Sunday, March 25, 2012

Faithful and Loving Discipline

[To the chief Musician for the sons of Korah, Maskil]

1 We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work thou didst in their days, in the times of old.

2 How thou didst drive out the heathen with thy hand, and plantedst them; how thou didst afflict the people, and cast them out.

3 For they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them: but thy right hand, and thine arm, and the light of thy countenance, because thou hadst a favour unto them.

4 Thou art my King, O God: command deliverances for Jacob.

5 Through thee will we push down our enemies: through thy name will we tread them under that rise up against us.

6 For I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me.

7 But thou hast saved us from our enemies, and hast put them to shame that hated us.

8 In God we boast all the day long, and praise thy name for ever. Selah.

9 But thou hast cast off, and put us to shame; and goest not forth with our armies.

10 Thou makest us to turn back from the enemy: and they which hate us spoil for themselves.

11 Thou hast given us like sheep appointed for meat; and hast scattered us among the heathen.

12 Thou sellest thy people for nought, and dost not increase thy wealth by their price.

13 Thou makest us a reproach to our neighbours, a scorn and a derision to them that are round about us.

14 Thou makest us a byword among the heathen, a shaking of the head among the people.

15 My confusion is continually before me, and the shame of my face hath covered me,

16 For the voice of him that reproacheth and blasphemeth; by reason of the enemy and avenger.

17 All this is come upon us; yet have we not forgotten thee, neither have we dealt falsely in thy covenant.

18 Our heart is not turned back, neither have our steps declined from thy way;

19 Though thou hast sore broken us in the place of dragons, and covered us with the shadow of death.

20 If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to a strange god;

21 Shall not God search this out? for he knoweth the secrets of the heart.

22 Yea, for thy sake are we killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter.

23 Awake, why sleepest thou, O Lord? arise, cast us not off for ever.

24 Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and forgettest our affliction and our oppression?

25 For our soul is bowed down to the dust: our belly cleaveth unto the earth.

26 Arise for our help, and redeem us for thy mercies' sake.

—Psalm 44 KJV Bible

The psalm superscription states that this is a “maskil,” in Hebrew, literally meaning “a hedge.” In the context of the psalms, it is thought to mean either a contemplative or teaching psalm, or a psalm written in a clever way. Thirteen psalms are described as "maskils." they include 32, 42, 44, 45, 52-55, 74, 78, 88, 89 and 142.

The superscription also states it is for the "sons of Korah." The three sons of Korah—Assir, Elkanan and Abiasaph—were loyal to God (Exodus 6:24; Numbers 26:11). The descendants of these were also described as the "sons of Korah." Some later became singers in the Temple choir (2 Chronicles 20:19). Twelve of the psalms (42-49, 84-85, 87-88) are specifically dedicated to the "sons of Korah," possibly because of their musicality, or possibly as a reference to those who remain faithful to God even in the most difficult times.

We are not certain who wrote this psalm or when it was written. It could have been written during the reign of King David or in the five centuries that followed—during the time of the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah, or during the seven years of Judah's people's in Babylon.

This psalm is a song of national lament. First, it recalls God's past care for Israel. It then encourages the people to praise God and to be confident in God's faithfulness. The psalm then brings before the Lord the people's present defeat and their plea for deliverance.

In verses 1 through 3, the psalmist describes the amazing things God did in the past because of the people of Israel. He mentions times during the settlement of Canaan when God fought for the people, as in Joshua 24:12, and when God allowed an enemy to remain and subdue the people, as in Judges 6:3. In verses 2 and 3, the psalmist describes God's "hand" and God's "arm," referring to the things God did with His power.

In verses 4 through 8, the psalmist encourages the people to praise and have confidence in God. He asks the King for victories over their enemies. Instead of earthly weapons, he trusts in God's power to save His people as He had in the past.

In verses 9 through 16, the people bring before the Lord their present defeat. God did not protect them in battle and allowed them to be taken by their enemy. The great children of Israel have become a laughing stock among the nations.

In verses 17 through 22, the psalmist offers a defense of the faithfulness of the nation. This is similar to David's personal defense in Psalm 17:3. The psalmist does not claim the people have been sinless or innocent, but that they have been far more faithful to God than their enemies. In verse 22, the psalmist describes the people's price of loyalty to God in a world that is at war with Him. In his Letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul applies the same passage to describe the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the earthly price of their loyalty.

In verses 23 through 26, the psalmist asks God to deliver the people. In verse 26, the psalmist ask God to redeem them because of God's "mercy," sometimes translated as "lovingkindess." This is the Hebrew "hesed;" the everlasting, faithful love; God's covenant love for His people.

Father, I thank You for Your faithfulness in spite of my unfaithfulness. You may not always approve of my actions, but you always love me and You do what is necessary to ultimately make me better for You.


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