Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament book of the Psalms, which is a complication and collection of prayers, praise and petitions contained within psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. More specifically, today’s passage is f Lund in chapters eighty-one through eighty-six of this Old Testament book. PSALMS OF ASAPH! PSALMS FOR THE SONS OF KORAH! PSALM OF DAVID! (PSALMS OF ASAPH! BEHOLDING THE PROSPERITY OF THE WICKED! THE STRENGTH OF THE WICKED! THE EASE OF THE WICKED! THE PRIDE OF THE WICKED! THE BOASTING OF THE WICKED! THE STRUGGLE WITH ONE’S RIGHTEOUSNESS! THE STRUGGLE WITH ONE’S PURITY! BEHOLDING THE ANGER OF THE LORD! THE PERPETUAL DESOLATIONS! THE ENEMY IS IN THE SANCTUARY! THE ENEMY IS IN THE MIDST OF THE CONGREGATIONS! FIRE HAS BEEN CAST INTO THE SANCTUARY! CASTING DOWN THE DWELLING PLACE OF THE NAME OF THE LORD! BURNING UP THE SYNAGOGUES OF GOD IN THE LAND! THE ABSENCE OF THE PROPHET! THE ENEMY HAS REPROACHED! THE FOOLISH PEOPLE HAVE BLASPHEMED THE NAME OF THE LORD! I AM SO TROUBLED THAT I CANNOT SPEAK! I HAVE CONSIDERED THE DAYS OF OLD, THE YEARS OF ANCIENT TIMES! REMEMBERING THE YEARS OF THE RIGHT HAND OF THE MOST HIGH! REMEMBERING THE WORKS OF THE LORD! REMEMBERING THE WONDERS OF OLD! THY WAY IS IN THE SEA! THY PATH IN THE GREAT WATERS! THY FOOTSTEPS ARE NOT KNOWN! REMEMBERING THE INIQUITY AND TRANSGRESSION OF PAST GENERATIONS! THE SINS OF THE FATHERS! THESE THINGS HAPPENED TO THEM FOR OUR EXAMPLE! THE HEATHEN ARE COME INTO THINE INHERITANCE! THE HOLY TEMPLE HAS BEEN DEFILED! JERUSALEM HAS BEEN LAID ON HEAPS! THE BODIES OF THE SAINTS HAVE BEEN GIVEN AS MEAT TO THE FOWLS OF THE HEAVEN! THE FLESH OF THE SERVANTS OF GOD HAVE BEEN GIVEN UNTO THE BEASTS OF THE EARTH! THE BLOOD OF SAINTS AND SERVANTS HAS BEEN SHED! HOW LONG WILT THOU BE ANGRY AGAINST THE PRAYER OF THY PEOPLE? THOU FEEDEST THEM WITH THE BREAD OF TEARS; AND GIVEST THEM TEARS OT DRINK IN GREAT MEASURE! BEHOLDING THE WICKEDNESS OF THE WICKED! BEHOLDING THE DESOLATION OF THE LAND! BEHOLDING THE DESTRUCTION OF THE TEMPLE! INTERCEDING IN THE MIDST OF CALAMITY, CHAOS AND CONFUSION! THE POETIC, PROPHETIC PSALMS OF ASAPH! INTERCEDING FOR THE PEOPLE, SPEAKING FOR GOD, WORSHIPPING BEFORE THE LORD! [PSALM 73] [PSALM 74, PSALM 79, PSALM 80] [PSALM 75, PSALM 76] [PSALM 77, PSALM 82] [PSALM 78] [PSALM 81] [PSALM 83]
PSALMS FOR THE SONS OF KORAH! THY TABERNACLES! THE COURTS OF THE LORD! THE LIVING GOD! THINE ALTARS! THY HOUSE! THY COURTS! THE HOUSE OF MY GOD! A PASSION FOR THE SANCTUARY! A PASSION FOR THE COURTS OF THE LORD! A PASSION FOR THE ALTAR OF THE LORD! THOU HAST BEEN FAVOURABLE! THOU HAST BROUGHT BACK THE CAPTIVITY! THOU HAST FORGIVEN THE INIQUITY OF THY PEOPLE! THOU HAST COVERED ALL THEIR SIN! THOU HAST TAKEN AWAY ALL THY WRATH! THOU HAST TURNED THYSELF FROM THE FIERCENESS OF THINE ANGER! TURN US! CAUSE THINE ANGER TOWARD US TO CEASE! I WILL HEAR WHAT GOD THE LORD WILL SPEAK! HE WILL SPEAK PEACE UNTO HIS PEOPLE, AND TO HIS SAINTS! SURELY HIS SALVATION IS NIGH THEM THAT FEAR HIM; THAT GLORY MAY DWELL IN OUR LAND! MERCY AND TRUTH ARE MET TOGETHER! RIGHTEOUSNESS AND PEACE HAVE KISSED EACH OTHER! TRUTH SHALL SPRING OUT OF THE EARTH! RIGHTEOUSNESS SHALL LOOK DOWN FROM HEAVEN!
PSALM OF DAVID! BOW DOWN THINE EAR, O LORD, HEAR ME! I AM POOR AND NEEDY! PRESERVE MY SOUL, FOR I AM HOLY! SAVE THY SERVANT THAT TRUSTETH IN THEE! BE MERCIFUL UNTO ME, O LORD! I CRY UNTO THEE DAILY! REJOICE THE SOUL OF THY SERVANT! UNTO THEE, O LORD, DO I LIFT UP MY SOUL! THOU, LORD, ART GOOD, AND READY TO FORGIVE! PLENTEOUS IN MERCY UNTO ALL THEM THAT CALL UPON THEE! GIVE EAR, O LORD, UNTO MY PRAYER! ATTEND TO THE VOICE OF MY SUPPLICATIONS! IN THE DAY OF TROUBLE I WILL CALL UPON THEE! AMONG THE GODS THERE IS NONE LIKE UNTO THEE! NEITHER ARE THERE ANY WORKS LIKE UNTO THY WORKS! THE ART GREAT, AND DOEST WONDROUS THINGS! THOU ART GOD ALONE! TEACH ME THY WAY, O LORD! I WILL WALK IN THY TRUTH! UNITE MY HEART TO FEAR THY NAME! I WILL PRAISE THEE, O LORD MY GOD, WITH ALL MY HEART! THOU HAST DELIVED MY SOUL FROM THE LOWEST HELL! THOU, O L ORD, ART A GOD FULL OF COMPASSION, AND GRACIOUS, LONGSUFFERING, AND PLENTEOUS IN MERCY AND TRUTH! GIVE THY STRENGTH UNTO THY SERVANT!
THE INTERCESSION OF ASAPH! THE PRAISE OF ASAPH! THE PROPHECIES OF ASAPH! ASAPH SAW THE PRESENT, ASAPH REMEMBER THE DAYS OF OLD! When you come to this particular section of the Old Testament book of the Psalms you will quickly and immediately notice that Asaph was more than just a psalmist who wrote poetic words written and contained within this book. The more you read and the more you consider the words which Asaph wrote in this particular collection of psalms the more you will encounter and come face to face with the reality that Asaph was a worshipper of the LORD—and not simply a worshipper of the LORD, but one who was not only poetic in nature, but one who was also prophetic and intercessory in nature. The psalms which were written by Asaph do in fact contain declarations of praise before and unto the living God as Asaph would sing forth praises unto the LORD his God. Asaph would indeed echo forth praises unto the LORD his God, and Asaph would come and appear before the LORD his God with praises, with worship, with songs, with joy, and with a desperate yearning and longing to magnify and extol the LORD his God. With that being said, however, there is something found within the nature of Asaph as a man, as well as Asaph as a worshipper that must indeed be considered when reading this particular section of psalms. As you truly take the time to read the psalms which Asaph wrote you will encounter a man who was greatly grieved, troubled and distressed over the pride, over the boasting, over the prosperity, and over the treachery of the wicked. From the moment we begin reading the words of Asaph in the seventy-third chapter of this Old Testament book we encounter and come face to face with the fact that Asaph was a man who looked upon and beheld the wicked—and not only beheld the wicked, but also beheld the prosperity of the wicked, the ease of the wicked, the comfort of the wicked, and the boasting of the wicked. Asaph was a man who was greatly troubled by the wicked which were present among the generation in which he lived, and at one point he even struggled with his own righteousness and his envy over the relative and apparent comfort and ease of the wicked. The seventy-third psalm which was written by Asaph is his struggle with the prosperity and pride of the wicked, and Asaph’s struggles with his righteousness in light of the trouble, the conflict and lack of rest he seemed to have within his life. What is so absolutely and incredibly intriguing about the seventy-third chapter of the book of Psalms is that despite the fact that Asaph was envious of the wicked, his entire perspective would be radically changed upon his entering into the sanctuary of the LORD, for he would truly come to learn and come to k now the end of the wicked.
As I consider the psalms which Asaph wrote, I find myself coming face to face with the tremendous reality that Asaph was a man who was deeply afflicted and greatly burdened with what he saw and beheld within the generation in which he lived. I read the words which Asaph wrote within these psalms and I see and behold a man who like Nehemiah upon entering into the city of Jerusalem and beholding the wall of the city broken down and the gates burned with fire was greatly distressed, greatly anguished, and greatly sorrowful. You cannot read the words which Asaph wrote and not encounter and come face to face with the fact that he was a man who was greatly troubled with the desolation, the devastation, and the destruction which he witnessed and beheld in his generation. There is not a doubt in my mind that when you read the words which are found within the psalms of Asaph that he was a man who looked upon and beheld the devastation and destruction of the wickedness in the midst of the land—and not only in the midst of the land, but also in the midst of the sanctuary. Asaph wasn’t merely a man who sought to come and appear before the LORD in worship, but Asaph was a man who I am absolutely and completely convinced moved and operated in the prophetic. What’s more, is that I am convinced that beyond simply Asaph moving and operating in the prophetic, he was also a man who moved in intercession as he could not keep and remain silent in the midst of what he witnessed and beheld within his generation. Asaph was a man who was greatly distressed and greatly anguished at what he beheld in the midst of the sanctuary, as well as in the midst of the tabernacles and congregations of the living God within the land. The more you read the words which are written and contained within the book of the Psalms—specifically those which were written by Asaph—the more you will encounter and come face to face with the reality that Asaph was what I would call a worshipping seer. What’s more is that I would dare say that Asaph was even a worshipping intercessor, as Asaph in Asaph’s worship before the LORD he would speak prophetically about what he witnessed and beheld in the midst of his generation, and in the midst of his worship he would intercede on behalf of what he would witness within the days in which he lived. Asaph was indeed and was truly a worshipper before and a worshipped of the living God, however, that worship did not mean Asaph was detached from the reality of what was present within his generation, within his culture and within his society.
If there is one thing I absolutely love about the words of Asaph which are found written and contained within these psalms, it’s that although Asaph was indeed a worshipper, he was not detached, nor was he jaded to everything that was taking place before and all around him. There would be those psalms Asaph would write which simply put would be songs of praise and worship before the throne of the living God, however, in order to understand Asaph and the words which he wrote we must look beyond the worship and see that which was truly present within the heart and soul of Asaph. .There is not a doubt in my mind that Asaph was indeed a worshipper of the true and living God, but being a worshipper of the living God did not mean Asaph was detached from reality. I would dare say that there are those who might very well be worshippers of the living God, and yet they live in this reality where they are completely and utterly detached from the truth of what is taking place before and all around them. There are those who worship among us within our culture, within our society, and within our generation who almost treat the house of the LORD and His sanctuary as a bubble where they come to appear before the LORD and worship Him, and yet they are completely detached from the world before and all around them. I am convinced that it is possible to be a worshipper of the LORD, and yet to be completely detached from the reality of what is taking place within our culture and society. It is possible for us to live in our own fantasy world and fantasy lives, and to be so far removed from that which is taking place all around us. What I absolutely love about Asaph is that although he was indeed a worshipper before the living God, he was more than just a worshipper. Asaph was one who worshipped the LORD, and Asaph was one who came and appeared before the LORD with His praise, with his jubilation, with songs, and with melodies within his heart, but Asaph came before the LORD with more than simply his worship. If you want to truly understand Asaph you must recognize and understand that Asaph was a man who came and appeared before the LORD with his worship, but he was also a man who came and appeared before the LORD with his sorrow, with his grief, with his anguish, with his distress, and with the tremendous conflict and struggle within his soul. Asaph was a man who cam and appeared before the LORD with more than simply worship, for Asaph would come and appear before the LORD with a passionate heart and spirit of intercession. Asaph wouldn’t merely appear before the LORD with songs of joy, and songs of worship in His presence, but Asaph would appear before the LORD with a grief, with a sorrow and with an anguish that would drive him to intercede on behalf of his people, and on behalf of the devastation, destruction and desolation he would see all around him. Asaph was not one who was jaded and blind to the very real reality and truth of what was present before and all around him during the days in which he lived. Asaph was one who was very much in tine and in touch with the LORD his God, as well as with the landscape and climate of his generation.
I have to admit that I have a great appreciation and love for the words which are found within the writings of Asaph, for not only do we encounter a worshipper, but we also encounter an intercessor and man who as willing to passionately intercede before the LORD on behalf of His people, and on behalf of His heritage. Asaph would indeed sing before the LORD, and Asaph would indeed bring his worship before the throne of the God, however, Asaph was one who would also intreat the LORD on behalf of His people and on behalf of His heritage. I am not sure I would go so far as to say that Asaph was conflicted within the depths of his heart and soul, however, I would say that he was one who wrestled with the worship and praise within his heart, and the intercession within his soul and spirit. I can’t help but wonder if there weren’t times when Asaph might very well have intended on coming before the LORD to worship Him, and yet he was so overwhelmed with grief, so overwhelmed with sorrow, so overwhelmed with anguish, to so overwhelmed with distress that worship was replaced with intercession. Through the words of Asaph we encounter the absolutely tremendous and incredible reality that there are times within our hearts and lives when we might have every desire and intention to enter into the presence of the LORD to worship before Him, and yet we are so overwhelmed and consumed with grief and anguish within our heart and soul that the only thing that can come out of our mouth is intercession. There are times when we have every desire and intention to come and appear before the LORD to worship, and yet our heart, our soul, and our spirit is so consumed and so overwhelmed with grief and anguish over what we see before and all around us, that worship almost doesn’t seem like the proper response in the presence of the LORD. Would it shock and surprise you to hear and to consider the fact that there are times within our lives when worship simply isn’t what is in our heart to do, for we are so consumed and so overwhelmed with grief. When Nehemiah was in the presence of the king he was not his normal and usual self, and the king recognized and understood this and even called Nehemiah out for the sorrow of heart he was completely and utterly overwhelmed with. Even when Esther who was the queen of Persia and wife of the king entered into the presence of the king, and yet her coming into the presence of the king was birthed out of great distress, great sorrow, great anguish, great concern, great worry, great trouble, and great affliction within her heart and soul over what she had learned and discovered about the murderous plot against the Jews. Esther’s entrance into the presence of the king, and Esther’s invitation to the king to come unto the banquet she would prepare were entirely and altogether birthed out of anguish, out of sorrow, out of distress, and out of affliction within her heart and soul, as she would make a passionate plea before and in the presence of the king of Persia who was at that time the most powerful ruler and king in the known world.
The words which are written and found within the psalms of Asaph are absolutely captivating when you truly take the time to think about and consider them, for they are words that are more than simply songs of worship and praise before the living God. There is not a doubt in my mind that Asaph was a worshipper at heart, however, in addition to Asaph being a worshipper he was also a pray-er and an intercessor. Asaph was a man whose heart and soul could be moved, captivated and gripped with the tremendous devastation, destruction and desolation that was taking place before and all around him. Asaph was a man whose heart and would was greatly moved and troubled within him over what he saw during this generation, as not only did he see great distress within the sanctuary of the LORD, but Asaph also saw great distress within the heritage and land of the people of God. Asaph was a man who was very much aware of the great trouble, the great suffering, the great affliction, and the great conflict that was present in the midst of the generation in which he lived, and he would take to the pen to present his complaint, his anguish, his sorrow, his grief, his affliction of soul, and his prayer before the living God. Asaph was one who could not overlook everything that was taking place before and all around him, and recognized the great need to intreat the LORD in prayer, in petition and in intercession, as he would cry out with great travel—and I would even dare say great tears, mourning and weeping in the sight and presence of the LORD. The more I read and consider the words which Asaph wrote within these psalms the more I encounter and come face to face with the fact that he was undoubtedly a man who was greatly moved and greatly distressed at what he witnessed and beheld within this generation, and realized the great responsibility he had to intercede before the LORD as a direct result of what he saw. Asaph could not simply sit back and continue with business as usual, for Asaph saw the need, recognized the need, and was greatly burdened at the desolation, the destruction and the devastation that was present within the land and heritage of the living God. With this in mind I can’t hep but be reminded of the words which are found within the second chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Joel, as well as the words which are found towards the end of the twenty-second chapter of the prophetic book of Ezekiel. Consider if you will the following words which are found within each of these prophetic books written by two distinct prophets of the LORD in the southern kingdom of Judah:
“And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none. Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them: I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the LORD God” (Ezekiel 22:30-31).
“Therefore also now, saith the LORD, Turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: and rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: For He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the LORD your god? Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly: gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that such the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth out of his chamber, and the bride out of h er closet. Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O LORD, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: Wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God? Then will the LORD be jealous for his land, and pity his people. Yea, the LORD will answer and say unto His people, Behold, I will send you corn, and wine, and oil, and ye shall be satisfied there with: and I will no more make you a reproach among the heathen: but I will remove far off from you the northern army, and will drive him into a land barren and desolate, with his face toward the East Sea, and his hinder part toward the utmost sea, and his stink shall come up, and his ill savour shall come up, because he hath done great things” (Joel 2:12-20).
With these words we encounter and come face to face with the reality that not only is the LORD looking for a man who might stand in the gap and make up the hedge that He might not pour out His wrath and His judgment, but the prophet Joel also called for the priests and the ministers of the LORD to weep between the porch and the altar. The prophet Joel cried out for the ministers of the LORD to weep between the porch and the altar and to cry out unto the LORD that He might spare His people. What makes the words of these two prophets so absolutely and utterly intriguing and captivating is when you think about and consider the fact that the LORD would ultimately pour out His wrath, His judgment, and His indignation upon His people and upon His heritage, and would not only allow His people to be carried away captive out of the land, but would also allow the wall of the city to be broken down, the gates to be burned with fire, and the sanctuary and Temple to be burned and consumed with fire. When the people of Jerusalem and Judah were carried away captive, I am sure there were some of them that would turn and look behind them and see the smoke ascending into the heavens as the sanctuary was consumed with fire and flames, and as the gates of the city were consumed with fire. What we find within the psalms of Asaph is one who was absolutely and completely consumed with grief, sorrow and anguish over the devastation and desolation he beheld within the sanctuary of the LORD—and not only in the sanctuary of the LORD, but also in His dwelling places, in His congregations, and in the heritage of the LORD. Asaph was a man who undoubtedly lived during incredibly chaotic and turbulent times as he would witness devastation and destruction before and all around him. IT would be this devastation and destruction that was before him that would thrust Asaph into a place of wonderful and powerful intercession before the LORD. The words we find within these psalms bring us face to face with this I intercession that was found within the heart and soul of Asaph as he would desperately and passionately plead with the LORD on behalf of the anger, on behalf of the jealousy, on behalf of the judgment,, on behalf of the wrath and indignation he saw. Asaph saw the devastation, the desolation and the destruction that was present in the generation in which he lived, and he recognized and understood that what he witnessed and beheld was directly linked and connected to the anger and jealousy of the LORD. In fact, the very heart cry of Asaph was that the LORD would turn away from His fierce anger, and that the LORD would remember the covenant and covenant promises He had made unto Abraham, unto Isaac and unto Jacob in their generation.
The question we must address when reading and considering the words of Asaph is what this intercession sounded like as he poured out his complaint(s) before the LORD. What does the intercession of Asaph truly sound like as he poured out his heart and his soul before the throne of the living God whom he trusted in? What words, what phrases, what prayers and petitions did Asaph pray before the LORD in direct response to the devastation, the desolation and destruction that was before and all around him? By understanding and examining the words and language Asaph used in the midst of the devastation and destruction he saw all around him we come to understand and know that which the LORD requires in the generation in which we are living in. Undoubtedly we are living during days and times of great desolation, great devastation and great destruction—not only within the land, but also within the sanctuary and house of the LORD. We would be incredibly naïve and deceived to think that we ourselves are not presently living during days similar to those which Asaph lived in—days when the wicked are prospering, days when there is fire in the sanctuary, days when the enemy has invaded the land and has invaded the tabernacles and congregations of the LORD. We would be completely out of touch with reality if we thought—even for a moment—that we aren’t living during days and times in which the enemy and the wicked have not run amuck within our culture, within our society, and within our homes. We would be absolutely naïve to think about and consider the fact that the enemy and adversary has not wreaked havoc in the midst of our homes and in the midst of our families. The underlying question we must be willing to ask ourselves is what we are willing to do about it. Are we willing to sit back and remain silent, or are we willing to rise up and lift our voices up before the LORD? Are we willing to simply go about business as usual as though things are drastically and seriously wrong among us within our culture, within our generation and within our society? With this in mind I invite you to consider the words and language which is found in the psalms of Asaph which bring us face to face with the words and language of intercession which is found in the midst of the psalms of Asaph as we encounter the words of a heart and soul that were greatly burdened and distressed over what he saw before and all around him:
“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 inheritnace, 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 they 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 turned 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 blaspheme thy name for ever? Why withdrawest thou thy hand, even thy right hand? Pluck it out of thy bosom” (Psalm 74:1-11).
“Remember this, that the enemy hath reproached, O LORD, and that the foolish people have blasphemed thy name. O deliver not the soul of thy turtle dove unto the multitude of the wicked: forget not the congregation of thy poor for ever. Have respect unto the covenant: for the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty. O let n OT the oppressed return ashamed: let the poor and need praise thy name. Arise, O God, plead thine own cause: remember how the foolish man reproacheth thee daily. Forget not the voice of thine enemies: the tumult of those that rise up against thee increaseth continually” (Psalms 74:18-23).
“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 diligent 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 74:4-9).
“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 ofo 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 was none to bury them. We are become a reproach to our neighbours, a scorn and derision to them that are found 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?” (Psalm 79:1-10).
“O LORD God of hosts, How long wilt thou be angry against thy prayer of thy people? Thou feedest them with the bread of tears; and givest them tears to drink in great measure. Thou makest us a strive unto our neighbours: and our enemies laugh among themselves. Turn us again, O God of hosts, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved” (Psalm 80:4-7).
“Why hast thou then broken down her hedges, so that all they which pass by the way do pluck her? The boar out of the wood doth waste it, and the wild beast of the field doth devour it. Return, we beseech thee, O God of hosts: Look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine; and the vineyard which thy right hand hath planted, and the branch that thou madest strong for thyself. It is burned with fire, it is cut down: they perish at thy rebuke of thy countenance. Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand, upon the son of man whom thou madest strong for thyself. So will not we go back from thee: Quicken us, and we will call upon thy name. Turn us again, O LORD God of hosts, cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved” (Psalm 80:12-19).
“Keep not thou silence, O God: Hold not thy peace, and be not sill, O God. For, lo, thine enemies make tumult: and they that hate thee have lifted up the head. They have taken crafty counsel against thy people, and consulted against thy hidden ones. They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance. For they have consulted together with one consent: they are confederate against the: the tabernacles of Edomite, and the Ishmaelites; of Moab, and the Hagarenes; Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek; the Philistines with the inhabitants of Tyre; Assur also is joined with them: they have holpen the children of Lot. Selah” (Psalm 83:1-8).
The language we find within these passages bring us face to face with a heart and soul that was greatly burdened and greatly distressed over the devastation and destruction Asaph saw and witnessed within his generation. You cannot read the words found within these psalms and not encounter the tremendous weight and burden Asaph had upon his heart and upon his soul over the devastation and destruction that had so saturated and permeated the land. It is safe to say that Asaph saw the tremendous presence of the enemy within the land, and it was that presence of the enemy that so moved him into the prophetic and intercessory within his heart and life. Asaph was not one who could sit back and simply allow the threat of the enemy to go unaddressed, for he believed and knew within his heart that the single greatest thing to do was to bring what he had seen before the LORD in prayer. I am absolutely and completely convinced that when I read the words found within these psalms Asaph was indeed a worshipper of the living God, however, his worship of the LORD did not free, nor did it exempt him from a responsibility to intercede and cry out before the LORD through passionate prayer, petition and intercession within these psalms. What I find to be so absolutely remarkable about these psalms is that we often think about the psalms as songs of worship and praise before the LORD, and a vast majority of the psalms—indeed the language of the very psalms themselves—are in fact songs before the LORD. We read the words which are found within the book of the Psalms and we understand them to be prayers, petitions, and even complaints before and in the sight of the living God, and yet I can’t help but think about the fact that within the psalms of Asaph we see something different that is perhaps more often than not overlooked within this poetic book. I would dare say that there are countless times within our reading and studying of the book of the Psalms we overlook the psalms of Asaph and the language that is found and contained therein, and as a direct result of this misguided reality in our reading of this book we miss the intercessory nature of his words. We cannot dispute, nor can we deny the fact that Asaph was a worshipper at heart, and was one who worshipped before and in the sight of the living God. What we cannot and must not fail to remember is that as surely as Asaph was a worshipper, he was also a passionate pray-er, and a passionate intercessor. Asaph was one who saw what was taking place during his day and during his generation, and because of what he saw he felt compelled to present it before the LORD in prayer. Asaph took his grief, he took his sorrow, he took his anguish, he took his distress and brought it before the LORD in prayer. It is absolutely necessary that we remember and understand this fact, for the psalms are more than simply songs and hymns before the LORD, but there are actually prayers of intercession before the LORD, as Asaph himself cried out before and unto the LORD in passionate prayer and intercession.
The underlying question we must ask concerning the foundation of the psalms which Asaph wrote is what he saw within his generation, and what he saw within his day that so troubled him. As you read the words found within these psalms you will undoubtedly come face to face with the fact that Asaph was one who saw something taking place within his generation, and it so moved him within the very depths of his soul that he could not remain silent. Oh, I can’t help but wonder if Asaph spent countless hours before the LORD in prayer over the devastation and destruction he saw before and all around him. I can’t help but wonder if Asaph spent a considerable amount of time talking and speaking with others about the devastation and destruction all around them in an attempt to wake them up to the very real danger and threat that was present among them. What we must recognize concerning the words which Asaph wrote is that they weren’t prophetic in the sense that he saw something coming and was putting down what he saw coming in the days ahead. There is not a doubt in my mind that the words which we find within this psalms that Asaph was one who lived during incredibly unstable and turbulent times, and it was those turbulent times that drove him deeper and further into the prayer closet. What about you? How do you respond and how do you react in the midst of turbulent and chaotic times within your own day and generation? It is absolutely unmistakeable that we are presently living in chaotic and turbulent times—times such as we have not experienced before as we are essentially fighting a battle on two fronts. On the one hand we are fighting a battle against a very real pandemic that has infected countless hundreds of thousands within the country, and has killed others. On the other hand we are fighting a battle against the social injustices and racial inequality that has so plagued and captivated our nation for more than a century. There is not a doubt in my mind that we are living in chaotic times as a global pandemic has crippled virtually everything within and upon the earth as mounting cases of infections and death have permeated and saturated the news and media. With this being said I find it absolutely necessary to ask what tragedy and trouble produces within our lives. When we face and when we experience turbulent and chaotic times such as we are presently living in—how do we respond and react in the midst of it? Do turbulent times which are taking place before and all around us thrust us deeper into the prayer closet, or do they seem to drive us further away? There is not a doubt in my mind that when we think about the times in which we are living in—either we are driven further and deeper into the prayer closet, or we are driven further away from and outside it. There is no middle ground during times such as what we are presently facing and what we are presently experiencing, for you are either a faithful intercessory and pray-er, or you are not.
We would like to think that there is somehow some sort of middle ground in the midst of such times as those we are presently experiencing, and yet the truth of the matter is that this simply isn’t the case. We would do ourselves a great disservice and would be completely and utterly naïve to think and consider that we are either fully and completely in the prayer closet, or we are fully and completely outside of the prayer closet. Either we are faithful priests and ministers before the LORD who will weep between the porch and the altar, or we will remain completely outside the courts of the LORD altogether as though nothing has happened and as though nothing is happening. We are either calling a solemn assembly, and fasting, weeping and mourning, or we are continuing on with life as we know it. The truth of the matter is that we are indeed living in the days and times which Jesus Christ the Lord spoke about when He referenced as it was during the days of Lot and during the days of Noah. Jesus Himself spoke and declared that in those men and women were eating, drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, and were doing so all the way up to the time of the judgment and destruction of the LORD. What makes the psalms of Asaph so incredibly unique is that his words were written within and from a place in the midst of the destitution, in the midst of the devastation, in the midst of the destruction. Asaph wasn’t writing from some place outside of the chaos and trouble that found its way into his prayers and into his psalms, but he was in the midst of it, and was in the very throes of what was taking place all around him. In all reality, I would dare say that Asaph could not escape the devastation and destruction he saw before and all around him, and it was that being unable to escape this judgment and destruction that caused him to run further and deeper into the prayer closet and go before the LORD in prayer. Asaph was one who could not remain indifferent, nor remain aloof to the tremendous chaos and turbulence that was taking place all around him, and it was that distress, that anguish, that grief, and that burden that thrust him deeper into the prayer closet, and deeper into and before the LORD in prayer. In all reality, a similar reality is found in the life of Hezekiah king of Judah during the days of Sennacherib king of Assyria. It would be during the days of Hezekiah king of Judah and Hoshea king of Israel that the Assyrians would enter into and invade the northern kingdom of Israel, would carry away captive men, women and children from within the midst of it, and would utterly and completely wreak havoc therein. Hezekiah undoubtedly would have seen and beheld the devastation and destruction that would have taken place in the northern kingdom of Israel. Not only would Hezekiah have watched and witnessed what took place within the northern kingdom of Israel, but he would even find himself starting down and facing the threat of the same enemy and adversary that had just entered into, destroyed and devastated the northern kingdom of Israel.
If and as you read the words which are written and recorded in the Old Testament book of Second Kings, the Old Testament book of Second Chronicles, and even the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah, you will find three distinct accounts describing the life of Hezekiah king of Judah, and how Hezekiah undoubtedly lived during incredibly chaotic, turbulent and dangerous times as it would be during the days of his reign he would watch the Assyrian Empire enter into and invade the northern kingdom of Israel—and not only invade the land, but also carry away people captive, and unleash a torrent and tidal wave of destruction and devastation in the midst of the land. What’s more, is that after the king of Assyria had invaded the northern kingdom of Israel and had unleashed devastation and destruction in the midst of it, he would turn his attention and set his sights on the city of Jerusalem and the southern kingdom of Judah. It would be during the days of Hezekiah when the enemy and adversary would successfully invade the northern kingdom of Israel and completely conquer and subdue it, and would threaten to do the very same thing within the southern kingdom of Judah. Hezekiah would be faced with a decision he heard the words which the Rabshekeh had spoken outside the wall of the city of Jerusalem in the Hebrew tongue. Sennacherib would send a great army and a threatening and daunting voice unto the city of Jerusalem to intimidated and strike fear within the heart of Hezekiah king of Judah, as well as the people of Judah and Jerusalem. It should be pointed out that Hezekiah was faced with a decision, for either he would allow himself to be intimidated by Sennacherib and his threat, and potentially would surrender and give in to Sennacherib, or he would choose to stand firm against him in the strength, the courage and the boldness of the LORD his God. What I so love and appreciate about Hezekiah’s response to the threat and intimidate of Sennacherib king of Assyria is that although he quite possibly did not understand that the struggle was not against flesh and blood but against the unseen forces of darkness, he chose to stand firm, he chose to stand steadfast, and he chose to resist the king of Assyria through prayer, through intercession and through petition before the LORD. You cannot read the words found within the narrative of Hezekiah king of Judah and not encounter and come face to face with the fact that even though he faced a very real threat from the king of Assyria the Assyrian army, he would choose to resist the enemy and adversary through prayer, and would choose to interceded. Hezekiah saw the devastation and destruction hat had been unleashed in the northern kingdom of Israel, and was aware of the threat that faced the southern kingdom of Judah and the city of Jerusalem, and he chose to respond to that threat through prayer and intercession before the LORD. Consider if you will the following narratives and accounts which are found within these three books concerning Hezekiah’s response to the spoken words of the king of Assyria, as well as the written words of the same king:
“And it came to pass, when king Hezekiah heard it, that he rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the LORD. And he sent Eliakim, who was over the household, and Shebna the scribes, and the elders of the priests covered with sackcloth, unto Isaiah the prophet the son of Amos. And they said unto him, Thus saith Hezekiah, This day is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and of blasphemy: for the children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth. It may be the LORD thy God will hear the words of Rabshakeh, whom the king of Assyria his master hath sent to reproach the living God, and will reprove the words which the LORD thy God hath heard: wherefore lift up thy prayer for the remnant that is left. So the servants of king Hezekiah came to Isaiah. And Isaiah said unto them, Thus shall ye say unto your master, Thus saith the LORD, Be no afraid of the words that thou hast heard, wherewith the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. Behold, I will send a blast upon him, and he shall hear a rumour, and shall return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land” (Isaiah 37:1-7).
“So Rabshakeh returned, and found the king of Assyria warring against Libnah: for had heard that he was departed from Lachish. And he heard say concerning Tirhakah king of Ethipise, He is come forth to make war with thee. And when he heard it, he sent messengers to Hezekiah, saying, Thus shall ye speak to Hezekiah king of Judah, saying, Let not thy God, in whom trustest, deceive thee, saying, Jerusalem shall not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria. Behold, thou hast heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands by destroying them utterly; and shalt thou be delivered? Have the gods of the nations delivered them which my fathers have destroyed, as Gozan and Haran and Rezpeh, and the children of Eden which were in Telassar? Where is the king of Hamath, and the king of Arphad, and the king of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivah? And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up unto the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. And Hezekiah prayed unto the LORD, saying, O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, that dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth: thou hast made heaven and earth. Incline thine ear, O LORD, and hear; open thine eyes, O LORD, and see: and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which hath sent to reproach the living God. Of a truth, LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations, and their countries, and have cast their gods into the fire: for they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone: therefore they have destroyed them. Now therefore, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the LORD, even thou only. Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent unto Hezekiah, saying, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Whereas thou hast prayed to me against Sennacherib king of Assyria: This is the word which the LORD hath spoken concerning him; The virgin, the daughter of Zion, hath despised thee, and laughter thee to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee. Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed? And against whom hast thou exalted thy voice, and lifted up thine eyes on high? Even against the Holy One of Israel. By thy servants hast thou reproached the LORD, and hast said, By the multitude of my chariots am I come up to the height of the mountains, to the sides of Lebanon; and I will cut down the tall cedars thereof, and the choice fir trees thereof: and I will enter into the height of his border, and the forest of his Carmel. I have dogged, and drunk water; and with the sole of my feet have I dried up all the rivers of the besieged places. Hast thou not heard long ago, how I have done it; and of ancient times, that I have formed it? Now have I brought it to pass, that thou shouldest be to lay waste defenced cities into ruinous heaps. Therefore their inhabitants were of small power, they were dismayed and confounded: they were as the grass of the field, and as the green herb, as the grass on the housetops, and as corn blasted before it be grown up. But I know thy abode, and thy going out, and thy coming in, and thy rage against me. Because thy face against me, and thy tumult, is come up into mine ears, therefore will I put my hook him thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way which thou camest. And this shall be a sign unto thee, Ye shall eat this year such as groweth of it self; and the second year that which springeth of the same: and in the third year sow ye, and reap, and plant vineyards, and eat the fruit thereof. And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward: for out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and they that escape out of mount Zion: the zeal of the LORD of hosts shall do this. Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the king of Assyria, he shall not come into this city, nor shoot and arrow there, nor come before it with shields, nor c sat a bank against it. By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, saith the LORD. For I will emend this city to save it for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake. Then the angel of the LORD went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and four score and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses. So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh. And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelch and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Armenia: and Esar-haddon his son reigned in his stead” (Isaiah 37:8-38).
The words which are found within these two passages located in the prophetic book of Isaiah are such that should absolutely and completely challenge and convict us as we are faced with our response during turbulent, during difficult, during dark and dangerous times. Hezekiah not only found himself watching the enemy and adversary invade the northern kingdom of Israel and utterly lay waste to it, but Hezekiah also came face to face with a threat from the same force and the same enemy that had just invaded this northern kingdom. Now the enemy has turned his attention to the city of Jerusalem and has threatened Hezekiah, the inhabitants which dwelt therein, and even the throne of David and the Temple of God. Hezekiah heard the words of Sennacherib king of Assyria which Rabshakeh had spoken during those days, and Hezekiah’s immediate response was to rend his clothes, cover himself with sackcloth, and enter into the house of the LORD. Hezekiah would enter into the house of the LORD, and we can assume that he cast himself down before the LORD his God in prayer and in intercession in response to the threat of the enemy and adversary. Hezekiah went into the house of the LORD, and while he was in the house of the LORD he sent certain individuals unto the prophet Isaiah in the hopes that perhaps the LORD would hear the words of Sennacherib king of Assyria, and would deliver the people of God out of the hand of this enemy and adversary. What I absolutely love about the narrative of Hezekiah is that when he heard the words which Rabshakeh had spoken unto the people of Jerusalem he rent his clothes, he covered himself with sackcloth, and he went into the house of the LORD. What’s more, is that not when Hezekiah would receive letters from Sennacherib king of Assyria railing against and blaspheming against the Holy One of Israel, he would take the letters which he received together with all the words contained therein, and would enter into the house of the LORD. Hezekiah would spread the letters and the words contained therein before the LORD within His holy sanctuary and house, and would intreat the LORD that he would hear the words which Sennacherib king of Assyria would threaten and speak against the LORD his God, and against the people of God. It is absolutely critical that we recognize and understand this absolutely tremendous reality, for it reveals something truly remarkable concerning Hezekiah—namely, that the devastation he saw in the northern kingdom of Israel, as well as the threats and words of the king of Assyria would drive him into the house of the LORD as he would appear before the LORD in prayer. Hezekiah might very well have experienced a certain degree and measure of fear, however, he would not allow that fear to keep him from the presence of the LORD, nor would he allow that fear to intimidate and manipulate him. Hezekiah would choose to resist the king of Assyria through prayer and through intercession, and twice within the narrative of his life we find him entering into the house of the LORD.
As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I can’t help but think about and consider the fact that the words we find within the psalms of Asaph are words which were intended to present before and unto the LORD the devastation and destruction that was before and all around him. What’s more, is that through the words which we find in the book of the Psalms—specifically the words which we find within the psalms of Asaph—we find Asaph being driven further and deeper into the place of prayer. We might even say that Hezekiah was driven deeper into the sanctuary and deeper into the house of the LORD, as in the seventy-third chapter of the book of the Psalms we find Asaph describing how he went into the sanctuary of the LORD his God when he thought about and envied the prosperity and pride of the wicked. We know that Asaph cried out before the LORD in the sanctuary in response to the pride and prosperity of the wicked, and I would dare say that Asaph was one who went into the sanctuary and house of the LORD, or into the place of prayer and petition before the LORD in direct response to the devastation and destruction he witnessed and beheld all around him. There is not a doubt in my mind that Asaph witnessed the tremendous chaos, destruction and devastation that was taking place all around him, and it was that devastation and destruction that thrust him further and deeper into the place of prayer, and further and deeper into the place of intercession before the LORD. The words we find within the psalms written by Asaph are a powerful reminder and invitation during times of great turbulence and times of great devastation and destruction, and how such times should drive us further and deeper into the secret closet of prayer, and to cast ourselves before and upon the altar of the Lord in prayer. We must recognize and understand that during times such as which we are presently living we must allow ourselves to be cast before and cast upon the he throne of grace to find mercy and receive grace to help in time of need. I am absolutely and completely convinced that during these days and during these times we must recognize the great and powerful need to cast ourselves completely and utterly before the LORD in prayer, in petition and intercession in order that we might be faithful ministers who can and will weep before him with fasting, with weeping, with mourning, with prayer and with intercession. Are you as a saint and servant of the living God willing to cast yourself fully and completely before the LORD and upon His mercy, upon His grace, upon His strength, upon His deliverance, upon his salvation, and upon His redemption? There is not a doubt in my mind that during these times we have been and are being called to not only run to the prayer closet, but also to hide ourselves in the prayer closet in times of prayer, petition and intercession before the LORD as His faithful servants and ministers who see, who feel and who respond to what is present before and all around us.