Psalm 74: The Deeper Magic

Read Psalm 74.

In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the White Witch thinks she’s defeated Aslan when she trades Edmund’s life for the lion’s. She has an unbreakable claim on Edmund; he’s a traitor. Aslan doesn’t deny this, and he agrees to die in the boy’s place.

The Witch is triumphant and silences those who would try to stop her with sheer force: “[Aslan] knows the Deep Magic better than that. He knows that unless I have blood as the Law says all Narnia will be overturned and perish in fire and water.”

But there is a Deeper Magic. Aslan later tells Susan and Lucy all about it: “But if [the Witch] could have looked a little further back…. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.”

That’s exactly what happened. Aslan was murdered in Edmund’s place and broke the curse hanging over the traitor’s head—and he didn’t stay dead. The lion came back to life, the Table split in two, and the Witch finally met her end.

I bring all this up, because as I read Psalm 74, I was astonished by Asaph’s trust in God, even as the temple lay in ruins. The destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of God’s people was not by accident. The people had been warned over and over again that these things would happen if they failed to obey the covenant they had with the Lord. It’s like that Deep Magic that Aslan and the White Witch talk about. It’s real and true and unbreakable. There really are consequences for our sin. God wasn’t kidding when He said it would lead to death (Genesis 2:17).

Asaph describes what happened in vivid terms: “They behaved like men wielding axes to cut through a thicket of trees. They smashed all the carved paneling with their axes and hatchets. They burned your sanctuary to the ground; they defiled the dwelling place of your Name” (Psalm 74:5­–8). The Deep Magic, as painful as it may be, is real.

But there is a Deeper Magic, and Asaph knows it. “But God is my King from long ago; he brings salvation to the earth” (v. 12). Before there was a temple or the people dwelled in the land, before there was a covenant between God and the descendants of Jacob, and before Abraham was called by the Lord in Mesopotamia—before it all, there was God and the first human beings. He made them to bear His image and reflect His beauty, goodness, and truth throughout all the world (Genesis 1:27). He commissioned them to “fill the earth and subdue it” (v. 28), to make the rest of creation just like Eden, the place where God lived and reigned and every molecule echoed with His joy. This was God’s plan from the very beginning—the Deeper Magic—and He never changed His mind about it.

So, in Psalm 74, Asaph’s prayer is to remind God (as if He could forget) why He set Israel apart from the other nations in the first place. It was to restart this project of making the whole world look a lot more like heaven. “Do not let the oppressed retreat in disgrace; may the poor and needy praise your name. Rise up, O God, and defend your cause; remember how fools mock you all day long” (vv. 21–22).

History is moving toward a return to Eden. There is a new heaven and a new earth coming. A new age has dawned in Christ and will replace the current age entirely when Jesus returns. This is our hope—no matter how horrible things may seem at the moment. This is true even if, and especially when, the darkness that surrounds us was caused by our own sin. As I said, God wasn’t kidding when He said sin leads to death, but He also wasn’t kidding when through the Spirit He said, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Thank God for the Deeper Magic.

What’s this all about?

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