This psalm is said to be a prophetic one, written by Asaph during David’s reign as king over Israel. No such thing occurred during that time and there is speculation as to what particular incident this refers to afterward. Frankly, it doesn’t matter. What really matters is what this means for us.
If you read carefully what is written in this psalm, it is not about the people of Israel, per se, nor is it about the “neighbors” that supposedly ransacked Jerusalem. It’s about the peoples’ honor of God and the evidence that there is a lack of it. Jerusalem is a symbol of God’s city. It stands as a representation of where God’s presence should be hosted. These days we could liken it to our hearts, in that it is where God is to reside with us (the temple was located in Jerusalem). So, to consider the city scattered with the dead and destroyed to ruin is a metaphor for our own hearts and the neighbors of the country would be those who are around us.
If we keep our hearts focused on God, then our neighbors cannot ransack it. In fact, God’s presence will flow from us and bless those around us. Verse 1 gives us quite an opening scene to the destruction left behind:
the nations have invaded your inheritance; they have defiled your holy temple, they have reduced Jerusalem to rubble.
Is this the state of our heart today? Have we allowed the enemy in to our sacred place, the holy of holies, the temple where we are to commune with God and defile it? The psalmist suggests that this is a result of lack of communion with God. That his anger against us and jealousy towards us has caused this, but God is not to blame. It is our own lack of care for our relationship with Him that causes our hearts to turn away. When the enemy invades our hearts it is not a punishment, rather it is a consequence. However, God lets us feel the pain and suffering so as to learn why it is so necessary for us to keep Him as the center of our lives.
It is not a coincidence that in my personal devotional time today I was prompted to read 1 Peter 4, which is an encouragement to be “sober minded” and no longer conform to the ways of this world. He encourages us in verses 6 & 7:
The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.
I encourage you to read Psalm 79 again but this time as a warning of what could happen to our hearts if we do not care for it and neglect our relationship with God. We were created to live in communion with Him, take refuge in Him, enjoy His security and live a joyful life constantly in His presence. If we do not, destruction will certainly be the result.