For the director of music. To the tune of “Do Not Destroy.”
A psalm of Asaph. A song.
1 We praise you, God,
we praise you, for your Name is near;
people tell of your wonderful deeds.
2 You say, “I choose the appointed time;
it is I who judge with equity.
3 When the earth and all its people quake,
it is I who hold its pillars firm.
4 To the arrogant I say, ‘Boast no more,’
and to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up your horns.
5 Do not lift your horns against heaven;
do not speak so defiantly.’”
6 No one from the east or the west
or from the desert can exalt themselves.
7 It is God who judges:
He brings one down, he exalts another.
8 In the hand of the Lord is a cup
full of foaming wine mixed with spices;
he pours it out, and all the wicked of the earth
drink it down to its very dregs.
9 As for me, I will declare this forever;
I will sing praise to the God of Jacob,
10 who says, “I will cut off the horns of all the wicked,
but the horns of the righteous will be lifted up.”
(Psalm 75:1-10 NIV)
This is another psalm written by Asaph, or possibly one of his descendants. Since Psalm 73 was written by Asaph, and Psalm 74 speaks of the Babylonian destruction of the Temple (many generations after King David’s life), and Psalm 75 comes after Psalm 74, this may have been one of Asaph’s family members that were assigned as musicians during King David’s reign (1 Chronicles 15:16-19). In fact, 2 Chronicles 35:15 speaks of the descendants of Asaph still serving the Lord as musicians, so this psalm being written by one of Asaph’s descendants is quite plausible.
Verse 1 begins by the psalmist leading the congregation in corporate worship of the Lord. When the psalmist says “Your name is near”, he is referring to the Lord’s presence with the congregation. The psalmist is sensing Immanuel (“God with us”) as they worship Him.
Verses 2 – 5 are God speaking to them in the first person. The “I” is God speaking, not the psalmist. God is proclaiming Himself as judge over the nations (v.2) and is the creator and sustainer of the earth (v. 3). God also sets boundaries on the pride and wickedness of individuals and of nations (v. 4 – 5). God was warning both individuals and nations not to arrogantly defy Him.
The psalmist uses the metaphor of a horn in verses 4- 5 and also in verse 10. In the Old Testament, the horn referred to a picture of pride and strength, like the horns of a deer or a bull. To “lift up your horns” was to act pridefully in one’s own strength.
And if people and nations arrogantly defy God, what will happen? In verses 6 – 8, the psalmist tells us that God will judge them (v. 6). The psalmist reminds us that God may not appear fair, as He brings down one and exalts another, but God brings justice in the end (v. 7).
And what does God’s justice look like? The psalmist uses word pictures similar to what the Lord told Jeremiah to say to defiant Judah: they had to drink the cup of God’s wrath for their defiance and disobedience. The reference to foaming wine means that other ingredients were added to the wine, not to enhance the wine, but to, as the old saying goes, give them a taste of their own medicine.
Other passages (such as Jeremiah 25:15-28 and Isaiah 51:17-22) use this word picture of mixed wine as a poison or drink to incapacitate them. God was not tricking them, slipping something into their drinks behind their backs – this was the Lord forcing them to deal with their sin. The nations were not to just take a sip from the cup; they had to drink it down to the dregs in the bottom of the cup (v. 8). This reference to the cup of God’s wrath is another indicator of this psalm being written by one of Asaph’s descendants, not Asaph himself.
The psalmist ends by speaking personally – not for the congregation, but for himself. He humbly states with the full affirmation of his innermost self that he is choosing to follow the Lord and worship Him alone (v. 9). The psalmist also rests in God’s justice, knowing that God will deal with the wicked in due time. The wicked and proud might be having their day right now, but the psalmist can trust that the Lord will hold the ungodly accountable one day, and will raise up the righteous ones who choose to follow Him (v. 10).
May we choose to follow the Lord and worship Him alone as the psalmist did.
May we also not fear the wicked, but trust God to bring them to justice in His time.