: and waters of a full cup are wrung out to them. And they say, How doth God know? And is there knowledge in the most High? Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase isn riches. Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning. If I say, I will speak thus; Behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children” (Psalm 73:1-15).
“O God, why hast thou cast us off for ever? Why doth thine anger smoke against the sheep of thy pasture? 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. Lift up thy feet unto the perpetual desolations; even all that the enemy hath done wickedly in the sanctuary. Thine enemies roar in the midst of thy congregations; they set up their ensigns for signs. A man was famous according as he had lifted up axes upon the thick trees. But now thy break down the carved work thereof at once with axes and hammers. They have cast fire into thy sanctuary, they have defiled by casting down the dwelling place of thy name to the ground. They said in their hearts, Let us destroy them together: they have burned up all the synagogues of God in the land. We see not our signs: there is no more any prophet: neither is there among us any that knoweth how long. O God, how long shall the adversary reproach? Shall the enemy blasphem thy name for ever? Why withdrawest thou thy hand, even thy right hand? Pluck it out of thy bosom” (Psalm 74:1-11).
“Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so troubled that I cannot speak. I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times. I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: and my spirit made d indigent search. Will the LORD cast off for ever? And will he be favourable no more? Is his mercy clean gone for ever? Doth his promise fail for evermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? Selah” (Psalm 77: 4-9).
“O God, the heathen are come into thine inheritance; thy holy temple have they defiled; they have laid Jerusalem on heaps. The dead bodies of thy servants have they given to be meat unto the fowls of the heaven, the flesh of thy saints unto the beasts of the earth. Their blood have they shed like water round about Jerusalem; and there none to bury them. We are become a reproach to our neighbours, a scorn and derision to them that are round about us. How long, LORD? Wilt thou be angry for ever? Shall thy jealousy burn like fire? Pour out thy wrath upon the heathen that have not known thee, and upon the kingdoms that have not called upon thy name. For they have devoured Jacob, and laid waste his dwelling place. O remember not against us former iniquities: let thy tender mercies speedily prevent us: for we are brought very low. Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of thy name: and deliver us, and purge away our sins, for thy name’s sake. Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is their God? Let him be known among the heathen in our sight by the revenging of the blood of thy servants which is shed” (Psalm 791-10).
When you read these words which were written by Asaph you will find a man who was very much in tune, and very much aware of what was taking place before and all around him in the midst of his generation, and he not only saw the enemy invading the land and devouring in the midst of it, but Asaph also saw the enemy invading the sanctuary and house of the LORD and unleashing devastation and destruction in the mist of it. Asaph saw the enemy in both the sanctuary and in the land, and to say that he was greatly grieved and greatly distressed is a severe understanding. Asaph was a man who was greatly troubled at what he saw taking place in the midst of his generation, for not only did it affect the land and inheritance itself, but it also affected the sanctuary and house of the LORD. Asaph was very much aware of the presence of the enemy in the midst of the land, and was very much aware of the devastation and destruction the enemy was unleashing in the midst of both, and it greatly disturbed him. While it is true that the Old Testament book of the Psalms is indeed poetic in nature, I would dare say that Asaph moved and operated in the prophetic—prophetic in the sense that he was able to be burdened and grieved over the condition and plight of the inheritance of the people of God, and the sanctuary of the living God. Asaph saw, witnessed and beheld the enemy having free reign in the midst of the land, and free reign in the sanctuary of the LORD, and I would even dare say that he saw none that were willing to rise up and do anything about it. I am convinced that there was within Asaph a prophetic spirit and an Intercessory heart, as he not only had the insight to see what was really taking place in that culture and generation, but he also did what was perhaps the only thing he knew to do, and perhaps the only thing he could do—namely, pray and intercede on behalf of the inheritance of the people of God, and pray and intercede on behalf of the sanctuary of the LORD. Asaph was a man who as deeply moved and grieved at the political, social, religious and spiritual landscape of his generation, and he took to his pen and to scrolls in order that he might pour out his complaint, pour out his prayer, and pour out his grievance before the LORD. It must be said that Asaph had such a tremendous confidence and trust in the living and eternal God that he was able to come before the LORD with everything he saw, for he knew that the LORD and the LORD alone could do anything about it. Asaph was a man deeply troubled and greatly distressed over what he witnessed and beheld in the midst of that generation, and he took exactly what he saw before the LORD in prayer as he passionately poured out his heart and soul before and unto the throne of the living God.
There is not a doubt in my mind that Asaph knew and believed that the LORD his God would not only hear his cry and his petition, but would also be able to do something about it. Asaph knew that the LORD God of Israel would also see what’s going on, would hear his prayer and his cry, and would act on behalf of his people. What we find within these psalms is something that is truly remarkable, and something that is truly inspiring when you take the time to look at it, for we must recognize and understand that Asaph was a man who moved and operated in the prophetic as he had tremendous discernment, tremendous understanding, tremendous insight, and tremendous knowledge and awareness of what was taking place in the generation in which he was living. This is most certainly something which must be carefully understood within our generation today, as there is a great need for men and women with the discernment and spiritual vision to be able to see what is taking place in the midst of our culture and society, and seek to do something about it through passionate, deliberate, and intentional intercession before the throne of the living God. The words which we read within these chapters of the book of the Psalms must be understood as more than simply poetic in nature, but also prophetic and Intercessory in nature. The words found within these chapters are words which describe the great grief and sorrow Asaph felt and experienced within his heart, within his soul, and within his spirit, as he was one who was deeply moved at what he witnessed and beheld before and in front of him. Asaph was not one who was willing to sit back and quietly observe the reproach, the devastation, and the destruction of the enemy and adversary, for he knew that he would need to bring it before the LORD in passionate prayer and passionate intercession. In the seventy-fourth chapter of this Old Testament book of the Psalms we find Asaph calling on the LORD to look at and behold the perpetual desolations, and all the enemy had done wickedly in the sanctuary. Asaph called on the LORD to see and know how the enemies roared in the midst of his congregations, and set up their own ensigns as signs. Asaph saw how the enemy had cast fire into the sanctuary of the LORD, and how they defiled by casting down the dwelling place of the name of the LORD to the ground. Furthermore, Asaph goes on to write concerning the enemy and adversary how they burned up all the synagogues of God in the land, and how the signs of the children of Israel and people of God are no longer seen in the midst of the land. As if this wasn’t bad enough, Asaph would go on even further to declare that there was no more any prophet in the midst of the land, nor was there any among them that knew how long.
DEVASTATED SANCTUARY, ABSENT PROPHET! Stop for a moment and consider the tremendous significance and reality behind these two phrases, for as you read the words found within this Old Testament psalm you will find Asaph was increasingly concerned over the devastation of the sanctuary of the LORD by the enemy. Asaph had seen how the enemy and adversary had not only entered into and invaded the sanctuary, but had also cast fire into the midst of the sanctuary. Asaph had seen how the sanctuary of the LORD in the midst of the land was devastated by the enemy, and had also seen how there was no prophet in the land, nor any among them who knew how long. I have to admit that the more I read the words which Asaph wrote in this particular passage the more I can’t help but come face to face with just how much the enemy and adversary has not only entered into, but also invaded the sanctuary of the LORD in our generation. Asaph spoke of the enemy burning up all the synagogues of God in the land, and there is not a doubt in my mind that within our generation and within this nation the same reality holds true. We would be incredibly naïve to think about and even consider the fact that the enemy has not cast fire into the sanctuary of the living God, and has not consumed and burned up the synagogues of the land. There are countless sanctuaries right now that have been and continue to be overrun by the enemy and adversary, as the enemy has shown absolutely no regard for the holy, nor for the sacred. What’s more, is just how devastating the absence of the voice and ministry of the prophet truly is in the midst of the land. Although Asaph most likely didn’t view himself as a prophet in the midst of the land, he nonetheless spoke prophetically as he was able to survey the landscape of his generation and recognize the tremendous dangers that plagued it. Asaph’s spiritual insight and discernment was and is something we must recognize and understand within our own generation, as I am absolutely convinced it is something that is desperately needed among the men and women of God. I firmly believe that one of the greatest needs facing this generation is that of a generation of “sons of Issachar” who understand the times, and those who understand what needs and what ought to be done. There is a great and tremendous need within our generation for men and women are aren’t simply seers, but see-ers—those who have the supernatural ability to survey the landscape of a generation and be able to understand what is going on. There is a great and tremendous need for men and women who are able to see what is taking place in a nation, to see what is taking place in a city, to see what is happening in the church, and who are willing to rise up within that place of seeing and passionately intercede on behalf of what they see.
As I sit here today, I can’t help but be reminded of Nehemiah who was the cupbearer of the king of Persia, and yet whose heart and soul was so moved to anguish and sorrow within him when he not only heard of the devastation that had taken place in the land of Judah and within the city of Jerusalem, but who would also enter into the land and would survey the damage, the devastation, and the destruction for himself. Nehemiah was a man who was first moved by that which he heard concerning the remnant of the people which were present in the midst of the land of Judah, and in the midst of the city of Jerusalem, and a man who would actually rise up to do something about the devastation he heard about while in Persia, and which he saw once he actually entered into the land of Judah. Consider if you will the following narratives which are not only found in the first chapter of the Old Testament book of Nehemiah, but also in the second chapter of the same Old Testament book:
“The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month of Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace, that Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire. And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven, and said, I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments: let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father’s house sinned. We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandest thy servant Moses. Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandest thy servants Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations: but if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there. Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand. O LORD, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king’s cupbearer” (Nehemiah 1:1-11).
“And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that wine was before him: and I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been before time sad in his presence. Wherefore the king said unto me, Why is thy countenance said, weeping thou art not sick? This is nothing else but sorrow of heart. Then I was very sore afraid, and said unto the king, Let the king live for ever: why should not my countenance be said, when the city, the place of my fathers’ sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire? Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers’ sepulchres, that I may build it. And the king said unto me, (the queen also sitting by him,) For how long shall thy journey be? And when wilt thou return? So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time. Moreover I said unto the king, If it please the king, let letters be given me to the governors beyond the river, that they may convey me over till I come into Judah; and a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into. And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me” (Nehemiah 2:1-8).
“Then I came to the governors beyond the river, and gave them the king’s letters. Now the king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with me. When Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, heard of it, it grieved them exceedingly that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel. So I came to Jerusalem, and was there three days. And I arose in the night, I and some few men with me; neither told I any man what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem: neither was there any beast with me, save the beast that I rode upon. And I went out by night by the gate of the valley, even before the dragon well, and to the dung port, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem, which were broken down, and the gates thereof were consumed with fire. Then I went on to the gate of the fountain, and to the king’s pool: but there was no place for the beast that was under me to pass. Then went I up in the night by the brook, and viewed the wall, and turned back, and entered by the gate of the valley, and so returned. And the rulers knew not whither I went, or what I did; neither had I as yet told it to the Jews, nor to the priests, nor to the nobles, nor to the rulers, nor to the rest that did the work. Then said I unto them, ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach. Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this work” (Nehemiah 2:9-18).
THE REMNANT THAT ARE LEFT OF THE CAPTIVITY THERE IN THE PROVINCE ARE IN GREAT AFFLICTION AND REPROACH! THE WALL OF JERUSALEM ALSO IS BROKEN DOWN, AND THE GATES THEREOF ARE BURNED WITH FIRE! AND IT CAME TO PASS, WHEN I HEARD THESE WORDS, THAT I SAT DOWN AND WEPT, AND MOURNED CERTAIN DAYS, AND FASTED, AND PRAYED BEFORE THE GOD OF HEAVEN! WHY IS THY COUNTENANCE SAD, SEEING THOU ART NOT SICK? THIS IS NOTHING ELSE BUT SORROW OF HEART! WHY SHOULD NOT MY COUNTENANCE BE SAID, WHEN THE CITY, THE PLACE OF MY FATHERS’ SEPULCHRES, LIETH WASTE, AND THE GATES THEREOF ARE CONSUMED WITH FIRE! AND I WENT OUT BY NIGHT BY THE GATE OF THE VALLEY…AND VIEWED THE WALLS OF JERUSALEM, WHICH WERE BROKEN DOWN, AND THE GATES THEREOF WERE CONSUMED WITH FIRE! YE SEE THE DISTRESS THAT WE ARE IN! The words which are found written and recorded within this passage of Scripture are such that help shine a tremendous amount of light on the language we find in the psalms of Asaph, for Nehemiah was one who was incredibly burdened—first by the news of the devastation and destruction of Jerusalem, and second by the sight of that devastation. It would be while Nehemiah was in the palace of the king in Shushan that he hears about the remnant of which were left of the captivity were in great affliction and reproach while the walls of Jerusalem was broken down, and the gates were burned with fire. It’s interesting to note that upon hearing the news about the gates of Jerusalem being burned with fire and the wall being broken down that Nehemiah sat down and wept—and not only wept, but also mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven. Nehemiah was one who didn’t immediately see the devastation and destruction that was found within the city of Jerusalem, but he heard of it, and that knowledge would prove to be too much for Nehemiah to handle as his heart and soul would be completely and utterly filled with grief, anguish and sorrow. Nehemiah’s heart and soul were so gripped and so captivated with anguish and sorrow that he couldn’t help but sit down and weep and mourn certain days. So overwhelmed was Nehemiah with the news of the devastation of the wall of the city and the gates therein that it would even reach into his service of the king, as the king would himself discern and recognize this sorrow of heart that consumed him. What’s more, is that I would dare say Nehemiah wasn’t merely grieved with the condition of the wall and the gates alone, but also with the affliction and reproach of the remnants of the captivity which remained in the midst of the land. I can’t help but wonder if Nehemiah thought and wondered to himself if there would be any who would be willing to undertake the monumental task of rebuilding the wall of the city, and repairing the gates of the city, and after praying and fasting realized that his position before the king and his heritage as a son of Abraham would put him in a unique place to return to Judah and to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall and repair the gate. I can’t help but wonder if Nehemiah knew that there would be no one else who would have the burden, the sorrow, the anguish, and the travail that was in his heart and soul for the work, and as a direct result of this knowledge, he determined that he alone would be the one to step in and fill the void.
It’s necessary to consider the narrative of Nehemiah and the wall being broken down and the gates burned with fire, for when you come to the psalms which Asaph wrote you will find that he too was a man who was overcome and overwhelmed with grief and anguish over the devastation and destruction of the enemy. This devastation and destruction wouldn’t merely be limited to the sanctuary of the LORD, and the synagogues which were present within and throughout the land. This devastation and destruction of the enemy and adversary would impact and affect the entire city of Jerusalem, as well as the land of Judah. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this tremendous reality, for when you come to the seventy-ninth chapter of this Old Testament book you will encounter Asaph once more being grieved within the very depths of his heart and soul over the condition of the land, the condition of the sanctuary of the LORD, and the condition of the city. Upon beginning to read with and from the opening verses of the seventy-ninth chapter you will find Asaph declaring how the heathen had come into the inheritance of the people of God, and how the holy Temple of the LORD had they defiled. What’s more, is that Asaph would go on to declare and describe how Jerusalem was laid on heaps, and how the dead bodies of the servants of the LORD had been given to be meat unto the fowls of the heaven, and the flesh of the saints of God unto the beasts of the earth. Asaph would go on to describe the great violence that would fill the land as the heathen would enter it showing no mercy, nor compassion on any of those who lived and dwelt in the land. Asaph would write how the blood of the saints and servants of the most high God would be shed like water round about Jerusalem, and there was none to bury them. What’s more, is that Asaph would go on to declare how the people of God had become a reproach to their neighbors, a scorn and a derision to all those that were round about them. What’s truly interesting to think about and consider when reading these words of Asaph is when you read of the direct link and connection between the anger and wrath of the LORD, and the enemy and adversary being able to enter into and invade the land of Judah. The more you read the words which are found within these psalms of Asaph, the more you will find him speaking of the wrath and anger of the LORD toward and against His people, and asking one underlying question—the question simply of “How long?” Asaph would ask the question of how long the LORD would be angry with the people of God, and how long His jealousy would burn like fire. This question of “how long” would absolutely consume Asaph, for he realized that the anger and jealousy of the LORD were linked and connected to the heathen and kingdoms of the earth devouring Jacob, and laying waste his dwelling place.
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU REALIZE THE WRATH OF GOD IS AGAINST A CITY? WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU REALIZE THE WRATH OF GOD IS AGAINST A NATION? As I sit here this evening, I can’t help but think about two distinct kings which sat upon the throne of David in the city of Jerusalem—two kings which sat upon the throne, and two kings which heard the word of the LORD, and yet two kings who had different responses. It’s worth noting that one king would hear the word of the LORD through the prophetic declarations of Jeremiah the prophet, while another king would hear the word of the LORD through the book of the Law which was found in the Temple of the LORD. Both kings would be directly confronted with the word of the LORD and the LORD’s judgment and wrath upon a city and nation, and yet each of these kings had a different response to it. One king would humble himself, and in repentance and brokenness respond to the LORD by cleansing the land, while the other king would take the prophetic word of the LORD, cut it in pieces, and cast it into the fire. It’s necessary that we recognize and understand each of these responses, for they help us to further understand the words which are found within the psalms of Asaph. Asaph was one who not only saw the devastation and destruction that was present before and all around him, but he recognized and realized that it was the judgment, it was the anger, it was the wrath, it was the jealousy of the living God toward and against His people. Asaph was one who was able to discern the wrath, the judgment and the anger of the LORD was both against and in the midst of the inheritance of the LORD, and as a direct response to realizing this wrath, he sought the LORD through prayer and intercession. With that in mind, consider first the narrative of Josiah king of Judah who heard the word of the LORD and humbled himself in the sight of his God, and the other king was Jehoiakim king of Judah who not only cut in pieces the word of the LORD, but also cast it into the fire:
“And it came to pass in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, that this word came unto Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, Take thee a roll of a book, and write therein all the words that I have spoken unto thee against Israel, and against Judah, and against all the nations, from the day I spake unto thee, from the days of Josiah, even unto this day. It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the evil which I purpose to do unto them; that they may return every man from his evil way; that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin. Then Jeremiah called Baruch the son of Neriah: and Baruch wrote from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the LORD, which he had spoken unto him, upon a roll of a book. And Jeremiah commanded Baruch, saying, I am shut up; I cannot go into the house of the LORD: Therefore go thou, and read in the roll, which thou hast written from my mouth, the words of the LORD in the ears of the people in the LORD’s house upon the fasting day: and also thou shalt read them in the ears of all Judah that come out of their cities. It may be they will present their supplication before the LORD, and will return every one from his evil way: for great is the anger and the fury that the LORD hath pronounced against this people. And Baruch the son of Neriah did according all that Jeremiah the prophet commanded him, reading in the book the words of the LORD in the LORD’s house. And it came to pass in the fifth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, in the ninth month, that they proclaimed a fast before the LORD to all the people in Jerusalem, and to all the people that came from the cities of Judah unto Jerusalem. Then read Baruch in the book the words of Jeremiah in the house of the LORD, in the chamber of Gemariah the son of Shaphan the scribe, in the higher court, at the entry of the new gate of the LORD’s house, in the ears of all the people” (Jeremiah 36:1-10).
“When Michaiah the son of Gemariah, the son of Shaphan had heard out of the book all the words of the LORD, then he went down into the king’s house, into the scribe’s chamber: and, lo, all the princes sat there, even Elishama the scribe, and Delaiah the son of Shemaiah, and Elnathan the son of Achor, and Gemariah the son of Shaphan, and Zedekiah the son of Hananiah, and all the princes. Then Michaiah declared unto them all the words that he had heard, when Baruch read the book in the ears of the people. Therefore all the princes sent Jehudi the son of Nethaniah, the son of Shelemiah, the son of Cushi, unto Baruch, saying, Take in thine hand the roll wherein thou hast read in the ears of the people, and come. So Baruch the son of Neriah took the roll in his hand, and came unto them. And they said unto him, Sit down now, and read it in our ears. So Baruch read it in their ears. Now it came to pass, when had heard all the words, they were afraid both one and other, and said unto Baruch, We will surely tell the king of all these words. And they asked Baruch, saying, Tell us now, how didst thou write all these words at his mouth? Then Baruch answered them, He pronounced all these words unto me with his mouth, and I wrote them with ink in the book. Then said the princes unto Baruch, Go, hide thee, thou and Jeremiah; and let no man know where ye be” (Jeremiah 36:11-19).
“And they went in to the king into the court, but they laid up the roll in the chamber of Elishama the scribe, and told all the words in the ears of the king. So the king sent Jehudi to fetch the roll: and he took it out of Elishama the scribe’s chamber. And Jehudi read it in the ears off the king, and in the ears of all the princes which stood beside the king. Now the king sat in the winter house in the ninth month: and there was a fire on the hearth burning before him. And it came to pass, that when Jehudi had read three or four leaves, he cut it with the penknife, and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the roll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth. Yet they were not afraid, nor rent their garments, neither the king, nor any of his servants that heard all these words. Nevertheless Elnathan and Delaiah and Gemariah had made intercession to the king that he would not burn the roll: but he would not hear them. But the king commanded Jerahmeel the son of Hammelech, and Searaih the son of Azriel, and Shelemiah the son of Abdeel, to take Baruch the scribe and Jeremiah the prophet: but the LORD hid them” (Jeremiah 36:20-26).
“Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, after that the king had burned the roll, and the words which Baruch wrote at the mouth of Jeremiah, saying, Take thee again another roll, and write in it all the former words that were in the first roll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah hath burned. And thou shalt say to Jehoiakim king of Judah, Thus s with the LORD; Thou hast burned this roll, saying, Why hast thou written therein, saying, The king of Babylon shall certainly come and destroy this land, and shall cause to cease from thence man and beast? Therefore thus saith the LORD of Jehoiakim king of Judah; He shall have none to sit upon the throne of David: and his dead body shall be cast out in the day to the heat, and in the night to the frost. And I will punish him and his seed and his servants for their iniquity; and I will bring upon them, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and upon the men of Judah, all the evil that I have pronounced against them; but they heartened not. Then took Jeremiah another roll, and gave it to Baruch the scribe, the son of Neriah; who wrote therein from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the book which Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire: and there were added besides unto them many like words” (Jeremiah 36:27-32).
“Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty and one years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Jeddah, the daughter of Adaiah of Boscath. And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left. And it came to pass in the eighteenth year of king Josiah, that the king sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, the son of Meshullam the scribe, to the house of the LORd, saying, Go up to Hilkiah the high priest, that he may sum the silver which is brought into the house of the LORD, which the keepers of the door have gathered of the people: and let them deliver it into his hand of the doers of the work, that have the oversight of the house of the LORD; and let them give it to the doers of the work which is in the house of the LORD, to repair the breaches of the house, unto carpenters, and builders, and masons, and to buy timber and hewn stone to repair the house. Howbeit there was no reckoning made with them of the money that was delivered into their hand, because they dealt faithfully” (2 Kings 22:1-7).
“And Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD. And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it. And Shaphan the scribe came to the king, and brought the king word again, and said, Thy servants have gathered the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of them that do the work, that have the oversight of the house of the LORD. And Shaphan the scribe shewed the king, saying, Hilkiah the priest hath delivered me a book. And Shaphan read it before the king. And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the book of the law, that he rent his clothes. And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, an d Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achor the son of Michaiah, and Shaphan the scribe, and Asahiah a servant of the king’s, saying, Go ye, inquire of the LORD for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that is found: for great is the wrath of the LORD that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not heartened unto the words of this book, to do according unto all that which is written concerning us. So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achor, and Shaphan, and Asahiah, went unto Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe; (now she dwelt in Jerusalem in the college;) and they communed with her. And she said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Tell the man that sent you to me, Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the words of the book which the king of Judah hath read: because they have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore my wrath shall be kindled against this place, and shall not be quenched. But to the king of Judah which sent you to inquire of the LORD, thus shall ye say to him, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, As touching the words which thou hast heard; Because thine heart was tender, and thou hast humbled thyself before the LORD, when thou heardest what I spake against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and hast rent thy clothes, and wept before me; I also have heard thee, saith the LORD. Behold therefore, I will gather thee unto thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered into thy grave in peace; and thine eyes shall not see all the evil which I will bring upon this place. And they brought the king word again” (2 Kings 22:8-20).
“And the king sent, and they gathered unto him all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem. And the king went up into the house of the LORD, and all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him, and the priests, and the prophets, and all the people, both small and great: and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the LORD. And the king stood by a pillar, and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD, and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all their heart and all their soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people stood to the covenant. And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, and the priests of the second order, and a the keeps of the door, to bring forth out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels that were made for Baal, and for the grove, and for all the house of heaven: and he burned them without Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron, and carried the ashes of them unto Beth-el. And he put down the idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem; them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the plants, and to all the host of heaven. And he brought out the grove from the house of the LORd, without. Jerusalem, unto the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron, and stamped it small to powder, and cast the powder thereof upon the graves of the children of the people. And he brake down the houses of the sodomites, that were by the house of the LORD, where the woman wove hangings for the grove. And he brought all the priests out of the cities of Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests had burned incense, from Geba to Beer-Sheba, and brake down the high places of the gates that were in the ten ring in of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city, which were on a man’s left hand at the gate of the city. Nevertheless the priests of the high places came not up to the altar of the LORD in Jerusalem, but they did eat of the unleavened bread among their breathed. And he defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of the children of Hinton, that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molech. And he took away the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the sun, at the entering in of the house of the LORD, by the chamber of Nathan-melech the chamberlain, which was in the suburbs, and burned the chariots of the sun with fire. And the altars that were on the top of the upper chamber of Ahaz, which the kings of Judah had made, and the altars which Manasseh had made in the two courts of the house of the LORD, did the king beat down, and brake them down from thence, and cast the dust of them into the brook Kidron. And the high places that were before Jerusalem, which were on the right hand of the mount of corruption, which Solomon the king of Israel had buildest for Ashtoreth the abomination of the Zidonians, and for Chemosh the abomination of the Moabites, and for Milcom the abomination of the children of Ammon, did the king defile. And he brake in pieces the images, and cut down the groves, and filled their places with the bones of men. Moreover the altar that was at Beth-el, and the high places which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, had made, both that altar and the high places he brake down, and burned the high place, and stamped it small to powder, and burned the grove. And as Josiah turned himself, he spied the sepulchures that were in the mount, and sent, and took the bones out of the sepulchres, and burned them upon the altar, and polluted it,according to the word of the LORD which the man of God proclaimed, who proclaimed these words. Then he said, What title is this that I see? And the men of the city told him, It is the sepulchre of the man of God, which came from Judah, and proclaimed these things that thou hast done against the altar of Beth-el. And he said, Let him alone; let no man move his bones. So they let his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet that came out of Samaria. And all the houses also of the high places that were in the cities of Samaria, which the kings of Israel had made to provoke the LORD to anger, Josiah took away, and did it to them according to all the acts that he had done in Beth-el. And he slew all the priest of the high places that were there upon the altars, and burned men’s bones upon them and returned to Jerusalem” (2 Kings 23:1-20).
“And the king commanded all the people, saying, Keep the Passover unto the LORD your God, as it is written in the book of this covenant. Surely there was not Holden such a Passover from the days of the judges that judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel, nor of the kings of Judah; but in the eighteenth year of king Josiah, wherein this Passover was Holden to the LORD in Jerusalem. Moreover the workers with familiar spirits, and the wizards, and the images, and the idols, and all the abominations that were spied in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, did Josiah put away, that he might perform the words of the law which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the LORD. And like unto him was there no. King before, that turned to the LORD with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him” (2 Kings 22:21-25).
“Notwithstanding the LORD turned not from the fierceness of his great wrath, wherewith his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations that Manasseh had provoked him withal. And the LORD said, I will remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel, and will cast off this city Jerusalem which I have chosen, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there” (2 Kings 22:26-27).
WHY HAST THOU CAST US OFF FOR EVER? WHY DOTH THINE ANGER SMOKE AGAINST THE SHEEP OF THY PASTURE? HOW LONG SHALL THE ADVERSARY REPROACH? SHALL THE ENEMY BLASPHEME THY NAMEA FOR EVER? WHY WITHDRAWEST THOU THY HAND, EVEN THY RIGHT HAND? WILL THE LORD CAST OFF FOR EVER? WILL HE BE FAVOURABLE NO MORE? IS HIS MERCY CLEAN GONE FOR EVER? DOTH HIS PROMISE FAIL FOR EVERMORE? HATH GOD FORGOTTEN TO BE GRACIOUS? HATH HE IN ANGER SHUT UP HIS TENDER MERCIES? HOW LONG, LORD? WILT THOU BE ANGRY FOR EVER? SHALL THY JEALOUSY BURN LIKE FIRE? WHEREFORE SHOULD THE HEATHEN SAY, WHERE IS THEIR GOD? HOW LONG WILT THOU BE ANGRY AGAINST THE PRAY OF THY PEOPLE?
RECOGNIZING THE PRESENT DEVASTATION, REMEMBER THE PAST DISOBEDIENCE! RECOGNIZING THE PRESENT WRATH, REMEMBERING THE PAST TRANSGRESSION! SOMETIMES IN ORDER TO UNDERSTAND THE PRESENT YOU NEED TO UNDERSTAND THE PAST! SOMETIMES IN ORDER TO UNDERSTAND THE PRESENT YOU NEED TO UNDERSTAND YOUR HISTORY! HAVE YOU LEARNED NOTHING FROM THE SINS OF YOUR FATHERS? HAVE YOU NOT PAID ATTENTION TO THE DISOBEDIENCE OF YOUR FATHERS? WOULD YOU REPEAT THE SINS OF PREVIOUS GENERATIONS? HEBREWS 3:7-19! 1 CORINTHIANS 10:1-15! These two narratives found within the Old Testament book of Second Kings, as well as the Old Testament prophetic book of Jeremiah are actually quite astonishing when you take the time to think about them, for what we find within them are two different responses to the word of the LORD by two different generations. If there is one thing that makes these two passages so incredibly captivating it is that not only do they represent two distinct and two different generations, but they actually describe and outline two different responses by a father and son. The narrative that we find in the Old Testament book of Second Kings describes Josiah’s response to hearing the word of the LORD in the book of the Law which had been found in the Temple, and how he not only humbled himself upon hearing the words of the Law, but he also sent certain of this present unto the prophetess in order that he might inquire of the LORD concerning what he had heard. Josiah recognized that the southern kingdom of Judah was living during times of great wrath and judgment of the LORD, and was directly confronted with the sins of his fathers and previous generations. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this absolutely astonishing reality, for to do so would be to misunderstand the narrative that is found within the psalms of Asaph. If there is one similarity between Josiah and his son Jehoiakim, it’s that they both heard the word of the LORD, and they both realized and recognized that they were living during times of the wrath and judgment of the LORD. Both kings which sat upon the throne of David heard the word of the LORD—Josiah through the words found in the book of the Law, and his son Jehoiakim through the words of the prophet Jeremiah—and yet only one of them chose to humble themselves in response to the words they heard. Although they both heard the words which the LORD had spoken, and although the words of God were read in both their hearing, only Josiah chose to respond favorably to the word of the LORD. It’s worth noting that not only did Josiah humble himself in response to hearing the word of the LORD contained in the book of the Law, and not only did Josiah send to inquire of the LORD through the prophetess, but Josiah would also launch a powerful campaign of cleansing, of reformation, of holiness, of righteousness and of purity in the midst of the land. His son on the other hand would hear the words of the LORD, and after a certain portion of the word was read, he would take a penknife, cut off that portion which he had heard, and cast it into the fire. This Jehoiakim would do until the entire scroll which Baruch son of Neriah would write according to the dictation of Jeremiah the prophet.
The underlying reason why the narratives of Josiah and his son Jehoiakim are so absolutely critical and so absolutely vital is when you consider the fact that within the psalms of Asaph we find him realizing and recognizing that his generation was living during times of wrath and times of judgment. Asaph realized and recognized that the devastation, the destruction and the desolation he saw in the midst of the land was the LORD’s judgment upon the land, which is why he would continually ask the LORD how long He would be angry, and how long His fierce anger would be toward and upon His people. Within these psalms you will find time and time again Asaph asking the LORD how long His anger would be toward and against the people of His pasture. What’s more, is Asaph wondered within his heart and soul if the mercy and kindness of the LORD would indeed be clean gone forever. Asaph wondered if that generation had clean exhausted the mercy and kindness of the LORD, and if there was any room for grace, any room for compassion, and any room for forgiveness. Asaph confident and trusted in the LORD his God, and in the midst of that place before the LORD he not only realized and recognized the wrath and judgment of the LORD was upon that generation, but he also realized and recognized that mercy and grace was absolutely and without a doubt needed in the midst of the generation. Asaph beheld the devastation and the destruction that was present all around him during that generation, and as a direct result of what he saw all around him he cried out to the LORD asking, pleading and begging for mercy to be showed upon His people. Asaph saw the enemy and the adversary in the land, and he saw the enemy and adversary in the sanctuary of God together with his synagogues, and Asaph sought to enter into that place of intercession before the LORD. It’s actually something worth considering when you set Asaph’s response to recognizing the judgment and wrath of the LORD was at the door and within the land, and Josiah’s response to the same realization. Josiah not only realized that the wrath and judgment of the LORD was at the door, but also within the land, and in direct response to this realization, he humbled himself, inquired of the LORD, and responded. Please don’t miss and lose sight of this truly wonderful response of Josiah, for he heard the words of the LORD, he realized and recognized the judgment and wrath of the LORD was at the door, and he chose to rise up, respond and do something about it. Similarly, Asaph chose to rise up in the midst of what he saw within that generation, and chose to do what was perhaps the only thing—yet the greatest thing—he could do, which was take to the pen and pour out his heart and his lament before the LORD.
In all reality, I would dare say the psalms of Asaph should be considered with and against the prophetic book of Lamentations, which many scholars believe to have been written by the prophet Jeremiah who was known as the weeping prophet. Within this prophetic book we find a powerful anguish, a powerful sorrow, a powerful grief and mourning over the sin, over the iniquity, over the rebellion, over the transgression, over the idolatry, and over the immorality of the people of God. Not only do we find this anguish and grief over the sins and wickedness of the people of God, but we also find a powerful anguish and grief over the devastation and destruction that had unfolded and come upon the land. Jeremiah heard the word of the LORD, Jeremiah warned the people of God concerning His wrath and judgment, Jeremiah called the people of God to repentance, Jeremiah suffered persecution because of the words he spoke against the nation, against the kingdom, against the throne, against the house of the LORD, against the prophets, against the priests, and so much more, and he would experience both the prison and the pit. In the midst of all Jeremiah experienced we find him being completely and utterly overwhelmed with grief and sorrow over everything he witnessed and everything he beheld in the midst of his generation. Not only would Jeremiah prophesy against everything he saw, and not only would Jeremiah prophesy of things to come, but Jeremiah would also weep, mourn and lament over what he heard and what he saw. It is this concept of weeping, mourning and lamenting that must be understood in terms of the psalms of Asaph, for there is not a doubt in my mind that what we find within these psalms is a truly powerful picture of anguish and sorrow, intercession and prayer, and a genuine burden concerning all he had seen, witnessed and beheld in the midst of that generation. Asaph was one who saw the enemy in the land and the devastation the enemy wrought in the midst of the land. Asaph was one who saw the enemy in the sanctuary, and saw the devastation and destruction of the enemy in the midst of the sanctuary. Asaph saw and beheld the wickedness of men in his generation, and he saw and beheld the wrath, the rage, and the hatred of the heathen as they entered into the land of the heritage of God’s people, and utterly destroyed. Asaph was one who recognized the wrath and anger of the LORD in the midst of his generation, and understood the direct link between the wrath and anger of the LORD, and the devastation and destruction he beheld within and throughout the land, as well as the sanctuary of the LORD.
It is truly something worth considering as you read the psalms which Asaph wrote, for not only did he passionately plead, pray, and intercede for his people, and for the land in which his people lived, but in the seventy-eighth chapter of this Old Testament book of the Psalms we also find Asaph remembering the sins of their fathers in the wilderness, and how their fathers provoked the LORD to anger and to jealousy. Undoubtedly as Asaph witnessed and beheld the great devastation and destruction that was found in the midst of the land he was reminded of the sins of their fathers, and how their own fathers had provoked the LORD to anger and jealousy in the wilderness. Asaph remembered how the LORD judged His people in the wilderness, and how the LORD did not and would n to allow sin to go unpunished in the midst of the land. Asaph realized and recognized that their fathers too had provoked the LORD to anger, to wrath, to jealousy, and to judgment, and it’s almost as if Asaph was reminding his audience and his hearers of how their fathers had provoked the LORD to anger and to jealousy for forty years in the wilderness. Even the author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews realized and recognized this reality themselves, as in the third and fourth chapters of this epistle they wrote how the LORD was angry with that generation for forty years because they provoked Him to anger and to wrath, and because they did not believe the word which He had spoken. What’s more, is the apostle Paul—in the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints—wrote how all those things which happened to them were written for our admonition, and for our instruction. We must recognize and understand this tremendous reality, for when you read the words which Asaph wrote in the seventy-eighth chapter of the book of Psalms you will find him almost appealing to the sins of their fathers, and appealing to the sins of previous generations in order to passionately plead with his own generation to turn from their sin, to turn from their wickedness, to turn from their rebellion, to turn from their wickedness, and to turn from their immorality before the LORD. What’s more, is Asaph would also use this to passionately plea before the LORD to once more show mercy, and once more to show compassion unto His people. Asaph remembered the sins of his fathers, and Asaph remembered the sins of that first generation which would emerge out of slavery, bondage and oppression, and Asaph would intreat the LORD to forgive His people and show mercy unto them. I can’t help but read the words which are found within these psalms of Asaph and encounter and come face to face with the tremendous wrath, judgment and anger which is present in the midst of our generation, and how there is a great and powerful need for men and women of passion and intercession to cry out before the LORD for mercy, for forgiveness, for grace, and for compassion. The underlying question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we are willing to be Asaph’s, whether we are willing to be Jeremiah’s, and whether we are willing to be Josiah’s who will not only respond to the word of the LORD when we hear it, not only respond to the devastation and destruction before and all around us, but who will also rise up in passionate intercession before the throne of the living God that He might once more bestow mercy and grace upon His people in the midst the land and within this generation.