PSALM 76 TALK: GOD’S GREAT VICTORY OVER ALL EVIL

PSALM 76 TALK: GOD’S GREAT VICTORY OVER ALL EVIL

 (A study of Psalm 76 that looks back to a great victory of God over evil enemy forces in Israel’s past that will help us look back and reflect on God’s great and decisive victory over sin and all evil when Jesus died on the cross to forgive us our sins.)

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 INTRODUCTION

I have been studying Psalm 76 in the lead up to Easter for this year and this Psalm came alive to me once I realised its parallel with the central message of Easter namely Jesus death and resurrection which is God’s great victory over all evil including of course our sins which deserve the penalty of death.

Psalm 76 seems to have been written after the defeat of the great Assyrian army who besieged the city of Jerusalem in 701BC probably written by the same descendant of Asaph (see Hebrew heading) as the previous Psalm, Psalm 74. However Psalm 74 looks forward to the victory and judgment of God over the Assyrian evil forces and Psalm 75 looks back at God’s victory and judgment of those same evil forces.

For the Christian believer Easter is a special time to reflect on God’s great victory over sin and all evil forces including the leader of those forces Satan himself.

This does not mean that Jesus had some kind of hand-to-hand battle with Satan but rather his death on the cross, which looked like Satan and evil was victorious over God and which turned out to be God’s victory over all evil forces through the fact that Jesus rose from the dead three days later.

The New Testament is full of verses that speak of the cross being God’s victory through his Son Jesus Christ over Satan and all evil forces. I like Hebrews 2: 14 – 15 and the way it puts this great fact,

“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death”.

Once I started to read Psalm 76 and what it had to say about how God had judged and defeated a great evil force and then related this to the cross and God’s ultimate victory over sin I discovered the Psalm had so much more to say to me.

Before we look at the Psalm I would like to answer one other question:

If Jesus defeated Satan and all evil forces on the cross why is Satan and his evil forces still active in our world today?

I would like to give a long quote from a great book by an amazing writer as an answer to this question. The book is called, “The Cross in the New Testament” and the writer is a man named Leon Morris.

Leon passed from this life to the next in 2006 and he was an Australian like myself and I had the privilege of meeting him and hearing him expound the scriptures many years ago when I was a bible student and he was at the height of his ministry days.

Leon in the chapter of his book called “The cross in the Pauline Epistles” ends this chapter speaking of what Paul and the New Testament teaches about the connection with what Jesus achieved on the cross and what will be finally achieved through his second coming, he writes,

“The second coming stands for the final victory of Christ. It is the V – day corresponding to the D – day of the cross. Calvary represents the critical battle, the decisive victory. There the forces of evil were broken. The victory was won. That does not mean that there are pockets of resistance, some of considerable size. Mopping up operations continue, and will continue to the end of time. Christians are not likely to forget that they are still in a battle, but the doctrine of the second coming means that the outcome is sure. In the fullness of time Christ will come again, and then He will abolish ‘all rule and all authority and power’ as He delivers up the kingdom to God, even the Father” (1 Cor. 15: 24).”

 So with the concept of God’s great victory over great evil forces in Psalm 76 related to the great decisive victory of God over all evil forces through the cross of Christ I have broken this Psalm into three sections with two parts to each section with the following headings for each section and each part:

  1. (1 – 3) THE GOD WHO IS KNOWN
  1. (1 -2) The God who is known through his special people – Israel
  2. (vs.3) The God who is known by his great victory over Israel’s enemies
  1. (4 – 10) THE GOD WHO HAS DEFEATED ALL HIS ENEMIES
  1. (4 – 6) The God who shows his character in his great victory over his

           enemies.

  1. (7 – 10) The God who judges and saves
  1. (11 – 12) THE GOD WHO DESERVES OUR WORSHIP AND ALLEGIANCE
  1. (vs. 11) The God who deserves our worship and allegiance
  2. (vs. 12) The God who demands his enemies worship and fear him
  1. (1 – 3) THE GOD WHO IS KNOWN

 The Christian religion is what is called a revealed faith that is what we believe about God and how he wants us to relate to him which is brought about by what God has revealed to us. The Jewish faith would claim the same thing although a Jew is different from a Christian because the Jews still reject the revelation of God through The Lord Jesus Christ who Christians believe is the incarnate Son of God who is the promised Messiah or Christ that the Old Testament speaks of coming to this world to save it and unify it under one great faith in the one true God.

This Psalm starts with a declaration of a God who is known and who has clearly revealed himself and I have broken the first three verses into two parts:

  1. (1 -2) The God who is known through his special people – Israel
  2. (vs.3) The God who is known by his great victory over Israel’s enemies
  3. (1 -2) The God who is known through his special people – Israel

 The first part is verses, 1 and 2, which state clearly that the one true God of heaven and earth has not stayed in the dark but has made himself known. Verse 1 simply says,

“In Judah God is known; his name is great in Israel”.

 You can see from this verse that the two names of God’s special nation is used, Judah and Israel. This is probably because by the time of the writing of this Psalm the Nation of Israel had split into two nations, Israel in the north with ten tribes of the original 12 and Judah in the south with two tribes.

We believe this Psalm was written after the unsuccessful siege of the Assyrians led by their powerful king Sennacherib in 701BC. When this happened the Assyrians had already successfully invaded and destroyed the northern nation of Israel some twenty years before and only Judah now existed. However this mention of Judah and Israel in verse one is more to do with the ancient promise of God to make Israel God’s special nation as we read in Deuteronomy 7: 7 – 9,

“The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments”.

God gave Israel a special job or role as his chosen people expressed clearly in Exodus 19: 3- 6,

“Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”

God wants to use Israel as his kingdom or nation of priests or the mediators between God and man, the people God will make himself known to the world. This is why the writer of Psalm 76 says,

“In Judah God is known; his name is great in Israel”.

 The rhyming thought of this verse is,

“His name is great in Israel”

 The idea of name of God in the bible is the Character of what God is like or how he has revealed himself. In the Old Testament there is only one God but that one God has hundreds of names, which express what this God is like.

So as Christians we believe that the final and ultimate revelation of God is The Lord Jesus Christ God’s son who existed in heaven with God come to earth as a human just like us as John 1: 1 and 2,

“In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God in the beginning”.

 And John 1: 14,

 “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”.

The writer to the Hebrews also expresses this same truth in another way in Hebrews 1: 1 – 2,

“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe”.

Then in verse 2 the writer of Psalm 76 says,

“His tent is in Salem, his dwelling place in Zion”.

This verse is again another illustration of parallelism, rhyming thought and the central thought is that a major part of Israel / Judah revelation of God is the city of Jerusalem and the Temple built there (which originally was a tent called The Tabernacle) and called God’s dwelling place on earth. By the way the name Salem is another name for Jerusalem.

God of course did not strictly dwell in that building but rather that place in Jerusalem called the Temple represented God’s dwelling with his special people Israel. Isaiah makes it clear that God is not confined by a building even the Temple in Jerusalem in Isaiah 66: 1 and 2,

“This is what the Lord says: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.
Where is the house you will build for me?
Where will my resting place be?
Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?”
declares the Lord”.

 However as Lambert Dolphin in his interesting article on the Temple / Tabernacle entitled, “Does God need a Temple?” points out,

The Tabernacle gave tangible evidence that God was with His people as did the Pillar or Cloud by Day and the Pillar of Fire by Night”.

 So the Tabernacle is a potable travelling Temple became the permanent Temple building on Mount Zion in Jerusalem once the Nation was established under David and Solomon.

Interestingly the concept of the Temple being the dwelling place with God’s people develops in the New Testament as the body of every believer through the Holy Spirit as Paul writes of in 1 Corinthians 3: 16,

 “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?”

We then are walking Temple’s, walking dwelling places of God.

The last physical Temple was destroyed in AD 70 as Jesus predicted it would in Mark 13: 1 and 2,

“As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”

“Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

 This is because once Jesus came and gave his Holy Spirit to every true believer then their was no need for the building called the Temple as now through God’s Spirit we can me multiple walking God dwelling places for God throughout the whole world.

So even this verse 2 is speaking about the God who has made himself known first of all through his revelation through his special people Judah / Israel and their special dwelling place the Tabernacle / Temple in Jerusalem. Then through Jesus Christ his only Son born a Jew and died in Jerusalem on a cross made a way back to God for people from any race or gender and through that declared once and for all who He is and what he is like namely a God of Love and justice.

  1. (vs.3) The God who is known by his great victory over Israel’s enemies

Now in verse 3 the writer hits upon the main idea behind his poetic composition, which is God’s recent great victory over the evil forces of the Assyrians. He writes this in verse3,

“There he broke the flashing arrows, the shields and the swords, the weapons of war”.

 As I said the Jewish / Christian faith is a revealed religion namely God has made himself known in historical real time meaning God did things in the past which we can look back on and see and believe. God not only called Israel into being he worked with and for Israel to make that nation possible.

God historically led Israel put of bondage in Egypt and fought for them against the Egyptians when they tried to stop them leaving Egypt. He fought for them by opening a lake or inland sea to cross and then closing it in on the enemy to destroy them when they sought to cross.

God fought with and for the nation of Israel throughout the 40 years of wilderness wanderings and then in the conquering of Canaan his promised land for them. He helped them or fought for them against Nations who sought to overthrow them when they were in the promised land.

Now this writer refers to Jerusalem and God’s special dwelling place in that city in verse 2 and says that God again made himself known yet again by fighting for them against another enemy who sought to invade that city in his words in verse 3,

“There he broke the flashing arrows, the shields and the swords, the weapons of war”.

 This seems to be the great victory God had over the Assyrian super power of the writer’s day in 701BC. This great event is recorded in two places, 2 Kings 18 -19 and Isaiah 37.

We cannot today, I think, really appreciate the power and might of the Assyrians in the time of the writing of this Psalm. They had a massive, brutal well-trained army numbering in the hundred of thousands. They had superior iron weapons and had developed the chariot and with all this had conquered most of the known world of their day.

Assyrian only 20 years before had smashed the northern Kingdom of Israel and nothing; humanly speaking could stop them doing the same thing to the southern Kingdom of Judah.

The main general of the Assyrians arrogantly gives this message to the King of Judah named King Hezekiah, 2 Kings 18: 32b – 35,

“Do not listen to Hezekiah, for he is misleading you when he says, ‘The Lord will deliver us.’ 33 Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria? 34 Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivvah? Have they rescued Samaria from my hand? 35 Who of all the gods of these countries has been able to save his land from me? How then can the Lord deliver Jerusalem from my hand?”

In ancient times when you defeated another nation you not only defeated the people but you also defeated their God’s as well.

However in the matter of days the prophet Isaiah’s prophecy of what God would do with these arrogant, ruthless and evil Assyrian enemies comes true. Part of Isaiah’s prophecy reads like this, Isaiah 37: 27 – 29,

“Their people, drained of power, are dismayed and put to shame. They are like plants in the field, like tender green shoots, like grass sprouting on the roof, scorched before it grows up. 28 “But I know where you are and when you come and go and how you rage against me. 29 Because you rage against me and because your insolence has reached my ears, I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth, and I will make you return by the way you came”.

 Then we read of the fulfilment of this prophecy in 2 Kings 19: 35 – 36,

“That night the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! 36 So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there”.

So verse 3 is an apt poetic description of this great victory of God over the Assyrians,

“There he broke the flashing arrows, the shields and the swords, the weapons of war”.

The Assyrians did not return to trouble Judah again and even the great king of Assyria, Sennacherib was killed back in his homeland while worshipping one of his God’s as 2 Kings 19: 37, records,

“One day, while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisrok, his sons Adrammelek and Sharezer killed him with the sword, and they escaped to the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son succeeded him as king”.

This same God who acted in history in 701BC has been actively involved in the lives of his people who have faith in him even today. Of course the great event of the past we as Christians look back to is the great historical event of 2000 years ago so important and decisive we even date history by it.

This great event of history is of course the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ who paid for our sins by that death on the cross and doing so defeated death and destroyed the works of the devil forever. As Paul writes in Colossians 1: 13,

“ For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves”.

We will look a little more at this in the next section of the Psalm but for now I would like to point out that real Christian faith is not simply a looking back to the past at historical events, some kind of intellectual exercise but is trusting in the God of those great events of the past today and putting that trust or faith into action in our daily lives.

God can brake the flashing arrows and weapons of our spiritual war today just as Paul speaks of in Ephesians 6: 10 – 11,

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes”.

This too is something I would like to talk about in more depth in the next section of the Psalm.

  1. (4 – 10) THE GOD WHO HAS DEFEATED ALL HIS ENEMIES

The second section is both the heart of this Psalm and the heart of its great message. The writer wants his readers and according to the Hebrew heading its singers to understand a great message. We know this Psalm was meant to be a song because it’s heading says,

“For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A Psalm of Asaph. A song.”

This message deals primarily with God’s great victory over evil forces or the God who has defeated all his enemies. I have broken this section into 2 parts:

  1. (4 – 6) The God who shows his character in his great victory over his

           enemies.

  1. (7 – 10) The God who judges and saves
  1. (4 – 6) The God who shows his character in his great victory over his

           enemies.

The actions of God in the defeat of the great and powerful army of Assyria two great characteristics of God:

  1. Light and Majesty (vs. 4)
  2. Power and Might (5 – 6)
  1. Light and Majesty (vs.4)

 It seems strange to us that a terrible devastating defeat of a army could be seen as a time God shows his great light and majesty but that is what the writer of Psalm 76 is saying in verse 4,

“You are resplendent with light, more majestic than mountains rich with game”.

 Spurgeon explains so well why the defeat of the mighty and evil forces of Assyria are a demonstration of God’s light and majesty with these words,

“Far more is Jehovah to be extolled than all the invading powers which sought to oppress his people, though they were for power and greatness comparable to mountains. Assyria had pillaged the nations till it had become rich with mountains of spoil, this was talked of among men as glory, but the psalmist despised such renown, and declares that the Lord was far more illustrious. What are the honors of war but brags of murder? What the fame of conquerors but the reek of manslaughter? But the Lord is glorious in holiness, and his terrible deeds are done in justice for the defence of the weak and the deliverance of the enslaved. Mere power may be glorious, but it is not excellent: when we behold the mighty acts of the Lord, we see a perfect blending of the two qualities”.

 So God in one great act of judgment on the Assyrian evil forces also at the same time provides salvation for his people. This kind of majestic light is seen even more in what God did through his son, Jesus Christ 2000 years ago.

The cross of Christ reveals both the Justice and wrath of God and the love of God at the same time. Paul teaches clearly and says in Romans 6: 23a,

 “For the wages of sin is death”

God is a holy God and is totally just therefore the wages of sin had to be paid for and Jesus achieved this by his death for our sins on the cross. Paul says this in 2 Corinthians 5: 21,

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”.

So as we picture Jesus on the cross a gruesome sight we are looking at how much God hates sin but Paul goes on to say in Romans 6: 23,

“But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

So through Jesus paying for our sins on the cross he won for us victory over death and the gift of eternal life. So when we see Jesus on the cross we also see the love of God as well. As Paul speaks of in Romans 5: 8,

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.

Jesus speaks of his coming into the world as a great light in John 12: 46,

“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness”.

However earlier in Johns Gospel he explained why many reject this great light that has come into the world in John 3: 19,

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil”.

This rejection of Jesus as the light that came into the world is what lead to the death of Jesus on the cross as the religious leaders of his day forced the Roman Governor Pilot to have Jesus crucified.

So just as the Assyrian armies death revealed God’s resplendent light and majesty in that it shows how God deals with evil forces and in doing so will saves his people so in a greater way Jesus death on the cross reveals how God deals with our sin and at the same time wins for us salvation.

The mountains rich with game has been further explained to me by Tremper Longman 111 when he writes,

“Mountains are a symbol of grandeur, stability and permanence, rich with game, thus providing abundant provision”.

What Jesus achieved for us on the cross was all these things, grandeur in that it is so amazing and wonderful. Offering stability in both in this life and for eternity by how it gives us life in God. Provides abundant provision in that it sets us free from the power of death and empowers us to live the life God wants us to live. As Paul writes of in Ephesians 2: 4 – 7,

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus”.

  1. Power and Might (5 – 6)

The next two verses poetically speak of God’s power and might seen recently by the writer, when he witnessed God’s devastation of the entire mighty Assyrian army. The second book of kings simply says in two verses what God did to the undefeated Assyrian army, 2 Kings 19: 35 – 36,

“That night the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! 36 So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there”.

The agent this “Angel of the Lord” probably used was a tiny microscopic virus that drove a deadly sickness through the tightly set Assyrian army camp.

Armies suffering from viral attacks by some form of sickness were very common right up to the First World War. A third of the deaths in the First World War can be attributed to sickness and this was amazingly low compared to wars before that World War. The following quote from Wikipedia sets down this fact,

“About two-thirds of military deaths in World War I were in battle, unlike the conflicts that took place in the 19th century when the majority of deaths were due to disease. Nevertheless, disease, including the 1918 flu pandemic and deaths while held as prisoners of war, still caused about one third of total military deaths for all belligerents”.

 Even if this sudden devastating night of death in the Assyrian camp was simply a result of a virus attack it still is a result of God’s power and might. Verses five and six make this clear when they say,

“Valiant men lie plundered, they sleep their last sleep; not one of the warriors can lift his hands. At your rebuke, O God of Jacob, both horse and chariot lie still”.

 This poetic description of the devastated Assyrian camp fits well with a description of an enemy camp revenged by deadly illness. The description of dead soldiers appearing to be a sleep unable lift their hands to fight again fits well with a quickly abandoned camp that the people of Jerusalem saw that day.

The description of valiant men fits well with the historical known facts of the Assyrian soldiers. In their day they were the most feared fighting force around and won many battles by their fierce brave and bold tactics. Assyria was one of the first nations to have a massive standing army of professional soldiers in history.

Note also verse 6 speaks of this victory over his enemies being a rebuke. We have seen many times in these Psalm talks the relevance of Psalm 2 and in this case Psalm 2 verses 4 and 5,

“The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath”.

 As Christians we look back at the death of Jesus on the cross as both the time Jesus paid for our sins and when he defeated all the forces of evil. God confirmed this great victory of Jesus by God raising Jesus from the dead as Paul writes in Ephesians 2: 6,

“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus”.

From this exalted position Jesus one day will come to destroy forever all evil in his second coming which will be the day of God’s final judgment. As Paul speaks of in Philippians 2: 9 – 11,

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”.

As Leon Morris pointed the cross was the D – Day or decisive victory over all evil but Jesus second coming will be the V – day the final total victory day over all evil forces.

  1. (7 – 10) The God who judges and saves

The next 3 verses make it clear that the massive victory of God over the Assyrian evil forces was an act of judgment. This army had revenged and pilfered most of the known world of its time committing state led murder and destruction on so many countries and people. The Assyrian virtually had a policy of take no prisoners.

Add to this the words of blasphemy the king of Assyria had his general speak against the God of the bible and you can get the picture that God was angry as verse 7 reads,

“You alone are to be feared. Who can stand before you when you are angry”

It is though the writer is saying who did the Assyrians think they were dealing with when the Assyrian general said to King Hezekiah in 2 Kings 18: 33 – 35,

“Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria? 34 Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivvah? Have they rescued Samaria from my hand? 35 Who of all the gods of these countries has been able to save his land from me? How then can the Lord deliver Jerusalem from my hand?”

They thought Yahweh was yet another tin pot local deity that would be brushed aside by the mighty army of Assyria just like all other nations and their God’s were destroyed. However they found out the hard way that Yahweh, the God of the bible was the God to be feared.

The God of the bible is the God of heaven and earth and as the writer asks,

Who can stand before you when you are angry?”

Paul speaks of the God of the bible in his speech to the scholars of Athens and describes him this way in Acts 17: 24 – 28,

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring”.

Paul then points to the problem of idolatry and how God will one day judge or men for it made possible because Jesus rose from the dead, Acts 17: 29 – 31,

“Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”

The Psalmist speaks of God’s judgement on evil forces in verse 8,

“From heaven you pronounced judgment, and the land feared and was quiet”.

 This judgment we think is that that came on the Assyrian army and once God judged them and acted in judgment the land or Judah feared and was quiet. The Angel of the Lord struck down the loud and boastful Assyrians and now they were dead and quiet. No more was there that Godless chatter of the Assyrians.

Today we hear lots of Godless chatter and many people today who call themselves atheists speak loudly their contempt and disbelief in the God of the bible but as Paul said to the Athenians in Acts 17: 30 – 31,

30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”

The resurrection of Jesus confirms the work of salvation Jesus did on the cross. It is the proof that Jesus was who he says he was and that he has the power and ability to one day return and bring about the final judgment of God. This judgment will come from heaven as verse 8 declares in this Psalm.

Then the writer of Psalm 76 speaks not only of judgment but salvation in verse 9, he writes,

“When you, O God, rose up to judge, to save all the afflicted of the land”.

 You see God’s act of judgment on the Assyrians was an act of Salvation for the people of God in Jerusalem. These people were afflicted by the might and terror of the Assyrian army camped outside their city and ready to pounce.

The people’s affliction was in the form of a siege, which usually is designed to starve the people into submission. Siege tactics that caused the people to surrender without a fight, as they were either starving or dying of lack of water or both and this is how most fortresses were taken in the ancient world.

However this siege was over once God acted in judgment and destroyed most of the Assyrian army in one night of hell and sickness.

So God’s acts of Judgement can be an act of Salvation at the same time. God’s judgment for the Assyrian evil forces was salvation for the people of God.

So it is with the cross as it is an act of judgment on sin but at the same time it is an act of Salvation to everyone who believes in Jesus and what he was doing for us on the cross. Paul speaks of God’s judgment or righteousness and God’s salvation or atonement being made through the cross of Christ in Romans 3: 25 – 26,

“God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus”.

The theme of the justice or judgment of God being the same act as the deliverance or Salvation of God continues in the last verse of this section, verse 10,

“Surely your wrath against men brings you praise, and the survivors of your wrath are restrained”.

Joseph Barnes explains the meaning of this verse the best for me when he writes,

“The deliverance of the people by the direct interposition of God in the case referred to in the Psalm, the sudden and entire overthrow of the invading forces by his power, led to the reflection”.

God will be praised in his judging the world either involuntarily by those who oppose him by their awe of his power and might or praised voluntarily who have been saved by his act of judgment upon their enemies who are also the enemies of God.

It will be like this in the final judgment of well which is explained by Paul in Philippians 2: 9 – 11,

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father”.

This bringing of praise that verse 10 speaks of hear is in the broader sense an acknowledging of who God is, what he is and what he has done which is the bases of all true praise anyway.

The verse even mentions the effect of God’s judgment had on those Assyrians who seemed to escape that terrible night of death and destruction outside of Jerusalem and went back to Nineveh it says simply,

“And the survivors of your wrath are restrained”.

Assyria never attacked Judah or particularly Jerusalem again as it was the Babylonians over 100 years later who eventually took down Jerusalem and took most of the Jews into captivity indeed for the Assyrians were restrained by the judgment of God that day back in Jerusalem.

The actual Assyrian historical account of this incident is rather mute in what it says; it speaks of the siege and king Hezekiah being held up in Jerusalem like a bird in a cage and then seems to say they left because he paid a high price of tribute but this seems unlikely for the typical Assyrian way of operation when they were in such a powerful position outside of Jerusalem. The facts are Hezekiah did pay a great tribute even the bible says that but the Assyrians left because they coped such a thumping from the God of Israel something official Assyrian records never mention as they only recorded the great victories of the nation not their defeats.

Even in recent history God has eventually restricted evil powers with sometimes unexpected defeats when they seemed to be invincible like the fall of communism which when I was a younger person seemed invincible but I believe behind all history the hand of God is moving in Judgment and salvation.

  1. (11 – 12) THE GOD WHO DESERVES OUR WORSHIP AND ALLEGIANCE

The final section which is the final two verses brings this Psalm about God’s great victory over evil forces to a conclusion with a call to worship from God’s followers as the right response to what he has done and a final word to God’s enemies about the power and might of the true God of Israel.

I have broken this final section into two parts:

  1. (vs. 11) The God who deserves our worship and allegiance
  2. (vs. 12) The God who demands his enemies worship and fear him
  1. (vs. 11) The God who deserves our worship and allegiance

The writer of Psalm 76 brings his Psalm to a conclusion which is both a word to believers, then the people of Judah and a word to non – believers. Only the start of verse 11 speaks to believers, which speaks first of all of making vows.

We have seen in many previous Psalm talks that particularly David spoke of making and keeping vows. One memorable example of this is a Psalm of praise, Psalm 66, which is not directly related to David but seems have a big influence by David. Verses 13 and 14 speak of worship to God involving fulfilling vows,

“I will come to your temple with burnt offerings and fulfill my vows to you – vows my lips promised and my mouth spoke when I was in trouble”.

When the mighty Assyrian army was besieging Jerusalem in 701BC king Hezekiah and his people locked up in the city would have sent many prayers to God for help and they would have made vows to serve and worship God more closely if he would see fit to deliver them from certain destruction.

These vows are probably what the writer is referring to in verse 11. He is saying don’t just make vows make sure you fulfill them and as Psalm 66: 11 fulfill them with worship to God.

The next part of verse 11 is addressed to the neighboring lands but I’m sure what it says equally applies to believers as well, as it says,

“Let all the neighboring lands bring gifts to the One to be feared”.

Bringing gifts to God is Old Testament speak for worship God as worship in the Old Testament involved bringing animals to the Temple to be sacrificed to God as Psalm 66 verse 13 says,

“I will come to your temple with burnt offerings and fulfill my vows to you.”

In the New Testament Jesus death on the cross is spoken about as God’s perfect sacrifice for sin. Jesus is even spoken of extensively as the lamb that was slain like 1 Peter 1: 18 – 19,

“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ a lamb without blemish or defect”.

Paul declares in Romans 12: 1 that this dying for sin on the cross by Jesus Christ changed worship of God forever as we now are saved by the grace or mercy of God and he says clearly in this verse,

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship”.

However the second part of verse 11 in Psalm 76 is addressed primarily to what the writer calls “neighboring lands” and this would imply that this is addressed to non -believers outside of Israel. This means I think that the story of God’s great victory over the Assyrian evil forces would have been known to neighboring countries around Israel and because victories or defeats in battles in those days were always attributed to the God or God’s of the victorious nation then Israel’s God would have caused fear in the minds of those nations.

The writer of the Psalm says the right response of any neighboring country to the news of God’s victory over the Assyrian evil forces is to bring gifts to him which in those days meant worship him.

Note the writer description of God hear is,

“The one to be feared”

The fear of God is mentioned a lot especially in the proverbs and it is not just the idea of being scared of God although that does come into it but it is more the recognition of who God is and who we are that brings about reverence. This reverence or healthy respect for God is described in the famous verse in the Proverbs as the beginning of Wisdom, Proverbs 1: 7,

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline”.

That’s what is wrong with our world today; there is little or even no fear or reverence for God and even though there is great knowledge in the minds of many people today and this knowledge without belief and reverence for God makes the thinking of these people foolishness lacking God given wisdom.

We all have this problem of lack of wisdom and this is why James tells us in James 1: 5,

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him”.

  1. (vs. 12) The God who demands his enemies worship and fear him

The final word of the Psalm is to unbelievers again and this last verse speaks to rulers and kings who refuse to believe in the God of the Bible, the God of ancient Israel. In the context of the great victory God had over the evil Assyrian forces of 701BC this last verse is a very powerful word of warning indeed, it reads,

“He breaks the spirit of rulers; he is feared by the kings of the earth”.

 In just one night in 701BC the Assyrian king Sennacherib the most powerful and feared ruler of his time went from being a arrogant God blaspheming king to a broken God of Israel fearing man as his army was mysteriously attacked in one night by some strange and terrible sickness and was devastated. Sennacherib and what was left of his massive army went back home sick and as the verse suggests broken in spirit.

They had had so many victorious victories up to then but now in one night they were defeated by what must have seemed to them as an unseen and silent killer. People of that time would have attributed what people today call bad luck to the workings of the God’s and in the case of Jerusalem it was the working of one single almighty God known as Yahweh.

God certainly can and does from time to time break the spirit of rulers and their will come a great final day of judgment when all who have not bowed the knee to God will do just that but as Jesus says on a number of occasions if they are not following him that turning to God and acknowledging him will be a very unpleasant experience, as Jesus says in Matthew 13: 41 and 42,

“The Son of man, will send out his angels, and there will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”.

 As I said before Paul says that before the throwing into fire of those who lived without acknowledging God their will be a great acknowledgement of God as he says in Philippians 2: 9 – 11,

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father”.

The last thought of the Psalm in this final verse is a statement of probably what a lot of kings and rulers did when they first heard of Israel’s God’s victory over the mighty Assyrians,

“He is feared by the kings of the earth”.

 This was probably not a saving fear as the bible makes it clear in the letter of James that Satan himself believes in God but this is not saving faith, James 2: 19,

“You believe that there is one God. Good? Even the demons believe that – and shudder”.

 Satan the king of all demons knows there is a God as he opposes him daily as James says he and his demon followers believe in God but shudder. This word shudder is yet another word for fear as our last thought of the Psalm speaks of the Godless rulers or kings of other nations when they heard of God’s great victory over the evil Assyrian forces feared God. Unfortunately this fear did not lead them to turning to God in repentance and faith because this is what God is looking for and certainly Satan is not going to do that.

As I said at the start of this Psalm talk Christ defeated all evil on the cross of Calvary. This is one of the great messages of Easter something we should not just remember once a year but every day of our lives.

The great decisive victory over all evil forces has been won but as Leon Morris pointed out the final victory of God when all evil will be done away with forever is still to come. This will happen when Jesus returns for the second time.

This great final day of history will be when God has the final great victory over all evil. I would like to offer one final passage that speaks of this it is Revelation 20: 11 – 15,

“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books, were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire”

 I close ass usual with a poem and a prayer,

GOD IS KNOWN

(Based on Psalm 76)

 God is known, God is known

By his acts his power is shown.

God is great his might is feared

But for his people he is always near.

 

God is near so very near

Even when I happen to shed a tear.

God has judged evil man

All who oppose him cannot stand.

 

God is light so wonderful bright

Sent his Son to show us his light.

God’s judgment reveals his righteousness

But those who trust him he will bless.

 

Christ did die upon a cross

Gave his life to save the lost.

In that act Satan has been beat

Sins payment has been made complete.

 

One day Jesus will return on high

All will see him up in the sky.

He will judge evil on that day

Those who believe will go God’s way.

 

We must worship God right now

Because of his love and mighty power

But those who refuse to accept God’s love

Will not rise to the Lord above.

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

 Father in heaven we thank for your mighty power demonstrated so clearly in times past by your mighty acts of Judgment for your enemies and salvation for your people. Above all Father we thank you for the sending of your Son to reveal your great light of the Gospel to us. We thank you Jesus that you went to death for us on the cross where you beat Satan and all evil and paid for all our sins. Help us now to worship you by the way we serve you in this world and help those who do not know you to learn of your great love for them and help them to turn in repentance and faith to you. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

PSALM 75 TALK: THE GOD WHO JUDGES THE PROUD AND EXALTS THE HUMBLE

PSALM 75 TALK: THE GOD WHO JUDGES THE PROUD AND EXALTS THE

                                    HUMBLE

 (A Psalm that explores the workings of the judgment of God and how in judgment he will judge the proud and wicked people of this world but will exalt the humble and godly people who believe in Jesus in his final judgment to come.)

 THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide”.

 INTRODUCTION

 Lately I have been following with some interest the current American president pre-selection process for the Democrat and Republic candidate for the 2016 American presidential election. As an Australian I find this very expensive and long and dragged out process very strange and sometimes amusing. I’m sure my friends in America do not find it amusing as it comes across as a deadly serious and at times vicious process. I will not comment on any of the actual candidates but make one obvious observation and that is would any Presidential candidate ever stand up and admit they have done anything wrong in the past.

If any politician in the US or even here in Australia ever actually admitted they were a sinner and needed the forgiveness of God then that would spell the end of their political career. This is such a real fact of life that what opposing politicians seek to do is find what is known as “Dirt” in their opponents. This “dirt” is then used to destroy the good reputations of the candidate and swing the votes their way to win the election.

I watch the American president candidates doing two things constantly pushing up their own so called virtue and greatness and finding fault and sometimes scandal in the lives of their opponents. The political campaigns of every country in the world are similar but let me say that this is only possible because we want and even demand such a process. If this is not so why does is this form of political campaigning so successful and why are political candidate destroyed when sin or wrong- doing is found in their past.

We all try to present ourselves to the world as good upright people and many people today give the impression that they are without fault in this life. Even those caught out as immoral characters try to say they are not as bad as others or they only did the wrong they got caught for because they were forced into this by the evil actions of others.

The plain fact is stated clearly in the bible, like Romans 3: 23,

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.

Psalm 75 presents clearly the God of the bible who will judge everyone and in that judgment he will bring down the proud or rebellious people that are called the wicked in the Old Testament and exalt the humble God believing people who are called “The Righteous” in the Old Testament.

The fact that this Psalm follows Psalm 74 I believe is not a coincidence as Psalm 74 explores the theme when will God judge his enemies like Psalm 74: 10,

“How long will the enemy mock you, O God? Will the foe revile your name forever?”

And finishes with this plea for God’s Judgment in verses 22 and 23,

Rise up, O God, and defend your cause; remember how fools mock you all day long.
23 Do not ignore the clamour of your adversaries, the uproar of your enemies, which rises continually”.

 While Psalm 75 spells out clearly the Judgment of God on his enemies which is surely coming like verse 2,

“You say, “I choose the appointed time; it is I who judge with equity”

Even though these Psalms a linked by their themes it is unlikely they are linked by their time frame of composition. Although the Hebrew heading attributes this Psalm to Asaph we know already that this might not be the original man named Asaph in David and Solomon’s time for it seems to be a name given to any descendant of Asaph as we saw in Psalm 74 which was clearly written some time after the fall of Judah and Jerusalem in 597BC.

For various reasons most commentators believe this Psalm was written by a another descendant of Asaph who lived through the Assyrian invasion of Judah and the besieging of the city of Jerusalem by the Assyrian king Sennacherib in 701BC.

This is because the Psalm seems to have a thread of God’s judgment and positive victory throughout it. Add to this the fact that verse 6 speaks of people being exalted from East, west and the desert probably a reference to the desert areas to the south of Judah which leaves only the north not mentioned which is where the Assyrian invasion came from.

Interestingly in both 2 Kings 18: 18 and verse 37 and Isaiah 36: 3 and 22 a descendant of Asaph is mentioned in connection with the Assyrian assault on Jerusalem. 2 Kings 18: 17 and 18 reads like this,

 “The king of Assyria sent his supreme commander, his chief officer and his field commander with a large army, from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem. They came up to Jerusalem and stopped at the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Washerman’s Field. 18 They called for the king; and Eliakim son of Hilkiah the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary, and Joah son of Asaph the recorder went out to them”.

Could this high -ranking court official named Joah be the descendant of Asaph who wrote Psalm 75?

The answer is we simply do not know but who ever he was he used a well known tune for his composition called in the Hebrew heading, “Do not destroy” which has been used for three other Psalms, Psalms 57, 58 and 59. This is an apt title for a Psalm, which speaks of God as the judge, obviously not mankind, excluding even his own people or followers.

So with the judgment of the proud or Godless people an the exaltation of the humble or God believing people I have broken this Psalm into 4 Sections and each section has two parts:

  1. (Vs. 1) THE GOD WHO DESERVES PRAISE
  1. The God who is near (1a)
  2. The God who has done marvelous deeds (1b)
  1. (2 – 5) THE GOD WHO JUDGES THE WICKED
  1. The God who decides when to Judge (2 – 3)
  2. The God who condemns arrogance and wickedness (4 – 5)
  1. (6 – 8) THE GOD WHO BRINGS A MAN DOWN AND EXALTS ANOTHER
  1. The God who brings down a man and then exalts another (6 – 7)
  2. The God who administers lethal judgment (vs. 8)
  1. (9 – 10) THE GOD WHO’S JUDGMENT AND SALVATION DESERVES OUR
                     PRAISE AND PROCLAMATION
  1. The God who deserves eternal praise and proclamation (vs. 9)
  2. The God who judges the wicked but delivers or saves the righteous
    (vs. 10)
  1. (Vs. 1) THE GOD WHO DESERVES PRAISE

This Psalm starts with a word of praise and finishes with a word of praise, which I think is a very good thing to have at the start and end of a Psalm, which speaks of the judgment of God. This is because most of us have suffered under the preaching that is called fire and brimstone preaching. This kind of preaching is big on condemnation of sinners but often weak on the positive aspects of God, namely his love and majesty that deserves our praise.

This first verse, which features praising God, is so important I have broken it down into two parts:

  1. The God who is near (1a)
  2. The God who has done marvelous deeds (1b)
  1. The God who is near (1a)

The first part is:

“We give thanks to you, O God, we give thanks, for your name is near”.

So the first point of praise in this opening verse is the nearness of the name of God. This seems a strange expression but once we understand what the names of God meant to an ancient Hebrew person then it makes a lot of sense.

I have spoken of the many names of God in previous Psalm talks and Tremper Longman 111 sums up the significance of this with these words,

“Gods unspoken name, Yahweh, is near, meaning that God himself is near”.

Longman goes on to speak of God’s specially dwelling of his name in Deuteronomy 12: 11, which this writer might have had in his mind as well,

“Then to the place the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name—there you are to bring everything I command you: your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, and all the choice possessions you have vowed to the Lord”.

 We know of course from the complete Old Testament and New Testament that for the true believer of the God of the Bible God is with us every where we go as expressed so well in the well known Psalm, Psalm 139 made even more famous by the poem by Francis Thompson called The hound of heaven, here are the first ten verses of Psalm 139,

“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast”.

Jesus made it clear to his disciples and all his followers since them that he is with us always in Matthew 28: 20b

“And surely I am with you always, to ends of the age”.

What is the significance of praising God for his continual presence at the start of a Psalm that deals with the God who Judges?

Well I think it is significant because as true believers in the God of the bible who will judge all people we have nothing to fear because just as God will bring down the proud and godless people he will exalt the humble true believers as verse 7 0f this Psalm declares,

“But it is God who judges; He brings one down and exalts another”.

  1. The God who has done marvelous deeds (1b)

Even though this Psalm does not mention directly the love of God it is implied from statements like verse 1b,

“Men tell of your wonderful deeds”.

 This is a reference to what God has done in the past particularly for his special people Israel.

Even the great prophet of the judgment of Israel says this about God’s love for his people in Jeremiah 31: 1 – 4,

“At that time,” declares the Lord, “I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and

They will be my people.” This is what the Lord says: “The people who survive the sword will find favour in the wilderness; I will come to give rest to Israel.”

The Lord appeared to us in the past saying:

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
I will build you up again, and you, Virgin Israel, will be rebuilt. Again you will take up your timbrels and go out to dance with the joyful”.

This is Jeremiah’s prophecy concerning the return from exile for the nation of Israel and it shows how this God of love who just judged his people would perform wonderful deeds yet again for the people he chose’s to love.

David speaks of God’s wonderful deeds in the past for Israel in his prayer in 2 Samuel 7: 22 – 25,

“How great you are, Sovereign Lord! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears. 23 And who is like your people Israel—the one nation on earth that God went out to redeem as a people for himself, and to make a name for himself, and to perform great and awesome wonders by driving out nations and their gods from before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt? 24 You have established your people Israel as your very own forever, and you, Lord, have become their God.

25 “And now, Lord God, keep forever the promise you have made concerning your servant and his house. Do as you promised”.

So this is the kind of wonderful deeds God did for Israel in the past that this descendant of Asaph is referring to in verse 1b.

As Christians we are now part of God’s special family or nation that God has made out of his love by his wonderful deeds of the past when he sent Jesus into this world to die for our sins on the cross.

Paul spoke of this love of God calling us and transforming us by his wonderful deeds of Christ in the past and a great example of this is Ephesians 2: 1 – 10,

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”.

Note how Paul speaks of our judgment being deserved in verse 3 yet because of God’s love he says in verse 4 he has made us alive, saved by this wonderful grace of God.

This great love or grace of God is what is behind any of the wonderful deeds of God even the creation of the world and the universe is a wonderful deed of God in the past that comes because he is a God of love and created us to be in fellowship with him. Paul sees the making of us as new creatures in Christ is another act of God’s loving handiwork of creation in Jesus Christ our Lord.

  1. (2 – 5) THE GOD WHO JUDGES THE WICKED

We now move quickly into the main teaching theme of the Psalm namely God’s judgment and as I did in the first section I have broken this second section into two parts:

  1. The God who decides when to Judge (2 – 3)
  2. The God who condemns arrogance and wickedness (4 – 5)
  1. The God who decides when to Judge (2 – 3)

The writer of the Psalm now has God directly speaking in verse 2 of this Psalm something was have seen before in previous Psalms.

Verse 2, says,

“You say, “I choose the appointed time; it is I who judge uprightly”.

As I said in the introduction it is no coincidence that Psalm 75 follows Psalm 74 because Psalm 74 verse 10 asks,

“How long will the enemy mock you, O God? Will the foe revile your name forever?”

Verse 2 is the answer to the question when will you judge your enemies? and God’s answer is simply when I choose to do so. God is in charge of the timetable of history and particularly his judgment.

Coffman makes this very important observation,

“Everything in the whole universe is, as it were, scheduled according to the time God has for it, in the life of Christ, one cannot fail to remember the frequent words of Jesus, and ‘My time is not yet come’”.

Judah was probably under attack by the Assyrians and many Jews would have been asking when will God act when will he judge our enemies?

This descendant of Asaph answers that question with God’s direct words, which are basically saying when God chooses to do so.

All through the history of the church Christians have been caught up in persecutions as Jesus predicted would happen and they too would have asked in prayer to God and conversation with each other “How long will God allow this time of suffering to last?

In the time of the Roman Empire in the early church history it took 300 years before the Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in 312BC.

In more recent times it took 50 years for the fall of communism to come to end the persecutions of Christians in Eastern Europe.

Many have sought to predict the final judgment of God that will happen when Christ returns despite the fact Jesus said in Matthew 24: 36,

“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven nor the Son”.

Like the words in this Psalm Jesus goes on to say in Matthew 24: 36b

“But only the Father “ knows.

God has chosen the time and hour for Jesus return and not even Jesus when he was on earth knew when that was to happen. I say if Jesus did not know when he would return why would anyone in this life know the date of his return?

I always get a little uptight inside when fellow believers begin to speculate the date or time of Jesus return as Peter says in 1 Peter 3: 8 – 10,

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare”.

Then in verse 3 the writer of Psalm 75 refers poetically to his people own time of suffering, verse 3,

“When the earth and all its people quake, it is I who hold its pillars firm”.

This poetic image I think captures the upheaval and turmoil of the Assyrian invasion of Judah. This mighty nation of Assyria had viciously turned the nations of the world of there time upside down they were like a an human earth quake, Joseph Benson writes,

“The Israelites affairs were thrown into confusion, and the frame of the government dissolved by their civil distractions, or that the people were consumed and destroyed by the continual irruptions of foreign enemies”.

However even in this terrible time before God’s judgment fell on the Assyrian army in 701BC God was holding,

“Its pillars (the Nation) firm”.

Christians during the 300 years of persecutions by the Romans would have looked to God for help and support during their time of turmoil and suffering and so did the Christians during the 50 years of the persecutions of the communist.

The writer to the Hebrews speaks eloquently about how God is holding us firm in Hebrews 6: 19 – 20, and uses the concept of the anchor to express how God holds us firm in Christ,

“ We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20 where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek”.

At all times including the storms of life God hangs on to us through Christ to help us stand firm in him.

  1. The God who condemns arrogance and wickedness (4 – 5)

Then comes two devastating verses concerning how God views arrogant Godless people of this world.

In verse 4 God says,

“To the arrogant I say, ‘Boast no more, and to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up your horns”.

No greater words of arrogance could be found than those of King Sennacherib commander of the Assyrian army who gave the people of Jerusalem and king Hezekiah a message through the probable writer of this Psalm Joah the descendant of Asaph who with two other court officials in 2 Kings 18: 32b – 35.

“Do not listen to Hezekiah, for he is misleading you when he says, ‘The Lord will deliver us.’ 33 Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria? 34 Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivvah? Have they rescued Samaria from my hand? 35 Who of all the gods of these countries has been able to save his land from me? How then can the Lord deliver Jerusalem from my hand?”

In ancient times all Nations of the world had their own set of God’s and when one nation overthrew another nation it was not only a victory for that nation but for their God’s as well.

So this commander arrogant commander has no respect for the God of the bible to him he had no more power than any of the other God’s his army had encountered so far. In fact the Northern kingdom of Israel referred here as Samaria the capital of the Northern tribes of Israel. Even though most of these people by the time of the Assyrians had forsaken the pure worship of the God of the bible the Assyrians would have believed they has already defeated the same God the people of Judah worshipped.

So this Assyrian commander was boasting of his power over the God of the bible. We saw continually throughout the Psalms of books one and two David’s word of prophecy and teaching of the opposition the rest of the world and even non- believing people in Israel would display to him and his God in Psalm 2.

Psalm 2: 2: spells out this opposition this way,

“The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather against the Lord and against his anointed one”.

Their arrogance is expressed in verse 3,

“Let us break their chains, they say, and throw off their fetters”

And the response of God is in verses 4 and 5,

“The one enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath.”

Then verse 4 mentions for the first time the image of the horn, which is also mentioned in verse’s 5 and 10.

What does this image of the horn mean here in Psalm 75?

Allen Harmon explains this image simply by saying,

“Horn in the Psalms denotes power and strength”

And he goes on to give two references where the horn image is used in other Psalms, Psalm 18: 2 and Psalm 89: 17 and 24.

In Psalm 18: 2 David uses the horn image to speak of the strength of the God of the bible,

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and deliverer; My God is my rock in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold”.

Note how all this verse speaks of the strength of David’s God the God of the bible.

However in Psalm 75 verses 4 and 5 the horn image is applied to the so called strength of the arrogant wicked non believers. Of course they’re so called strength is but weakness in the face of the God of the bible who is the King or Lord of everything and everyone. As David declares in Psalm 47: 7 – 9,

“For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise. God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne.The nobles of the nations assemble as the people of the God of Abraham, for the kings of the earth belong to God; he is greatly exalted”.

In verse 5 of Psalm 75 we read,

“Do not lift your horns against heaven; do not speak with outstretched neck”.

So this commander of the mighty army of Assyria in his message to the people of Jerusalem and their king, King Hezekiah is raising his horn or another suitable image would be fist to heaven and saying I am stronger and more powerful than you.

Psalm 75 verse 5 warns people like this man not to raise their horns, their own supposed strength against the true God of heaven and earth.

Joseph Benson explains the other image used here in this verse, namely the phrase,

“Do not speak with outstretched neck”.

“It is a metaphor taken from untamed oxen, which will not bow their heads to receive the yoke”.

 Paul in the New Testament picks up the idea of the state of every person who has not turned to Christ for forgiveness in repentance and faith as being just like the image here of those who lift their horns or supposed strength at God in defiance or rebellion.

This rebellion which Paul calls sin is clear in a passage like Romans 3: 9 – 18,

What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage?

Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin.10 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one;
11 there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does goo not even one.13 “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.
“The poison of vipers is on their lips.14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 ruin and misery mark their ways,
17 and the way of peace they do not know.18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

As I said in my introduction to this Psalm arrogance and boasting is the order of our day as seen in our politicians who we demand act like this or we will not vote for them. I heard that one Presidential candidate for the 2016 d election said he was a Christian but had not asked for forgiveness because he never had a need to ask God for forgiveness.

We cannot throw rocks at our politicians because they are only acting in arrogance and boastfulness because we will only vote for them if they do so. I speak here of “we” as the general popular view of the people of our world.

I hope that real Christians will not speak, act or promote arrogance and boastfulness but will reflect Christ who Paul says in Philippians 2: 2: 5 – 8,

“Our attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus; Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross”.

 Paul tells the Romans, in Romans 12: 3,

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you”.

  1. (6 – 8) THE GOD WHO BRINGS A MAN DOWN AND EXALTS ANOTHER

We come then to the heart of the message of this Psalm, which I have said is the message that God judges, the proud but exalts the humble something the last two verses started to get us ready to think about.

I have also broken this third section into two parts:

  1. The God who brings down a man and then exalts another (6 – 7)
  2. The God who administers lethal judgment (vs. 8)
  1. The God who brings down a man and then exalts another (6 – 7)

Before we look at the main message of this Psalm in verse 7, we will take a look at what the verse before it is saying and how it ties into the main message of the Psalm. Verse 6 says,

“No one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt a man”.

 This verse is saying that in the face of the arrogant non believers who are attacking God and his people no human help is possible to stop it.

It is interesting to note that king Hezekiah around the time of the Assyrian invasion seemed to have flirted with alliances with Egypt to the south and the Assyrian commander himself told Hezekiah through a possible writer of this Psalm Joah a descendant of Asaph and two other court officials that an alliance with other countries like Egypt is useless as we read in 2 Kings 18: 19 – 21,

“The field commander said to them, “Tell Hezekiah:

“‘This is what the great king, the king of Assyria, says: On what are you basing this confidence of yours? 20 You say you have the counsel and the might for war—but you speak only empty words. On whom are you depending, that you rebel against me? 21 Look, I know you are depending on Egypt that splintered reed of a staff, which pierces the hand of anyone who leans on it! Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who depend on him”.

Some commentators have suggested that the desert area mentioned in verse 6 represents the desert areas south of Jerusalem that go all the way to Egypt. Which means that no country east, west or south can help Judah in its fight with the Assyrians who come from the North the only direction not mentioned in this verse because the Assyrians have already defeated all nations north of Israel.

This means that humanly speaking true exaltation of any man cannot come from anyone in this life. The bible says that those who are in authority in this world are only there because God put them there as Romans 13: 1 – 2 says,

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves”.

 This is an amazing thing for Paul to say because in his time the governing authorities were the Romans who were already persecuting Christians.

 So God raises up a person in authority and God will put them down as Daniel 2: 20 – 21 says,

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. 21 He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and rises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning”.

This leads naturally into the key verse of this Psalm, verse 8,

“But it is God who judges; He brings one down, he exalts another”.

I like Spurgeon explanation of this verse,

“The Lord reigneth evermore. He putteth down one, and setteth up another. Empires rise and fall at his bidding. A dungeon here, and there a throne, his will assigns. Assyria yields to Babylon, and Babylon to the Medes. Kings are but puppets in his hand; they serve his purpose when they rise and when they fall”.

 The arrogant words of the Assyrian commander was taken back to Hezekiah who we are told in Isaiah 37 cut his clothes, put on sackcloth and threw himself before the Lord in prayer in the Temple. Then when Isaiah the prophet heard these words he was inspired by God to make this prophecy, Isaiah 37: 5 – 7,

When King Hezekiah’s officials came to Isaiah, Isaiah said to them, “Tell your master, ‘This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid of what you have heard—those words with which the underlings of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me.

Listen! When he hears a certain report, I will make him want to return to his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword.’”

 This is what happened and when the Assyrian army still persisted in challenging Judah and its God Isaiah spoke another much longer prophecy against Assyria, here is Isaiah’s prophecy against Assyria, Isaiah 37: 22 – 29,

This is the word the Lord has spoken against him:” Virgin Daughter Zion despises and mocks you. Daughter Jerusalem tosses her head as you flee. 23 Who is it you have ridiculed and blasphemed? Against whom have you raised your voice and lifted your eyes in pride? Against the Holy One of Israel! 24 By your messengers you have ridiculed the Lord. And you have said, ‘with my many chariots I have ascended the heights of the mountains, the utmost heights of Lebanon. I have cut down its tallest cedars, the choicest of its junipers. I have reached its remotest heights, the finest of its forests. 25 I have dug wells in foreign lands and drunk the water there. With the soles of my feet I have dried up all the streams of Egypt.’ 26 “Have you not heard?  Long ago I ordained it. In days of old I planned it; now I have brought it to pass,
that you have turned fortified cities into piles of stone. 27 Their people, drained of power, are dismayed and put to shame. They are like plants in the field, like tender green shoots, like grass sprouting on the roof, scorched before it grows up. 28 “But I know where you are and when you come and go and how you rage against me.
29 Because you rage against me and because your insolence has reached my ears,
I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth, and I will make you return
by the way you came”.

 Soon after this we read in 2 Kings 19: 35 – 37 of the Angel of the Lord going through the Assyrian camp killing thousands of them by some kind of sickness and the rest of the army simply packed up and went back to Assyria. We are then told that his own sons assassinated the great Assyrian king Sennacherib when he was praying to his God in his temple back in his Assyrian capital.

The teaching of the bringing down the proud and raising the humble features in the teaching of Jesus who said this in Matthew 23: 12,

“For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”.

 Jesus says that in his Kingdom, the Kingdom of God the order of people will be the opposite of this world as he says in Matthew 20: 16,

“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

 So in Christ church on earth our leaders must be servant leaders and must not be like those who often lead us outside of the church. Again Jesus makes this clear in a verse like Matthew 20: 26 – 28,

“Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

  1. The God who administers lethal judgment (vs. 8)

We come then to the verse that spells out poetically the judgment of God on the arrogant wicked non –believers, verse 8,

“In the hand of the Lord is a cup full of foaming wine mixed with spices, he pours it out, and all the wicked of the earth drink it down to its very dregs”.

 We have to carefully unpick the poetic images in this verse to fully understand what it is saying.

Joseph Benson offers the best explanation of this verse I have found in my study of this Psalm, he writes,

“God is here compared to the master of a feast who, in those days used to distribute portions of meats and drinks to the several guests, as he thought fit. A cup, in Scripture, is sometimes taken in a good sense for God’s blessings, as in Psalm 16: 5 and Psalm 23: 5 and sometimes and more frequently, in bad times, for vengeance and judgements as in Isaiah 51: 22 and Jeremiah 49: 12”.

 The most famous use of the image of the cup as a picture of pain and punishment is Jesus reference to it in the Garden Gethsemane where he prayed in Matthew 26: 39,

“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will”.

 Leopold goes on to give even more meaning to the images of the cup and wine well mixed and even the image of the drinking of the dregs,

“He (God) tilts the cup as He holds it to the lips of those whom His justice and wrath have singled out. In that sense “He pours out a portion from it”, and then the “wicked of the earth”, all of them, “must drain and drink”, “its very dregs”, no matter how repulsive it tasted, and how unwilling they may be to bring the judgment on themselves”.

 The image of the cup filled with wine given to those who are under God’s judgement appears in the book of Revelation, Revelation 16: 19,

“The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed. God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath”.

So God’s judgment works on two levels. First he does perform localised judgments on people and nations from time to time. Like using the Babylonians to destroy the Assyrians as an act of judgement and then the Mede’s and Persians to destroy the Babylonians as an act of judgement and so it has been throughout the history of the world. Even today or in recent history Nations and people have had God’s cup filled with the fury of God’s wrath served up to them.

But secondly there is a final judgment to come which Revelation 16: 19 refers to when once and for all God’s cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath will be drunk by all wicked Godless people.

However because Jesus drunk of God’s cup of wrath on the cross a way was made for people to be saved. The book of Revelation contains the message of this way of Salvation being made by Jesus Christ God’s Son. Like Revelation 12: 10 – 12,

“Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. 11 They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.
12 Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.”

So if the cup of God represents the full measure of the wrath of God then when Jesus died on the cross he had that full cup of God’s wrath for man’s sins poured fully out on him as Paul seems to believe in a verse like Romans 5: 9,

“Since we have been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him”.

  1. (9 – 10) THE GOD WHO’S JUDGMENT AND SALVATION DESERVES OUR
                     PRAISE AND PROCLAMATION

The Psalm finishes with two resolutions of the writer of this psalm, which starts with a great word of praise just as it started in verse 1 with a great word of praise. However his first resolution is a resolve to praise God for his judgment but I believe he also has God’s salvation in mind as well.

I have broken this last section into two parts one part for each verse:

  1. The God who deserves eternal praise and proclamation (vs. 9)
  2. The God who judges the wicked but delivers or saves the righteous
    (vs. 10)
  1. The God who deserves eternal praise and proclamation (vs. 9)

The writer’s first resolution starts in verse 9 with the words,

“As for me, I will declare this forever”.

 What will he declare forever?

Well it what he has spoken about in the previous verses namely that God brings down or judges some people but exalts or saves others at the proper time his perfect time. He is proclaiming the Old Testament equivalent of the Gospel message.

The writers message is that God will judge the world and that we all deserve God’s condemnation but God in his mercy and love provides a way back to him. The next part of verse 9 gives us a big clue that Old Testament way of Salvation as it reads,

“I will sing praise to the God of Jacob”

 I have looked at the term “God of Jacob” in other Psalm talks and have noted that Jacob had two names and each had special meaning and teaching for us.

Jacob literally means “supplanter” or “Seizing by the heel” because Jacob was the second twin of Isaac and Rebecca and his brother Esau was born first with Jacob holding onto his brothers heel as he was born seemingly seeking to pull him back so he could be first born.

Jacob spent most of his life seeking by his own hands the birthright that belonged to Esau. He was a restless and rebellious character who God worked on over a number of years.

Then one night later in Jacobs’s life he had a god encounter with what could be called a heavenly angel who he wrestled with and then God through this angel touched Jacob’s hip and Jacob had a permanent limp from that day on,

Then we have these three verses in Genesis 32: 26 – 28,

“Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered. 28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

 So Jacob gets a name change from Jacob, the supplanter to Israel, which means wrestled or contended with God. Israel becomes the father of God’s special covenant people not Esau.

The Old Testament covenant shadows the new covenant, which Jesus makes for us through his death on the cross and so the full and complete salvation message of God becomes what we call the Gospel message.

As the writer to the Hebrews puts it in Hebrews 9: 15,

“For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant”.

So the writer of Psalm 75 wants to proclaim God’s Judgement and Salvation to the world, which he also calls his praise to the God of Jacob.

We to should be committed to the proclamation of the judgment and salvation of God through the presentation of the Gospel message. This too is an act of praise.

  1. The God who judges the wicked but delivers or saves the righteous
    (vs. 10)

The final verse is the second half of the writers resolution now that he has realised what God is like and what God does and will do with mankind.

He realised in this Psalm that God hates arrogant Godless people who put their fist or as the Psalm says “horns” up at God in defiance to his rule of heaven and earth.

God will act in two ways towards mankind some he will bring down and some he will exalt and it is the proud and Godless he will bring down and humble God believers he will exalt.

As a result of this his first resolution we saw in verse 9 was to declare God’s judgment and salvation to the world at large and then praise God for it.

Now in verse 10 he expresses his second and final resolution and it goes like this,

“I will cut off the horns of all the wicked, but the horns of the righteous will be lifted up”.

 Some commentators have pointed out that many ancient kings wore animal horns on their heads to symbolize their power and might. This Psalmist has already said that God told these arrogant leaders not to lift their horns against heaven.

He is now saying he will do his bit, and that would include the writing of this Psalm, to cut off these offensive horns.

When we proclaim the Gospel message we declare God’s judgment upon the pride and arrogance of man but at the same time we point to the way God has provided a way of salvation for all people in the death and resurrection of God’s son, Jesus Christ.

In Roman’s 1: 18 – 20, Paul declares,

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse”.

But in the verses leading up to this Paul speaks of God’s way of salvation and of Paul’s resolution to proclaim it, Romans 1: 16 – 17,

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

 Finally the Psalmist speaks of his resolution to act upon of his understanding of God’s way of salvation,

“But the horns of the righteous will be lifted up”

 I like Spurgeon’s explanation of this, he writes,

“In a rightly ordered society, good men are counted great men, virtue confers true rank, and grace is more esteemed than gold. Being saved from unrighteous domination, the chief among the chosen people here promises to rectify the errors which had crept into the commonwealth, and after the example of the Lord himself, to abase the haughty and elevate the humble”.

 When Spurgeon refers to being saved from unrighteous domination” he is probably referring to the theory that this Psalm was written after the attack of the Assyrian’s in 701BC when the arrogant and unrighteous words against God and his people was answered by God with a resounding victory by God through a turn of the political scene back home in Assyria and a devastating attack by the Angel of the Lord in the camp of the Assyrians outside the walls of Jerusalem,

This Psalm as I have already hinted at is the writer putting his resolution into action and God has used this Psalm to promote his message of judgment on the proud and arrogant and salvation to the humble and God believers.

In our day and age as men and women become more and more reliant on themselves and many speak arrogantly against God and his true followers we need to present the message of this Psalm summed up in verse 7,

“But it is God who judges; He brings one down, he exalts another”

 And the words of Christ in Matthew 23: 12,

“For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted”.

I close as usual with a poem and a prayer.

 GOD WILL EXALT THE HUMBLE

(Based on Psalm 75)

 We give thanks to you Oh God above

For in Jesus you’re near to us.

His wondrous deeds we know are true

For he gave up glory for a cross.

He wants us now to follow him

By the way we live our lives

And one day God will judge this world

But the humble God forgives.

 

Chorus:

For God will exalt the humble

And bring down the arrogant and proud

So my resolve is to praise you Lord

And not follow this world’s godless crowd.

 

God declare to the arrogant ones

Don’t boast of your position and power.

Do not raise your fist to God above

In this life’s short and fickle hour.

No person can exalt themselves

No power on earth can save

No money or connection can

Raise you from the grave.

 

Chorus:

For God will exalt the humble

And bring down the arrogant and proud

So my resolve is to praise you Lord

And not follow this world’s godless crowd.

 

In the hands of the Lord is his cup of wrath

He will administer on his judgment day.

He will pour that drink down the throats

Of all who have sinned and turned away.

But God has made a way for us

By sending his Son to die

And all we have to do is trust

And God’s forgiveness will raise us high.

 

Chorus:

For God will exalt the humble

And bring down the arrogant and proud

So my resolve is to praise you Lord

And not follow this world’s godless crowd.

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

 Dear Father in heaven we thank you that you are the God who judges everyone with justice and love. We thank you that one day you will judge this world but above all we thank you for sending Jesus into this world to die for our sins on the cross. Help us to continually turn to you in repentance and faith accepting that your great love in Jesus has saved us and given us the gift of eternal life. Help us to share the message of your love to the world so that others might be saved from the consequences of their sins as well. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

 

 

 

 

PSALM 74 TALK: FOCUS ON THE GOD OF POWER AND LOVE IN DIFFICULT TIMES

PSALM 74 TALK: FOCUS ON THE GOD OF POWER AND LOVE IN DIFFICULT

                      TIMES

 (A Psalm written at a devastating time in the History of Israel, God’s special nation which teaches us how we can and should face difficult times in our lives realizing that our only hope in good and bad times is the great God of power and love we find in the bible.)

 THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide”.

 INTRODUCTION

 Recently I had the privilege of attending a weekend away with Christian friends of over 40 years who my wife and I worked with in holiday evangelistic work known as Beach Mission. We all looked a lot older and some of our former mission associates have passed on from this life to be with the Lord. We also learnt of other former mission associates who no longer walk with the Lord as they have seemingly given their faith away.

We all acknowledged the great changes that have taken place in our world over the past 40 years but it was the state of the church and the general world’s attitude to the Christian faith that intrigued me the most. We all agreed that there is and has been a growing hostility to Christians and what they believe and those doing Beach Mission type evangelistic work today face great opposition and cynicism today compared to mission work forty years ago. The church and Christians are more openly under attack and seen by many as at best irrelevant or at worst dangerous. Maybe that’s why many of our former mission friends have walked away from God and his church.

It seems that bible believing Christians are swiftly heading into troubled waters and our faith is being surely tested by a world that now mocks those who put their faith in the God of the bible. Christians are also under attack from other religions as well, particularly those of the Muslim faith who in some countries take great delight in torturing and murdering Christians and publishing these ghastly acts on social media as a warning to all bible believing Christians that this could be their fate as well.

Psalm 74 was written it seems at a far worse time for God’s people than our time. It is describing the total devastation of Jerusalem and particularly the Temple by the Babylonians under the leadership of King Nebuchadnezzar in 597BC.

The Psalm also seems to be written a few years after these terrible events, as verse 9 seems to indicate,

“We are given no miraculous signs, no prophets are left, and none of us knows how long this will be”.

 The Psalm’s heading simply says,

“A maskil of Asaph”

 A maskil is usually seen as a teaching Psalm or a Psalm that instructs and some add a Psalm to instruct the wise. The historical bible character called Asaph lived during the reigns of David and Solomon not during the invasion of the Babylonians

However we read in a number of places that at the time of the return from exile around 539BC descendants of Asaph emerged taking prominent places in the worship of these returning Jews. Ezra 3: 10

“When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the Lord as prescribed by David king of Israel”.

 One of these “Sons of Asaph” or one of their fathers probably wrote this Psalm a few years before the return from exile. This Asaph, the writer of the Psalm would have been part of a very small remnant of true believers left behind in Israel as we read in 2 Kings 25: 11 – 12,

“Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard carried into exile the people who remained in the city, along with the rest of the populace and those who had deserted to the king of Babylon. 12 But the commander left behind some of the poorest people of the land to work the vineyards and fields”.

The writer, a son or descendant of Asaph hints at the idea that he was in hiding from the Babylonians in verses 20 and 21,

“Have regard for your covenant, because haunts of violence fill the dark places of the land.21 Do not let the oppressed retreat in disgrace; may the poor and needy praise your name”.

Commentators like Coffman point out,

“The dark places of the earth” “Most of the scholars seem to think this refers to the hiding places such as caves etc. where people tried to hide from the Babylonian enemies who, as the verse states, were systematically hunting them down wherever they could find them and killing them”.

Of course he could also be numbered among the “poorest people of the land” 2 Kings 25: 12, which refers to poor people, left behind in Israel by Nebuzaradan a a Babylonian commander under King Nebuchadnezzar.

So this son of Asaph writes of his prayer to God during this extremely difficult time and in the second half of the Psalm he makes a new and different focus turning from his seemingly hopeless difficulties to a God of great power and love he surely knows from the bible. He refers to great, powerful and loving acts of God in the past when Israel faced great difficulty then. This helps him find faith and hope in his difficult time.

I like the excellent general application Spurgeon makes of this Psalm, which I will adopt as well when he writes,

“The history of the suffering church is always edifying when we see how the faithful trusted and wrestled with their God in times of dire distress. we are thereby taught how to behave ourselves under similar circumstances, we learn moreover, that when fiery trial befalls us, no strange thing happened unto us, we are following the trail of the host of God”.

 I hope that you will find in this study of Psalm 74 the focus God’s wants you to have when you face your trials and difficulties even those like Asaph and the people of God of his time that are a result of God’s discipline for our sinfulness.

However God not only sends difficulty on his people because of sinfulness but also uses it to help shape our lives by the testing of our faith and the great lessons we learn as we come through those difficulties makes us stronger and better equipped to serve him more and more,

As Peter says in 1 Peter 1: 6 – 7,

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

 With the theme of “Focus on the God of power and love in difficult times” I have broken this Psalm into three sections but each section has three parts:

  1. (1 – 11) FOCUSING ON PROBLEMS AND DIFFICULTIES
  1. (1 – 3) The problems and difficulties exposed
  2. (4 – 9) The problem of the crushing defeat of God’s people by God’s

            enemies.

  1. (10 – 11) The problem of God’s seeming inaction
  1. (12 – 17) FOCUSING ON THE POWER AND LOVE OF GOD
  1. (12) The God who is king and saviour
  2. (13 – 15) The God who saved his people in the past
  3. (16 – 17) The God who made and maintains this world
  1. (18 – 23) APPLYING THE FOCUS OF THE POWER AND LOVE OF GOD IN

                    DIFFICULT TIMES

  1. (18 – 19) Remember God what your enemies have done to your people
  2. (20 – 21) Remember God your covenant of love
  3. (22 – 23) Remember God and act with your mighty power
  1. (1 – 11) FOCUSING ON PROBLEMS AND DIFFICULTIES

 So it appears that a direct descendant of Asaph who lived through the Babylonian conquest of Judah and Jerusalem in 587BC wrote a few years later this Psalm. The land and the city of Jerusalem is devastated by this Babylonian invasion and most of the people of Judah have been carted off into exile to the Babylon. However a small number of Jews remained in the land and this son of Asaph was one of them.

In the first section the Psalmist is focusing on the very great problems and difficulties the Babylonian invasion had caused the people of Judah over a number of years. I have broken this first section into three parts:

  1. (1 – 3) The problems and difficulties exposed
  2. (4 – 9) The problem of the crushing defeat of God’s people by God’s

            enemies.

  1. (10 – 11) The problem of God’s seeming inaction
  1. (1 – 3) The problems and difficulties exposed

 Like many of the Psalms this Psalm is a very real prayer and the Psalmist opens his prayer with two questions to God in verse 1,

“Why have you rejected us forever O God? Why does your anger smoulder against the sheep of your pasture?

 Nowhere in this Psalm does the writer even mention the sin of the people of Judah and Israel. He seems bewildered by the sudden and devastating invasion and subsequent destruction of Jerusalem and particularly the Temple. He must not yet have made the connection of his people’s great sins and turning away from God to other God’s over a number of generations and the Babylonian conquest as God’s judgement for those sins.

The prophet Jeremiah would have been a contemporary of this Psalm writer however Jeremiah by this stage had been taken by Johanan to Egypt to escape the Babylonian invasion. Jeremiah had made it clear that the hand of God in Judgment would fall on his people in Judah in the form of the Babylonians because of the great sins of the people.

Jeremiah could have answered the Psalmist’s two questions with words like he spoke to the exile group he was with in Egypt in Jeremiah 44: 2 – 6,

“This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: You saw the great disaster I brought on Jerusalem and on all the towns of Judah. Today they lie deserted and in ruins

3 because of the evil they have done. They aroused my anger by burning incense to and worshiping other gods that neither they nor you nor your ancestors ever knew.

4 Again and again I sent my servants the prophets, who said, ‘Do not do this detestable thing that I hate!’

5 But they did not listen or pay attention; they did not turn from their wickedness or stop burning incense to other gods.

6 Therefore, my fierce anger was poured out; it raged against the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem and made them the desolate ruins they are today”.

 No doubt our Psalmist was not aware of Jeremiah’s words or could not yet connect them clearly to his own current situation. No doubt he was one of the faithful remnant who remained loyal and true to the God of the bible and yet he was caught up in the terrible fallout of God’s Judgment that was rightly deserved by the general population of Judah at this time.

When judgment or general natural disasters or even man made disasters strike the world around us believers are not exempt from the consequences of that. However we have a faithful and loving God to turn to for help and protection during any form of difficulty we might face. As Paul exhorts the believers in Corinth in 2 Corinthians 9: 8,

“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work”.

And this idea is even more clearly in the great benediction of Jude 24 and 25,

To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—

25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

 The writer speaks of this rejection as being forever but he probably means it feels like forever giving us the first clue to the fact that this Psalm was written a number of years after the Babylonian invasion but not before the return from exile around 70 years after the Babylonian captivity. Again Jeremiah had the answer to the length of this difficult time in Jeremiah 25: 11,

“This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years”.

God’s times of testing and difficulty can last a number of years. In recent history a great part of Eastern Europe suffered under the hands of the cruel anti- God communist regime for 50 years but now that regime has been judged and overturned and Christians can now operate in relative freedom again. Stories of how God helped Christians through those years of great persecution are still being told and the church in Eastern Europe rather than been done away with by the active ant- God regime has emerged stronger than ever.

We too might be facing or have faced difficult times in our lives but if we look to God for help and protection during these difficult times we can join Paul in saying what he wrote in Romans 8: 28,

“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”.

Then we have this interesting term at the end of verse 2,

“Your anger smoulder against the sheep of your pasture?”

 Jerusalem and the Temple particularly were burnt to the ground by the Babylonian invaders so maybe our writer is using a very real and powerful image or picture of God’s anger when he speaks of it as anger that smoulders. Spurgeon makes this observation and application of this image,

“It is a terrible thing when the anger of God smokes, but it is an infinite mercy that it does not break into a devouring flame.”

 Spurgeon goes on to comment on this smouldering wrath of God and the idea of his faithful people being his sheep with these words,

“It is meet to pray the Lord to remove every sign of his wrath., for it is those who are truly the Lord’s sheep a most painful thing to be the object of his displeasure. To vex the Holy Spirit is no mean sin, and yet how frequently are we guilty of it, hence it is no marvel that we are often under a cloud”.

 The idea of God’s people being like sheep and God being like their shepherd runs right through the bible and seems to first appear in Numbers 27: 16 – 17,

“May the Lord, the God who gives breath to all living things, appoint someone over this community 17 to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd.”

Which is Moses prayer for a successor to his leadership. Of course the most famous reference to God’s people being like sheep and God being their shepherd is David’s Psalm 23: 1 and 2,

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters”.

Even the prophets used the sheep, shepherd image and Jeremiah who lived around the time of this Son of Asaph who wrote this Psalm uses the sheep image this way in Jeremiah 50: 6,

“My people have been lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray and caused them to roam on the mountains. They wandered over mountain and hill and forgot their own resting place”.

Here the Shepherd image is not God but the bad or Godless leaders of Israel and Judah who helped lead the people astray from obeying and worshipping the true God of the bible and brought about God’s judgment which Asaph is now writing about in this Psalm.

Jesus used the sheep / shepherd image in John 10 and I think the most relevant verses in this verse in Psalm 74 is John 10: 27 – 30,

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all]; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

 In verse 2 the writer continues to explore in prayer to God the problems and difficulties the Babylonian invasion has caused him. He pleads in this verse for God to remember his special people, who he has blessed from of old or for s very long time, he writes,

“Remember the people you purchased of old, the tribe of your inheritance, who you redeemed – Mount Zion, where you dwelt”.

 Tremper Longman 111 explains the first part of this verse this way,

“This verse looks back on the exodus, where God established Israel as his chosen nation, the descendants of the family of God rooted in the covenant promises to Abraham (Genesis 12: 1 – 3)

 “The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all people on earth will be blessed through you”.

Redeemed or saved out of slavery in Egypt these people were ultimately led to the Promised Land and under King David took and established God’s chosen place on earth to say he dwells with his people, namely Mount Zion in Jerusalem.

But now the Psalmist has clearly seen the destruction of the holy city of Jerusalem and the Temple, which was the symbol of God dwelling with his people. He is clearly having a crisis of faith.

How could the Psalmist people be God’s special people when God’s enemies the Babylonians overrun them?

How could they be the “tribe of your inheritance, who you redeemed”, when they are captive again by a foreign power like they were in Egypt?

So the Psalmist pleads with God to remember both who his people are in God’s sight and I think remember the covenant he made with them. Something he clearly asks for in verse 20 of this Psalm, which says,

“Have regard for your covenant because haunts of violence fill the dark places if the land”.

A verse I will comment further on in the second part of the third section of this Psalm talk.

However what this writer has not remembered himself was the basis of the covenant was, yes God would make Israel his special nation but they had to uphold their part of the covenant or agreement which was to obey the laws of God and serve only him as Moses declares in Exodus 19: 3 – 6,

“ Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”

Israel in the north had already been destroyed by foreign invasion by the Assyrians in 740BC because they had disobeyed God’s law and worshipped other God’s rather than the God of the bible. Now it was Judah in the south turn to face the judgment of God in the form of the Babylonian invasion in 597BC.

 Coffman points out that God did remember his people now primarily not in the land of inheritance but in captivity in Babylon, he writes,

God did remember “the congregation” which at that time had been transferred to Babylon, but the psalmist was apparently still in Jerusalem, from which God’s presence had been removed, and in which the Temple itself had been profaned, plundered and desecrated and burned to the ground.”.

 Coffman makes this important and very significant observation of God’s dealing with his people from now on, when he goes on to write,

“God was forever finished with the “earthly kingdom” of Israel pitiful indeed was the plight of the few true children of God who, along with the psalmist, were still left among the conceited, rebellious, and soon to be destroyed residue of the people that yet remained in Jerusalem”.

 The destruction of Judah and the captivity happened in a couple of stages and it seems the people who hung around in the invaded land did not get the clear idea that this all happened because of God’s judgment of their many sins. It is in exile in Babylon that God raises up the prophet Ezekiel and Daniel, who God inspires to speak a great word of encouragement to the Jews in exile and back in Judah our Psalmist writes in verse 9,

“We are given no miraculous signs; no prophets are left and none of us knows how long this will be”.

 Finally in this first part of the first section of this Psalm the Psalmist prays to God in verse 3,

“Turn your steps toward these everlasting ruins, all this destruction the enemy has brought on the sanctuary”.

 As we have just seen this prayer would not be answered for a number of years, Jeremiah predicted 70 years the Jews would be in captivity. God would not turn his steps or as some translate, “feet” toward Jerusalem and the Temple their for some years.

The expression “Turn your steps” or “Feet” is a poetic expression for God’s guidance and when we consider that this prayer was not answered in the positive or the “Yes” for some years you can realise that sometimes God’s answer to our prayers is “Not Now” or “Wait”.

My good friend Ted Penny has a good way of explaining God’s three possible answers to our prayers. He uses the colours of the traffic lights;

Green = Yes

Red = No

And Yellow = Not now or wait.

I like the way the prophet Micah speaks of waiting for God’s answer to our prayers, he writes in Micah 7: 7,

“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Saviour; my God will hear me”.

 In Luke 18 Jesus tells the parable of the persistent widow and the introduction to this parable in Luke 18 verse 1 says,

“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up”.

 So the Psalmist wants God to restore the ruins of Jerusalem and particularly the Temple called here “the sanctuary” but God’s answer is not now but in a number of years time I will lead my people back to the promised land and will guide men like Ezra and Nehemiah to rebuild my special city and Temple once again.

  1. (4 – 9) The problem of the crushing defeat of God’s people by God’s

            enemies.

Our Psalmist continues to focus on the current problems and difficulties he and his people faced in his prayer to God. In this second part he spells out some of the disastrous details of the recent invasion of the Babylonians who served up a crushing defeat of God’s people in Judah and particularly Jerusalem.

The focus here seems to be the devastating destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem which is not surprising if this Psalm is written by a descendant of Asaph who’s job was to serve in the Temple particularly in the role of leading the music in the worship there.

This destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians could be summarized in three ways:

  1. What they did (4 – 7)
  2. What they said (8)
  3. What God did not do (9)

 Lets now look a little closer at these three summarized points of what happened when the Babylonians destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem.

  1. What they did (4 – 7)

Verse 4 speaks of the Babylonians entering the inner sanctuary of the Temple and what they did when they got there,

“Your foes roared in the place where you met with us; they set up their standards as signs”.

 This verse is better understood when you realize that the great symbol of the Babylonians is a winged lion and this symbol would have been present on the Babylonian standards or flags.

These standards or flags were taken by the Babylonian soldiers into the Temple before its destruction to make clear to Judah that Babylon and its God’s now defeated Judah’s God Yahweh.

 The prophet Jeremiah in his prediction of the fall of Judah and Jerusalem speaks of the Babylonian conquers in terms of being like a lion in Jeremiah 4: 6 – 7,

“Raise the signal to go to Zion! Flee for safety without delay! For I am bringing disaster from the north, even terrible destruction.” A lion has come out of his lair; a destroyer of nations has set out. He has left his place to lay waste your land. Your towns will lie in ruins without inhabitant”.

 So the poetic concept here of the roaring lion followed by the flags or standards carried by the Babylonians and set up in the Temple has a double meaning. It speaks first of the ferocity of the Babylonian invaders, like a roaring lion and it also hints at the victory of a false God over the one true God.

I found this excellent explanation of the symbol of the Lion in the bible by Prof. Walter J. Verth in an article on the Net, he writes,

“The lion is used in the Bible as a symbol of authority and power. The symbol is applied to Christ as the Lion of Judah, but it is also the symbol for Babylon, the destroyer of nations and the seat of the apostate religion, which would seek to entice God’s people into idolatry”.

Verse 5 speaks of how these invading Babylonian soldiers behaved as they destroyed the sanctuary in Jerusalem,

“They behaved like men wielding axes to cut through a thicket or trees”.

There behavior was the opposite of Asaph and his fellow Jewish worshippers, they acted in awe and wonder at the God which the Temple building represented to them while the Babylonian soldiers behaved like mad men cutting down trees in a forest. They had no regard for the God this building represented and to them God’s house was nothing more that a pile of stone and wood that deserved to be smashed to pieces and desecrated.

In recent times we had heard of the extreme Muslim fighters smashing to pieces ancient artifacts they find in the towns they have conquered in the middle -east. They have no regard for history other than their own distorted narrow view of history their so-called religion tells them.

All through history conquering armies have left a path of destruction in their wake as they seek to treat their enemies with contempt. Maybe they are trying to impress on them that their culture and beliefs are so superior to the people they conquer that there is no value or place for their cultural buildings or artifacts.

Verses 6 and 7 speak of how the Babylonians completely destroyed the Tempe,

“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”.

Coffman points out that they probably were not just smashing down the carved paneling as an act of senseless vandalism as the panels in the temple were overlaid with pure gold according to 1 Kings 6: 20.

However the attack on the Temple, as we will see in a moment was also motivated by their religious and political beliefs as they wanted to dominate both the people of Judah and their God and to do this they had to smash down any representation of their former political and religious systems.

Again this has been the way of all conquering nations throughout history and even in our present day as we see the methods of people like the extreme Muslim groups like Islamic State.

Christians today like Asaph in his day have been caught up in this kind of evil destructive madness and many have lost their lives in these terrible conflicts but we must keep in mind Jesus words when he tells us in Matthew 10: 28,

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell”.

So like men cutting down trees in a forest the Babylonians hacked into the walls of the inner Temple, taking away the gold gilt and then, verse 7,

They burned your sanctuary to the ground”

Asaph certainly saw the actions of the Babylonians as an attack on his faith and the God his faith was centered in as he says in verse 7,

“They defiled the dwelling place of your Name”.

Recently in a weekly bible study I attend we were looking at the pre- trials and trials of Jesus before the Jewish authorities of his day and we read in John 18: 22,

“When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby struck him (Jesus) in the face”.

I made the comment that I would not like to have been this man when he died and stood before Jesus in judgment and I then referred to that famous verse in Revelation, Revelation 1: 7,

“Look he is coming in the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pieced him; and all the people of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen”

These Babylonian soldiers would have been quite smug and would have had big smiles on their faces as they defied the Temple of God but would they be smiling when they died and stood before the heavenly throne of God that that Temple they sought to destroy represents?

  1. What they said (8)

Asaph then gives us an insight into the minds of the Babylonian soldiers as they performed their ghastly deeds. This is what they were saying in their heads at least,

“They said in their hearts, “We will crush them completely! “

This again reveals the real intent of the Babylonian soldiers and their superior offices; they wanted to crush the spirits of their conquered victims. So many people in the past when facing certain defeat of their enemies have committed suicide rather than face the shame and torture of their conquering enemies.

This crushing was also religiously inspired because the rest of the verse says,

“They burned every place where God was worshipped in the land”.

Leupold suggests that the burning of places where God was worshipped was,

“Any place where people had loved to assemble even though they had no sacrifices”.

The Babylonians sought to wipe out in Judah and physical trace of worship and loyalty to Yahweh the God of Judah.

This to has been attempted in the past by anti- Christian regimes like the communists in Russia and Eastern Europe and in our day extreme Muslims in countries in the middle east and North Africa where wholesale burning down of Christian churches has taken place.

Again the words of Jesus in Matthew 10: 28, come to mind,

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell”.

  1. What God did not do (9)

The son of Asaph then prays to God what he believed God did not do when this was happening and even at the time of writing his Psalm,

“We were given no miraculous signs; no prophets are left, and none of us knows how long this will be”.

It would have been a very difficult time for the small number of true and faithful believers like this son of Asaph who are left in Judah while the vast majority of fellow countrymen had been taken into exile in Babylon.

Jeremiah again had declared God’s answer to this situation years before but he has been forcibly taken to exile in Egypt. Before he was taken off to exile in Egypt he wrote a letter to the first group of exiles in Babylon and this is what he said to them, Jeremiah 29: 4 – 11,

“This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the Lord.

10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfil my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”.

But by the time Asaph would have been writing Psalm 74, Jeremiah was gone exiled in Egypt and the rest of Judah along with all the prophets and religious leaders of his day where gone, exiled in Babylon. Therefore Asaph’s claim of no Prophets was real.

The miraculous signs, prophets and answers to how long this Babylonian domination would last was now in Babylon with the exiled Jews there. We know of the great prophet Ezekiel who is in Babylon among the exiles and we know of the great men of God like Daniel who rises to high office in the Babylonian empire and experienced many miraculous signs of God’s blessing and protection.

However back in Judah where this Son of Asaph was there were no such prophets and leaders and what is said about these people is not very encouraging.

We read in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah of how the people who stayed in Israel during the Babylonian exile opposed the return of the Jews from exile.

Nehemiah 4: 1 -3 speaks of the opposition the mixed ethnic group that developed in the Israel homeland caused the faithful Jews who returned to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and the temple,

“When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?”

Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, “What they are building—even a fox climbing up on it would break down their wall of stones!”

 So the true and purer faith in the God of the bible developed more and more in the Jews in exile while those who remained in the conquered land of Israel inter married with non Jewish people and either gave up their faith in the God of the bible or incorporated foreign non bible beliefs in their faith making them enemies of the bible believing Jews who returned from exile a few years after this son or descendant of Asaph wrote Psalm 74.

  1. (10 – 11) The problem of God’s seeming inaction

With no prophets like Jeremiah left in Judea to give divine guidance at the time of a son of Asaph (descendant of Asaph) the next two verses make sense, they read,

How long will the enemy mock you, God? Will the foe revile your name forever?
11 Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand? Take it from the folds of your garment and destroy them!”

This son or descendant of Asaph does not seem to be aware of the prophet Jeremiah’s prophecy of the length of the Babylonian exile recorded in Jeremiah 25: 11,

“This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years”.

He was experiencing the first part of Jeremiah’s prophecy, namely.

“This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon”.

So God’s answer to Asaph’s question, “How long will the enemy mock you, God? “ is 70 years.

The next question he asks God is, Will the foe revile your name forever? and again God’s answer is, no not forever but 70 years.

The final question Asaph asks is, “Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand?”

The answer to this question is found in the entire prophecies of prophets like Jeremiah, which is that God allowed his people to be defeated by the Babylonians because he wanted to judge them for their sins of disobedience and turning to other God’s in worship.

All this also seems unknown or nit understood by the Asaph who wrote Psalm 74, so the writer is suffering from the problem of God’s seeming inaction.

This should serve as a lesson to us as well as their has been and will be times in our lives when we will not understand God’s leading or even seemingly inaction in our lives. Sometimes we will come to a understanding of God’s divine will in our lives but other times we will not understand this at all but God wants us to trust in him.

Paul makes this clear in 2 Corinthians 5: 7,

“We live by faith, not by sight”.

Many years ago I read in some book somewhere of the true story of the famous British bishop named J.C. Ryle the morning after of the terrible painful death of his beloved second wife. Ryle had spent days caring for his wife dying of some form of Bright’s disease. The morning after she departed to be with the Lord Ryle was booked to preach in his Liverpool Cathedral. He stepped up to the large cathedral bible weeping and held up the large embroidered bookmark the wrong way round. All the congregation could see was the mesh of embroidered cotton. Ryle weeping said something like, “at the moment all I can see of God’s purpose in my wife’s death is this”.

He then turned the big bookmark around to reveal the beautifully embroidered word “Love”.

This story made me realise that even in our darkest moments of life like the death of a loved one our faith needs to hang on to the God of Love who will one day make everything clear to us when we are in his presence in glory as the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13: 12,

“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known”.

This verse come alive when we realise that in Pau’s day mirrors where no more than pieces of highly polished metal, not a very clear image at all.

Finally in verse 11, Asaph asks God in prayer to,

“Take it from the folds of your garment and destroy them!”

It of course it is the right hand of God Asaph believes God is withholding. The right hand is always seen as the powerful or dominant hand and so Asaph wants God to use his power and might to put down the Babylonians who he rightfully sees as God’s enemies.

He pictures in his poem the right hand of God tucked away in God’s clothing as it were.

This is just a poetic image for God withholding his power and might from destroying his enemies, Again what Asaph cannot see at the time of writing this is that God will destroy the Babylonian empire through the rise and conquest of the Persian empire.

The mighty Babylonians will disappear from history and their glorious city of Babylon will simple become a pile of ruins in the desert area of modern day Iraq.

However again Asaph cannot or did not see this when he wrote his Psalm so how could he maintain a strong faith in his time of problems and difficulties?

The next two sections of this Psalm will be the answer to this problem Asaph himself, inspired by God’s Holy Spirit will come up with.

  1. (12 – 17) FOCUSING ON THE POWER AND LOVE OF GOD

 The second half of this Psalm starts with the word “But” in verse 12 which signifies a big shift in Aaaph’s thinking as so many other famous “but” bible verses do like Romans 6: 23,

“For the wages of sin is death,

but

the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

This “but” reveals a wonderful shift in the thinking of Asaph in the face of the terrible problems and difficulties he faced as we have just seen. I call this change or shift of thinking or focusing:

“Focusing on the power and love of God” and we will look at this second section and this concept in three parts:

  1. (12) The God who is king and saviour
  2. (13 – 15) The God who saved his people in the past
  3. (16 – 17) The God who made and maintains this world
  1. (12) The God who is king and saviour

 Verse 12 of this Psalm is what I call a “Turning Point” in the thinking of the Psalmist who wrote it who I am calling a son or descendant of Asaph. He writes,

“”But you, O God, are my king from of old; you bring salvation upon the earth”.

 Up to verse 12 the writer is full of complaint and negative description of his and his country’s plight at the hand of the Babylonians. Now his focus has changed and instead of the problems and difficulties being his focus his focus is God and what he has revealed of himself and did in the past.

The focus is on the God of the bible not some other God and he first identifies this God as king and saviour.

Saying that God is his king and saviour I think is significant in the historical context of this Psalm is during the last King in the line of David, Jehoiachin lived out his days in exile in Babylon and no more kings of Israel or Judah ever reined again.

This led Psalm writers like the son of Asaph and others after him to see that the promised eternal kingdom of David was a messianic future hope. As Isaiah predicted in Isaiah 9: 6 – 7,

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this”.

No more earthly kings of the line or house of David so Asaph calls God his king and savior. Asaph calls God “from of old” so he sees God, rightly as the one and only true King of Israel. Even David the God appointed earthly king acknowledges God as the true king in Psalm 10: 16,

“The Lord is King for ever and ever; nations will perish from his land”.

Even when the first king of Israel, who became, Saul was asked for by the people God told Samuel this, 1 Samuel 8: 7 – 9,

And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”

So the idea that God is the real king of Israel is not a new concept to people like this son of Asaph and the link between God’s kingship over Israel and its salvation is also not a new idea as well. Even King Jehoshaphat over 150 years before the writing of this Psalm links God’s kingship with Israel’s salvation as a nation in 2 Chronicles 20: 5 – 9,

“Then Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the Lord in the front of the new courtyard and said:

“Lord, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. Our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, ‘If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.’”

 So Asaph or a son or descendant of Asaph turns his focus from his current problems and difficulties to the God of Power and love. The God who saved the nation so many times in the past by his power and love and the God who is Israel’s king of old and saviour of Israel and the world.

As Christians we know so much more about God the king who is our saviour because of the coming and particularly teaching of Jesus, the promised Messiah king God sent to earth to save us from our sins.

Right from the beginning Jesus is presented as saviour and king, take the words of the angel Gabriel to Mary telling her of the coming birth of her child in Luke 1: 30 – 33,

“But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

Jesus message right from the start of his earthly ministry, Mark 1: 14 – 15,

“After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Finally what Paul teaches us about Jesus as King and Savior, like Colossians 1: 13 – 14,

“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins”.

  1. (13 – 15) The God who saved his people in the past

Asaph is now focused on God his king and saviour and with that focus now looks at some of the great acts of the God of the Bible as the loving powerful saving God.

He looks at two occasions in the past when God acted in power and love to save Israel:

  1. Out of the Bondage of Egypt (13 – 14)
  2. Into the land of promise from the dry waterless desert (15)
  1. Out of the bondage of Egypt (13 – 14)

 Both verse’s 13 and 14 are poetic pictures of God the king saving Israel out of the bondage of Egypt. He writes in verse 13,

“It was you who split open the sea by your power; you broke the heads of the monster in the waters”.

 This is an obvious poetic reference to God’s saving Israel out of Egypt and particularly the crossing of the red sea or some call it the sea of reeds in Exodus 14. Here God’s special people Israel seemed trapped by the mighty army of Egypt as to their backs was a mass of un crossable water and in front was a large and ferocious army.

But God, as this son of Asaph put it, then “split open the sea” and made dry land for the people to cross over safely.

Then when the Egyptian army tried to cross the waters closed over them and they were all destroyed by the raging tide.

Asaph describes this poetically this way,

“You broke the heads of the monster in the waters”.

 In verse 14 he describes this destruction of the Egyptian army this way,

“It was you who crushed the heads of the Leviathan”.

 Leopold explains the significance of the poetic image of Leviathan,

“Leviathan is merely another name for the crocodile, and the crocodile is native to Egypt”.

 Then after the crossing of the red sea the corpses of the Egyptians would have washed up on the red seas shore line and desert animals would have fed on them, which Asaph describes this way,

“And gave him as food to the creatures of the desert”.

 How was this great event in Israel’s history a demonstration of the power and love of God?

It shows God’s power because only by God’s powerful hand was that sea opened up and then closed at the right time to destroy the Egyptian enemies.

It shows God’s love because Israel did not deserve this great act of salvation by God. It was out of God’s underserved love or grace as the New Testament calls it that Israel was saved out of the bondage of Egypt.

God has acted in power and underserved love to us when he saved us from our sins by his Sons death on the cross. As Paul speaks of in Romans 5: 6 – 8,

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.

When we face difficult times and there seems little hope and light in the darkness of those times we need to do what this son or descendant of Asaph is doing here focus on what God has done for us in the past. We need to turn from the focus of transient current circumstances and lo God our King and Savior.

  1. Into the land of promise from the dry waterless desert (15)

 In the first part of verse 15 this son of Asaph refers to God’s powerful and loving provision of water in the desert when Israel wandered for forty years. Here he led Moses to break a rock and a stream of life giving water flowed he writes,

“It was you who opened up springs and streams

Then in the second half of verse 15 the Psalm writer moves on to the crossing of the Jordon River where Israel moved into the land of promise and we see another demonstration of the powerful loving God who is king and Savoir, He writes,

“ You dried up the ever flowing rivers”.

 So God provides water where there is no water in the desert and stops water flowing were there is lots of water so his people can cross over into the land of promise. Such is the power and love of the God of the bible who Asaph had called, “King from of old” and “You (who) brings salvation upon earth”.

Jesus used the image of water to speak of our salvation and promised spiritual refreshment through the Holy Spirit in John 8: 37 – 39,

“On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them. 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified”.

  1. (16 – 17) The God who made and maintains this world

Asaph or this descendant of Asaph now declares the greatest demonstration of God’s power and love in the reality of his work in the creation of the world. Here he uses poetic images of:

  1. The creation of day and night, (vs. 16) and
  2. The creation of the seasons (vs. 17).
  1. The creation of day and night (vs.16)

 Here he seems to have Genesis 1: 3 – 5 in mind,

“And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day”.

As he writes in verse 16,

“The day is your, and yours also the night; you established the sun and moon”.

God is king of creation and he made us kings or rulers over the earth under God’s kingship as Genesis 1: 27 – 28,

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

 This divine order of creation was messed up by our sin or rebellion to God’s rule but God continued to love man by making way for us to be saved and the rest of the bible is the story of God’s rescue mission to save man.

This rescue mission culminates in the sending of God’s Son, Jesus Christ to earth, born as a man like us so that he could die for us and forgive the our sin and rebellion as the famous John 3: 16 verse says,

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”.

Interestingly John goes on to use the concept of light, spiritual light and darkness to explain how God’s rescue mission operates, we read this in John 3: 19 – 21,

“19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God”.

  1. The creation of the seasons (vs. 17).

This son or descendant of Asaph continues his focus on God’s power and love in verse 17 again picking up the role of the God of the bible in creation. From the creation of the day and night in verse 16 he moves to the creation of the seasons. He writes,

‘It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth; you made both summer and winter”.

 The position of the earth from the sun, the lilt of earth as it spins round the sun and the position of the land- mass on the north, namely in the Northern hemisphere produce the four seasons of most of the earth as we know it. The popular thought that all this came about by chance I think is much harder to believe then that there is a designer of the universe who we know from the bible is God Almighty.

I read this interesting quote from an article on the net called, “Evidence For God” by Richard Deem,

“The universe, our galaxy, our Solar System and the Earth-Moon double planet system demonstrate some remarkable evidence of intelligent design. Taken separately, each characteristic is highly improbable by random chance. When taken together, the probability is so small as to be impossible—by random chance. The alternative explanation, design by an intelligent Creator is a more realistic explanation. Either way, one must admit that we are a product of a miracle—either a miracle of chance or a miracle of design”.

 Deem then goes on to look at a number of remarkable facts that make the earth and life on it possible. He looks at:

 Deem then goes on to look at a number of remarkable facts that make the earth and life on it possible. He looks at:

1.     The unique location in our galaxy—co-rotation radius,

2.     The unique stabilization of the inner solar system

3.     The unusually circular orbit of the earth

4.     The axial tilt and eccentricity of orbit

5.   The Unusually thin atmosphere

6.   The Slowing rotation makes advanced life possible

7.   The Van-Allen radiation shield is unique to Earth

8.   The Unique continental crust and tectonic activity

9.   The All other earth-sized planets will be either deserts or water-worlds

10.   The Reduction of greenhouse gases with increasing solar luminosity

 All this strongly points to intelligent design rather than random chance and as Asaph puts it in verse 17,

 ‘It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth”.

 God did not have to create this world or the life we have in it but out of his great power and love as Psalm 104: 1 – 5 puts it,

 Praise the Lord, my soul. Lord my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendour and majesty. The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters. He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind.

He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants.He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved”.

 So Asaph or this descendant of Asaph concludes his focus on the power and love of God. He started the Psalm looking at the horrific problems and difficulties of his time brought about by the invasion of the Babylonians and their utter destruction of Jerusalem and particularly its Temple. But now he has turned his focus to the God of the bible who miraculously saved Israel out of the bondage of Egypt by opening up the red sea for them to cross and then closed that sea to kill the Egyptian army who pursued them.

 He also reflected on the provision of water in the wilderness for God’s people as they wandered there and the crossing of the river Jordon by God stopping the flow of the waters so that his people could enter his promised land.

 Finally he focused on the great power and love of God that made this world and the seasons it enjoys and all this has helped him to have faith in God even in his great problems and difficulties.

 Recently in church I heard a sermon on the trial and sentencing of Jesus before Pilot a very dark and disturbing story of the suffering of Christ at the hands of the Jews and Romans. It was pointed out by the preacher that Pilot wanted to find Jesus innocent but he was forced by particularly the Jewish leaders to have Jesus crucified. In John 19 verse 10 Pilot says this to Jesus,

 “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”

 Jesus answer shows that Pilot is not in control of this situation but God is in control,

 “Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”

 Jesus is not a victim he is in control even in this dark and terrible time of his suffering and he is in control even in our dark and difficult times. The descendant of Asaph was realizing that even though all seemed out of control in his world God was in control and what he needed to simply trust in God or as Paul put it in 2 Corinthians 5: 7,

“We live by faith, not by sight”.

 We will see now in the last section of this Psalm how this descendant of Asaph puts this new focus into action in the completion of his prayer to God.

  1. (18 – 23) APPLYING THE FOCUS OF THE POWER AND LOVE OF GOD IN

                     DIFFICULT TIMES

 The tone of this remarkable prayer of this descendant of Asaph has changed as he moved from describing the dark and difficult situation the Babylonian conquest caused to a focus on the great power and love of God in the past to Israel. Now armed with the thought of this God in his mind he prays.

 I have broken this final part of his prayer into three parts:

  1. (18 – 19) Remember God what your enemies have done to your people
  2. (20 – 21) Remember God your covenant of love
  3. (22 – 23) Remember God and act with your mighty power
  1. (18 – 19) Remember God what your enemies have done to your people

 The writer then prays that his great and powerful God will remember what the Babylonians did to his homeland and people, verse 18 says,

 “Remember how the enemy has mocked you, O Lord, how foolish people have reviled your name”.

 This descendant of Asaph has realised that if his God is so powerful and great and does love his people Israel then the Babylonian enemies who defied Israel’s God will face a horrible day of judgment in the future. If they will face God in judgment Asaph then asks God to remember what these Babylonians did in the destruction of Judah and particularly Jerusalem.

 He calls the Babylonians “foolish people” Joseph Benson writes,

“Who, though they think themselves, and are thought by others, to be wise, yet in truth are fools, and herein show their stupendous folly, that they vilify and provoke that God whose powerful anger they can neither resist, nor escape, nor endure”.

 Jeremiah, who this descendant of Asaph probably had no contact with at the time of writing his Psalm because Jeremiah was in exile in Egypt wrote this telling prophecy of the future judgment of Babylon in Jeremiah 50: 1 – 3,

“This is the word the Lord spoke through Jeremiah the prophet concerning Babylon and the land of the Babylonians; “Announce and proclaim among the nations, lift up a banner and proclaim it; keep nothing back, but say, ‘Babylon will be captured; Bel will be put to shame, Marduk filled with terror. Her images will be put to shame and her idols filled with terror.’ A nation from the north will attack her and lay waste her land. No one will live in it; both people and animals will flee away”.

Interestingly Babylon becomes an important symbol concerning bible prophecy of Judgment in both the Old and New Testaments.

What then is the significance of Babylon in Old and New Testament prophecy?

The proof directory team give this excellent summary of what they have found is the prophetic significance of the term, “Babylon,

“Babylon, both literal and mystical, has been recognized as the traditional enemy of God’s truth and people. As used in the Revelation the name is symbolic of all apostate religious organizations and their leadership, from antiquity down to the close of time”.

 They then give two bible references in Revelation, Revelation 17:5,

“The name written on her forehead was a mystery: Babylon the great the mother of prostitutes and of the abominations of the earth”.

 And

Revelation 18: 24,

“In her was found the blood of prophets and of God’s holy people, of all who have been slaughtered on the earth.”

This descendant of Asaph then appears not only to the power of God in judgment to his love in salvation or in verse 19, deliverance, he writes in verse 19,

“Do not hand over the life of your dove to wild beasts; do not forget the lives of your afflicted people forever”.

 So God used the Babylonians to judge his people and in turn they would be judged by the rise and might of the Persians but what about God’s people will their judgment be final like the Babylonians?

This descendant of Asaph asks for God to remember his special people he knew God had declared his love for them.

He uses the term “the life of your dove” which many bible commentators believe should be translated “turtle dove” and Albert Barnes explains what this term actually means,

“The “life” of thy turtle-dove; or, thy turtle-dove itself. The turtle-dove is a name of endearment for one beloved, in Sol 2:12, and is thus applied here to the people of Israel. The leading idea in such an application of the word is that of innocence, harmlessness, timidity, gentleness”

 God’s covenant, which is spoken of in the next verse, sets up the agreement for Israel to be through God’s love his special people. So now when they have been so badly beaten and knocked around by the armies of Babylon formally likened to a roaring lion in verse 4 and therefore “wild beast” Asaph asks “do not forget the lives of your afflicted people forever”.

 This prayer was answered by God particularly for his people who were now in exile in Babylon because they prospered in the very heart of the evil empire’s Capital of Babylon and when Babylon was over run by Persia a few years after the writing of this Psalm God led the people back to resettle in the promised land and would rebuild Jerusalem.

We can learn from this ourselves that God uses even the problems and difficulties we face tody for his good purposes in the future as Paul wrote of in Romans 8: 28,

“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”.

  1. (20 – 21) Remember God your covenant of love

This new focus on the God and power and love continues to make the writers prayer more positive and God centred. Saying he is praying God centred is another way of saying we need to focus our faith and prayers on God in difficult times not the transient problems we face in life from time to time but on God and his word. The question we always need to ask is:

Who is in charge of my life?

Are my life experiences controlling me or is it the God of the bible who has saved me?

The problem with many Christians today is that they are really letting life’s problems or life’s success become the controlling influence of their lives. I call this experience based Christianity and I know of many churches who have promoted this and know that when things are going well in theses churches they are flourishing but when they hit the inedible speed humps of life they are not doing so well.

This descendant of Asaph in verse 20 makes a very God centred request to God in verse 20, he prays,

“Have regard for your covenant”.

 He is praying to God for help focussed on God’s revelation to his people, the covenant that I spoke of earlier in this Psalm talk when commenting on the phase in verse 2,

“Remember the people you purchased of old, the tribe of your inheritance”

 And I quoted Exodus 19: 3 – 6,

“ Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”

He wants God to bless his people again as he promises to do in the very covenant or agreement God made with the nation of Israel through Moses. He wants God to keep his promise to,

“Out of all nations you will be my treasured possession”.

But this descendant of Asaph also needed to remember that God’s covenant said,

Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant”

As I have mentioned a number of times the Babylonian invasion and exile only happened because the people before this descendant of Asaph and the people at the time if Asaph had not kept God’s covenant and had disobeyed God and worshipped other God’s.

What then is this New Covenant we should focus on at all times in our lives?

I found a perfect answer to this question by a man named Joseph Tkach, writing on this subject on a web site called “Grace Communion International, he writes,

“How can we have a relationship with God? How can we become his friends? How can we become citizens of his holy nation? Sinful humans aren’t in a position to make deals with their Creator. As sinners, we are alienated from him, estranged from him. Sin and corruption cannot enjoy his presence. But because he is good, because he loves us, God has acted decisively to end our alienation and restore us to his household.

 Tkach goes on to explain in a nutshell how God has acted decisively to end our alienation with him and restore us into his household, he writes,

“The terms God has set are these: Jesus died for our sins. In a financial metaphor, he has paid for them. There is no more debt. We have been forgiven. Our works cannot add anything to it. God has in Christ acted unilaterally, reconciling all things to himself (Colossians 1:20).”

 This last statement of Tkach is a brilliantly simple explanation of what the new covenant of God is.

The fact that over and over again Israel failed to be able to keep the covenant of God tells us that God needed to establish a new agreement or covenant with us and this is what Paul is speaking about in the early chapters of Romans and brings his argument of being saved by keeping the law or being saved by faith in the grace of God to a head with these words in Romans 5: 20 – 21,

“The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”.

This descendant of Asaph would not have not known this new covenant because it was only made known over 500 years later when Jesus came to earth to be the Messiah and through his death and resurrection establish this new covenant.

So Asaph describes in the second half of verse 5 what God’s judgment on Israel’s sin led to the people of his day left back in Israel,

“Because haunts of violence fill the dark places of the land”.

Many commentators believe this is describing the hidden places like caves that people like this descendant of Asaph had to hide in to escape the marauding Babylonian army who searched mercilessly for loyal faithful followers of Israel’s God.

Or the expression could simply describe the general dark time throughout the land that the Babylonian invasion and occupation would have caused.

He goes on to further plea for God’s help in the difficult times he lived in with verse 21,

“Do not let the oppressed retreat in disgrace”

This descendant of Asaph is pleading with God to take the yoke or the grip of Babylonian power away. I like the New Living Translation way of expressing the first part of this verse,

“Don’t let the downtrodden be humiliated again”.

 At the time of writing this Psalm this son or descendant of Asaph saw no let up of oppression from the Babylonians and he, humanly speaking saw only further humiliation. However he has shifted his primary focus to the God of the Covenant or the God of the bible so he continues to pray,

“May the poor and needy praise your name”.

David often called himself, poor and needy like Psalm 34: 6,

“This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles”.

So the poor here could be simply the spiritually poor which we all are before God. Isaiah says this about our spiritual state before God in Isaiah 64: 6,

“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags”.

So as sinners before God we are all spiritually poor and needy. This means this descendant of Asaph wants God to free the poor and needy from the oppressive hands of the Babylonian over Lords and this will lead to praise for the name of God who has done this.

The Gospel message received by us has changed our state before God and this should be the basis of our focus at all times of our lives, even in difficult times. Paul spoke of this in Colossians 1: 21 – 23,

“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant”.

  1. (22 – 23) Remember God and act with your mighty power

In the final two verses of his Psalm this descendant of Asaph asks for God’s judgment to fall on his enemies. He has focussed on the power and love of God since verse 12 and this has helped him remember the God of the bible who in the past had saved his people in a number of ways an over a number of times.

He has remembered how this God of the bible has made this world and continues to up hold it. Finally he has reminded God of his covenant of love and has asked God to remember it as well.

Now he calls on this God he has positively focussed on to:

“Rise up, O God, and defend your cause” (vs. 22a)

 This is a clear call for God to judge his enemies who he sees as God enemies as well. Note how he is leaving the judgment of his enemies to God as Paul teaches all Christians to do in 1 Corinthians 5: 12 – 13,

“What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”

 Jesus made it clear we are to leave judgment to God, Luke 6: 37,

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven”.

God answered this prayer a few years later when he helped lead the Persians to rise up and over power the Babylonians and then through the Persians send the people out of bondage in Babylon back to the promised land.

So the second half of verse 22 was answered at the same time,

“Remember how fools mock you all day long”

Yes this descendant of Asaph faced a dark and difficult time when the cruel and Godless Babylonians oppressed the people of God. Who no doubt persecuted them in word (mock) as well as in deed. Those who mocked them are described as fools because they did not believe in the true God of heaven and earth.

Today many Christians face verbal persecution and in some parts of the world physical torture. Peter had this to say to Christians of his day who faced verbal abuse for being a Christian, 1 Peter 4: 12 – 17,

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?”

Finally in verse 23, the last verse of this Psalm this descendant of Asaph asks God,

“Do not ignore the clamour of your adversaries, the uproar of your enemies which rises continually”.

In this last verse this descendant of Asaph seems to know God does not stay ignorant of the persecution of his people by their enemies but simply asks God not to ignore what he knows or sees.

It is very interesting that when Jesus confronted Saul who became Paul on the road to Damascus. He said this to this great persecutor of Christians in Acts 9: 5,

“I am Jesus whom you are persecuting”

Jesus is so close to and identifies so much with his followers that when they are persecuted he is persecuted. When they are insulted he is insulted and when they hurt he hurts with them.

Not also the subtle image of the lion in the phase,

“the uproar of your enemies”

 

The great symbol of the Babylonians is the lion and interestingly Satan himself is referred to as being like a roaring lion in 1 Peter 5: 8,

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour”.

Note Peters advice is to be alert or aware of this great enemy of God and us and in another reference, James 4: 7,

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you”.

Note also that this descendant of Asaph realised that this persecution of the Babylonians was always something God knew about as the last words of his Psalm says,

“Which rises continually”

Jesus promises all his disciple to be with them always in Matthew 28: 20b,

“Surely I am with you always, to the ends of the age”.

This should be our focus in difficult times that no matter what happens to us Jesus is with us to help us through those difficult times. He is aware of the words and deeds of those who might be giving us a hard time. He knows what it was like to face both verbal and physical persecution so we should not be afraid to turn to him for help and strength as we face problems and difficulties in this life because opposition.

I am reminded here of how we can focus on the God of power and love in difficult times with the words and advice we read in Hebrews 4: 15 – 16,

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”.

I close as usual with a original poem and a prayer:

GOD THE KING OF EVERYTHING

(Based on Psalm 74)

Why have you rejected us Oh God?

Are you angry by the path we have trod?

Turn our steps to your precepts

And free our troubled minds.

 

Remember your people purchased of old

Remember your children redeemed and restored

By the blood of the lamb who came as a man

To die on the cross for our sins.

 

Chorus:

 

You Oh God are the king

The king of everything

You bring us salvation

To you Oh God we sing.

 

Satan rages like a roaring lion

Attacks our churches with deceit and lying.

Some say in their hearts God’s love will depart

From those who have trusted in him.

 

How long will our enemies mock you Oh Lord

How long will they reject your wonderful word

Why don’t you stop the devils dark plot

To bring down your people in this world.

 

Chorus:

 

You Oh God are the king

The king of everything

You bring us salvation

To you Oh God we sing.

 

You Oh God has saved us

By sending your Son to die on the cross.

You made the sun and everyone

You are in charge of this world.

 

So now I can clearly foresee

God’s great judgment that will end history.

Jesus will come and God’s will will be done

And we will rise up to the Lord.

 

 

Chorus:

 

You Oh God are the king

The king of everything

You bring us salvation

To you Oh God we sing

To you Oh God we sing.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

 Father in heaven we look to you for help as we face difficult times in this life. Help us to have the faith to believe that you are in control no matter what seems to be happening to us at the moment. Help us to believe by faith that you work all things both good and bad for good. Help us to lift our eyes to the great hope of the future that you will one day send Jesus back to judge this world and raise us up to be with you in heaven forever. In Jesus name we pray, amen.