236 - God Always Has the Final Word (Psalms 74–76)
Through times of divine discipline for our sins and through the attacks and injustices we suffer in this world, there is always an abiding and sure hope for followers of the Lord. He does not abandon His people, and He never fails in His promises.
God Always Has the Final Word
The heading of Psalm 74 tells us that the author is Asaph. This man is a descendant of the Asaph who lived during the days of King David and no doubt named in honor of his forefather who had led the nation in worship.
It is clear this Asaph of Psalm 74 lived much later because verse 3 tells us, “The enemy has destroyed everything in the sanctuary!” This describes the destruction of the temple, which took place some 400 years after David’s reign.
So, this psalmist has lived to see the destruction of the temple. He may have been in Jerusalem or in exile when he composed this psalm.
What we do know for certain is that he is writing on behalf of the entire nation when he says here in verse 1, “O God, why do you cast us off forever?”
Israel had violated God’s covenant for hundreds of years, and the Lord now has fulfilled His own promise made back in Deuteronomy 28 to punish Israel for their rebellion against Him. The weight of God’s discipline has come upon the nation, which is now in exile in Babylon.
But notice that Asaph is not arguing with God about this. He is just wondering how long it is going to last. His plea here for God to remove His heavy hand indicates to us that repentance has occurred. And now the people are facing those difficult days of waiting on God to complete their discipline.
You know as well as Asaph does that waiting on God to clear the path for us after we have confessed our sin can be difficult. Frankly, part of God’s discipline is waiting on Him to lead us on to the next chapter. And waiting gives us the opportunity to realize that our sin not only hurt our reputation but the Lord’s as well.
Asaph writes in verse 10, “How long, O God, is the foe to scoff? Is the enemy to revile your name forever?” God’s name has taken a beating. Listen, beloved, it is possible for Christians to tarnish the reputation of God.
As you read the closing lyrics of this psalm, it is clear that while Asaph and the nation are suffering the consequences of their sin, they now have a new priority; and that priority is to exalt—to rebuild, if you please—the reputation of their faithful Lord.
That’s highlighted here in verse 12: “God my King is from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth.” He is the King, the sovereign King of all the earth.
One author writes:
The city of Jerusalem had been wrecked, and the temple had been destroyed and burned—but the essentials had not been touched by the enemy! The nation still had Jehovah God as their God … and [God] was [still] at work in the world.
The next psalm, Psalm 75, seems to be directly related to seeing God’s name vindicated, which it will be, when God’s judgment comes to pass upon those who defy Him and scoff at Him.
That is the idea here in verse 2 as the Lord warns the scoffer, “At the set time that I appoint I will judge with equity.” Then in verse 4 God says to the boastful, “‘Do not boast,’ and to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up your horn [that is, don’t be defiant].’” Judgment day is coming.
Beloved, the wickedness that runs through every nation and on every continent today God will judge. He has appointed a day on which He will judge the scoffer, the boastful, the defiant, and the unrepentant who have rejected Him.
The apostle Paul told the leaders and philosophers in the proud city of Athens, “God . . . commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness” (Acts 17:30-31).
Well, the psalmist here in Psalm 75 puts the coming judgment of God in rather terrifying poetry. Verse 8 describes it this way:
In the hand of the Lord there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed, and he pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs.
Throughout the Bible the symbolic significance of the cup is not its appearance but its contents. Here in Psalm 75, judgment is in the cup. God is going to hand this cup to the wicked, and they are going to drink to their own damnation.
You might remember in Mark’s Gospel the Lord is praying in the garden of Gethsemane as He prepares to experience the wrath of God as He bears our sins on the cross. And Jesus prays, “Father . . . remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36).
Oh, what a glorious thought that we’re saved from God’s wrath for one reason only – we’re trusting in Christ’s death on our behalf – you see, on that cross Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, drank our damnation dry.
One author made the wonderful connection that because Jesus drank the cup of death [for us], He can offer us the cup of the new covenant.” That is the covenant of forgiveness and new life in Him.
But those who reject the Lord are effectively reaching out to take the cup of God’s judgment and wrath. That is dramatically illustrated now as we sail into Psalm 76.
Many Old Testament scholars agree that the setting of this psalm is back in 2 Kings 19, where God judged the Assyrian army as they surrounded the helpless city of Jerusalem.
That was the time when King Hezekiah was doing “what was right in the eyes of the Lord.” Fourteen years into his reign, the Assyrians attacked Jerusalem. In a moment of weakness, Hezekiah agreed to pay them tribute—basically bribing them to leave Jerusalem alone. But this was not enough for the Assyrians, who decided to destroy Jerusalem anyway. Hezekiah responded by humbling himself and going before the Lord in prayer.
When the people of Jerusalem woke up the next morning, 185,000 Assyrian soldiers were lying dead on the mountains surrounding Jerusalem, destroyed by the Angel of the Lord.
No wonder the Israelites would sing this psalm to God for generations. The lyrics here in verse 4 celebrate the Lord: “Glorious are you, more majestic than the mountains full of prey.” And then we read these words:
But you, you are to be feared! Who can stand before you when once your anger is roused? From the heavens You uttered judgment; the earth feared and was still, when God arose to establish judgment, to save all the humble of the earth. (verses 7-9).
And verse 9 concludes with “Selah”—think about that!
Against impossible odds, God rescued Jerusalem and His people. Verse 10 declares, “Surely the wrath of man shall praise you [the Lord].”
That should encourage every Christian today! When the world’s rebellion increases, don’t lose hope—and don’t lose sight. God eventually will turn mankind’s defiance into a final demonstration of His majesty and His power.
I have mentioned before the tragic life of Friedrich Nietzsche, who laid the groundwork in the late nineteenth century for terrible apostasy and defiance against God and the gospel of Christ. He taught that God is dead and that Christianity is a curse on mankind rather than a cure for mankind. Upon Nietzsche’s death, someone penned these fitting words:
“God is dead.” (Signed) Nietzsche
“Nietzsche is dead.” (Signed) God
What does this mean? What does Psalm 76 mean? It means that “God always has the last word.”
 L. Ryken, J. Wilhoit, T. Longman, C. Duriez, D. Penney, and D. G. Reid, eds., Dictionary of Biblical Imagery (InterVarsity Press, 2000), 186.
 John Phillips, Exploring the Psalms: Volume One (Loizeaux Brothers, 1988), 83-84.
 Ibid., 84.
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