# 236 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 76. More powerful than a Cyclone!

Depending where you live in the world, you may have experienced one of these tropical cyclones threatening your life and property. I have never experienced a cyclone, only winter storms, but I was wondering what words one would use of the experience of facing such a challenge. Maybe one would use words like awesome, disastrous, powerful, irresistible, strong, dangerous, fearful or frightening. Then in the midst of it there may be a feeling of weakness, vulnerability or impotence against such a mighty threat.

These may also have been words that the Israelites used concerning their enemies when “Sennacherib, King of Assyria attacked all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them.” (2 Kings 18:13) With his overwhelming army of over 200,000 soldiers (19:35) this arrogant king boasted of what he was going to do to King Hezekiah and to the city of Jerusalem and its inhabitants. He even suggested that he was more powerful than the God of Israel saying, Who of all the gods of these countries [I’ve already conquered] has been able to save his land from me? How then can the Lord deliver Jerusalem from my hand?” (18:35) He was in for quite a shock! (See the surprising end of Sennacherib as recorded in 2 Kings 19:35-37 and confirmed, as the NIV notes inform us, by “Ancient records [which] refer to the murder of Sennacherib by an unnamed son…in the 23rd year of his reign.”)

Most scholars suggest that this story is the background of Psalm 76. But it is written after the event. So, like people following a cyclone from which they survived and when the devastation wasn’t as bad as they expected, the psalmist celebrates. He celebrates God’s deliverance of Jerusalem from this Assyrian invader, as he had promised to Hezekiah through the prophet Isaiah (below):

“Therefore, this is what the Lord says concerning the king of Assyria:

“‘He will not enter this city
    or shoot an arrow here.
He will not come before it with shield
    or build a siege ramp against it.
33 By the way that he came he will return;
    he will not enter this city,
declares the Lord.
34 I will defend this city and save it,
    for my sake and for the sake of David my servant.’” 
(2 Kings 19:32-34)

And that is what happened. Our God is more powerful than cyclones and arrogant rulers!

So, Asaph, the psalmist writes:

God is well known in the land of Judah.
He is famous throughout Israel,
making his home in Jerusalem, living here on Mount Zion.
That’s where he smashes every weapon of war
that comes against him.
That’s where he uses the broken arrows
as kindling for his mighty bonfire.
Pause in his presence
God, you are so resplendent and radiant!
Your majesty shines from your everlasting mountain.
Nothing could be compared to you in glory!
Even the mightiest of men have been paralysed by your presence.
They were so stunned and lifeless,
not even the strongest one could lift a hand.
When Jacob’s God roared his rebuke,
soldiers and their steeds all fell to the ground,
stunned and lying still.
No wonder you are greatly feared! You are the awe-inspiring God!
For who could ever stand before your face
when your fierce anger burns and live to tell about it.  
(The Passion Translation)

Wilcock suggests that in this Psalm, God is seen as “the Self-revealing One” (vv. 1-3) and “the Shining One” (vv. 4-6) and as we read on, the “Awe-inspiring One” (vv. 7-12).   (# 5)

Firstly, concerning God as “the Self-revealing One”, as we work our way through the Bible, we see this amazing self-revelation of God all the way through. For example, in Genesis God is revealed as Creator of “the heavens and the earth” and all who live on it (Genesis 1-2). Then to Abraham as the “Sovereign Lord” (Genesis 15:2) and “God Almighty” – El Shaddai (the All-sufficient One) – (Genesis 17:1). To Moses as the great “I AM” (Exodus 3:14), “the name that expressed his character as the dependable and the faithful God who desire the full trust of his people.” (NIV notes) and as “The Lord” – YAHWEH – (Genesis 3:15). And that’s just the beginning.

In this psalm, Asaph proclaims:

God is well known in the land of Judah.
He is famous throughout Israel,
making his home in Jerusalem, living here on Mount Zion.

Secondly, concerning God as “the Shining One”, the psalmist says:

God, you are so resplendent and radiant!
Your majesty shines from your everlasting mountain.
Nothing could be compared to you in glory!

“Light” (suggesting purity in all aspects of his character), in contrast to “darkness” (suggesting wickedness in our world), is often used concerning God in the Bible as follows:

Though I sit in darkness,
    the Lord will be my light. 
(Micah 7:8b)

The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear?  (Psalm 27:1a)

Ultimately, this was also used by Jesus to describe himself when he said:

 “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  (John 8:12)

Next time we will consider our wonderful God as the “Awe-inspiring One”.

Father, thank you for your amazing intervention in the history of our world and that you have revealed yourself to us initially through your people Israel and then through your Son, Jesus, the light of the world. Amen.

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