There are portions of Scripture that are almost never preached, read, meditated upon, or memorized. They are almost completely ignored. Eyes might roll over them in some year-long reading plan, but that’s it. Their truths are left packed away, unappreciated, and unrecognized, like pieces of luggage we carry around but never open.
I suspect that Psalm 76 is one of those passages.
The images are foreign to the mostly therapeutic bent of most Christians and the way they (we) read the Bible. Too many Christians (me too sometimes) in America read their Bibles for daily inspiration, like a spiritual vitamin pill that they can take to start their day on a happy note. They read to get a spiritual snack. Nothing substantial, just a nibble at the tree of life. Just a swallow at the river of life. They read as a discipline or as a legalistic exercise but not as a life giving, necessary part of their spiritual, emotional and physical and eternal existence.
They rarely read as if their very life depended on what they read.
But that’s how the God of the Universe wants us to read His word. He wants us to read and meditate on the word of God as if our lives depend upon it. That is the sense of Deuteronomy 8:3 in the Old Testament and Matthew 4:4 in the New.
“Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”
Psalm 76 is not for the snackers. It is not for the nibblers.
Psalm 76 is for the worshipper who wants to worship in “spirit and truth;” (John 4:24) who wants to worship the God revealed in Scripture rather than the false God of our imagination. Psalm 76 is for the spiritual seekers who desire the reality of a God who discloses Himself in His word. Psalm 76 is NOT for those who dream of a God that fulfills all of their wishes on their time schedule according to their value system.
Psalm 76 like so many other psalms, (psalm 94 is another that comes to mind), that rock our sensibilities and challenge our self-absorbed arrogance. God is different than we expect. More mysterious than we imagined. Less predictable than we think. Holier than we can possibly conceive.
Modern song writers and worship leaders with few exceptions (Andrew Peterson, Rich Mullins, Michael Card, The Getty’s, the people associated with Indelible Grace come to mind), rarely explore the darker textures and colors of God’s wrath, vengeance, judgment, and the overwhelming fearfulness of the magnesium flash of His complete untarnished holiness. Why is that?
It can’t be because they don’t see it in Scripture because it is everywhere. It might be because they either consciously or unconsciously avoid it.* Not so for Asaph. He wrote a song for the choir director so that the congregation of Israel would sing these textures as a part of worship of the God who reveals Himself in just this way.
Psalm 76 (NASB)
For the choir director, on stringed instruments.
A Psalm of Asaph, a Song
1 God is known in Judah;
His name is great in Israel.
2 His tabernacle is in Salem;
His dwelling place also is in Zion.
3 There He broke the flaming arrows,
The shield and the sword and the weapons of war. Selah.
4 You are resplendent,
More majestic than the mountains of prey.
5 The stouthearted were plundered,
They sank into sleep;
And none of the warriors could use his hands.
6 At Your rebuke, O God of Jacob,
Both rider and horse were cast into a dead sleep.
7 You, even You, are to be feared;
And who may stand in Your presence when once You are angry?
8 You caused judgment to be heard from heaven;
The earth feared and was still
9 When God arose to judgment,
To save all the humble of the earth. Selah.
10 For the wrath of man shall praise You;
With a remnant of wrath You will gird Yourself.
11 Make vows to the Lord your God and fulfill them;
Let all who are around Him bring gifts to Him who is to be feared.
12 He will cut off the spirit of princes;
He is feared by the kings of the earth.
I will have to brood over this text some more and teach on it soon.