Verses 1 and 2 form the first stanza of the psalm and at once strike the sad, wailing tone of this lament. Jerusalem has been destroyed, the temple is in ruins, and the psalmist can see no end to the wretchedness he has experienced and observed. In these verses he asks God if his rejection of his people is going to last forever (“Why have you rejected us forever, O God?''), and he asks God to remember and therefore help both his redeemed people and Jerusalem.

Singing of the psalms was extremely important to the Huguenots, those persecuted Protestants who were driven out of France in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. The power of the psalms to bless and fortify them must have been especially feared by their persecutors, for under Louis XIII and Louis XIV many edicts were passed forbidding the use of the Psalter. These brave people, however, merely hid their books while carrying on their singing in mountain caves or forests, since they knew the psalms by heart.

We have followed Asaph from his introductory statement of faith in the goodness of God, through his steep descent into doubt and near unbelief, to the important turning point as a result of which he began to see things from God's perspective. Here we see him coming back. This radical reordering of his thinking, described in verses 18-26, touches on three main areas.

Suddenly on this downhill path into floundering unbelief there comes a turning point. It is in verses 16 and 17. For just when he was about to be swept away, Asaph, the honest doubter, "entered the sanctuary of God” and came to understand the "final destiny" of the wicked.

What Asaph observed was "the prosperity of the wicked" which defies our expectation that virtue should be rewarded and wickedness punished. But that is only one side of the problem and probably the least important. Asaph's real problem, as he acknowledges, was that he had become envious of the wicked, and it was as a result of this that he had "almost slipped." In other words, his problem was that he compared their health, wealth and prosperity with his lack of prosperity and was resentful that God would allow such a state to continue.