I. This is a cry of distress.—The conditions described are those of overwhelming national calamity. The country and the city of God are overrun and spoiled by ruthless enemies. The people have been slain and left without burial. Out of the midst of these circumstances the Psalmist prays to God for pardon, help, and deliverance. There is no present note of praise in the psalm, but there is an undertone of confidence in God. This is the quality of these old songs of the men of faith which makes them living and powerful in an age utterly different from the one in which they were written.
II. A careful perusal of this psalm will show three things as most evidently forming the deepest conviction of the singer’s hope.—First there is the sense that all the calamity which has overtaken them is the result of their own sin. Behind this is a great idea of the power and goodness of God. These things need not have been had they been faithful, for God is strong and tender. Again, there is the passion for the glory of the Divine Name, ‘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?’ Finally, the very fact of the song is a revelation of the underlying confidence in God. In distress the heart seeks its way back to some hiding place and finds it in the Name of that God Who by suffering is dealing with them.
(1) ‘How touching! Think of the prisoners of the world. The lovers of freedom in crowded Russian prisons, the poor natives of the Congo Free State in their heavy irons, the men and women that are undergoing life-sentences, the inmates of infirmaries, workhouses, hospitals, and asylums! How often do they sigh? And their sighs come up before God.’
(2) ‘This is a national psalm. In Psa_79:1, Jerusalem must mean the literal city, or the Church militant.’