Monday, April 23, 2012

Our Strength and Our Righteous Judge

[To the chief Musician, Altas'chith, A Psalm or Song of Asaph]

1 Unto thee, O God, do we give thanks, unto thee do we give thanks: for that thy name is near thy wondrous works declare.

2 When I shall receive the congregation I will judge uprightly.

3 The earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved: I bear up the pillars of it. Selah.

4 I said unto the fools, Deal not foolishly: and to the wicked, Lift not up the horn:

5 Lift not up your horn on high: speak not with a stiff neck.

6 For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south.

7 But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another.

8 For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup, and the wine is red; it is full of mixture; and he poureth out of the same: but the dregs thereof, all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out, and drink them.

9 But I will declare for ever; I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.

10 All the horns of the wicked also will I cut off; but the horns of the righteous shall be exalted.

—Psalm 75 KJV Bible

This is a communal thanksgiving psalm. In the song, the psalmist praises God who will judge the earth, warns the wicked of this judgment, and vows to praise God.

Many suggest that this psalm is set around the time that King Sennacherib of Assyria attacked Jerusalem in 701 BC, during the reign of Judah's King Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:13-19:37; Isaiah 36-37).

The psalm description says that it is a song of Asaph. Asaph was an outstanding musician who lived in the time of King David (Nehemiah 12:46). Asaph's father was Berechiah (1 Chronicles 6:39). David had appointed Asaph as a minister of music for the tabernacle (1 Chronicles 15:16-19) and Asaph's descendants were also official temple musicians (Ezra 2:41). Asaph was sometimes described as a "seer," or a prophet (2 Chronicles 29:30). Psalms 50 and 73 through 83 are attributed to Asaph, or perhaps written for Asaph to perform. The beautiful psalms of Asaph describe the world round us in a clear way, remind us that God cares for us, cause us to learn from events, and remind us of the greatness of God. Since the Asaph of David's time was long dead when the armies of Assyria attacked Jerusalem, the psalm may have been written by or for Asaph's descendants in his honor, or it may have been written by or for a contemporary who was also named Asaph.

The psalm description says that it is to be set to " Altas'chith "—Hebrew, meaning “do not destroy.” It is thought to be the title of a melody to which the psalm was to be performed. This reference appears in Psalms 57, 58, 59, and 75.

The Hebrew "selah" is used in verse 3 of the psalm. The word is thought to be a musical notation to the choir director and musicians. It loosely translates as a break in the song or an instruction to pause and reflect, perhaps with a musical interlude. Some translators suggest the phrase "stop and listen." Others say that a more concise translation would be "let those with eyes see and with ears hear." The word "selah" has been compared to the word "amen" in that it stresses to the listener the importance of the preceding passage. The word "selah" is used in thirty-nine of the psalms.

In verses 1 through 3, the psalmist gives thanks and praise to God for His wonders. The psalmist then speaks for God, stating that at the proper time God bring righteous judgment, and that when earth is shaken by it, God will steady it.

In verses 4 through 8, the psalmist warns the wicked of God’s judgment. The psalmist warns the wicked to not lift up the “horn,” by which he warns them to not boast proudly, vaunting their strength. The psalmist then states that this arrogance approaches Jerusalem from the north—the direction from which the army of the Assyrians would approach. The psalmist tells that God will judge them, pouring out His cup of wrath for all the wicked to drink down to the dregs.

In verses 9 and 10, the psalmist vows to praise God forever. God will cut off the "horns"—the strength—of the ungodly, but God will exalt the strength of His righteous.

Father, when I am cut down, I am reminded that I can do nothing in my own strength. You are the One who saves me. I must rely on You for all. I thank You and praise You.


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