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Summary: Book III of the Psalms, a collection formalized at the time of the Exile, features the teaching psalms (maskil) of Asaph, a Levite who led a choir that praised God.

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LESSONS FOR LIVING

PSALMS 73–78

“I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember Your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all Your works and consider all Your mighty deeds” (Ps. 77:11–12).

Book III of the Psalms, a collection formalized at the time of the Exile, features the teaching psalms (maskil) of Asaph, a Levite who led a choir that praised God.

Overview

Asaph shared lessons for living in psalms which explore jealousy of prosperous wicked (Ps. 73), and puzzlement over the silence of God (Ps. 74). He proclaimed God as near (Ps. 75) and as known through His people (Ps. 76). And Asaph celebrated the LORD as a God of miracles (Ps. 77), of whom we learn through Israel’s history (Ps. 78).

Understanding the Text

Psalm 73: Benefits of Faith. Asaph was overtaken by jealousy at the prosperity of the wicked. Only a change of perspective enabled him to grasp the benefits of faith.

Psalm 73: Benefits of Faith. Asaph was overtaken by jealousy at the prosperity of the wicked. Only a change of perspective enabled him to grasp the benefits of faith.

Psalm 74: The Silence of God. When disasters come God’s people can only cry out to a God who has been silent.

“Why have You rejected us forever?” Ps. 74:1–2. The psalm posed a question that each of us is driven to ask at times. Why is God silent? Why hasn’t He acted? Why does He seem to reject His people?

“Your foes” Ps. 74:3–8. In powerful images the poet described the ruin of the sanctuary in Jerusalem in 587 B.C. The defeat of Judah seemed to the psalmist to have been an attack on God Himself.

“We are given no miraculous signs” Ps. 74:9–11. Why, then, did God permit the enemy to mock Him? Why did God hold back, and not destroy them? Asaph questioned, but had no answer to offer. The silence of God was beyond explanation.

What are we to do when we too feel crushed, puzzled, and anguished because God permits us to suffer? Asaph had one suggestion only.

“But You, O God, are my King” Ps. 74:12–23. That suggestion is to affirm God as Sovereign, to remember His mighty acts in history, and to call on Him to defend His people and His cause.

We can never explain a present silence of God. But we can always remember that God has spoken in the past, and will speak again. Then, reassured by a fresh vision of how great our God is, we can continue—to wait.

Psalm 75: God Is Near. God, who will act in His own time to judge the earth, is near.

“Your Name is near” Ps. 75:1–10. God’s name, standing here for His self-revelation, is “near” in two senses. (1) God is near now, for God upholds the moral pillars of the universe by raising some men up and bringing others down. His sovereignty is displayed in the fact that He chooses “the appointed time” for such judgments. (2) God is also near eschatologically, for a day is approaching when God will “cut off the horns [power] of all the wicked.”

Psalm 76: Where God Is Known. The LORD is to be feared by those who see His works among His own people.

“His name is great in Israel” Ps. 76:1–3. The people of Israel knew the true God, and exalted Him.

“You are” Ps. 76:4–10. The God Judah knew was characterized by majesty, power, and a righteousness expressed in His judgment of sinful men.

“Make vows… and fulfill them” Ps. 76:11–12. Asaph called on the people around Judah to submit and bring tribute (not “gifts”) to God, who is to be feared.

This brief psalm reminds us that the God we know reveals Himself to others through us.

Psalm 77: God of Miracles. When we are in distress, we too can remember that our God performs miracles.

“When I was in distress” Ps. 77:1–9. Asaph spoke of fervent, anguished, and continual prayer (vv. 1–3), which brought him no comfort at all (vv. 4–6). Sometimes prayer, the means by which we cast our burdens on God, actually increases the pressure we feel. When an answer to prayer is delayed we begin to wonder if God will ever show us favor again (vv. 7–9).

The theme fits the experience of the Jews who were taken captive to Babylon (cf. Ps. 74). The national disaster forced God’s people to reevaluate their relationship with the LORD, and question the basis of their hope in Him.

Distress may force you and me to reexamine the foundations of our faith too. When this happens, our faith ultimately will be strengthened.

“To this I will appeal” Ps. 77:10–15. Asaph chose to remember “the deeds of the LORD,” His “miracles of long ago.” The key here is not simply that God is all-powerful, but that God has in the past used His power to redeem His people.

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