Psalm 79 is another lament like Psalm 74. Just as Psalm 74 contained a graphic and bloody description of warfare and destruction, so verses 2 and 3 here are pretty graphic. The birds eating the servants of God—as Junior High youth would say “ooohh gross.”
The compilers of the Asaph collection seem to have deliberately placed this Psalm after Psalm 78. The 78th Psalm ends up affirming that God chose Judah and Jerusalem. The 79th Psalm starts off with an army destroying Jerusalem and God’s holy place. Thus the lament and the plaintive question about why God is doing this carries even more of a punch. The 78th Psalm described how God had abandoned Shiloh and the Ark of the Covenant. Now we have a Psalm that describes God abandoning Jerusalem, the new and chosen home of the Temple and the Ark. All this has echoes in Jeremiah ( ), but I don’t know whether the 79th Psalm is echoing Jeremiah or whether Jeremiah is echoing the 79th Psalm.
I would rather do something to prevent disaster than to lament it after it has happened. This Psalm prays for God’s redemption, but the disaster has already happened. Disasters, accidents, disease and death happen in all our lives. Medical professionals, first responders, and even pastors are all about prevention through action or prayer. But in the end these things only get prevented temporarily. Even the people Jesus healed eventually died.
So, as much as we fight it, lament becomes necessary. A contemporary term for lament might be “grief work”. Rational/emotional therapy teaches people not to say that lamentable events are terrible or horrible. Instead, it teaches people to say, “I would have preferred the outcome to be different.” This is the wisdom of the Stoics brought up to date. It is a lesson we need if we are going to whine about minor things. But something about stoicism seems too cool for human nature when real disaster strikes. There is a need to cry out against the unfairness of life before we can accept it.