This psalm, also by Asaph, pairs nicely with the previous psalm. If you recall, Psalm 75 is a psalm of anticipatory thanksgiving for deliverance. This is a psalm of gratitude and gladness after the fact.
“In Judah is God known: His name is great in Israel. In Salem also is his tabernacle, And his dwelling place in Zion. There brake he the arrows of the bow, The shield, and the sword, and the battle. Selah . . .” (Psalm 76).
Summary of the Text:
The psalm is short, and woven tightly together, so there is no need to divide it into sections. God is known in Judah, and also in Israel (v. 1). Despite the divisions that exist among the people of God, knowledge of God unites them. His dwelling place is in Salem; He resides in Zion (v. 2). God is the God of the authoritative word. He speaks and all the weapons of the unjust are shattered (v. 3). He is more glorious than the “mountains of prey” (v. 4). The stout are defeated; warriors can’t even find their hands (v. 5). The God of Jacob speaks and chariot and horse are thrown into a deep sleep (v. 6). God is to be feared; who can stand when He is angry (v. 7)? When God rises to judge, the earth falls silent (v. 8). And when He rises, it is to save the meek of the earth, so that they might inherit that same earth (v. 9). The wrath of man is used by God for His own purposes, and if there is any wrath left over, God restrains it (v. 10). Consequently, fear the Lord. If you have vowed anything, keep your vows (v. 11). God cuts off the spirit of princes; to the kings of the earth, He is terrible (v. 12).
God is Known in Judah:
God is known among His people in Judah. His name is great in Israel. We are the people of God, and God through His grace has enabled us to know Him (Eph. 3:19). The world through all its wisdom does not know Him (1 Cor. 1:21).
Because of the grace of regeneration, we know God personally. And because we know Him personally, we know Him everywhere and in everything. The God of power is known through His works, His volcanoes and earthquakes. The God of wisdom is known through the orderly course of providence, sunrise and sunset. The God of kindness is known through His bounty, when water falls from the sky and food comes up from the dirt. The God of justice is known through His punishments and chastisements, and in His deliverance of the meek.
All of this is manifested in Jesus Christ, Son of God, son of David, deliverer, savior, Lord, and teacher. All of this is displayed to us, and through us to the world, when Christ is set forth as prophet, priest, and king.
Mountains of Prey:
Before the empires of men encounter God, before the humanist powers come into collision with the God of Jacob, they have been on a tear. They have been at war with other powers on the earth, and they have been accumulating their wealth. Such empires are commonly spoken of in Scripture as mountains (Jer. 51:25). In this place they are described as prey-mountains, plunder-mountains. What can you do, O Jacob?
We serve the God of Jacob, who is more glorious, and more excellent, than all these piles of loot. God is greater than our armies of pack-rats and our navies full of pirates.
The Wrath of Man Shall Praise Thee:
The psalm exults in two great realities. The first is that the enemies of God (and of God’s people) are utterly defeated by Him. He rises up, and the world falls silent. When God is silent, the world is in a tumult. But when God speaks, the world goes stone cold quiet. His victories are their defeats. God speaks and their chariot horses fall into sleep (v. 6). Warriors fall apart (v. 5). God looks at all our armaments, and shatters them with a nod (v. 3). When God is angry, who can stand before Him (v. 7)?
But because of the left-handed way in which God commonly governs the world, it is also true that their victories are actually His victories. The wrath of man is turned to the praise of God (v. 10). When man is angry, who can stand before God (v. 10)? God causes the anger of man against Him into an instrument of praise. If any wrath is left over, God simply restrains it.
What shall we do in light of these things? We should pay our vows. We should keep our word. We should present offerings to the Lord. If we have sworn in the presence of God, then we should do what we said. If we have not done as we promised, we should confess our sins to God and put things right. I have marriage vows in mind, in particular. We cannot pay any of our vows in our own strength, but we must still nevertheless pay our vows. You cannot excuse yourself with your inability, for obligation is not lessened by inability. And in addition, no one has an inability to call upon the grace of God in Christ. Everyone is summoned to call upon Him.
The Garden of God:
God walks in the garden, as He did at the beginning of the world. The princes of the earth, those who vaunt themselves, rise up over the other plants. But God is a gardener, and He walks through His garden with a pair of snips in His hand. When a mighty one rises up in the earth, God reaches out and cuts off that little sprig.
Are you worried about the presidential election? Are you afraid that the kings of the earth might be terrible to us? Fear rather on their behalf—God is terrible to the kings of the earth. They are the ones in trouble.
Remember that Christ is our prophet, Christ is our priest, Christ is our king. We invite the kings of the earth to kiss the Son, lest He be angry.