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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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