A HOLY WRATH
Lord, You are greatly to be feared.
Read PSALM 76
For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A psalm of Asaph. A song.
1 God is renowned in Judah;
in Israel his name is great.
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.[b]
4 You are radiant with light,
more majestic than mountains rich with game.
5 The valiant lie plundered,
they sleep their last sleep;
not one of the warriors
can lift his hands.
6 At your rebuke, God of Jacob,
both horse and chariot lie still.
7 It is you alone who 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, God, rose up to judge,
to save all the afflicted of the land.
10 Surely your wrath against mankind brings you praise,
and the survivors of your wrath are restrained.[c]
11 Make vows to the Lord your God and fulfill them;
let all the neighboring 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.
a Psalm 76:1 In Hebrew texts 76:1-12 is numbered 76:2-13.
b Psalm 76:3 The Hebrew has Selah (a word of uncertain meaning) here and at the end of verse 9.
c Psalm 76:10 Or Surely the wrath of mankind brings you praise, / and with the remainder of wrath you arm yourself
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“God’s wrath in the Bible is never the capricious, self-indulgent, irritable, morally ignoble thing that human anger often is. It is, instead, a right and necessary reaction to moral evil.” (J.I. Packer, Knowing God, IVP, 20th Anniversary ed, 1993, p. 151)
This song celebrates God’s power in defending Jerusalem. Tradition says it was composed after the Lord’s destruction of Sennacherib’s army when it threatened Jerusalem (2 Kings 19:35). It contains beautiful poetic descriptions of God’s glory and goodness, with some rather fearsome descriptions of his judgment and wrath. The writer, Asaph, underscores this when declaring, “It is you alone who are to be feared. Who can stand before you when you are angry?” (7).
It has become rather unfashionable to speak of God’s wrath and judgment – they are certainly not the most popular aspects of God’s character to focus on in contemporary society. They seem disconcerting, too intolerant for our tastes. Yet Scripture is filled with vivid descriptions of God’s anger – in both the Old and New Testaments (eg., Romans 1:18; Revelation 19:15).
One key to understanding this is to recognize how different God’s anger is when compared to human anger. God’s anger is always perfectly in line with his justice. It is actually the embodiment of his love, in action against sin and evil. God must act justly to judge sin. His love compels him to holy anger at the physical and spiritual destruction which evil causes. I need to think only about someone harming my own children to begin to grasp this sentiment. A God who is holy and righteous enough to react to the sin and evil which harm his beloved children is a God worthy of worship. As you read today’s psalm, keep these thoughts in mind, especially in the light of the glorious news that in Christ God’s holy wrath is satisfied.
Holy Father, we join the psalmist in celebrating Your wrath against all sin and evil. You are truly radiant with light, and ultimately You will judge all darkness. You are righteous in Your judgment, and none can stand against Your anger. Thank You for these reassuring truths, please teach us to fear Your name appropriately, for You are holy.
Father, we thank You profoundly for sending Your Son to deliver us from the wrath that each of us deserves. We will glorify You into eternity.
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