This is a lament of the community, apparently at a time of military defeat. Where was God? they wonder. In a refrain common in every age, they cry that God used to do great things but that they do not see such deeds in their own time (vv. 1-3, 9-12). Nor do they understand that their troubles are a result of their turning away from God (vv. 17-22). Indeed, they are suffering, as they see it, precisely because they have been faithful (v. 22). They cry to God, "Rouse yourself!" for it seems that God must surely be asleep.
Psalm 44 is honest in its language, if not cautious. Do they see themselves too quickly as blameless? Is their accusation of God blasphemous? Perhaps, but it is real, and God will hear this prayer, too. In the face of such spiritual torment, the psalmist knows there is nowhere else to turn: "Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love" (v. 26).
1 We have heard with our ears, O God,
our ancestors have told us,
what deeds you performed in their days,
in the days of old:
2 you with your own hand drove out the nations,
but them you planted;
you afflicted the peoples,
but them you set free;
3 for not by their own sword did they win the land,
nor did their own arm give them victory;
but your right hand, and your arm,
and the light of your countenance,
for you delighted in them.
4 You are my King and my God;
you command* victories for Jacob.
5 Through you we push down our foes;
through your name we tread down our assailants.
6 For not in my bow do I trust,
nor can my sword save me.
7 But you have saved us from our foes,
and have put to confusion those who hate us.
8 In God we have boasted continually,
and we will give thanks to your name for ever.
9 Yet you have rejected us and abased us,
and have not gone out with our armies.
10 You made us turn back from the foe,
and our enemies have taken spoil for themselves.
11 You have made us like sheep for slaughter,
and have scattered us among the nations.
12 You have sold your people for a trifle,
demanding no high price for them.
13 You have made us the taunt of our neighbours,
the derision and scorn of those around us.
14 You have made us a byword among the nations,
a laughing-stock* among the peoples.
15 All day long my disgrace is before me,
and shame has covered my face
16 at the words of the taunters and revilers,
at the sight of the enemy and the avenger.
17 All this has come upon us,
yet we have not forgotten you,
or been false to your covenant.
18 Our heart has not turned back,
nor have our steps departed from your way,
19 yet you have broken us in the haunt of jackals,
and covered us with deep darkness.
20 If we had forgotten the name of our God,
or spread out our hands to a strange god,
21 would not God discover this?
For he knows the secrets of the heart.
22 Because of you we are being killed all day long,
and accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
23 Rouse yourself! Why do you sleep, O Lord?
Awake, do not cast us off for ever!
24 Why do you hide your face?
Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?
25 For we sink down to the dust;
our bodies cling to the ground.
26 Rise up, come to our help.
Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love.
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org