From Psalms 74-77
Today’s Psalmist is Asaph and he writes about the LORD’s judgment. Like many Psalms his understanding of the LORD’s judgment is that it raises some up and puts down others. Normally, when the LORD’s judgment comes upon the wicked it will happen in their lifetime.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
1 We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks, for your name is near. We recount your wondrous deeds. (Ps 75.1)
Asaph gives thanks to the LORD. Like all people he has much to give him thanks for. In particular Asaph gives thanks because the LORD’s name is near. The LORD’s ‘name’ is his reputation among the people. Presumably he refers to the current situation he is in and the people who speak about him.
The LORD’s name is glorified when he is remembered for what he is done, his people respond in thankfulness and tell others.
Asaph remembers the LORD’s mighty deeds. He has many to choose from. In Israel’s history none are as great as their deliverance from slavery in Egypt, the giving of the law, and their entry into the promised land.
2 “At the set time that I appoint I will judge with equity.
3 When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants, it is I who keep steady its pillars. Selah
4 I say to the boastful, ‘Do not boast,’ and to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up your horn;
5 do not lift up your horn on high, or speak with haughty neck.’ ” (Ps 75.2-5)
The LORD speaks. He says there will be a set time when he will judge in fairness. The earth and all the people in it totter about. They are unstable and are in danger of losing balance. It is the LORD though who brings about order. This is related to the LORD’s judgment. There is evil and wickedness in the world. Hence things are not right. Some are corrupt and wicked. Some are persecuted. Some question whether God can be just if he permits this to continue. The LORD rebukes the boastful and the wicked. He will judge them and in doing so will ‘steady the pillars’ of the earth bringing stability.
6 For not from the east or from the west and not from the wilderness comes lifting up,
7 but it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another.
8 For 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. (Ps 75.6-8)
God executes judgment. He puts down the wicked and raises up the righteous. He does not tolerate evil and wickedness. He is angry. The LORD’s angry is holy and just. It is not blemished by selfishness or ignorance. The LORD’s anger is pure righteous indignation against wrongdoing. Asaph uses a very biblical metaphor to describe the LORD’s wrath at wrongdoing. The cup of the LORD’s wrath. I will pick up in this theme below.
9 But I will declare it forever; I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.
10 All the horns of the wicked I will cut off, but the horns of the righteous shall be lifted up. (Ps 75.9-10)
Asaph rejoices in the LORD’s judgment. He sings his praises. So we all should when evil is condemned. In it the LORD will set the world to rights. The wicked will be cut off and the righteous will be raised up.
Story of Israel
Asaph says, ‘in the hand of the LORD there is a cup’ (Ps 75.8). Overall the ‘cup’ metaphor in the scriptures seems to represent what the LORD has in store for people. The main idea is that people have to drink from the cup. Its contents go into them and they experience something as a result. Sometimes this can be good. Say for example David says,
1 Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
2 I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”
5 The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. (Ps 16.1-2,5)
and another Psalmist says
12 What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me?
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD, (Ps 116:12–13)
But at other times the ‘cup’ is associated with the LORD’s judgment on wrongdoing. Punishment. Job says,
17 “How often is it that the lamp of the wicked is put out? That their calamity comes upon them? That God distributes pains in his anger?
18 That they are like straw before the wind, and like chaff that the storm carries away?
19 You say, ‘God stores up their iniquity for their children.’ Let him pay it out to them, that they may know it.
20 Let their own eyes see their destruction, and let them drink of the wrath of the Almighty. (Job 21:17–20)
and David also says,
5 The LORD tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.
6 Let him rain coals on the wicked; fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.
7 For the LORD is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face. (Ps 11:5–7)
As a result of Israel’s continued iniquity, idolatry and rejection of the LORD, they also had to drink the cup of the LORD’s wrath.
17 Wake yourself, wake yourself, stand up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the LORD the cup of his wrath, who have drunk to the dregs the bowl, the cup of staggering. (Isa 51:17)
Story of Jesus
Jesus also spoke of the cup he had to drink of.
32 And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. 34 And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” 35 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mk 14:32–36)
Jesus predicted before hand he would suffer and die at the hands of the chief priests and scribes (Mt 16.21; 17.12; Mk 8.31; 9.12; Lk 9.22; 17.25; 22.15; 24.26,46). So in the garden he knew in advance what the Father had planned for him. Jesus died on the cross, taking on himself the Father’s wrath for sin and wrongdoing.
In the Psalm above Asaph finishes with,
‘All the horns of the wicked I will cut off, but the horns of the righteous shall be lifted up’ (Ps 75.10).
Jesus has accomplished both. He has taken on the punishment all deserve on himself. Sin has been dealt with. Being raised to new life he has created a new people (the righteous) who believe he is the Christ (Rom 10.9-10). They also shall be lifted up (raised to life) when he returns (Rom 8.11,23).
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