Advent Psalm reading for December 4, 5, & 6: Psalm 79
Reflecting Back on Psalm 79: A Journey from Vengeance to Compassion
In my last post (Part I), I reflected on the structure of Psalm 79 as a lament over the destruction of Jerusalem. Examining the psalm led me on a reflective journey to think about how the psalmist tried to get God to act by invoking a desire for vengeance upon his enemies. But it was not until the psalmist turned toward God’s compassion that we saw a shift toward self-examination, repentance, and a desire for peace.
The advent liturgy has us turning again to Psalm 79 today, so I am looking at the psalm with the Old Testament counterpart reading in Micah 4. Micah is one of twelve prophetic books in the Hebrew Bible, a collection often referred to as the Book of the Twelve, a group of twelve short prophetic writings. Micah is well-known for a verse in chapter 6 that sums up the essence of true righteousness: “Do justice, love goodness, and walk modestly with your Go” (6:8). Hebrew Bible Prophets were adept at seeing the future, especially when the misconduct of leaders were risking the health and well-being of their people.
Micah 4: A Prophetic Vision of Hope and Righteousness
Micah was mainly concerned with the fact that Israel was failing to care for the oppressed and instead engaging in violent corruption. He warns the Israelites about their foolish behavior, which will inevitably lead to war and conflict with the surrounding nations. However, Micah shows that a shift toward justice and righteousness will lead to a better tomorrow. Micah 4 shows us a very different scene than the utter destruction in Psalm 79. In Micah, we see hope eternal—a future vision of God ending war and creating a new Jerusalem where all is good. Micah may be read as a response to the psalmist, encouraging him to think about the future that God is creating.
Micah 5: The Unexpected Origins of Leadership
In the next chapter, Micah 5, we are told why the marginalized should not be so quickly dismissed because God’s chosen leaders could come from anywhere, even from the smallest (read, most insignificant) tribe. God’s word through the prophets is a continuous reminder that the primary directive of God’s leaders and people is to care for the marginalized. For Christians, this passage also serves as a reminder that Christ came from humble origins.
Advent Reflection: From Ancient Lament to Modern Hope
As an Advent reflection, the two biblical passages demonstrate a progression of God’s love and compassion that ultimately leads to the coming of the Messiah, God incarnate. And in God’s coming, we are reminded that God’s compassion is not just a nominal concept, but a natural gift. Not only does God talk about compassion, but God came as a human to interact compassionately with us, and encourage us to continue sharing Godly compassion with the world.
As we journey through this season of Advent, the intertwined messages of Psalm 79 and Micah 4-5 remind us of the transformative power of divine compassion. These ancient scriptures not only reflect a progression from despair to hope but also emphasize the unexpected ways in which God manifests love and leadership. This Advent, let us embrace the lesson that true strength often comes from humble beginnings and that justice and compassion are the cornerstones of a righteous life. May these reflections deepen our understanding of the Messiah’s coming and inspire us to live out God’s compassion in our daily lives, bringing hope to a world in need of healing and peace.
Coming Up on An Advent Psalm Reflection
Part 3 of this Advent reflection on Psalm 79 will look at Psalm 79 in light of the accompanying liturgical reading in the New Testament. Part 1 began with a look at the context of Psalm 79.
You can find the entire series, along with a link to the readings on the Advent Psalm Reflections page.
*The translations are JPS from Sefaria.org
Dr. Erica Mongé-Greer, holding a PhD in Divinity from the University of Aberdeen, is a distinguished researcher and educator specializing in Biblical Ethics, Mythopoeia, and Resistance Theory. Her work focuses on justice in ancient religious texts, notably reinterpreting Psalm 82’s ethics in the Hebrew Bible, with her findings currently under peer review.
In addition to her academic research, Dr. Mongé-Greer is an experienced University instructor, having taught various biblical studies courses. Her teaching philosophy integrates theoretical discussions with practical insights, promoting an inclusive and dynamic learning environment.
Her ongoing projects include a book on religious themes in the series Battlestar Galactica and further research in biblical ethics, showcasing her dedication to interdisciplinary studies that blend religion with contemporary issues.