DUNCAN/Knowing God

DUNCAN/Knowing God


If you have your Bibles, I’d invite you to turn with me to Psalm 76. 200,000 Assyrians were hard pressed against Israel. Hezekiah lifted up a prayer, and the Lord answered, “Because you have prayed to Me, I have heard, and I will answer.” And He answered in the most remarkable way, and in the wake of that answer came this Psalm which celebrates God’s judgment on the wicked and His vindication of His people.

Let me outline the Psalm for you. In verses 1 – 3, the psalmist stresses that God’s people have an intimate, saving knowledge of Him. Secondly, the psalmist explains in verses 4 – 9 that God’s people trust in His matchlessness and judgement. Lastly, in verses 10 – 12, the psalmist highlights that God’s people respond to His judgments in generous giving. 

I. God’s People Know Him

In the first section, we are told three ways in which God reveals Himself to His people. First of all, we know Him because He has revealed Himself uniquely in His name. Secondly, we know Him in His ordinances. And lastly, we know Him in His deliverances.

Verse 1 says, “God is known in Judah; His name is great in Israel.” The Psalmist is reminding us there of the greatest blessing that we enjoy as the people of God. He has revealed His name to us. And this is one of the ancient themes of God’s word: that God is known among His people. This is the very foundation of our praise. And it is something that we need to cultivate in our reading of the word. We ought to pray as we’re reading through the word, “Lord, reveal Yourself to us, and give me the faith to believe it.” God has revealed Himself to His people by His name.

Also, He has revealed Himself by His ordinances. Verse 2 says, “His tabernacle is in Salem (Salem is a short term for Jerusalem), His dwelling place is in Zion.” The tabernacle was the place where God visibly manifested His nearness to His people. And here the Psalmist is reminding the people of God that the tabernacle that once traveled through the wilderness is right in their midst. And the tabernacle is an ordinance: it was something that God ordered to be done. But He did it not only for His glory, but for His people’s comfort and good, so that they would know that He was near to them. Today there is no longer a tabernacle…at least, not a tabernacle made with hands. No, the temple of God’s presence now is God’s people, so that when you gather in the name of Jesus Christ for His praise, you become His tabernacle. And that is why it is such a special blessing to gather for worship, because there we know the presence of God.

Thirdly, God reveals Himself by His deliverance. Notice how the Psalmist speaks of God “breaking the flaming arrows, the shield, and the sword, and the weapons of war.” They can look and see how God has miraculously delivered them, and in this they see God make Himself known. And we may not have deliverances like the children of Israel did with the Assyrians, but we have our deliverances, and we praise God for them.

II. God’s People Trust Him 

If you look at verses 4 – 9, the Psalmist celebrates this truth: That no aggressor is a match for God. God delivered His people in the days of Moses and “cast the horse and rider into the sea.” God delivered David from all his enemies, and in 2 Samuel 5 and 7 we are told that, “He gave David rest from all his enemies.” And then God delivered Hezekiah. Over and over, God miraculously delivered His people. No enemy of the people of God is a match for Him, and this confidence causes the people of God to trust in His promises.

And then the psalmist goes on to say, “But You, You, are to be feared; and who may stand in Your presence once You are angry? You cause judgment to be heard from heaven.” This is the assurance that God will judge the world, and even has judged the Assyrians in their arrogance. Therefore, He is to be held in reverence and awe.

But we see another aspect to His judgment as we look at verse 9, “The earth feared and was still, when God arose to establish judgment, to save all the humble of the earth.” So, God’s judgment is going to be salvation for His people. The world stands dumbstruck as God arises to reward and vindicate His people. I think most of us who have grown up in the evangelical church have grown up trembling somewhat at our thoughts of the Judgment Day, and of course it is an appropriate thing to do. But equally, it ought to be a Day that we look forward to if we understand justification by faith. Since our justification rests upon the righteousness of Christ, it is going to be a Day of vindication. There will be no accusation that will stand, and God’s people will be vindicated.

III. God’s People Respond to Him 

In verse 10, we’re told that even the wrath of man will be to the praise of God. The picture in the Book of Revelation is that of the wicked standing before God’s great throne and gnashing their teeth against Him in anger. And we are told that even that wrath will serve His praise, for He will visit just judgment on them. And so even the anger of unbelievers against God will bring Him praise.

And in the face of God’s judgment against His enemies, in light of God’s vindication of His people, what are we to do? Well, the Psalmist tells us in verse 11, “Make vows to the Lord your God and fulfill them; let all who are around Him bring gifts to Him who is to be feared.” The response of God’s people to this great judgment and victory is to bring gifts to God. Those gifts confirm that the people of God recognize that everything they have comes from God, and so a portion of what they have is vowed back to Him.

This is not the sly strategy of televangelists who want you to send them a thousand dollars. No, this is the people of God being told to bring gifts to Him in recognition of the fact that everything that they have, God has given them, and in recognition of the fact that God has promised to bless them; and, therefore, they are to give to Him because of His judgment. This is part of the worship of the people of God, and it continues to this day as we give alms to those in need, and we give to the work of His kingdom in response to the greatness of the victory that He has won on our behalf.

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