Scriptures

Psalm 76

Introduction

In this psalm, Asaph praises God for giving Israel a victory over their enemies. Although we can’t be certain of the historical background of this psalm, many commentators believe it’s referring to the deliverance from the attack of Sennacherib, king of Assyria, during the reign of Hezekiah, 2 Kings 19:35-37 / Isaiah 37:36-38.

Heading

‘For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A psalm of Asaph. A song.’

Although the headings aren’t inspired by God, they are important because they give us some understanding about the Psalm and they help us to see why it was written. The headings usually tell us four things.

1. Who wrote them, probably wrote them or possibly wrote them.

2. Information about the historical background to the Psalm. Why it was written.

3. They tell us of the tune the Psalm was written to.

4. How it was used.

The heading tells us that this was written for the director of music. Some commentators believe that ‘director or music’ is God Himself and others believe that it is a song leader who led choirs or musicians, 1 Chronicles 6:33 / 1 Chronicles 16:17 / 1 Chronicles 25:6.

The psalm was song and was to be used with a stringed instrument. Asaph was the singer and musician during the reign of David and Solomon, 1 Chronicles 15:17-19 / 1 Chronicles 16:5-7 / 1 Chronicles 25:6. 1 Chronicles 25:1 and 2 Chronicles 29:30 tells us that Asaph was a prophet in his musical compositions.

‘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.’ Psalm 76:1-3

Asaph begins by declaring that God is known in Judah and that His name is great in Israel because He delivered His people, Acts 17:23. His tent is in Salem, which is Jerusalem, Genesis 14:18 / Hebrews 7:1-2, and His dwelling place is in Zion, this is where David built his own public worship place, 2 Samuel 6:17 / Psalm 2:6 / Psalm 9:11 / Psalm 48:12 / Psalm 65:1.

God broke the flashing arrows, shields, Psalm 5:12 / Psalm 33:20 / Ephesians 6:16, and swords, when David conquered Jerusalem. God totally disarmed the enemy and then David then set Jerusalem up as the centre of Israel and brought peace to the city, 2 Samuel 5:6-10. The victory that took place was the work of God, and so, God was Israel’s defence.

You may notice at the end of verse three, some translations have the word, ‘selah’, although no-one really knows what this word means, it’s likely it means to pause. It’s a time to stop and reflect upon what has just been said.

We can almost imagine Asaph pausing for a breath as he contemplates the victory God gave Israel.

‘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.’ Psalm 76:4-9

Asaph describes God as a radiant light, 1 John 1:5, more majestic than mountains with rich game. In other words, Asaph knew God was more glorious and majestic than these places.

These valiant men came confidently to invade Jerusalem, Colossians 2:8, but God made them useless by attacking them when they were asleep.

The words, ‘sleep their last sleep’, refers to time when the angel of God swept over the army of Sennacherib and brought death to 185,000 men.

When the morning came after all the warriors of Sennacherib had died, none of them could raise their hands in battle against Israel, Isaiah 37:36. At God’s rebuke, both horse and chariot lie still, Psalm 65:12-13 / Psalm 114:3-7 / Habakkuk 3:8-11.

As a result of God’s work through the angel, Asaph tells us that it is God and God alone who should be feared. That is, Israel should fear Sennacherib and his army, but God alone because He is far more powerful.

Not only should God be feared but He must also be revered because when God is angry, man has no strength to stand against Him and therefore, man should be afraid.

God pronounced His judgment from heaven and the land feared and became quiet, in other words, everything respected God, especially when He is angry.

When God rose to judge, He also saved all those who were afflicted in the land. God has always cared for the poor and needy and He not only cares for them but He also judges those who bring affliction upon them.

You may notice at the end of verse nine, some translations have the word, ‘selah’, although no-one really knows what this word means, it’s likely it means to pause. It’s a time to stop and reflect upon what has just been said.

We can almost imagine Asaph pausing for a breath as he contemplates the judgements of God upon the Assyrians.

‘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; 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.’ Psalm 76:10-12

Asaph now speaks how God’s wrath against mankind will actually bring about praise for God, Jeremiah 11:23 / Jeremiah 44:14 / Micah 7:18 / Zephaniah 2:7 / Acts 2:23 / Romans 8:28.

The survivors of God’s wrath are restrained, that is, God will clothes Himself with the leftovers of man’s wrath against Him and His people, 1 Samuel 17:39 / 1 Samuel 25:13 / Psalm 45:3. No matter how strong man’s efforts are against God, He will overcome them, Exodus 9:16 / Isaiah 45:24.

Asaph calls upon the people to make voluntary vows to the Lord because God delivered them from the Assyrians, but they must also fulfil them, Ecclesiastes 5:4-5 / Psalm 22:25 / Psalm 50:14 / Psalm 56:12 / Psalm 66:13.

He calls upon all the neighbouring lands to bring their gifts to God, this was a way of giving thanks, bringing praise and honour to God for what He has done, Psalm 45:12 / Isaiah 16:1 / Isaiah 18:7 / Isaiah 60:5.

It’s God who breaks the spirit of rulers, that is, He humbles them, therefore God should be feared by all the kings of the earth. God and God alone is worthy of all this praise and everyone should praise Him and give Him the reverence and honour that only He deserved.

Conclusion

Because God destroyed the Assyrian army and so, Asaph encourages everyone to fear the Lord. Fearing the Lord is taught throughout the Scriptures, Psalm 89:7 / Hebrews 12:28-29, but what kind of fear are we speaking about?

It’s not the kind of fear the Israelites were experiencing from the Assyrians, it’s the kind of fear which brings about godly reverence and awe for God.

As Christians, we don’t need to fear God’s anger if we are obedient to Him, Ecclesiastes 12:13 / Romans 2:5-9, He loves us and if we love Him, we have nothing to fear from Him, 1 John 4:18.

Godly fear brings us into a loving relationship with Him, Luke 4:8 / Hebrews 12:28. Godly fear leads us live the kind of lives which pleases Him, Deuteronomy 10:12-13 / James 1:14-15.

The reason many people sin, including Christians, is because they don’t take that godly fear seriously. Some don’t take God seriously and as a result, they don’t take their sin seriously, Galatians 6:7-8.

Having godly fear brings blessings, whereas having no fear of God brings, condemnation.

Go To Psalm 77

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent.’"

Acts 18:9

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