For the most part, when reading the Psalms with regularity and intention, it becomes obvious that there are certain patterns that most of the psalms follow. There are the psalms that express never-failing confidence in God and God alone. There are psalms that give rise to both individual and communal laments. There are psalms that are individual or communal hymns of praise. Most psalms, hymns of praise or hymns of lament, end in an expression of confidence in God and God’s provision. This evening’s psalm breaks the mold.
Psalm 74 is a communal petition for God to move and to act. Rather than recounting all the ways in which they feel abandoned by God or their struggles this psalm requests God’s presence and then gives God five reasons to act. This isn’t uncommon; what is different about this psalm is that there is no resolution. We do not get to know (a) whether the people’s song returned to confidence and trust in God or (b) if God remembers God’s creation. Instead, this psalm ends where it began, with a petition for God to help the people.
It’s a psalm that requires us to sit with the “what ifs” of not knowing how this particular story ends. We know, of course, that God is faithful, but Psalm 74 reminds us that it is not always that easy. It reminds us that there are occasionally big and deep challenges to holding on to this hope and to this faith. It’s a reminder that there often aren’t easy answers when we feel that God is absent; the prayer of this psalm very much is still the prayer of many who still carry deeply this theological struggle.