Psalm 76 Who Can Stand Before You? To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Psalm of Asaph. A Song. (1) In Judah God is known; his name is great in Israel. (2) His abode has been established in Salem, his dwelling place in Zion. (3) There he broke the flashing arrows, the shield, the sword, and the weapons of war. Selah (4) Glorious are you, more majestic than the mountains full of prey. (5) The stouthearted were stripped of their spoil; they sank into sleep; all the men of war were unable to use their hands. (6) At your rebuke, O God of Jacob, both rider and horse lay stunned. (7) But you, you are to be feared! Who can stand before you when once your anger is roused? (8) From the heavens you uttered judgment; the earth feared and was still, (9) when God arose to establish judgment, to save all the humble of the earth. Selah (10) Surely the wrath of man shall praise you; the remnant of wrath you will put on like a belt. (11) Make your vows to the LORD your God and perform them; let all around him bring gifts to him who is to be feared, (12) who cuts off the spirit of princes, who is to be feared by the kings of the earth. ESV
Psalm 76 is titled: The Majesty of God in Judgment (NKJV), The Victorious Power of the God of Jacob (NASB2020), and above, Who Can Stand Before You? (ESV). To the Chief Musician. On stringed instruments or Neginoth. A Psalm of Asaph. A Song.
The Septuagint (abbreviated LXX) is the Greek translation of the Old Testament from the 2nd century BC. The LXX is a big deal because during Jesus’s time most people of the world did not read Hebrew. This Greek translation allowed so many to know the words of God in the Old Testament. Interestingly, in the Septuagint, Psalm 76 has a subscription dating the song to the years 722 BC and the invasion of the Assyrian king, Sennacherib.
The defeat of the vicious and greatly feared Assyrian army is an incredible story found in 2 Kings 19. The prophet Isaiah recorded some things as well,
Then the angel of the LORD went out and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand; and when people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses- all dead. So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went away, returned home, and remained at Nineveh. Isaiah 37:36-37 NKJV
If, in fact, this psalm was written in celebration of God’s victory over the Assyrian army, then the Asaph mentioned in the title is not the original one of David’s time, but a “descendant of” or a “son of.” We cannot say with certainty when this was written or who the Asaph was that wrote it, but what is certain is that this is a celebration of a great miracle.
The style and matter indicate the same hand as that which wrote the preceding; and it is an admirable arrangement which placed the two in juxtaposition. Faith in the 75th Psalm sung of victories to come, and here it sings of triumphs achieved. The present Psalm is a most jubilant war song, a paean to the King of kings, the hymn of a theocratic nation to its divine ruler.Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
In Judah God is known; His name is great in Israel. In Salem also is His tabernacle, and His dwelling place in Zion. There He broke the arrows of the bow, the shield and sword of battle. Psalm 76:1-3 NKJV
During the time of the Assyrian attack on Jerusalem, David’s kingdom of Israel was divided in two. Here the psalm probably refers to the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. There were godly believers in both the north and the south and they knew the name of Jehovah, their God.
Salem is an ancient name for Jerusalem. God’s dwelling place was Mount Zion. There is where he broke the army of Sennacherib, that dared to attack His home.
While Psalm 75 called upon God to take action, Psalm 76 celebrates a God who defended. God saved His children and His city from the horrors of that army and its evil king. And now, in this psalm, they sing His name.
You are more glorious and excellent than the mountains of prey. The stouthearted were plundered; they have sunk into their sleep; and none of the mighty men have found the use of their hands. At Your rebuke, O God of Jacob, both the chariot and horse were cast into a dead sleep. You, Yourself, are to be feared; and who may stand in Your presence when once You are angry? You caused judgment to be heard from heaven; the earth feared and was still, when God arose to judgment, to deliver all the oppressed of the earth. Selah Psalm 76:4-9 NKJV
The New Living Translation translates verse 4, “You are glorious and more majestic than the everlasting mountains,” while above the NKJV says “mountains of prey.” While there is some confusion as to what these verses actually mean, the Truth is in the glory and majesty of our Lord. Is Asaph comparing God to a majestic mountain range or do the “mountains of prey” refer to the spoils of war after the Angel of God entered the battle? Is the “deep sleep” another word for death or did God cause the army to sleep before wiping them out? What does it mean that the mighty soldiers couldn’t use their hands?
There are interesting comments and thoughts on all of these questions, but no real consensus except what we know to be fact and Truth. The same God who spoke the world into existence can stop an Assyrian army in its tracks, and that same God caresses a frightened child in the midst of a bad dream or a grieving mother unable to even close her eyes.
The fact is, God does get angry. God is vengeful. God will defend. And we should fear that anger. As believers, there comes a time when we all must reckon a loving Father and the wrath of God in our hearts. He can be, and most definitely is, both. But it is hard to understand.
These verses also speak of the end of days, the final judgment when God will put an end to sin and evil.
I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood. And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place. And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?" Revelation 6:12-17 NKJV
Let us be on the right of God’s favor in these days. The choice is simple; it is not complicated. He makes it easy. Choose to walk with Him, and the reward will be an eternity with Him. Choose to walk without God in this life, and the reward will be an eternity without Him. Everyone and everything lives under the blessings of God, believer or unbeliever, He watches over all. In the afterlife, there is only one place He will be present. I can’t imagine a place where God isn’t, a terrifying and lonely and dark place that will be. Thankfully you and I have chosen to never experience this.
Surely the wrath of man shall praise You; with the remainder of wrath You shall gird Yourself. Make vows to the LORD your God, and pay them; let all who are around Him bring presents to Him who ought to be feared. He shall cut off the spirit of princes; He is awesome to the kings of the earth. Psalm 76:10-12 NKJV
Even the “wrath of men shall praise You.” Asaph had seen how wrathful men and their acts had been turned to use by a powerful God. God can use even the stoutest atheist heart to bring Himself glory. Even the most despicable evil will be turned to Him and used for His glory in the end.
Man with his breath of threatening is but blowing the trumpet of the Lord’s eternal fame. Furious winds often drive vessels the more swiftly into port. The devil blows the fire and melts the iron, and then the Lord fashions it for his own purposes.Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
God will even use the “remainder of wrath” to “gird” Himself or adorn Himself. The leftovers of man’s anger will adorn the Lord. God is in control. Even when it seems the world is angry and full of evil, He will even use the leftovers of that anger to bring about His glory.
Human defiance only enhances your glory, for you use it as a weapon. Psalm 76:10 NLT
Asaph closes this song of a great deliverance and miracle with a reminder to the people to make their vows to the Lord, to pay tribute, to bring presents to Him who should be feared and revered. Let us not forget that God deserves the first and the best from us. We must continue to give our praise and our time and our resources to His glory.
Who cuts off the spirit of princes, who is to be feared by the kings of the earth. Psalm 76:12 ESV For he breaks the pride of princes, and the kings of the earth fear him. Psalm 76:12 NLT
None are great in his hands. Caesars and Napoleons fall under his power as the boughs of the tree beneath the woodman’s axe.Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
God uses evil for good. Our broken hearts become blessings. Our struggles lead us to a deeper relationship with Him. Even the most tragic times in history can now be looked upon to see miracles and goodness within pain and suffering. Our God is good. He deserves our devotion and the best that we have, even in our brokenness. A life devoted to Him, despite the pain of this world, will be rewarded with an eternity in His presence.
Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. James 4:10 NKJV
If God can use evil for good, He can use our weakness for His glory as well. When we feel like we have nothing to give, He will use us. When we don’t have the words, we can rely upon Him for providing. When we feel our efforts are in vain, He sees.
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ESV
Father in heaven, thank you for your promises. Thank you for the Truth in your Word. Thank you for Jesus. Strengthen us, use us in our weakness. Help us to love others and to lead others to you. Thank you for your faithfulness throughout time and even today. Thank you for your steadfast love. Amen.