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praying hands reaching up July 15 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: Psalms 75, 77, 80; 2Kings 19:29-37; 2Chronicles 32:21-23; Psalm 76

Saving Prayer

When we are in trouble and there is no way out, what should we do? Pray. In fact, before we get into trouble we should pray. What should we pray? Psalms is a good book to use as a guide for prayer and praise. Because it is poetry it is evocative, it touches our deepest emotional needs.

We don’t know exactly what the occasion was for the writing of the Psalms in today’s reading. The superscriptions say they were written by Asaph. He and his descendants were the chief worship leaders of the Levites and composers of Psalms during the time of King David and afterwards (1Chronicles 16:4-5; 25:1-2). Psalm 80 may have been written by Asaph's descendants during the time of the Assyrian invasions because only the tribes of Benjamin and Ephraim and Manasseh are mentioned (Psalm 80:2). There were remnants of these tribes left after the conquering of Israel in 722 B.C. Because of the theme of these songs, they are placed here.

King Sennacherib of Assyria had been threatening Judah. As mentioned, they had already destroyed her sister nation, Israel, many other surrounding nations, and even Judean strongholds. Jerusalem was the only formidable city left in Judah. When King Hezekiah inherited the throne, he cleaned up the nation, removed idols, and led the people to worship the true God, the creator of heaven and earth and Sovereign over all nations. The people, however, worshipped God in pretense and even Hezekiah failed to trust God to save him from Assyria. He tried to make alliances with other nations against Assyria. Hezekiah was then plagued with boils that would have ended his life, save for God’s mercy. After King Hezekiah was healed, he and his people repented of their sin and pride. Once more they worshipped God in his temple. However, the mettle of their faith would not be tested by worship but by trials. Hezekiah urged the people to call upon God for help against the King of Assyria.

The tune of Psalm 75 gives a clue to the theme of the song. According to the superscription it was to be sung to the tune of “Do Not Destroy,” (75:1). Obviously, the people of Judah did not want to be destroyed by Assyrian armies. Here is part of the song with commentary in brackets:

We give thanks to you, O God, we give thanks, for your Name is near; men tell of your wonderful deeds. [We can give thanks when we remember that God’s presence is near us in our trials.]

You [God] say, “I choose the appointed time; it is I who judge uprightly. When the earth and all its people quake, it is I who hold its pillars firm. <Selah> ” [God is Sovereign and controls the events of the world; therefore, he will judge when the time is right. Even when our world is being shaken, God can give us strength]

To the arrogant I say, 'Boast no more,' and to the wicked, 'Do not lift up your horns [horns were a symbol of military strength]….I will cut off the horns of all the wicked, but the horns of the righteous will be lifted up. (Psalm 75:1-4,10, NIV)

When the people of Judah faced the armies of Assyria, they called out to God, remembering his mercy in previous generations to people who had feared the LORD. If we have been away from God for awhile, it is good for us to do the same; it will give us courage to pray for his help.

Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples. With your mighty arm you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph. <Selah> (Psalm 77:13-15, NIV)

Hear us, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock; you who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh. Awaken your might; come and save us. Restore us, O God; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved. O LORD God Almighty, how long will your anger smolder against the prayers of your people? You have fed them with the bread of tears; you have made them drink tears by the bowlful. You have made us a source of contention to our neighbors, and our enemies mock us. Restore us, O God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved. (Psalm 80:2-7, NIV)

Her sister nation, Israel had been destroyed. “Your vine is cut down, it is burned with fire; at your rebuke your people perish,” (Psalm 80:16, NIV). Because of this, Judah wanted God to restore her relationship with him so that Jerusalem could be saved (verse 19). Do you need to get on good praying grounds with God? If you do not know him, call on Jesus to be saved from your sins that lead to death. He will give you forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life (John 3:16; Romans 10:9,10:13; John 1:12). If you already did that but you need restoration, confess your sins to God humbly with repentance, and he will restore you (1John 1:9).

Did God restore Judah? Did he defend her? Did he save her? God gave an answer to Sennacherib's threats:

“Who is it you have insulted and blasphemed? Against whom have you raised your voice and lifted your eyes in pride? Against the Holy One of Israel!” (2Kings 19:22, NIV)

[You may have won many battles and done what you wished but]

“Have you not heard? Long ago I [the LORD] ordained it. In days of old I planned it; now I have brought it to pass, that you have turned fortified cities into piles of stone,” [I, God, allowed you to conquer nations] (2Kings 19:25, NIV).

“'But I know where you stay and when you come and go and how you rage against me. Because you rage against me and your insolence has reached my ears, I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth, and I will make you return by the way you came,” (2Kings 19:27-28, NIV).

God then gave a sign to Hezekiah that the people would again live in the land and be prosperous. That very night, the LORD God annihilated 185,000 men in the Assyrian camp, all the fighting men, and leaders and officers. Sennacherib withdrew back to his own country and in 681 B.C. he was assassinated by his sons (The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the Old Testament, by Walvoord and Zuck, ©1985, p.578).

Psalm 76 speaks of a battle that exalted the name (reputation) of God. He alone won the battle against Jerusalem. This would be a Psalm of praise that the people of Judah would probably have sung following the defeat of Sennacherib.

You are resplendent with light, more majestic than mountains rich with game. Valiant men lie plundered, they sleep their last sleep; not one of the warriors can lift his hands. At your rebuke, O God of Jacob, both horse and chariot lie still. You alone are to be feared. Who can stand before you when you are angry? (Psalm 76:4-7, NIV)

God had indeed answered their prayers because the king, the leaders and priest of Judah, and the people humbled themselves before him, cried out to him and desired to be restored. They stopped looking to other nations and their gods to help, and they relied only on the God of Israel to save them. God is often pleased to save those who rely totally on him. Praise God for his deliverance.

Lessons to live by:

  • God’s presence is near us in our trials.
  • God is Sovereign and controls the events of the world; therefore, he will judge when the time is right. Even when our world is being shaken, God can give us strength.
  • If we have been away from God for a while, it is good for us to remember the goodness of God to previous generations; it will give us courage to pray for his help.
  • Do you need to get on good praying grounds with God? If you do not know him, call on Jesus to be forgiven of your sins and to give you spiritual life (more...). If you already did that but you need restoration, confess your sins to God humbly with repentance, and he will restore you (1John 1:9).
  • God is often pleased to save those who rely totally on him. Praise God for his deliverance.

Today’s Bible memory verse: Psalm 62:7 “My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.” (NIV)

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