This is a psalm of preemptive thanksgiving. The psalmist is looking to God for a deliverance that he fully expects. There are petitions mixed in with the psalm, but for the most part this is simply anticipatory gladness for deliverance. The deliverance sought is from wicked rulers, which makes the faith all the more striking. The deliverance sought is from wicked rulers, which makes this psalm extremely relevant for our day, for our time, for our generation.
“Unto thee, O God, do we give thanks, unto thee do we give thanks: For that thy name is near thy wondrous works declare. When I shall receive the congregation I will judge uprightly. The earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved: I bear up the pillars of it. Selah . . .” (Psalm 75:1-10).
Summary of the Text:
The first verse is the tuning fork—he sets the pitch for the whole psalm (v. 1). God is honored in the next section (vv. 2-5) as the ruler of the whole earth. In the third section, the people of God warn her enemies (vv. 6-8). The closing section of the psalm exults in the complete defeat of those enemies, and glories in God (vv. 9-10).
God’s works must be praised by God’s people (v. 1), and as Spurgeon put it once, “Stinted gratitude is ingratitude.” As we thank God, we should never hold back. The next section is spoken from God’s perspective. When He receives the congregation, He will judge rightly (v. 2). God is the one who carries the world on His shoulders (v. 3). Think about that. Meditate on it, which is what Selah means. God is the true Atlas. Given this reality, wicked fools should rethink their pride (vv. 4-5). Empires rise and fall as God determines (vv. 6-7), and only as God determines. The judgments of God on the pride of sinful man are the kind of judgments that come in a mixed cup of intoxicating wrath (v. 8). As these wicked rulers come to nothing, the opposite happens to the saints. They are enabled to sing praises forever (v. 9). The horns of the wicked are cut off, and the horns of the righteous are exalted (v. 10). Such horns in Scripture represent both honor and strength.
Promotion from the North:
In verse 6, we learn that promotion does not come from the east, or the west, or the south. It does not come from the east, and all the possibilities of a dawning day. Nor does it come from the west, from a sun that is setting on all your great accomplishments. It does not come from the south, which for the psalmist was a wilderness, a desert. This leaves the north.
We are not resting on speculation here because we are told explicitly in the next verse where the promotion comes from. It comes from God the judge, who “puts one down, and sets up another.” “Fair weather cometh out of the north: With God is terrible majesty. Touching the Almighty, we cannot find him out: he is excellent in power, and in judgment, and in plenty of justice: he will not afflict” (Job 37:22–23; Ps. 48:2).
So the nations of men are all lined up like ten pins at the end of the alley, and God is the one with the ball. Absolutely nothing happens by chance. Disaster cannot befall a city unless the Lord has done it (Amos 3:6). We don’t always know what God is doing, but we must always know that God is doing. But the same thing is true of promotion. The same thing is the case when everything is going your way. It is not the case that God is involved in chastisement, but that we climb to the top on our own. God casts down and God also lifts up. Why is one man in a prison and another man on a throne? Why is one man in the grave and another in the prime of life?
Judgment in a Cup:
There is a cup here full of red, red wine, and the kings of the earth have it on the table in front of them. Everything they want is right within their grasp. It is there, right there. But the God of Heaven is the one who has prepared the cup. It is a mixed cup, and the metaphor here is different than the one about the cup of the wine of the wrath of God centuries later (Rev. 14:10). There the wine is unmixed, meaning not diluted with water. Here the wine is mixed, not with water, but made more potent by means of intoxicating spices. The kings of the earth will be made to drink this cup all the way to the bottom, down to where the poisoned dregs are. They will drink it all dry and find a dark eternity at the bottom.
This is how God judges nations. When they are on the rise, they do things right—by some variant of common grace. Courage, pluck, enterprise, and ambition are all involved. But at some point Jeshurun waxes fat and kicks (Dt. 32:15). The wealth starts to dazzle (Dt. 8:17). And so the great empire becomes a functional drunk—putting plenty of that cup down, but in a way that few notice. Everyone still believes that things still are as they were in the glory days. But after a time—this is how God operates with empires—the empire gets the staggers. The empire weaves when it walks, and vomits in the gutter. No one can pretend anymore.
“In that day shall the Lord of hosts be for a crown of glory, And for a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of his people, And for a spirit of judgment to him that sitteth in judgment, And for strength to them that turn the battle to the gate. But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; The priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, They are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; They err in vision, they stumble in judgment. For all tables are full of vomit and filthiness, So that there is no place clean” (Is. 28:5–8).
This is yet another instance of God, not only judging for sin, but also judging with sin. God not only judges for adultery, He also judges with it (Prov. 22:14). God not only judges for homosexuality, He also judges with it (Rom. 1:24). God not only judges us for lunacy in government, He also judges with it (Is. 28).
So our culture is jammed full of incoherent nonsense. We don’t know the difference between men and women anymore. Normality is the new perversion. We embrace radical homosexuals alongside radical Muslims who throw homosexuals off tall buildings. We do this because they both hate the church, the bride of Christ. In the name of free speech, we shout dissenters down. In the name of tolerance, we embrace totalitolerance. We don’t comprehend the difference between mine and yours, and have socialistic economic policies to prove it. We pride ourselves on our intellectual subtleties, and can no longer exegete any plain text, whether Ephesians, or the Constitution, or Huckleberry Finn. The medieval period saw Brant’s Ship of Fools. We are the true moderns—and have built a Supertanker of Fools.
Welcome to the madhouse. Welcome to bedlam. Welcome to the culture-wide bender. Welcome to the insanity jag. Welcome to the bughouse. Welcome to our ostentatious convocation ceremonies at the laughing academy. Welcome to the world you now live in.
Repent and Believe:
Exhortations to virtue won’t cut it. Admonitions to the willfully perverse will only draw their cackles. Trying to navigate all this with clean middle class values is beyond a joke.
The Word is powerful, and when God unleashes it, His purposes will be accomplished. When He gave reformation under Hezekiah, the deliverance arrived suddenly (2 Chron. 29:36). And when everything looked dire to Mordecai, and he was not sure whether Esther would approach the king, he still knew that God would raise up a deliverer (Est. 4:14). God will intervene on behalf of His people. That is what He does.
But He does it according to His Word, and by means of His Word. Consequently, there are only two things we must say to our culture, and we must pray that God grant us the opportunity to say them with power and authority. As we do, God will honor it. The first is to repent of your sins. The second is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.