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The Wicked Brought Down and the Righteous Lifted Up

Book of Psalms  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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The unseem reality is God is sovereign over all things,

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Introduction

Over the last month we have examined two psalms dealing with prosperity of the wicked and affliction of God’s people. In psalm 73 the psalmist laments how the wicked do well and the righteous suffer. With psalm 74, in the midst of judgment for sin, the psalmist lamented about the triumph of Babylon over the people of God. On the one hand, it appears that the enemies of God continue unabated with no fear of recompense of judgment. On the other hand, the psalmist’s perspective begins to change with he considers who God is. In psalm 73 he realized that the ungodly are heading for destruction. In psalm 74, he cries for God to bring judgment. In this psalm we are told that judgment will indeed come.

Background

We don’t have a clear historical background for this psalm. God’s destruction of the Assyrian army and salvation of Judah during the reign of Hezekiah (2 Ki. 18 - 19) is a possibly but this is not certain. In terms of genre this psalm mixes several categories, such as wisdom, prophecy, and thanksgiving.[1] For our purposes I will say this is a psalm of thanksgiving with prophetic elements. This psalm takes, in terms of themes, closely with the song of Hannah (1 Sam. 2:1-10, and the Magnificat of Mary (Lk. 1:51-53). These verses also speak of God judgment of the wicked and exaltation of the humble. We may break this psalm into 4 parts:
Praise to God for His presence and deeds (v. 1)
God’s comfort of the righteous and warning to the wicked (vs. 2 - 5)
God’s promise of judgment on the wicked (vs. 6 - 8)
Praise to God for His righteous rule (vs. 9 - 10)

Exposition

Verse 1 - The psalmist begins by highlighting the corporate thanksgiving of the faithful to the God of Israel. The Lord is worthy of double honor. In the prior psalms the writer lamented the prosperity of the wicked and wondered where was the LORD. Here he praises God for his presence with His people and for what the Lord has done. In the darkest moments or even under judgment, Yahweh is close at hand and sees all (Jer. 23:23-24). The people of God speak with great joy at the mighty hand of God on the earth, in creation and for His people.
Verses 2 - 5: Here we have a prophetic oracle from Yahweh about His rule on the earth. It is one of which the wicked need to take heed. At a time of His choosing He will bring judgment on the earth. The reality of its delay does not diminish the reality of its coming. It will be a perfectly just judgment based upon His perfect law. As the Teach the Text Commentary points out: “God does not impose a standard of justice that is alien to himself but uses a standard that represents who he himself is.”[2] It will mean vengeance on Yahweh’s enemies and vindication for the faithful.[3] This is a source of hope for the faithful. Evil and injustice won’t continue forever. The fact that God hasn’t acted yet is due only to his grace and mercy. He is providing plenty of opportunity for the wicked to repent (Rom. 2:3-4) and none will be able to charge God with unrighteousness. When the LORD judges, it will be because of the wrath the ungodly which they have stored up (Rom. 2:5).
Yahweh also makes it clear He maintains the earth and keeps order, even when things seem chaotic. The Lord of hosts keeps all things in their place and nothing and no one goes farther than He permits. He keeps the moral order from being worst then it is at any given moment. In light of this reality, Yahweh calls for the arrogant to humble themselves and the unrighteous not to act as if they have final victory. He enjoins them against challenging the rule of the LORD of hosts.
Verses 6 - 8: What wicked rulers don’t understand is their current power and status is by the decree of Yahweh. As Charles Spurgeon puts it: “Men forget that all things are ordained in heaven...”[4] All those in power are there because he says so. It is the Lord who brought Joseph into Egypt and placed him in the # 2 spot. This same God brought forth the Pharaoh Moses challenged. This was so his power and name could be proclaimed in all the earth. It was the LORD that brought down the nations of Canaan and rose up Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and Rome. All these empires lasted only as long as the Lord saw fit and then they fell and were replaced. It is all based on His divine decree. Right now the LORD of heaven in earth is preparing a cup of judgment for all those who oppose Him. All the unrighteous rulers of the earth, and all wicked in general, without exception will drink of it. They will face the judgment of God and woe until them when they do.
Verses 9 - 10: In contrasts to the boasting of the wicked, the psalmist will praise the Lord for all of his days. He will declare the goodness of God and what he has done. He can do this because Yahweh has declared he will be an end to the wicked in power. He will utterly destroy them. The righteous however will be victorious in the end. Their faithfulness will be rewarded.

Bibliography

[1] Tate, M. E. (1998). Psalms 51–100 (Vol. 20, p. 257). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.
[2] C Hassell Bullock, Psalms, Volume 2, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2017), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 21.
[3] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, p. 576). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
[4] Spurgeon, C. H. (n.d.). The treasury of David: Psalms 56-87 (Vol. 3, p. 294). London; Edinburgh; New York: Marshall Brothers.
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