Theme: The God Who Brings Down and Lifts Up
In this week’s lessons, we are reminded that God is sovereign over all things, and he will execute justice and judgment in his own time.
Scripture: Psalm 75:1-10
When we studied Psalm 73, which is one of the Psalter’s great psalms, we saw that the complaint of the psalmist was that the wicked seem to prosper (“always carefree, they increase in wealth,” v. 12) while the righteous suffer. Asaph confessed that he had become envious of the wicked and that his feet had almost slipped—until he went into the sanctuary of God, where he perceived their true end.
Psalm 75 is also a psalm of faith in God’s just rule and judgment, but it comes at this subject from an entirely different point of view. There is no questioning, chaffing, struggle or envy in this psalm. On the contrary, although the psalmist knows that God’s way of ruling the universe is often puzzling to us and that his judgments often seem delayed, God nevertheless is near, his judgments are timely, and the wicked will eventually be punished in full for the evil they have done. Whether this punishment is to be effected in this life or in the life to come does not seem to enter into the thinking of the psalmist. The psalmist is content merely to know it will be done.
What the psalmist says is that the wicked will be brought down and the humble will be lifted up—because God reigns.
In developing this theme, Psalm 75 reminds us of two other well-known portions of Scripture. The first is the song of Hannah, when she presented her son Samuel to Eli the priest to work with him in the tabernacle, found in 1 Samuel 2:1-10. Some of it is so close to Psalm 75 that it is possible Asaph borrowed some of his phrasing from Hannah. She says in part, “Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the LORD is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed…The LORD brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up. The LORD sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts…For the foundations of the earth are the LORD’s; upon them he has set the world.”
The other well-known parallel to Psalm 75 is Mary’s great Magnificat, recorded in Luke 1. Part of that song says, “He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things…” (vv. 51-53).
In each of these songs the theme is that God reigns over all things; therefore, he brings down the arrogant, and he lifts up the humble. To link Psalm 75 with the one before it, we should note that at the end of Psalm 74 Asaph asked God to rise up and defend his cause and not to ignore the clamor of his adversaries. In Psalm 75 we are assured both that God does and that he will.
What about the psalm’s outline? A perfectly good outline is indicated by the stanzas of the New International Version. In the first (v. 1) the congregation speaks, thanking God that he is always near, that is, present in all places and at all times. In stanza two (vv. 2-5) God speaks, assuring his praying people that he is indeed in control of his universe and warning the arrogant not to be arrogant or fight against heaven. In stanza three (vv. 6-8) the priest or preacher speaks, amplifying upon what God has said. Then in the final stanza (vv. 9, 10) the individual worshiper speaks, adding his agreement to everything.
What is the attitude of the psalmist toward the wicked?
Examine the three portions given from 1 Samuel 2 and list any parallels with Psalm 75.
List some of the ramifications of God’s having reign over all things.
Reflection: How do you know God is near from the language used in this passage?
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