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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible
Psalms 75

 

 

Verse 1

PSALM 75

GOD ABASES THE PROUD; BUT HE EXALTS THE RIGHTEOUS

Leupold observed that, "It is particularly meaningful that this Psalm follows Psalms 74."[1] It will be remembered that in Psalms 74, the psalmist was demanding action on God's part "at once," "immediately." Such words, of course, were not used; but the thought of urgency is in every line of that Psalm. "Remember this (Psalms 75:18)," "forget not (Psalms 75:19)," "have respect (Psalms 75:20)," "arise, O God (Psalms 75:22)," "plead thine own cause (Psalms 75:22)," "remember (Psalms 75:22)," and "forget not (Psalms 75:23)."

It seems that Psalms 75 replies to such urgency of human appeals with the revelation that, "In God's own good time, when conditions are just right, when the fullness of time has come, when the fruit of evil is ripe, when wickedness has reached its full development ... then will God order the judgment.

The bold presentation here of God as the Judge seems to caution men against any special urgency calling for God's intervention. The Judge knows when to intervene.

McCullough remarked that, "It is not clear whether the Psalmist is thinking of God's constant judgments in this present world, or of a final definitive judgment at the end of the age."[2] However, Halley summarized the teaching of this psalm as, "The certain destruction of the wicked and certain triumph of the righteous in the day when the earth shall be dissolved."[3] We find no fault with either view, because all earthly judgments of God, such as the Great Deluge, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A. D., and countless other "judgments," are all tokens and pledges of the ultimate judgment of that Final Day.

The occasion with which this psalm may be identified is unknown, although a number of scholars point out that the time shortly before God's judgment against Sennacherib as he was preparing to destroy Jerusalem seems particularly appropriate. Certainly, the background reflected in the psalm is that of a great national disaster looming starkly ahead and threatening the destruction of the people.

What an incredible comfort and consolation it must ever be for either nations or individuals confronting disastrous prospects of any kind whatsoever to remember that The Judge is watching, that he will invariably punish the wicked and reward the righteous, and that he can be fully honored and trusted to do what is right for every person.

Psalms 75:1

"We give thanks unto thee, O God;

We give thanks for thy name is near;

Men tell of thy wondrous works."

The psalmist, who may have been Asaph, or one of his descendants, as indicated in the superscription, began a song of praise and thanksgiving to God; but it was interrupted by God himself breaking into the message with a revelation of The Judge and his righteous judgments. Scholars are by no means in agreement regarding exactly what portions of this psalm were spoken by the psalmist and what was spoken by God himself. It is clear, however, that Psalms 75:1 and Psalms 75:9 belong to the psalmist.

"Thy name is near." This is equivalent to the nearness of God himself.

"Men shall tell of thy wondrous works." There were many things to be included in such declarations, such as the wonders of creation, the wonders of God's dealing with human wickedness on the occasion of the great Deluge, his selection of a Chosen People following the construction of the Tower of Babel, his deliverance of Israel from Egyptian slavery, his leading them through the wilderness, his settlement of them in Canaan, driving out the sinful nations before them, and many other wonderful things.


Verse 2

"When I shall find the set time,

I will judge uprightly.

The earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved:

I have set up the pillars of it.

(Selah)"

"When I shall find the set time" (Psalms 75:2). Everything in the whole universe is, as it were, scheduled according to the time God has set for it. In the life of Christ, one cannot fail to remember the frequent words of Jesus, "My time is not yet come." The final Judgment Day itself has already been "appointed" by Almighty God (Acts 17:31). Christ was not born until "the fullness of time" had come; and all such declarations in the Bible indicate that God has set a time-clock monitor upon the entire progress of history.

McCaw stated that, "The LXX associates this psalm with the invasion of Sennacherib,"[4] and if that is correct, "Jerusalem was humbled in the dust, and at the very `eleventh hour' as men reckon things, was the time when God acted."[5]

God never acts because a situation looks desperate, but because the appointed time has come.

This principle has an application especially in the affairs of history.

"When moral foundations are undermined and seem to be destroyed by the violence and injustice of men, The Judge of all the Earth has not abdicated his throne. At the correct time, he will restore the balance, capping a `Thousand-Year Reich' with a Nuremburg."[6]

More recently we have seen the incredible collapse of the madness known as Communism, and the "Mother of All Battles" turned into the "Mother of All Defeats." God still rules in the kingdoms of men.

The wickedness of men being what it is, the world itself could not long stand, except for the providence of God. "God is the stabilizing strength in the whole picture of human life on earth. God's power wielded through his sacred institutions shores up our godless society, by his eternal Truth, and by his guiding hand upon events and upon the lives of certain men."[7]

Ash expressed it beautifully in these words: "Behind all that trembles is that which is beyond any shock. God, upon whom all order moral and otherwise is dependent can surely be trusted to judge with equity."[8]

There are times in history when it appears that the total ruin of all culture and civilization is threatened; but, "Men cannot so disrupt a world that still belongs to God, and whose order is upheld by Him."[9]

"The earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved" (Psalms 75:3). Some scholars take these words as a metaphor of the collapse of human civilization, but we believe there is a glimpse here of the Eternal Judgment. This does not deny the other interpretation but suggests it as a valid overtone looking to that Eternal Morning.


Verse 4

"I said unto the arrogant,

Deal not arrogantly;

And to the wicked, Lift not up the horn:

Lift not up your horn on high;

Speak not with a stiff neck.

For neither from the east, nor from the west,

Nor yet from the south, cometh lifting up."

Some interpreters ascribe the words of these verses to the psalmist, or to the "congregation," but we believe Delitzsch is correct. "The utterance of God is also continued after the Selah. It is not the people of God who turn to the enemies with words of warning; it is God himself who speaks."[10]

"Lift not up the horn" (Psalms 75:4). This means that, "One should not vaunt his own powers."[11] Rawlinson gave the meaning as, "Be not fierce and menacing like a bull threatening with his horns."[12]

"Neither from east ... west ... south ... cometh lifting up" (Psalms 75:6). The significance of the omission of "north" here lies in the fact that, "Foreign invasions of Israel generally came from the north; and deliverance would logically have been expected from some other direction."[13]

McCaw suggested that this affords presumptive evidence that the threatened destruction of Jerusalem by Sennacherib might have been the occasion.[14]


Verse 7

"But God is the judge:

He putteth down one, and lifteth up another.

For in the hand of Jehovah there is a cup, and the wine foameth;

It is full of mixture, and he poureth out of the same:

Surely the dregs thereof, all the wicked of the earth shall drain them, and drink them.

But I will declare forever,

I will sing praises to the God of Jacob."

God's being mentioned in the third person here indicates that these words are those of the psalmist.

"There is a cup ... all the wicked shall drink" (Psalms 75:8). The wrath of God is frequently represented in the Bible as a cup which wicked men will be compelled to drink; and even in the Book of Revelation God represented the judgment of the apostate church as a cup of the wine of the wrath of God (Revelation 18:6). That this wine is presumably red indicates bloodshed. That it is "mixed" indicates its potency and the diversity of judgments that God may bring upon the wicked. The "cup" is also sometimes used as a symbol of extreme agony and suffering, as when Jesus prayed, "Let this cup pass from me."

"In the hand of Jehovah" (Psalms 75:8). "This is the only place in the psalm where this word for God is used. The other references here are all [~'Elohiym]."[15]


Verse 10

"All the horns of the wicked also will I cut off;

But the horns of the righteous shall be lifted up."

The problem of this verse is simply, "Who says this?" Most of the scholars seem to think that these are the words of the psalmist, but the problem with that is that no ordinary person, even a righteous person, has the power and ability to do what is here indicated. What mortal man can say, "I will lift up the righteous and cast down the wicked?"

"Psalms 75:10 is best understood as a statement of the psalmist's own purpose. God's servants are his instruments in carrying out his judgments; and there is a very real sense in which all of them should seek to fight against dominant evil and to cripple the power of tyrannous godlessness."[16]

Maclaren's words appeal to some, but we cannot agree that these words are appropriate in the mouth of any ordinary man, no matter how devoted to God he may be.

McCaw proposes a way out of the difficulty by supposing that it is The King of Israel who makes the statements in Psalms 75:10,[17] in which case they would indeed be appropriate. However the problem with this is that Asaph, not the King of Israel, is supposed to be the psalmist. Making the psalm some kind of a liturgical procedure, with the king standing in for these lines would be an adequate explanation; but no such information is available to us.

For these reasons, we believe that it is God Himself who speaks here. He is the only Being in heaven or upon earth who actually has the ability to do what is pledged in Psalms 75:10. An apostle enlightens us upon the question of who really does the exalting anyway. "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time" (1 Peter 5:6).

 


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Psalms 75:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/psalms-75.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 12th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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