Psalm 79: How Long, O LORD?

(13 verses, 1:25 to read)


What I am about to READ

  • This psalm is a cry of faith in the midst of confusion over God’s seemingly slow response to the destruction and desecration of His holy city and holy temple.


  • Desecration and Destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple (1-4)
  • A Prayer for the LORD to Act (5-7)
  • A Prayer for Atonement (8-10)
  • A Prayer for Vengeance (11-13)


  • The land of the LORD has been taken over by the pagans – the Babylonians in 587 B.C. The servants of God have been put to death and the people of God are constantly mocked by their neighbors. This is the situation that gives occasion for this psalm.  The destruction of Jerusalem and the temple is a theme that dominates Book 3 of the Psalter (psalms 73-89).
  • The psalmist struggles with not just the tragedy that has taken place but the sacrilegious nature of it all – God’s holy city and holy place have been destroyed! And so we can imagine how the people would be mocking them – “Where is this God that loves you? If He loves you, why would He do this to you?  Why would He let this happen to you? Isn’t He able to rescue you? What’s taking Him so long?”
  • There is an understanding that the destruction was what was deserved (see esp. v6), but the psalmist is struggling with how long it is taking the LORD to punish the pagans that did this to His city and temple. So, the he cries, “How long, O LORD? Will you be angry forever?” Especially because this is giving the pagans an opportunity to mock God and His people.
  • Struggling with this and understanding the how desperate the situation is there is a cry for the LORD’s compassion and for deliverance and for atonement.


  • In the midst of suffering, persecution, and hardship at the hands of unbelievers this psalm gives voice to the Christians’ frustration with how slow the LORD may appear to be in coming to our aid.  The psalm also directs us to the only source of our deliverance – the mercy of the LORD as shown to us Christ atoning for all of our sins.  That alone will sustain us in the midst of a hostile and unbelieving world.   Because of Christ’s atonement God does not remember our sins against us and His compassion does come to us speedily.
  • “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!”

Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Post below, or join the conversation in our Facebook group:

-Pastor Andrew Packer


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