Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever!
Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression? (Psalm 44:23-24)
Psalm 44 extends the same sentiments as the previous two Psalms. The three Psalms (42, 43 & 44) may have been purposefully arranged this way during Israel’s exile, though they were written at an earlier time. Psalm 44 (like 42-43, written by the sons of Korah) begins almost as if the author had been reading the previous two Psalms. In these two Psalms we saw the bewildered and downcast individual in turmoil, find hope by remembering the corporate gathering which affirmed God’s continued presence and good intentions toward His people. Psalm 44 begins with the community doing exactly what the repeated chorus of Psalms 42-43 prescribes: Trusting their downcast soul to God by rehearsing God’s sovereign and saving grace in the events of Israel’s history.
In the Psalm’s first eight verses, we are reminded of God’s particular love for the nation in the past (vv. 1-3), which is appropriated by His people in the present (vv. 4-8). The mighty acts of God are communicated from one generation to the next so as not to be forgotten (see Deut. 4:1-9). In our day, preaching, Bible study, testimonies, and family worship continue the tradition of bearing witness of God’s exploits throughout the generations. We are dependent on the witness of those who have gone before us – especially those embodied in Scripture.
With verse 9 comes a radical shift in both tone and content. In verses 9-16 the Psalmist expresses his bewilderment over the present state of the nation. Notice the repetition of the word “You” in verses 9-14. His pointed language leaves us with no doubt as to the source of the nation’s suffering – it is God. Consider how these emphatic statements demonstrate a high and strong view of God. The problem is not a lack of power, but that God is the active force behind the tribulation that has befallen His people. And all of this is despite Israel’s faithfulness (vv. 17-22). Like Job, the Psalmist denies any national disloyalty to God (both inward and outward). These are a people who are declared righteous but still suffering. Why then were they in such turmoil?
Finally, in the Psalm’s last four verses (23-26) we find a corporate plea for God to wake up from His apparent slumber and to deliver and restore the nation. The Psalm expresses the tension between God’s promises and unfailing love and the present experience of suffering. It is meant to encourage faith amid trials, particularly trials that appear random and intense.