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Psalm 76

Total victory

Our daily news feed is full of oppression, injustice, violence. How do we respond? This psalm celebrates God’s resounding victory over evil, as proof that he reigns supreme no matter what else is happening.

An Asaph psalm.

God is known in Judah
his name honored in Israel.
2 He made his lair in the city of Salem[1]
his den in Zion.
3 There he shattered the fiery arrows
shields, swords, and other weapons of war.
4 How resplendent you are—
more majestic than the everlasting mountains!
5 The brave heroes have been plundered.
Having sunk into deep sleep
none of those champions
could find their hands!
6 When you roared, God of Jacob
both horse and rider stopped dead.

7 You, you are awesome!
Who can stand against you
when you become angry?
8 You pronounced your judgment from heaven.
The earth fell silent with dread
9 when you stood up to enact justice
and deliver all the oppressed of the earth.

10 Human rage only ends up bringing you praise
as you respond
with the very least of your anger.[2]
11 So make vows to Yahveh, your God
and keep them.
Let all around him
bring tribute to the Awesome One
12 who curbs the ambition of the mighty
and strikes terror in all of earth’s potentates.

The psalmist celebrates God’s conquest, as warrior-king, of the Jebusite fortress which David made his home.[3] She implicitly likens God to a lion whose majestic roar stops his enemies in their tracks—think Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia. He instantly puts them “to sleep”—meaning, the sleep of death—which renders them unable to “find their hands,” presumably like we can’t find our voice during nightmares. Having disarmed his enemies and destroyed their weapons,[4] he’s more glorious than golden sunlit mountains. Even responding with the least anger possible, he extinguishes human fury—think his treatment of Pharaoh in the Exodus. So his enemies’ anger brings him praise since it only showcases his power.

The psalmist also pictures God pronouncing his sentence in heaven’s court and then enforcing it on earth by ending injustice and rescuing the oppressed. Thus, Zion is where heaven and earth come together as one. And Israel’s warrior-king is like no other god since he utters universal judgments in favor of the downtrodden. He’s done tolerating arrogant human self-assertion and the violent oppression it spawns.

This medley of images calls for two responses. First, reverence since our majestic king shuts down earth’s powerful at will. And second, humble devotion—making and keeping vows and faithfully offering him our gifts.

Jesus, I believe you revealed your majesty on Zion’s holy hill, disarming your foes, making an utter spectacle of them. But we still await universal justice for the oppressed. Help me believe you reign supreme and will yet renew all things. Help me live reverently, faithfully, generously. Amen.

During your free moments today, pray these words:

How resplendent you are—
more majestic than the everlasting mountains!


[1] An archaic form of Jerusalem.

[2] Literally, “when you bind the residue of your anger around you,” binding relating to putting on a piece of armor.

[3] 2 Sam. 5:6-9.

[4] Cf. Col. 2:15.

Why Yahveh?

Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and occasionally transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Modern translations, likewise, either translate or transliterate it. While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it is more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. I’ve chosen to transliterate it to root it more firmly in the biblical story as the name—meaning the “self-existent One”—that God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. This name set Israel’s God apart from all the gods of Israel’s neighbors.

Personal names are, well, very personal. Even the sound of a name can evoke strong emotion. One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it in order better to hallow it. In transliterating it, I follow the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard. He advocated transliterating it as Yahveh—pronounced yah·vay—arguing that following the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish than Yahweh.
May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Robert Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.