For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A psalm of Asaph. A song.
God is renowned in Judah;
in Israel his name is great.
His tent is in Salem,
his dwelling-place in Zion.
There he broke the flashing arrows,
the shields and the swords, the weapons of war.
You are radiant with light,
more majestic than mountains rich with game.
The valiant lie plundered,
they sleep their last sleep;
not one of the warriors
can lift his hands.
At your rebuke, God of Jacob,
both horse and chariot lie still.
It is you alone who are to be feared.
Who can stand before you when you are angry?
From heaven you pronounced judgment,
and the land feared and was quiet –
when you, God, rose up to judge,
to save all the afflicted of the land.
Surely your wrath against mankind brings you praise,
and the survivors of your wrath are restrained.
Make vows to the Lord your God and fulfil them;(Ps. 76:1-12 NIV)
let all the neighbouring lands
bring gifts to the One to be feared.
He breaks the spirit of rulers;
he is feared by the kings of the earth.
The lament in Psalm 74 over the destruction of the temple overshadows this Psalm as it did Psalm 75. The Psalmist acknowledges that God still dwells in Jerusalem even though they are in exile. The armies from the North may have placed the people in exile, but they could not remove God. The cry in Psalm 74 was that God had abandoned them, but the reality was that God had not abandoned them, He had been very much with them in judgement. God has revealed Himself to His people, His great name is known throughout the land. The people have been defeated, but the greatness of God remains unchanged, and His choice of dwelling place remains unchanged.
God is the one who brings an end to wars. His position is not diminished by this defeat. God is chastising His people that they might be brought to repentance. They should not derive their theology from the events as they sought to do in Psalm 74, but rather on the revelation of God. Many people are offering an opinion on what God is doing during the pandemic. The reality is no one knows. God may be using this moment to cause people to repent, He may be bringing judgement on others, He may be making His church realise our need of God. God could be doing a thousand different things in the life of one person. Let us trust the scriptures rather than any analysis of current events. God in the past has turned large armies away from the city gates, but this time He chose not to do so. He does this because He is God and we are not.
God is radiant with light and sits majestically in His dwelling place. He is not perturbed by the defeat of the people of God. He brought the armies. The armies think they have triumphed but in 2020 God is radiant with light and sits majestically in His dwelling place. God is like a lion and He is more majestic than the mountains filled with game. The game are prey to the lion whenever He will choose to arise.
In Psalm 74 the armies had lifted their hands against the people of God. When God arises to deal with them, they will be plundered and will pass away into their final sleep. As the Lord speaks the word of rebuke, those who trusted in horses and chariots will lie still. The people of God had feared the enemy. If they had feared God and obeyed Him, they would have no need to fear anyone or anything else. God alone is to be feared. When God is angry, who can stand against Him?
The people of God can’t, and neither can the enemy. For now, God is angry with His people, but soon the enemy will experience God’s judgement. When God pronounced the word of judgement from Heaven, those living in the land were in fear and were silent. All the mocking, and arrogance was stopped. God arose to save those who were afflicted.
The footnote in the NIV to this difficult verse may be the better translation. ‘Surely the wrath of mankind brings you praise, and with the remainder of wrath you arm yourself.’ This refers to human wrath. The anger-filled rebellion of mankind’s anger brings about the praise of God. God is using the anger of the armies to do His work to discipline His own people. The enemy will be judged, and even those angry ones who are spared will result in God’s praise.
In view of the coming judgements, the people of God should renew their covenant vows, and the nations should bring their offerings to the Lord before is too late. He will judge the rulers and will be greatly feared by all the rulers of the earth.
Lord God, help us to trust in Your word and to depend upon that word to give us insight into the great plan of redemption. The detail of what is happening around us today we don’t understand, but we know that You are building the Kingdom of God, that the Gospel is being preached across the earth. Lord help us to renew our covenant vows, to serve You, obey You and walk in newness of life because we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.