Read: Psalm 44:1 – 3; Deuteronomy 6:20 – 23; 7:7 – 9; 10:15; 32:7; Acts 13:9; Romans 5:8; Titus 3:5
Psalm 44 is titled “A Maskil of the Sons of Korah.” According to Jewish tradition, when “Maskil” psalms were read to the congregation they were translated (most Jews had lost fluency in Hebrew) and explained. “Maskils” should be regarded as especially important teaching psalms. Psalm 44:1 – 3 began with a celebration of God’s deeds for His people in the days of old. The psalmist was careful to give credit to God in v. 3: “nor did their own arm save them, but your right hand and your arm.” God did more than bring about the conquest, He made His presence felt among His people and delighted in them. The remembrance and celebration of God’s deeds fulfilled the requirement of the Law to share the mighty works of God with coming generations (Deuteronomy 32:7). God wanted His people to remember what He did (the exodus from Egypt and the conquest of Canaan) and also why He did it (because He loved His people).
Think About It: Why was the remembrance of God’s deliverance so important that God commanded it? What has God done for me in “days of old”? Why did He do it?
Prayer: Lord, I praise You for Your love and Your salvation.
Read: Psalm 44:4 – 7; Joshua 23:5; Psalm 60:12, 108:13; Zechariah 10:5; 1 Corinthians 15:57; 1 John 5:4
The first three verses of Psalm 44 might be titled “God’s Work in Days of Old”; the next four verses (vv. 4 – 7) might be titled “What God Has Done for Us Lately.” In v. 4 the psalmist declared His loyalty to God and requested salvation. Then in vv. 5 – 7 he gave a general account of how God had answered that prayer of salvation, providing strength to push down foes and rebels and putting to shame hateful enemies. The psalmist was careful to give God the credit, although the sword and bow were put into play, God was the One who provided salvation from the enemy.
Think About It: I once heard a parody of a Christian testimony that went like this: “I was saved at evangelistic services in 1962, and I’ve lived a defeated life ever since.” Hopefully no real Christian has a testimony like that! What has God done for me lately? What recent victories has He strengthened me to experience for which I give Him credit?
Prayer: Thank you Lord for continued victories granted in my walk with You.
Read: Psalm 44:8; Psalm 30:12; Jeremiah 9:24; 1 Corinthians 1:31; Galatians 6:14
The Hebrew word translated “boasted” in Psalm 44:8 is the familiar hallelu which comes from a root meaning “to shine” or “to flash forth.” The nature of the word would seem to indicate some kind of expression of praise that brought notice, as opposed to a secret whisper of praise between the worshiper and God. The psalmist said the praise of the people was continual, and the Hebrew word translated “continually” is simply “daily.” The psalmist also promised thanksgiving to God that would go on forever.
Think About It: What is my spiritual practice regarding praise and thanksgiving to God? Do I praise God so that others know it? Do I praise God daily? Am I committed to give thanks to God forever, no matter what?
Prayer: Lord, help me to be faithful in outwardly, daily, and perpetually praising and thanking You.
Read: Psalm 44:9 – 14; 19; Psalm 23:4; Isaiah 13:22, 34:13; Jeremiah 51:37
After a positive beginning, in v. 9 Psalm 44 took an inexplicable turn. The picture became one of total abandonment by God, with resultant rejection, disgrace, defeat, slaughter, scattering, slavery, becoming subject to taunts and derision, and becoming a byword and laughingstock. Psalm 44: 19 described the situation succinctly as being broken in the place of jackals, or more colorfully in the King James Version, “Thou hast sore broken us in the place of dragons, and covered us with the shadow of death.” The “place of dragons” is a dangerous place, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It is a place where we experienced God’s deliverance in the past, yet where we now taste defeat and the mockery of our enemies. It is a place darkened by the shadow of death, meaning there seems to be no way out but the grave. The place of dragons is a place where we are likely to become totally confused about the nature of our salvation and the character of God. The place of dragons is the kind of fearful spot in life where there are no easy answers, no glib explanations as to why such a thing should ever happen. There is nothing wrong with looking for reasons for why trouble comes, but we shouldn’t be surprised if we can’t find any; some things are past finding out. Only God knows.
Think About It: Have I ever found myself in the place of dragons? How did I respond?
Prayer: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.
Read: Psalm 44:15 – 16; Romans 12:15; 1 Corinthians 12:26; 2 Corinthians 11:28 – 29
Psalm 44:9 – 14 described God’s rejection and the resultant disaster of defeat in corporate terms: “You have rejected us. . .You made us like sheep for the slaughter. . .You sold your people for a trifle. . .You made us. . .a laughingstock.” Then in verse 15 the problem became personal: “my disgrace is before me, and shame has covered my face.” A spectator at a sporting event can always walk away when his team stumbles in ignominious defeat. Many fans stream for the exits long before the end of the contest, as the humiliation of the team doesn’t really touch them. There is no such relief for any of God’s people. If Israel was defeated or shamed, every Israelite was affected; if the church which is the body of Jesus Christ is persecuted or oppressed in one part, every member of the body of Christ suffers – or should share the suffering.
Think About It: What is my relationship to the body of Christ really like? Am I member of the body – do I suffer with those who suffer, and rejoice with those who rejoice? Or am I just a spectator, able to disengage and head for the exits when things aren’t going well?
Prayer: Lord, thank for the potentially painful but also ultimately glorious privilege of being a real member of the body of Christ.
Read: Psalm 44:16 – 21; Deuteronomy 28:25, 31:17; Judges 2:14; Leviticus 26:33; Ezekiel 20:3
The “place of dragons” might have been an understandable place for God’s people to find themselves if they had broken their covenant with God, engaged in idolatry or immorality, or otherwise been unfaithful. The description of the place of dragons in Psalm 44:9 – 14 sounded very much like what God threatened as the consequences for faithlessness in the Law and through His prophets. Yet the psalmist claimed in Psalm 44:16 – 21 that God’s people had been faithful to His covenant, had not turned back from His way, had not forgotten God. He even submitted His claims to God’s inspection in v. 21. If the psalmist was not deluded about the spiritual condition of God’s people, and the disaster that happened to them was not the predicted discipline of God, we are left with the conclusion that faithfulness to God is not a guarantee of earthly victory, temporal success, or escape from death. If it were, no saints would ever have had to suffer martyrdom.
Think About It: What biblical accounts fit the circumstances of Psalm 44, where great disaster came upon God’s people, although they had been faithful to Him? There are at least three possibilities: Jehoshaphat’s initial victory and subsequent defeat when he joined with wicked Jehoram in battling the Moabites (2 Kings 3:6 – 21); Amaziah’s victory over Edom followed by his loss to Jehoash of Israel (2 Kings 14:1 – 8); Josiah’s defeat by Pharaoh Neco (2 Kings 23:24 – 30). Which of these three circumstances seems to fit Psalm 44 the best? Are there any other biblical events that are congruent with Psalm 44?
Prayer: Lord, may you find in me a willingness to be faithful not only unto victory and success, but even unto defeat and death.
Read: Psalm 44:22 – 26; Psalm 69:9; Romans 8:36 – 37; Hebrews 13:11 – 13
Psalm 44 presents a theological and experiential dilemma. The theological dilemma – why God would allow faithful people to suffer – is resolvable, the key being Psalm 44:22: “Yet for Your sake we are killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” The disaster that befell God’s people described in Psalm 44, whatever the specific event, was one of those circumstances in which God permitted His people to suffer reproach, hatred, and violence directed towards Him. He, after all, was willing to do the same for us: “Therefore let us go to Him outside the camp and bear the reproach He endured” (Hebrews 13:13). There is no greater privilege than to suffer such reproach: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11 – 12). When the apostles were beaten for refusing to stop preaching in the name of Jesus, “they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name” (Acts 5:41). The experiential difficulty remains, that difficulty being that even for the sake of Christ it is hard—it hurts!– to suffer and die, and even harder to watch loved ones suffer and die, regardless of the theological truth that undergirds us. The Apostle Paul, who was willing to suffer horribly for the sake of the Gospel (2 Corinthians 11:23 – 28), did not deem it beneath him to escape suffering when he could (Acts 22:25), and he advised others to do the same (1 Corinthians 7:28). There is no inconsistency in verses 23 – 26 closing Psalm 44 with a passionate plea for God’s intervention and redemption.
Think About It: Have I ever been counted worthy to suffer dishonor, rejection, violence, or some other form of abuse, for the sake of the name of Jesus? Am I aware of other Christians who are being granted the privilege of suffering for Jesus’ sake? How can I support them?
Prayer: Lord, thank you for the privilege of suffering for the sake of Your name; please remember those in affliction and oppression, and come to their aid.