Ezekiel 31 & Psalm 79

Ezekiel 31

    In the eleventh year, in the third month, on the first day of the month, the word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, say to Pharaoh king of Egypt and to his multitude:

    “Whom are you like in your greatness?
        Behold, Assyria was a cedar in Lebanon,
    with beautiful branches and forest shade,
        and of towering height,
        its top among the clouds.
    The waters nourished it;
        the deep made it grow tall,
    making its rivers flow
        around the place of its planting,
    sending forth its streams
        to all the trees of the field.
    So it towered high
        above all the trees of the field;
    its boughs grew large
        and its branches long
        from abundant water in its shoots.
    All the birds of the heavens
        made their nests in its boughs;
    under its branches all the beasts of the field
        gave birth to their young,
    and under its shadow
        lived all great nations.
    It was beautiful in its greatness,
        in the length of its branches;
    for its roots went down
        to abundant waters.
    The cedars in the garden of God could not rival it,
        nor the fir trees equal its boughs;
    neither were the plane trees
        like its branches;
    no tree in the garden of God
        was its equal in beauty.
    I made it beautiful
        in the mass of its branches,
    and all the trees of Eden envied it,
        that were in the garden of God.
        “Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Because it towered high and set its top among the clouds, and its heart was proud of its height, I will give it into the hand of a mighty one of the nations. He shall surely deal with it as its wickedness deserves. I have cast it out. Foreigners, the most ruthless of nations, have cut it down and left it. On the mountains and in all the valleys its branches have fallen, and its boughs have been broken in all the ravines of the land, and all the peoples of the earth have gone away from its shadow and left it. On its fallen trunk dwell all the birds of the heavens, and on its branches are all the beasts of the field. All this is in order that no trees by the waters may grow to towering height or set their tops among the clouds, and that no trees that drink water may reach up to them in height. For they are all given over to death, to the world below, among the children of man, with those who go down to the pit.

    “Thus says the Lord GOD: On the day the cedar went down to Sheol I caused mourning; I closed the deep over it, and restrained its rivers, and many waters were stopped. I clothed Lebanon in gloom for it, and all the trees of the field fainted because of it. I made the nations quake at the sound of its fall, when I cast it down to Sheol with those who go down to the pit. And all the trees of Eden, the choice and best of Lebanon, all that drink water, were comforted in the world below. They also went down to Sheol with it, to those who are slain by the sword; yes, those who were its arm, who lived under its shadow among the nations.

    “Whom are you thus like in glory and in greatness among the trees of Eden? You shall be brought down with the trees of Eden to the world below. You shall lie among the uncircumcised, with those who are slain by the sword.

    “This is Pharaoh and all his multitude, declares the Lord GOD.”

(Ezekiel 31 ESV)

Psalm 79

A Psalm of Asaph.

    O God, the nations have come into your inheritance;
        they have defiled your holy temple;
        they have laid Jerusalem in ruins.
    They have given the bodies of your servants
        to the birds of the heavens for food,
        the flesh of your faithful to the beasts of the earth.
    They have poured out their blood like water
        all around Jerusalem,
        and there was no one to bury them.
    We have become a taunt to our neighbors,
        mocked and derided by those around us.
    How long, O LORD? Will you be angry forever?
        Will your jealousy burn like fire?
    Pour out your anger on the nations
        that do not know you,
    and on the kingdoms
        that do not call upon your name!
    For they have devoured Jacob
        and laid waste his habitation.
    Do not remember against us our former iniquities;
        let your compassion come speedily to meet us,
        for we are brought very low.
    Help us, O God of our salvation,
        for the glory of your name;
    deliver us, and atone for our sins,
        for your name's sake!
    Why should the nations say,
        “Where is their God?”
    Let the avenging of the outpoured blood of your servants
        be known among the nations before our eyes!
    Let the groans of the prisoners come before you;
        according to your great power, preserve those doomed to die!
    Return sevenfold into the lap of our neighbors
        the taunts with which they have taunted you, O Lord!
    But we your people, the sheep of your pasture,
        will give thanks to you forever;
        from generation to generation we will recount your praise.

(Psalm 79 ESV)

The following is taken from D.A. Carson's For the Love of God series...


ON THE FACE OF IT, PSALM 79 depicts the outrage bound up with the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. Before we reflect on a few of its themes, we should pause to ask how both Psalm 78 and Psalm 79 can purport to come from Asaph. Psalm 78 was clearly written at the beginning of the Davidic dynasty; Psalm 79 was appar- ently written four-and-a-half centuries later, at the destruction of Jerusalem. So how can they both be psalms of Asaph? The Asaph we know was a contemporary of David.

The best guess is that the dozen psalms attributed to Asaph were variously written either by him or by the choir he founded. Just as some psalms are attrib- uted to “the sons of Korah” (presumably another musical foundation), so also in this case.

Here Asaph does not question the justice of God’s burning “jealousy” (79:5), but (as in Ps. 74; see meditation for September 23) its duration: “How long, O LORD? Will you be angry forever?” (79:5). Note how some of Asaph’s themes mesh with what we find in the prophets.

(1) “Pour out your wrath on the nations that do not acknowledge you, on the kingdoms that do not call on your name” (79:6). But the major prophets insist, as we have repeatedly seen, that the pagan nations will also be held accountable by God. They are not given a free pass. Meanwhile believers should always recall God’s words to his people through Amos (3:2): “You only have I chosen of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your sins” (italics added). In a world under the curse, Christians too must grasp that punishment that steers us back toward repentance can only be a good thing (cf. Heb. 12:4-13).

(2) “Do not hold against us the sins of the fathers” (79:8): review Ezekiel 18 (see meditation for September 15).

(3) “[M]ay your mercy come quickly to meet us, for we are in desperate need” (79:8). Such a plea simultaneously asks for the only help that can save us, and reflects the attitude of dependence and trust so utterly lacking in the defiant rebellion and self-reliance that brought down the judgment in the first place.

(4) “Help us, O God our Savior, for the glory of your name; deliver us and for- give our sins for your name’s sake” (79:9). Once again there is no attempt to whitewash the sins. The appeal is to God’s glory, so that pagan nations will not conclude that God is too weak or fickle to save his people (79:10). How much of the driving force behind contemporary evangelical praying is motivated by a pas- sion for the glory of God?