The Cry Of Widowed Zion
To The Righteous Judge

a brief study of Psalm 79, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 13 March 2009

Psalm 79 is closely related to Psalm 74. Both of these Psalms are about the destruction of Jerusalem. It is attributed to Asaph. It is possible that Asaph the Seer, who lived in David’s time, was writing prophetically about the destruction of the Temple (v. 1). But the Temple was not even built yet.

Therefore, more probably, this Asaph refers to a member of the musical guild known as the ‘sons of Asaph’ (1 Chr 25:1). This Asaph must have written this Psalm sometime after 586 BC when the Babylonians destroyed the Temple at Jerusalem and slaughtered many of the Jews.

Andrew Bonar has a beautiful title for this Psalm. He calls it “The Cry of Widowed Zion to the Righteous Judge.” It is a Psalm that the Church may sing in times of great distress unto the Father on the basis of their union with the Son.

It has three parts. The first section, verses 1-4, is a Lament over the destruction of Jerusalem.  In the second section, verses 5-6, we have a Plea for Divine Intervention. Then from verse 7-13, we have a list of Arguments to Support the Petition.

1. Lament Over Jerusalem

1 O God, the heathen are come into thine inheritance; thy holy temple have they defiled; they have laid Jerusalem on heaps.

Jerusalem was the holy city. It symbolised the Church and pointed to God’s special love for His people. The Temple likewise represented the Church and God’s favourable presence in Her through the Messiah.

But beginning from 606 BC, the Babylonians began to oppress Jerusalem and her residence. The wicked king Jehoiakim was on the throne then. Nebuchednezzar had him arrested and sent to exile to Babylon together with the instruments of worship from God’s Temple. Accompanying Jehoiakim were many others, including the Prophet Daniel.

In 597 BC another group of Jews including the Prophet Ezekiel was sent to exile. But it was in 586 BC, that the worst atrocities were perpetuated. In that year, the Babylonians burned down the Temple, looted the palaces, send many to exile and massacred most of the rest of the people.

There were so many dead bodies in Jerusalem that they could not be cleared, and their blood soaked the ground of Jerusalem everywhere, verse 2—

2 The dead bodies of thy servants have they given to be meat unto the fowls of the heaven, the flesh of thy saints unto the beasts of the earth. 3 Their blood have they shed like water round about Jerusalem; and there was none to bury them.


What a tragedy! What sadness! How and where could the people of God find comfort in such a time? They could find it only in the presence of the Lord especially when they come before Him in prayer and singing of Psalms.

Now, the event recorded in this Psalm happened a long time ago. But is not this Psalm still relevant to us? Even if we do not experience the same atrocities recorded in this Psalm, do we not from time to time suffer calamities of one sort or another in the Church? Are there not the relationship flare-ups that leave many hurting? Are there not the court cases, which leave bodies as it were in the streets for all to see? Are there not times when the heathen ridiculed the people of God? Do we not experience the shame that our fathers in the faith endured, verse 4—

4 We are become a reproach to our neighbours, a scorn and derision to them that are round about us.

Shall we not, at such times learn to sing and to pray as our fathers in the faith did?

Shall we not plead with the Lord according to the second part of this Psalm:

2. Plea For Intervention

5 How long, LORD? wilt thou be angry for ever? shall thy jealousy burn like fire? 6 Pour out thy wrath upon the heathen that have not known thee, and upon the kingdoms that have not called upon thy name.

Very often when the people of God experience great trouble, it is because God is angry. Like a father who loves his children, God does get angry with us when we walk in disobedience, when we fear Him not, or when we squabble with one another.


Sometimes in His anger, God would chastise His people. Very often He would chastise them by afflicting them with the heathen. Israel, the Northern Kingdom in Old Testament days was chastised by Assyria. Judah, in the south was chastised by Babylon.

The Prophet Habakkuk was perplexed by why the Lord who is of purer eyes than to behold evil should make use of a people more wicked than his own to chastise them. God’s answer was that the just shall live by faith alone. God’s people who sin grievously despite knowing God’s Word cannot claim to be better than the heathen.

But the faithful remnant of God’s people can always cry to the Father. When under affliction, we may always pray: “How long, LORD?” We must not pray with impatience, but we must pray with importunity. We must plead with the LORD to show mercy to His people to deliver them and to recompense the heathen who take advantage of the situation.

But on what basis may we pray when we know that the troubles that have come upon us are in some ways brought about by our own sin in the first place?

Well, the Psalmist gives us six arguments in the final part of this Psalm.

3. Arguments For Petition

The Lord himself and James teach us that when we pray, we must pray with faith. The apostle John teaches us that when we pray according to God’s will, God will hear us and give us the desire of our hearts. This is why it is important for us to learn the art of using godly arguments in prayer. When we use arguments, we assure ourselves that our prayer is in accordance to God’s will and we strengthen our faith that God will hear our cries.

What then are the arguments that the Psalmist would use to in his prayer on behalf of God’s people suffering on account of their sin?

The first argument is an appeal for mercy on the basis of the extent and intensity of the affliction of God’s people. Jacob has been devoured and his dwelling place has been laid waste (v. 7). “Thy people has suffered greatly. They have not only been afflicted, they have been devoured. The very land which they must depend on for their lives have been laid waste. Have mercy, O Lord,” 

The second argument is a plea for speedy deliverance on the basis that those who are presently suffering are not those who bear primary responsibility for the iniquities that brought God’s wrath. “O remember not against us former iniquities [or the iniquities of our fathers]” (v. 8). Is it not true that the Church often suffers for the sin of a few individuals, who would often walk away after creating the havoc?

The third argument is an appeal to the glory of God before the heathen.

9 Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of thy name: and deliver us, and purge away our sins, for thy name’s sake. 10 Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is their God? let him be known among the heathen in our sight by the revenging of the blood of thy servants which is shed.

God’s name is closely tied to the prosperity of His people. When the heathen mock God’s people, they blaspheme God’s name. Therefore God’s people can always plead to God to defend His own name.

The fourth argument is an appeal to the Lord’s compassion. “Let the sighing of the prisoner come before thee…” (v. 11). Our heavenly Father, is “Full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth” (Ps 86:15). As God’s children we can always draw nigh to the Father to remind Him of His compassion. God, of course, does not forget nor does He change. But He is pleased when His people acknowledge the same in prayer.

Finally, in conclusion, the Psalmist appeals to the hope that God’s people will have the occasion to praise God.

13 So we thy people and sheep of thy pasture will give thee thanks for ever: we will shew forth thy praise to all generations.

The glory of God is the chief end of man and of the Church. Therefore let us be mindful to appeal to God glory’s with a desire to glorify Him in our petitions before His throne of grace.


The Word of God, history and our own experience has shown that there will always be occasions for the Lord’s chastisement. We are, after all, a body of sinners saved by grace. We have the privilege of relating to God because God’s son has paid for our sins. But it pleases God that the Spirit should not make us perfect in this life. Therefore we will sin. And as a people, we are prone to wander, and bent on backsliding.

As such, there are bound to be occasions when we will need the comfort of singing this Psalm, and we will need to learn from it how to plead with God for restoration.

Do we need to do so, beloved brethren?


—JJ Lim


5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: 6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?…11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. 12 Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; 13 And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed” (Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13).