Psalm 44

1650 psalter

The cry of the slaughtered sheep to the Shepherd

David not only entreated for himself personally through the psalms, but here is an earnest supplication for his nation. We ought to have a national concern, but his nation, the holy nation and peculiar people, symbolises the church. He contrasts times past with the then present conditions, and not only laments the deterioration, but also vehemently prays for its alteration.

Why the nation had experienced defeat and had been shamed before her enemies is not explained. In fact, there is no mention of any transgression that could have brought this affliction upon them. In God’s providence it was so, and maybe it was to draw out such a prayer as this. Sin is not the only reason why God chastens.

Yet faith and hope can be stirred into exercise by the remembrance of past favours. “We have heard with our ears O God, our fathers have told us.” To read the history of God’s people, and to hear of victories and revivals of the past, is a great means of promoting desires for such present favours.

Pastor Jeff O’ Neil

Recommended Tune: Old 44th (v 1-8), Tallis (v 9-26), St Peter (v 9-26)

Old 44th
St Peter

Psalm 44

¹O God, we with our ears have heard,
Our fathers have us told,
What works thou in their days hadst done,
Ev’n in the days of old.

²Thy hand did drive the heathen out,
And plant them in their place;
Thou didst afflict the nations,
But them thou didst increase.

³For neither got their sword the land,
Nor did their arm them save;
But thy right hand, arm, countenance;
For thou them favour gave.

⁴Thou art my King: for Jacob, Lord,
Deliv’rances command.
⁵Through thee we shall push down our foes,
That do against us stand:

We, through thy name, shall tread down those
That ris’n against us have.
⁶For in my bow I shall not trust,
Nor shall my sword me save.

⁷But from our foes thou hast us sav’d,
Our haters put to shame.
⁸In God we all the day do boast,
And ever praise thy name.

⁹But now we are cast off by thee,
And us thou putt’st to shame;
And when our armies do go forth,
Thou goest not with the same.

¹⁰Thou mak’st us from the enemy,
Fainthearted, to turn back;
And they who hate us for themselves
Our spoils away do take.

¹¹Like sheep for meat thou gavest us;
‘Mong heathen cast we be.
¹²Thou didst for nought thy people sell;
Their price enrich’d not thee.

¹³Thou mak’st us a reproach to be
Unto our neighbours near;
Derision and a scorn to them
That round about us are.

¹⁴A byword also thou dost us
Among the heathen make;
The people, in contempt and spite,
At us their heads do shake.

¹⁵Before me my confusion
Continually abides;
And of my bashful countenance
The shame me ever hides:

¹⁶For voice of him that doth reproach,
And speaketh blasphemy;
By reason of th’ avenging foe,
And cruel enemy.

¹⁷All this is come on us, yet we
Have not forgotten thee;
Nor falsely in thy covenant
Behav’d ourselves have we.

¹⁸Back from thy way our heart not turn’d;
Our steps no straying made;
¹⁹Though us thou brak’st in dragons’ place,
And cover’dst with death’s shade.

²⁰If we God’s name forgot, or stretch’d
To a strange god our hands,
²¹Shall not God search this out? for he
Heart’s secrets understands.

²²Yea, for thy sake we’re kill’d all day,
Counted as slaughter-sheep.
²³Rise, Lord, cast us not ever off;
Awake, why dost thou sleep?

²⁴O wherefore hidest thou thy face?
Forgett’st our cause distress’d,
²⁵And our oppression? For our soul
Is to the dust down press’d:

Our belly also on the earth
Fast cleaving, hold doth take.
²⁶Rise for our help, and us redeem,
Ev’n for thy mercies’ sake.