Psalm 75 is a grand psalm of thanksgiving. It contains a lively interchange between the people, the psalmist, and the Lord. In some ways this psalm may be the answer to the questions asked in psalm 74. The psalm’s structure is based on the various speakers, and the psalm includes two direct messages from God that provide assurance of His justice. The Lord rebukes the arrogant people who defy Him promising to forcibly humble them. Together the community and the psalmist respond to the Lord with thanksgiving for who God is and what He has done. There are many who look at this psalm and tie it to psalms 76-78. It appears that the warning about boasting may well point to Assyrian king Sennacherib who came up against King Hezekiah and Jerusalem. Sennacherib’s officers boasted mightily that no one could defeat them, but at the right time, the Lord delivered His people in a miraculous show of force. The tune for this psalm, do not destroy, is also used for psalms 57-59.
The psalm begins with the people giving thanks to the Lord because He is near. To give thanks here is a public acknowledgment of God. His wondrous works are those only He can perform, and these have caused His people to think of Him with great awe. The fact that His name is near means that God is close by and ready to intervene on behalf of His people. True worship is focused on the Lord and the Lord alone. It has nothing to do with us and our felt needs. This is about giving God the glory He is due. We praise God for His glorious attributes and His wonderful works. Keep in mind that God’s name is a synonym for His presence and person. Psalm 46 tells He is a very present help in times of trouble and His people know that when they call on Him, He hears them. God wants us to bring our burdens and struggles to Him and seek His help, but worship begins with getting our eyes of faith off our lives and focusing them on the Lord God Almighty.
The psalmist acknowledges that God will act in His time, the right time, and He will not be rushed. God may not be early, but He is never late. And if we expect the Lord to receive our words of praise, then we are called to pay attention to His Word of truth as it is read, sung, and preached. Verses 2-3 are words of encouragement for believers and verses 4-5 are words of warning to the godless. God reminds His people that He has the whole world in His hands. When everything feels like it’s is going to fall apart, it is the Lord who holds the pillars firm. God has not abandoned His people, nor has He given up His authority. But He will, at the right time, judge the wicked uprightly. This points to the fullness and perfection of God’s justice. Today we would say God is still Sovereign, and Jesus is still in the throne. The message for the godless is stark. It is a warning to not be arrogant nor to deliberately disobey the will of God. As is often the case in the psalms, the wicked or ungodly are personified as something else, in this case a horned beast. Before these beasts attack, they lower their heads and attack. A horned beast proudly lifts its head high and challenges its opponent. This is how the wicked and ungodly were living. They arrogantly defied the heavens…the dwelling place of God, and through their boasting they insisted they are wiser than God. In this psalm a stiff neck and proud speech are the marks of an insolent and rebellious person, not one who is bowed down in submission to the Lord. The power of the wicked is feeble compared to the strength of the Almighty.
It is easy to hear God’s message, leave worship, and then forget what we have heard. But James tells us the blessing comes not in the hearing of God’s Word but in the doing of God’s Word. In verses 6,7, and 10 we see the word exalted, or lifted up. The psalmist here is using this to tell of God delivering His people from trouble and setting them free. The arrogant were lifting themselves up, only to be cast down by the Lord. The humble wait upon the Lord and He lifts them up. The psalmist states that a Jew could look in any direction, south, east, or west, and never find anyone who can do what God can. The same is true for us today. You will notice however that the direction north is omitted. That is because that would have meant Israel was seeking help from her enemies to the north…Assyria and Babylon. The psalmist also makes it very clear that the Lord is the only judge. He has the power to exalt and to humble. In fact, He is the ruler of the entire universe.
The cup is a familiar image in scripture, and it often signifies judgement. The Jews usually drank wine diluted with water, but this cup was wine mixed with strong spices. It was literally called a mixed drink. But this cup was not a cup of blessing. It was full of the Lord’s wrath. This picture of wine and judgement goes back to Jacob’s blessing on Judah found in Genesis 49:11. It is also referenced to Jesus’s judgement we see recorded in the Book of Revelation, 19:13-15. If the believers here went home from the worship trusting the Lord to deliver them and judge their enemies, then the ungodly and wicked should have gone home concerned about future judgement. It was Jesus who drank the full cup of God’s wrath for you and I so that we might be made righteous before God. Those who refuse to trust Him will drink the cup of judgement to the very dregs.
This psalm closes with two statements. The first is from the psalmist, declaring that he will always sing and proclaim what the Lord has done. He begins with the same words Joshua used…as for me. It indicated that he has made a personal decision. Each one of us has to decide for themselves who they will trust, follow, and worship. And we have to remember that witness and praise go hand in hand. The psalmist is going to sing praises to the God of Jacob. This is a frequent title for the Lord in the psalms. The good news for us is that it is easy for us to identify with Jacob. He was a man who did not always have great faith, yet God used him in mighty ways. Finally, the last verse is God speaking. One day He will judge the wicked. This should be motivation for us to share the good news with those who do not yet know. God also revealed that when He judges the wicked, He will raise up the righteous. God will take away the strength the wicked have boasted about and give strength to the righteous. The wicked have boasted proudly about their strength and God warns that He will take it away. If this is indeed about King Sennacherib and his Assyrian army, we know that the Lord did exactly what He said He would. King Hezekiah prayed to the Lord; the Lord showed His great power. The once great Assyrian army, at least 200,000 strong, was decimated overnight by the Lord. 185,000 soldiers lay dead and the rest fled home.
We may not face an army, but many of us have struggles and challenges. Sometimes it feels like we are up against the army. But take heart, God will humble the proud and strengthen the weak.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W