Here is the last of the psalms attributed to Asaph. You might recall that we discussed how this could be Asaph himself, or someone descended from him, in the “school” of Asaph. This psalm is likely written by Jehaziel, a Levite descended from Asaph (2 Chron. 20:14). From the internal evidence, the episode referred to in the psalm is very likely the situation that God delivered Jehoshaphat from in his great dilemma.
“Keep not thou silence, O God: Hold not thy peace, and be not still, O God. For, lo, thine enemies make a tumult: And they that hate thee have lifted up the head . . .” (Psalm 83:1–18).
Summary of the Text:
God is silent, and this is distressing because His enemies are not silent. They are in a tumult and so it is time for God to act (vv. 1-2). They have plotted against Israel in a crafty way (v. 3). The intent was to wipe Israel out, the intention was genocide (v. 4). Many nations have conspired against Israel (v. 5). The Edomites, the Ishmaelites, and the Amalekites were from the south. The Moabites, Ammonites, and Hagarenes were to the east. The Assyrians were to the north. The Philistines, Gebalites, and Tyrians were to the west. Israel was surrounded and in a desperate way (vv. 6-8). The psalmist prays that God would intervene as he had in the past against Midian (vv. 9-11; cf. Judges 7:25; 8:5). The enemies of God’s people had grand plans (v. 12), but the psalmist prays that they be made like tumbleweed (v. 13). He prays that God would take them out like a forest fire takes out wood (v. 14). He prays that a divine tempest would arise (v. 15). Fill their faces with shame (v. 16). And why? So that they might seek the name of God. Overwhelm them with confounded shame, and bring them low (v. 17). Again, why? So that men might know that there is only one with the name Jehovah, the God who is no longer silent (v. 18).
Jehoshaphat, a good and godly king, received word that a great confederacy had arisen against him (2 Chron. 20:1-2). Jehoshaphat did what he ought to have done, which is that he turned to the Lord (v. 3). He prayed in the presence of the people, reminding God of His great deliverances before (vv. 4-13). Jehaziel arose with a word of promised deliverance (vv. 14-17). He does not just promise that Judah will win the battle, he promises that they will win it without having to fight in it (v. 17). Jehoshaphat hears this and he believes (vv. 18-19). All the assembled believe with him. This is one of the great manifestations of faith in the Bible. Very rarely does it get any better than this.
In the morning, the king reminds them to continue to believe (v. 20), and he appointed the choir to march out in front, praising the beauty of holiness (v. 21). By the time the choir and the army arrived at the place where the enemy was, they had already turned on each other and dead bodies covered the ground (vv. 22-24). They had to spend three days taking the spoil (v. 25). And they came back to Jerusalem in great joy (vv. 26-30). Compare this result with (good) King Asa stripping valuables from the Temple in order to finagle some peace (2 Chron. 16).
Unbelievers hate each other, but are occasionally distracted by their greater shared hatred of the godly. The death of Jesus was the occasion for peace between Herod and Pilate. Thomas Watson used the figure of two greyhounds fighting over a bone, but if you released a hare next to them, they would be immediately united in their pursuit of the hare. And when we are in this position, when we are the hare, it seems to us that their antipathy cannot possibly be directed anywhere else.
But in this case, God made them all forget the hare, and turn back on each other.
When it says that the ground was fertilized with dead bodies (v. 10), it shows the extent of the judgment and it shows the nature of the judgment. In 1830 some enterprising individuals combed the fields of Austerlitz, Waterloo, etc. and gathered up human and animal bones, shipped them to Hull in England, where they were all ground up and used for fertilizer. They did this to more than a million bushels of bones.
More than once God has promised to feed the birds with bodies of His enemies. More than once He has determined to make the fields lush and green by fertilizing it with the pride of man. Nothing rots better than the pride of man. Nothing makes finer compost than the arrogance and insolence of men who breathe through their noses.
The psalm begins with a pending calamity. Not only is there a pending calamity, but God appears to be disinterested in it. God, why are You silent? Why do You do this to us? We panic early. We jump to conclusions more quickly than we ought. We are disciples who view Jesus sleeping in the boat with great consternation. Do you not care that we perish (Mark 4:38)?
The unbelievers are beating on their shields with their spears, and the God we serve . . . is quiet. They are filled with great, swelling words. Their confederacy is unstoppable. Nothing can save us now. Their alliances are impressive, and we are entirely surrounded. They all have their grievances against us, and those grievances stacked on one another seem to be insurmountable.
Not Silent Forever:
The God who seems so silent is the God who—when the time is exactly right—rises up and delivers His people. How many centuries of silence before the Messiah came? How long did we long for Christ before we were given Christ?
When Jesus arrives, what does He say? “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand . . .” (Mark 1:15). When was Jesus born? When the fullness of time had come (Gal. 4:4). We serve the God whose sense of timing is exquisite. And this is why He seems so silent—His sense of timing is far, far better than ours.
And so when is the time of salvation, according to that exquisite timing? The Christ has been given, and so the day of salvation is now. Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart.