Psalm 44

Psalm 44: our fathers have told us

Psalm 44
For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. A maskil.
(1) We have heard it with our ears, O God; our ancestors have told us what you did in their days, in days long ago.
(2) With your hand you drove out the nations and planted our ancestors; you crushed the peoples and made our ancestors flourish. 
(3) It was not by their sword that they won the land; nor did their arm bring them victory; it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them.
(4) You are my King and my God, who decrees victories for Jacob.
(5) Through you we push back our enemies; through your name we trample our foes.
(6) I put no trust in my bow, my sword does not bring me victory; 
(7) but you give us victory over our enemies, you put our adversaries to shame.
(8) In God we make our boast all day long, and we will praise your name forever.
(9) But now you have rejected and humbled us; you no longer go out with our armies.
(10) You made us retreat before the enemy, and our adversaries have plundered us.
(11) You gave us up to be devoured like sheep and have scattered us among the nations.
(12) You sold your people for a pittance, gaining nothing from their sale.
(13) You have made us a reproach to our neighbors, the scorn and derision of those around us.
(14) You have made us a byword among the nations; the peoples shake their heads at us.
(15) I live in disgrace all day long, and my face is covered with shame
(16) at the taunts of those who reproach and revile me, because of the enemy, who is bent on revenge.
(17) All this came upon us, through we had not forgotten you; we had not been false to your covenant.
(18) Our hearts had not turned back; our feet had not strayed from your path.
(19) But you crushed us and made us a haunt for jackals; you covered us over with deep darkness.
(20) If we had forgotten the name of our God or spread out our hands to a foreign god,
(21) would not God have discovered it, since he knows the secrets of the heart?
(22) Yet for your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.
(23) Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.
(24) Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression?
(25) We are brought down to the dust; our bodies cling to the ground.
(26) Rise up and help us; rescue us because of your unfailing love.

The “sons of Korah” were Levites in charge of worship in the temple. They have an interesting story in the Bible and extra reason to be the ones in charge of praising God, ready Numbers 16 for the story if you are unfamiliar with it. The sons of Korah (or rather that line of descendants) are seen throughout 1 & 2 Chronicles as the ones in charge of music in the tabernacle and later in the temple.

Some scholars believe this was written during the time of the Babylonian exile, other think possibly even later in history. Some believe this was written during the time of king Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah specifically. The time frame, therefore specific historical instances talked about are unknown with certainty, which is really okay. Sometimes it’s easier to understand and relate what God is teaching us that way.

O God, we have heard it with our own ears- our ancestors have told us all what you did in their day, in days long ago: You drove out the pagan nations by your power and gave all the land to our ancestors. You crushed their enemies and set our ancestors free. They did not conquer the land with their swords; it was not their own strong arms that gave them victory. It was your right hand and strong arm and the blinding light from your face that helped them, for you loved them.
Psalm 44:1-3 NLT

Because of faithful and careful Jewish scribes, we have the book of Psalms and the Old Testament stories. But the stories of God’s faithfulness are ultimately remembered because they were told for thousands of years. They were spoken of in the house of worship, around the dinner table, before prayers at bedtime . . .

We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us
Psalm 44:1a KJV

Did you hear about God growing up? Was He talked about in your home? Do you speak of Him now? When God is faithful, do you speak those words to the people you love?

Only be careful and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your hearts as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.
Deuteronomy 4:9

Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
Deuteronomy 6:5-9

The commandment could not be any clearer: speak of God’s goodness; speak of His faithfulness; speak of His commandments; speak of what He’s done in your life.

And always remember this important piece:

. . . for not by their own sword did they win the land, nor did their own arm save them, but your right hand and your arm, and the light of your face, for you delighted in them.
Psalm 44:3 ESV

This world would teach us to speak of our accomplishment, how we avoided disaster and saved ourselves. But truly, God is faithful, and God saves. By His right hand and His arm, and the light of His face.

Because He loves us.

You are my King and my God. You command victories for Israel. Only by your power can we push back our enemies; only in your name can we trample our foes. I do not trust in my bow; I do not count on my sword to save me. You are the one who gives us victory over our enemies; you disgrace those who hate us. O God, we give glory to you all day long and constantly praise your name.
Psalm 44:4-8 NLT

To whom should a people look to but their king? He it is who, by virtue of his office, fights their battles for them. In the case of our King, how easy it is for him to scatter all of our foes!

Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892

The author continues to speak of God’s faithfulness to save, and how He gave Israel victory in the past. Because God had been on Israel’s side, they had pushed back and trampled their enemies.

Do you want to boast? Boast all day long in God, and what God has done for you.

Up to this point, this is a song of thankfulness, of gratitude to the One who is faithful. Praise! Then the tone changes, the first word says it all . . . but . . .

But now you have tossed us aside in dishonor. You no longer lead our armies to battle. You make us retreat from our enemies and allow those who hate us to plunder our land. You have butchered us like sheep and scattered us among the nations. You sold your precious people for a pittance, making nothing on the sale. You let our neighbors mock us. We are an object of scorn and derision to those around us. You have made us the butt of their jokes; they shake their heads at us in scorn. We can't escape the constant humiliation; shame is written across our faces. All we hear are the taunts of our mockers. All we see are our vengeful enemies.
Psalm 44:9-16 NLT

Here the patriot bard begins to contrast the past glories of the nation’s history with its present sadness and distress.

Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892

With that one little word “but” the psalm went from remembering God’s faithfulness to saying God had abandoned Israel. God had been faithful to Israel by giving them victory over those who tried to overpower them, until now. The psalmist is desperate- he knows their success in the past was solely because of God, and without him, they would be ruined.

But now he is hopeless.

The psalmist feels that God has turned His back. God has abandoned His people.

Hopelessness: to be unsure of God’s presence, afraid that God had taken the other side, to fear that God had in fact turned His face away.

Do you feel the absence of God during hard times? Or do you feel His presence more acutely? Have you felt persecution for your beliefs, but felt God was far away during your time of need?

The believer must have times of temptation, affliction, and discouragement; the church must have seasons of persecution. At such times the people of God will be ready to fear that he has cast them off, and that his name and truth will be dishonored. But they should look above the instruments of their trouble, to God, well knowing that their worst enemies have no power against them, but what is permitted from above.

Matthew Henry, English minister, 1662-1714

Fortunately, God know all about this. There are many verses of encouragement on this very topic from our loving Father. Here are a couple:

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
John 16:33

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.
Romans 8:18-19

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
James 1:2-3

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith- of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire- may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
1 Peter 1:6-7

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Romans 5:3-5

Of course, the author of this psalm had not heard any of these verses. They were all recorded after Jesus came and lived among us and showed us how to live and to love. Jesus’s life and death are the ultimate example to the believer to model his or her life after. Jesus was persecuted; He was censored. Jesus was made fun of, and ultimately, he was tortured and killed.

When we go through hard times, God has not turned His back on us. He has not abandoned us. Like the apostle Paul said in Romans, we must remember that suffering leads to perseverance which leads to a strengthening of our character which transforms into hope.

All this has happened though we have not forgotten you. We have not violated your covenant. Our hearts have not deserted you. We have not strayed from your path. Yet you have crushed us in the jackal's desert home. You have covered us with darkness and death. If we had forgotten the name of our God or spread our hands in prayer to foreign gods, God would surely have known it, for he knows the secrets of every heart. But for your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.
Psalm 44:17-22 NLT

This is the author’s plea: “We have done thing wrong! We have followed your commandments! Why have you turned your back on us?”

There are times when our sin has physical, emotional, or mental consequences, those which God allows to happen.

But then there are bad things that happen to believers that are not explainable and not a direct result of sin. Israel was crying out to God how unfair it was that He was allowing these things to happen, or may have had a direct hand in them happening, when they had done nothing wrong.

God can handle our, “Why, oh why did you allow this to happen?” But do you often wonder if it doesn’t make Him sad?

My friends, the people of Israel, whatever time period this is from, were struggling with life and death persecution.

Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.
Psalm 44:22 ESV

They faced death seemingly because of their faith. Because they were professing their faith in Jehovah, some of them were in fact being killed or carried off into slavery.

For your sake. Hard words. Because of whom they put their faith in, they were facing death.

The apostle Paul quoted this verse in his letter to the Romans:

As it is written, "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:35-39

We may suffer for a little while. We will suffer for a little while, but our hope is not in this life. Our hope is in Jesus who has conquered all of what we fear in this world. He is our hope.

During times of persecution or pain or suffering, God has not turned His back. Nothing can separate us from Him.

Wake up, O Lord! Why do you sleep? Get up! Do not reject us forever. Why do you look the other way? Why do you ignore our suffering and oppression? We collapse in the dust, lying face down in the dirt. Rise up! Help us! Ransom us because of your unfailing love.
Psalm 44:23-26 NLT

God does not sleep! He does not doze off.

He will not let your foot slip- he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
Psalm 121:3-4

In fact, God gave us a real picture of our fear over the possibility of a distracted Savior. Jesus was sleeping in the boat as they crossed the sea. The disciples thought they were going to die, so they woke Him up and begged him to help. Jesus calms the wind and waves with his voice and then said, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have so little faith?” (See Matthew 8:23-27; Mark 4:38-40).

All of these verses remind us of two things. One, when we love the Lord, it is okay to cry out to Him, “Where are you? Why have you left me?”

And two, He hasn’t. He was there in the storm and things were under His control. He was with the Israelites when Psalm 44 was written. God is good. He is a good Father. He is the one who saves. He was, is, and always will be faithful.

When we keep our eyes on Him, instead of on our own suffering, we find joy and peace and hope.

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:28-31

Father in heaven, give us strength today to face whatever battles are before us. Thank you for your faithfulness and for your promises. Help us to speak of your goodness and faithfulness always. Help us to speak up during the good times and also during the times of suffering. May we profess your name even louder then. God you are good and present all of our days. We love you. Amen.

Heidi xoxo

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