By James Boice
Theme: When God Decides to Act
In this week’s lessons, God is displayed as the righteous Judge who demonstrates his wrath toward sinners, but mercy toward his chosen people.
Scripture: Psalm 76:1-12
It is not always possible to find a reason for the psalms being placed where they are in the Psalter, but in this case Psalm 76 follows the former psalm nicely. In fact, there are links between Psalms 74, 75 and 76. Psalm 74 looks on the violence and injustice that are in the world and asks the Lord to intervene. In Psalm 75 God speaks to say that in “the appointed time” he will act both to strike down the arrogant and to lift up the meek and afflicted. Psalm 76, the one we are to study now, celebrates a dramatic incident in which God did exactly that, utterly destroying Israel’s enemies. In all three psalms God is viewed as the Judge before whom everyone must one day stand and with whom all must eventually come to terms.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon wrote of this connection: “Faith in the 75th Psalm sung of victories to come, and here it sings of triumphs achieved. The present Psalm is a most jubilant war song, a paean to the King of kings, the hymn of a theocratic nation to its divine ruler.”1
Like many of the fighting psalms, this too was a favorite of Christians during past periods of religious warfare. The embattled Huguenots sang it as they marched into battle at Coligny. The Covenanters sang it at Drumclog in 1679 when they defeated the government troops of “Bloody Claverhouse,” who came on them suddenly during one of their surreptitious meetings. Psalm 76 was sung in thanksgiving services marking the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. The Pilgrims also loved this psalm, and it was from verse 2 that they derived the name of one of the very first settlements in the new world: Salem, Massachusetts. It was because verse 2 says of God, “His tent is in Salem, his dwelling place in Zion.'”2
1Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. 2a, Psalms 58-87 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1966), p. 302.
2For these various military and other uses of the psalm, see Rowland E. Prothero, The Psalms in Human Life (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1904), pp. 168, 193, 276; and Herbert Lockyer, A Devotional Commentary: Psalms (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1993), pp. 252, 254.
- Describe the links between Psalms 74-76.
- What does the use of Psalm 76 by Christians in the past indicate about it?
For Further Study: The psalms are filled with rich teaching on the character of God. If you would like to have James Boice’s clear and careful three-volume set on the entire Psalter, order yours for 25% off the regular price.
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