We may well call Psalm 79 a “Prayer of the Impenitent.” It is another Psalm of Asaph, written after the Babylonian siege and destruction of the temple and written along the lines of Psalm 74.
There is first the description of the attack against God’s people. The Psalmist is careful to describe their own punishment not as getting their just desserts for their own sins, but the offense of foreign invaders against God Himself – His inheritance, His holy temple, His servants. Those who have done this are the great unwashed who do not acknowledge God or call on His name. It isn’t right.
Within the opening of this very tightly organized prayer is also the pitiful plight of God’s people. Jerusalem is a rubble, blood is everywhere and scavengers pick over the bodies of the dead because there is no one to bury them.
Then, there is the call for help. But surprisingly, it is not just “help us because we need help,” it is “Your reputation is on the line!” In other words, if God will help them, God will help Himself! The call for rescue is “for the glory of [God’s] name and for His “name’s sake.” Why should people doubt God’s existence? God should act and show the nations He is alive and these oppressed are His people.
Finally, there is the call for vengeance. The attackers should get seven times more trouble than they have given.
But nowhere is there ever an apology for sin. It’s the “sins of the fathers” that is being held against them.
How shall we take this Psalm? Read this way, it’s an embarrassment: sinful people telling God to “get over” his anger and come to their aid because if He doesn’t, folks won’t think well of Him and never acknowledging that, in fact, the trouble might be of their own making.
Perhaps that’s why we have this Psalm: to remind us that we too often think and pray the same way. Some introspection and honesty is in order.