Should I apologize now for the length? Probably…but I think it’s needed here. But as usual, let’s start off by reading our psalm for the day (or week) – so please read Psalm 76.
For me, when I read this I think of Psalm 76 as a “manly-man’s” psalm. It’s a psalm of victory that speaks of flashing arrows, shields and swords of war. It speaks of majestic mountains rich with game (not “game” as in animals to hunt – but of PEOPLE to fight) where strong men lie sleeping their last sleep and unable to lift their hands because they’re dead. This psalm is a psalm of war, of battle, of the power and praise of the almighty God who destroys his foes by his wrath and strength, power and might that apparently Judah is well familiar with. Yes…this is a warrior’s psalm (I can hear Tim the “Toolman” Taylor doing his grunt right about now)!
Actually – this isn’t a psalm of war at all. This is a psalm of the end of war. This is a psalm of the mighty strength of God and the proclamation of what he has done in overcoming his foes.
We don’t know the exact details of this psalm except that it was a song and Asaph had a part to play (he was apparently a pretty good singer) but as we read it we get the feeling that Asaph was asked to write and sing a song based off of some victorious battle. It feels like the mighty warriors of Judah have returned and all the land is preparing a feast like none other for this day. The grill-masters are running the grills hot and smokey and awaiting the brined and rubbed various meats to be placed over the coals. The harvesters have come in with the choicest bounty of veggies and fruits and grains that will be divvied up to various bakers and cooks who will prepare pastries, breads, salads, and various other copious amounts of food. The wine is flowing, the invitations are for the whole city! This party will be like none other! And what party would be complete without a singer with stringed instruments to entertain and share what was seen on the battlefield? So in his room sits Asaph with quill and paper. What words to write? What ode’s to sing? What victories to tell? Which battle to share? Which mighty warriors to speak of? There is only one: God.
Most commentators feel that we need to read Psalm 76 with the previous psalm (you can find Psalm 75 thoughts here) because they speak of the same battle, the same joy, the same proclamation and song. That where Psalm 75 speaks of the battle to come, the power and strength of God that will come down and defend his people – Psalm 76 is the aftermath. God has been victorious and the results can be seen by the numerous amounts of dead people on the other side while God’s people stand…living – able to sleep another sleep and wake to another day. But where I am drawn today is in the work of Asaph and the song he writes and sings concerning the work of God. Hearing HIS words of song.
On one hand I am encouraged to think about the song I would write of the God I know but what is challenging is that just as Asaph writes of a God whom he understands in his time (a time of war, and defeating other nations) that simply is not the God I know in my life. And just as we have to allow the voice of the psalmist to be what it is (in that “victorious” war/battle style in this case) and find the truth and goodness in it we are also encouraged to find our own voices too.
Do I know the God of victorious battles where men lie dead due to God’s wrath? Only in the scriptures – but I do know him – I just haven’t experienced that side personally.
Do I know the God who strikes fear into those who do not know him and seek to profane him and do everything against him? Only in the scriptures – but I do know him – I just haven’t experienced that side personally.
Do I know the God who breaks the spirit of rulers and should be feared by kings of the earth? I do know him – but unfortunately many do not … and yet they will personally.
The God I know, whom I would write concerning and DO sing about, is a God who teaches and gives love. The God I know is the God who serves and tells his people to serve as well. The God I know is the God who sees the dead and dying and offers his life in return. The God I know is patient, kind, and humble and requires his people to be the same. The God I know, sing about, write about, and share is a God of ultimate and true grace.
Is this the same God? Absolutely. Has God changed? Not a chance.
What is really hard for some people to do is reconcile the God of the Old Testament (OT) with the God of the New Testament (NT). We see war and famine and death and destruction and we simply have a really hard time finding that same God who sends his Son to die for us. The truth of all of it is that God’s wrath still was poured out in the New Testament – we just see it all poured out upon Christ. As a living sacrifice for our sins and our hatred Christ took to the cross to experience not only pain, suffering, and anguish – but to draw in all of God’s wrath upon his sinful people. Again, God hasn’t changed.
So then why do we see God differently in his actions from OT to NT? That’s a really good question and one that I look forward to talking to God about – but at the very least it’s a problem with US and OUR vision…not God’s. God’s love has always been and always will be. God’s work in the lives of those who love and fear him has always been and always will be – and that may be hard to work through but we take comfort in knowing that God is the only consistent and good thing that ever was and will be.
And as we read this psalm we TOO should find pen and paper (or computer and Word document) and write of the God we know and the celebratory joy WE TOO find in his work. In his work in our lives today but also in his victorious work upon the cross and the ultimate closing battle that will end all battles when Christ returns and re-establishes his reign over all the earth. That is when ALL KINGS of the earth will know and declare his name.