1 For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A psalm of Asaph. A song.
In Judah God is known; his name is great in Israel. 2 His tent is in Salem, his dwelling-place in Zion. 3 There he broke the flashing arrows, the shields and the swords, the weapons of war. Selah
4 You are resplendent with light, more majestic than mountains rich with game.
5 Valiant men lie plundered, they sleep their last sleep; not one of the warriors can lift his hands. 6 At your rebuke, O God of Jacob, both horse and chariot lie still. 7 You alone are to be feared. Who can stand before you when you are angry? 8 From heaven you pronounced judgment, and the land feared and was quiet— 9 when you, O God, rose up to judge, to save all the afflicted of the land. Selah 10 Surely your wrath against men brings you praise, and the survivors of your wrath are restrained.
11 Make vows to the LORD your God and fulfil them; let all the neighbouring lands bring gifts to the One to be feared. 12 He breaks the spirit of rulers; he is feared by the kings of the earth.
Psalm 76 – Knowing our great God
(Verses 1-3) Psalm 76 celebrates a famous victory (or possibly victories) that God achieved. We are not told which is in mind. Some commentators think it may refer to the battle against Sennacherib in 701 BC. He tried to besiege Jerusalem. He himself was assassinated later. God broke the enemy’s weapons. Israel and Judah now worship their God who is ‘known’ personally. His name is ‘great’. As the attack was against Salem (Jerusalem), the site of Zion’s temple, (poetically called ‘His tent’, signalling God’s dwelling with His people), it was there that God smashed the enemy. Jesus prayed for those who follow Him, ‘Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.’ (John 17:3) He also said, ‘No one comes to the Father except through Me.’ (John 14:6)
You can know God now, through trust in His eternal Son, Jesus, who bore your sins and their punishment for you on the cross, and now lives to enter the life of any man who repents and asks Christ into his life. When you know Jesus, you begin to realise how ‘great’ our Triune God is.
(Verse 4) Asaph reminds us of God’s unique character. He is ‘resplendent with light.’ This means ‘having a brilliant or splendid appearance.’ (Collins dictionary) His majestic nature makes mountains look small! Before creating the world, God said ‘Let there be light’. Genesis 1:3 adds ‘and there was light.’ He creates and controls light: He is light. In John 8:12, Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world.’ Heaven needs no sun because Jesus lights it up with God’s glory. (Revelation 21:23) Christians are reminded that ‘God is light’ and are urged to ‘walk in the light’. (1 John 1: 5-7).
(Verses 5-10) These verses give details of how God overwhelmed the enemy. He is to be feared. When He is angry, as He is with sin, no-one can stand before Him. Only if we are in Christ can we be forgiven and accepted. When God works His judgment, that is an end to the matter. His foes fear and are quiet. When He saves sinners today, they are ‘survivors of His wrath’, because Jesus bore that wrath on the cross for them. These verses show God as Judge and as Saviour. If we do not know Him as Saviour, we will meet Him, and His wrath on our sin, as Judge.
(Verses 11-12) Our vows should centre on trusting, following and obeying our Lord and Saviour, by His strength and grace, and to live for Him. We should fulfil them and give Him our all. The world’s kings and rulers will fear Him one day. We need to grasp that, ‘The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom’ (Proverbs 9:10)