Psalm 76: A Memory of Hope

To remember, perchance to see, once again, the greatness of God…

The temple lies in ruins, the riches of the land gone, and the people exiled; yet a remnant remains. Most of them wander the ruins of Jerusalem, now a ghost town, wondering what happened to this once thriving city. Others remain hidden in the piles of rubble that once were houses only venturing out late in the evening to scavenge for food. Occasionally a goat or lamb might be found who, like their former owners, are in search of food and water.

The wind continuously whistles through the broken windows and doors still hanging onto the charred remains of their former and crumbling frames. The broken roofs once covering homes and businesses are now merely rocks, brick, and smashed mortar filling the streets.

In the middle of the city stands a large, flat topped hill, and leading up the side of this hill are the remnants of a long stairway at the top of which sits the barely discernible former structure of the majestic temple. What once stood as the center of every activity for the people of Israel now sits as a large pile of broken rocks under which can be seen scattered and tattered remnants of tapestries, curtains, and the occasional shard of burnt wood. Each day, the mid-day sun batters and heats the rocks so they shimmer with heat, driving all living creatures away to seek solace elsewhere. In the evenings, as the cool night sets in, these same creatures return for warmth in the darkness. The former glory of Zion serves as a temporary hiding place for the beasts of the field with its greatness only a distant memory in the minds of the very few survivors living on the outskirts of town.

The days roll endlessly on as the city settles beneath nature’s deliberate and dispassionate cycles. It has been a long time since anyone ventured near the temple ruins on the hill, but one day in the late afternoon sun it happens. A solitary figure, clothed in the tattered garb once commonly worn by temple musicians slowly works his way to the top of the destroyed steps. He pauses to catch his breath before pressing on slowly and carefully, winding his way through the fallen columns to the place where the doorway leading to the most holy place stood. He stops and bows down, face pressed into the dust before the last remaining broken shards of the massive doors. It is not long before he begins to sing…

In Judah God is known; his name is great in Israel.
His abode has been established in Salem, his dwelling place in Zion.
There he broke the flashing arrows, the shield, the sword, and the weapons of war.

As his voice echoes throughout the city, the remaining occupants slowly emerge from their hiding places and make their way to the foot of the hill where they stop, none wanting to venture upon the holy mountain. He continues singing…

Glorious are you, more majestic than the mountains full of prey.
The stouthearted were stripped of their spoil; they sank into sleep;
all the men of war were unable to use their hands.
At your rebuke, O God of Jacob, both rider and horse lay stunned.

Their mouths open as if to sing along, but this song is unfamiliar to them. They are used to singing of God’s present conquering power and glorious majesty not the memory of what once was nor the hope of what might be. The lonely voice continues his song…

But you, you are to be feared!
Who can stand before you when once your anger is roused?
From the heavens you uttered judgment; the earth feared and was still,
when God arose to establish judgment, to save all the humble of the earth.

The people close their eyes and for a moment their hearts are nearly lifted to the heights of the lone figure singing on the mountain, but when they open their eyes and see the devastation surrounding them their hope fades and their hearts sink.

Surely the wrath of man shall praise you; the remnant of wrath you will put on like a belt.
Make your vows to the Lord your God and perform them;
let all around him bring gifts to him who is to be feared,
who cuts off the spirit of princes, who is to be feared by the kings of the earth.

When his voice finally sings its last and the city falls silent, the gathered remnant slowly and silently disperse, returning to their hiding places. The singer stands and retreats down the steps eventually disappearing into the long shadows of the rubble filled streets as the town returns to normal and settles into the long empty night ahead. But this night, as each refuge lays their head down on whatever ground they call home and closes their eyes, the lyrics of the singer’s new song echoes through their heads. The seeds of hope have been sewn and, even though they could no longer see the glorious majesty of their kings, they thought of the glorious majesty of their Lord. Though they had become their enemy’s prey, the knew their enemy would someday become God’s prey. For the first time in recent memory, their sleep was uninterrupted by thoughts of fear and anxiety.

The next morning they are awakened by hope, coming in the form of the rising sun’s gentle beams of light poking through the many cracks in the rubble of the war-torn city.

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