Psalm 79

A Psalm of Asaph.

1 O God, the nations have come into Your inheritance;
Your holy temple they have defiled;
They have laid Jerusalem in heaps.

2 The dead bodies of Your servants
They have given as food for the birds of the heavens,
The flesh of Your saints to the beasts of the earth.

3 Their blood they have shed like water all around Jerusalem,
And there was no one to bury them.

4 We have become a reproach to our neighbors,
A scorn and derision to those who are around us.

How long, Lord?
Will You be angry forever?
Will Your jealousy burn like fire?

6 Pour out Your wrath on the nations that do not know You,
And on the kingdoms that do not call on Your name.

7 For they have devoured Jacob,
And laid waste his dwelling place.

Oh, do not remember former iniquities against us!
Let Your tender mercies come speedily to meet us,
For we have been brought very low.

9 Help us, O God of our salvation,
For the glory of Your name;
And deliver us, and provide atonement for our sins,
For Your name’s sake!

10 Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
Let there be known among the nations in our sight
The avenging of the blood of Your servants which has been shed.

11 Let the groaning of the prisoner come before You;
According to the greatness of Your power
Preserve those who are appointed to die;

12 And return to our neighbors sevenfold into their bosom
Their reproach with which they have reproached You, O Lord.

13 So we, Your people and sheep of Your pasture,
Will give You thanks forever;
We will show forth Your praise to all generations.

This is a companion psalm to Psalm 74. It expresses the plight, prayers and promise of God’s people in a day of calamity, the Babylonian Exile. Its plea for divine redress and restoration is based on three grounds: first, the agony and distress of His saints (v.2); secondly, the compassionate nature of God (v.8); thirdly, the ignominy and dishonor which other nations will attach to God’s name if He leaves desolate those who are His servants and representatives (v.10). — Guthrie, page 501.

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This [psalm] is a cry of distress. The conditions described are those of overwhelming national calamity. The country and the city of God are overrun and spoiled by ruthless enemies. The people have been slain and left without burial. out of the midst of these circumstances the psalmist prays to God for pardon, help, and deliverance. There is no present note of praise in the psalm, but there is an undertone of confidence in God. — Morgan, page 149.

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Verses 1-7 — The theme of chastisement in the previous psalm is here continued and, with reference to the psalmist’s own generation, presented with a collective response—the first part of which is to affirm that their present affliction at the hands of the nations (signifying the Gentile nations around Israel) is in fact an expression of God’s chastisement. This is indicated by (1) the reference in v.1 to the nations having invaded the Land of Israel (this being God’s inheritance), which is something God promised to allow only as a measure of national chastisement (cf. Deuteronomy 28:7 versus 49-52); and (2) the reference in v.5 to the LORD being angry, which implies the recognition of God’s response to sin. Moreover, the word “jealousy” in this verse (as elsewhere) refers not to the petty emotions of an insecure heart, but rather to God’s zeal for the full devotion and worship of His people. — Wechsler, pages 196-197.

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Verse 8 — The psalmist now leads his people in petitioning God’s compassion [or] love—i.e., as biblically defined, that determination (not just “feeling”) to pursue the best interests of another with whom one is in an intimate relationship. — Wechsler, page 197.

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Verses 9-13 — The motivation for this petition is the glory of God’s name (i.e., of God Himself). By reproaching God’s people, Israel’s enemies are ultimately reproaching God Himself, and therefore by delivering His people God is vindicating (i.e., proving the infallibility) of His promises to preserve His people and to establish them in their land, and through them, ultimately, expand the glory of God beyond the borders of Israel. So too, God’s deliverance will serve as another occasion to give Him thanks and tell of His praise. — Wechsler, pages 197-198.

The psalm likely refers to the Babylonian captivity, as mentioned by some of my commentaries, but I think it very likely that it’s also a prophetic picture of the Tribulation.

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Psalm 78

A Contemplation of Asaph.

1 Give ear, O my people, to my law;
Incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

2 I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings of old,

3 Which we have heard and known,
And our fathers have told us.

4 We will not hide them from their children,
Telling to the generation to come the praises of the Lord,
And His strength and His wonderful works that He has done.

For He established a testimony in Jacob,
And appointed a law in Israel,
Which He commanded our fathers,
That they should make them known to their children;

6 That the generation to come might know them,
The children who would be born,
That they may arise and declare them to their children,

7 That they may set their hope in God,
And not forget the works of God,
But keep His commandments;

8 And may not be like their fathers,
A stubborn and rebellious generation,
A generation that did not set its heart aright,
And whose spirit was not faithful to God.

The children of Ephraim, being armed and carrying bows,
Turned back in the day of battle.

10 They did not keep the covenant of God;
They refused to walk in His law,

11 And forgot His works
And His wonders that He had shown them.

12 Marvelous things He did in the sight of their fathers,
In the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan.

13 He divided the sea and caused them to pass through;
And He made the waters stand up like a heap.

14 In the daytime also He led them with the cloud,
And all the night with a light of fire.

15 He split the rocks in the wilderness,
And gave them drink in abundance like the depths.

16 He also brought streams out of the rock,
And caused waters to run down like rivers.

17 But they sinned even more against Him
By rebelling against the Most High in the wilderness.

18 And they tested God in their heart
By asking for the food of their fancy.

19 Yes, they spoke against God:
They said, “Can God prepare a table in the wilderness?

20 Behold, He struck the rock,
So that the waters gushed out,
And the streams overflowed.
Can He give bread also?
Can He provide meat for His people?”

21 Therefore the Lord heard this and was furious;
So a fire was kindled against Jacob,
And anger also came up against Israel,

22 Because they did not believe in God,
And did not trust in His salvation.

23 Yet He had commanded the clouds above,
And opened the doors of heaven,

24 Had rained down manna on them to eat,
And given them of the bread of heaven.

25 Men ate angels’ food;
He sent them food to the full.

26 He caused an east wind to blow in the heavens;
And by His power He brought in the south wind.

27 He also rained meat on them like the dust,
Feathered fowl like the sand of the seas;

28 And He let them fall in the midst of their camp,
All around their dwellings.

29 So they ate and were well filled,
For He gave them their own desire.

30 They were not deprived of their craving;
But while their food was still in their mouths,

31 The wrath of God came against them,
And slew the stoutest of them,
And struck down the choice men of Israel.

32 In spite of this they still sinned,
And did not believe in His wondrous works.

33 Therefore their days He consumed in futility,
And their years in fear.

34 When He slew them, then they sought Him;
And they returned and sought earnestly for God.

35 Then they remembered that God was their rock,
And the Most High God their Redeemer.

36 Nevertheless they flattered Him with their mouth,
And they lied to Him with their tongue;

37 For their heart was not steadfast with Him,
Nor were they faithful in His covenant.

38 But He, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity,
And did not destroy them.
Yes, many a time He turned His anger away,
And did not stir up all His wrath;

39 For He remembered that they were but flesh,
A breath that passes away and does not come again.

40 How often they provoked Him in the wilderness,
And grieved Him in the desert!

41 Yes, again and again they tempted God,
And limited the Holy One of Israel.

42 They did not remember His power:
The day when He redeemed them from the enemy,

43 When He worked His signs in Egypt,
And His wonders in the field of Zoan;

44 Turned their rivers into blood,
And their streams, that they could not drink.

45 He sent swarms of flies among them, which devoured them,
And frogs, which destroyed them.

46 He also gave their crops to the caterpillar,
And their labor to the locust.

47 He destroyed their vines with hail,
And their sycamore trees with frost.

48 He also gave up their cattle to the hail,
And their flocks to fiery lightning.

49 He cast on them the fierceness of His anger,
Wrath, indignation, and trouble,
By sending angels of destruction among them.

50 He made a path for His anger;
He did not spare their soul from death,
But gave their life over to the plague,

51 And destroyed all the firstborn in Egypt,
The first of their strength in the tents of Ham.

52 But He made His own people go forth like sheep,
And guided them in the wilderness like a flock;

53 And He led them on safely, so that they did not fear;
But the sea overwhelmed their enemies.

54 And He brought them to His holy border,
This mountain which His right hand had acquired.

55 He also drove out the nations before them,
Allotted them an inheritance by survey,
And made the tribes of Israel dwell in their tents.

56 Yet they tested and provoked the Most High God,
And did not keep His testimonies,

57 But turned back and acted unfaithfully like their fathers;
They were turned aside like a deceitful bow.

58 For they provoked Him to anger with their high places,
And moved Him to jealousy with their carved images.

59 When God heard this, He was furious,
And greatly abhorred Israel,

60 So that He forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh,
The tent He had placed among men,

61 And delivered His strength into captivity,
And His glory into the enemy’s hand.

62 He also gave His people over to the sword,
And was furious with His inheritance.

63 The fire consumed their young men,
And their maidens were not given in marriage.

64 Their priests fell by the sword,
And their widows made no lamentation.

65 Then the Lord awoke as from sleep,
Like a mighty man who shouts because of wine.

66 And He beat back His enemies;
He put them to a perpetual reproach.

67 Moreover He rejected the tent of Joseph,
And did not choose the tribe of Ephraim,

68 But chose the tribe of Judah,
Mount Zion which He loved.

69 And He built His sanctuary like the heights,
Like the earth which He has established forever.

70 He also chose David His servant,
And took him from the sheepfolds;

71 From following the ewes that had young He brought him,
To shepherd Jacob His people,
And Israel His inheritance.

72 So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart,
And guided them by the skillfulness of his hands.

The Psalm narrates how Jehovah, who is Israel’s Sanctuary in Egypt, in the Desert, and in the Land, was dishonored in all three periods of the nation’s history, and it predicts His election of Mount Zion for His future Sanctuary. — Williams, page 360.

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The purpose of the psalm is to rehearse the early story of the nation that future generations might be warned against a repetition of past failures (1 Corinthians 10:1-11). Writing some time after the leadership of the nation had passed from the Ephramite house of Saul to the Judahite house of David … — Guthrie, page 500.

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Verses 78:1-4 — In this opening section the psalmist describes what he will go on to say in the following two sections as a parable and ambiguous sayings (or “riddles” [“dark sayings” does not denote something sinister or negative]—not because the meaning of his words, or the overall theme to which they lead, is unclear, but because that meaning will only be clear to those who have the spiritual capacity. … It is precisely for this reason that verse 2 is cited (in paraphrase) in Matthew 13:35 to describe Christ’s consistent teaching in parables—i.e., as Christ elsewhere explains, citing Isaiah 6:9-10: that those who have been saved might receive greater understanding of God’s Word, and that the understanding of those who have not been saved might be increasingly “taken away” (Matthew 13:10-17). — Wechsler, pages 194-195.

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Verses 5-64 — This large section is parallel to (and quite likely the exemplar for) Stephen’s “defense” in Acts 7:2-53, the point in both cases being to review the record of God’s undiminished paternal solicitude for the consistently rebellious people whom He had chosen as His national “son.” Like Asaph in the present psalm, Stephen also focuses his review on the early generations of Israel (esp. in the wilderness), highlighting their culminating expressions of sin and God’s responsive chastisement, and concluding with God’s gracious establishment of the Davidic monarchy and the building of the Temple in Jerusalem. — Wechsler, page 195.

Ephraim (vs. 9, 67) — The tribe of Ephraim lead the rebellion and disloyalty to God that cursed the nation and so the tribe is used to represent the entire nation. A couple of commentaries state that the turning back isn’t a reference to a battle, but refers to turning away from God. One says that Ephraim led the refusal to enter the land after the exodus.

Zoan (v.12) — An ancient capital of Egypt, here used as a poetic parallel of Egypt itself.

To test God (vs. 18-19) is not the same as simply asking for signs, but rather to challenge Him to do what one believes Him to be unable to do. — Guthrie, page 500.

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The Divine title in verse 21 is Jehovah, in verse 59, Elohim. … These changes of title are designed. Jehovah expressed covenant relationship; Elohim, creation relationship. God did not forsake them in the Wilderness (Nehemiah 9:17) but He did forsake them in the land (v.60). — Williams, page 361.

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A comparison of verses 40-42 with verses 8-11 shows that the hearts of the children were as the hearts of the fathers. They were self willed (verses 40 with verse 8), they turned back (verse 41 with verse 9), they forgot (verse 42 with verse 11).

The power, forgiveness and patience which God showed to the fathers He showed also to the children; and accordingly verses 43-51 correspond to and develop verse 12, and verses 13-16 correspond to and develop verses 52-54. — Williams, page 361.

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Seven plagues are detailed in verses 44-48 and 50 and 51, and three intimated in verse 49. The order in Exodus is historic; here it is moral. — Williams, page 361.

Ham (v.51) — the son of Noah from whom the Egyptians descended.

The history detailed in verses 60-64 is that of 1 Samuel 4. The Ark, symbol of God’s “strength” and “glory,” was captured by the Philistines (v.61; there was a great slaughter among the people (v.62); Hophni and Phinehas fell by the sword (v.64); and their widows made no lamentation for, Phinehas’ wife when dying bewailed the loss of the Ark more than the loss of her husband. — Williams, page 361.

Shiloh (v.60) — the sanctuary where Eli served. The Bible doesn’t record its fall, but it may have been destroyed in the same battle with the Philistines in which the Ark was captured.

Verses 65-72 — This picture of God’s paternal grace, as both the motivating element and the goal (i.e., that it be fully and worshipfully recognized) of His chastisement of Israel, concludes with reference to God’s election (as the royal line) of Judah—who merited that election neither by virtue of his birth (he was the fourth-born son) nor by reason of his righteousness (Joseph, whom God rejected—v.67—[i.e., did not choose/prefer] was more deserving)—and the line of David (who was likewise far from perfect) in particular, culminating with God’s choice of Mount Zion (i.e., Jerusalem) as the site of His sanctuary—both historically and for all eternity. — Wechsler, page 196.

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Psalm 77

To the Chief Musician. To Jeduthun. A Psalm of Asaph.

1 I cried out to God with my voice—
To God with my voice;
And He gave ear to me.

2 In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord;
My hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing;
My soul refused to be comforted.

3 I remembered God, and was troubled;
I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah

You hold my eyelids open;
I am so troubled that I cannot speak.

5 I have considered the days of old,
The years of ancient times.

6 I call to remembrance my song in the night;
I meditate within my heart,
And my spirit makes diligent search.

Will the Lord cast off forever?
And will He be favorable no more?

8 Has His mercy ceased forever?
Has His promise failed forevermore?

9 Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies? Selah

10 And I said, “This is my anguish;
But I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.”

11 I will remember the works of the Lord;
Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.

12 I will also meditate on all Your work,
And talk of Your deeds.

13 Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary;
Who is so great a God as our God?

14 You are the God who does wonders;
You have declared Your strength among the peoples.

15 You have with Your arm redeemed Your people,
The sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah

16 The waters saw You, O God;
The waters saw You, they were afraid;
The depths also trembled.

17 The clouds poured out water;
The skies sent out a sound;
Your arrows also flashed about.

18 The voice of Your thunder was in the whirlwind;
The lightnings lit up the world;
The earth trembled and shook.

19 Your way was in the sea,
Your path in the great waters,
And Your footsteps were not known.

20 You led Your people like a flock
By the hand of Moses and Aaron.

Jeduthun (Intro) — A Levite, chief singer and instructor, father of one of the three families of Levitical singers. See 1 Chronicles 9:16; 16:38-42; 25:1-6; 2 Chronicles 5:12; 35:15; Nehemiah 11:17. He is also mentioned in the inscriptions of Psalms 39 and 62.

While there is no objection in principle to hearing in this psalm the voice of communal distress, expressed in individual terms—a view almost unanimous among the older commentators—or the voice of an individual interceding on behalf of afflicted Israel, as recent commentators suggest, the exceedingly personal terms of the psalm are best explained if we assume an individual sufferer seeking comfort in God and finding help in meditating on God’s well-remembered acts of redemption for His people. … It is more helpful to picture the psalmist as one whose spirit is overwhelmed—for whatever cause. — Guthrie, page 499.

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In the first half, self is predominant. In the second, God is seen in His glory. … In verses 1 to 9 there are 22 occurrences of the personal pronoun in the first person, and 11 references to God by name, title, and pronoun. In the second there are only 3 personal references and 24 mentions of God. — Morgan, page 142.

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There are resemblances [to this psalm] in Habakkuk 3:8-15, so it was probably composed before the end of Josiah’s reign, in which Habakkuk lived. The carrying away of the ten tribes and the imminent captivity of Judah may have furnished the occasion of this sad lament. — Meyer, page 94.

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Verses 1-10 — The psalmist begins with a sincere, heartfelt expression of his need for comfort, for which he turns to the only one who can truly bring his soul comfort: the Lord (v.2). Recognizing, like David, that the essence of worship is the affirmation of who God is, the psalmist addresses Him here as an intimate, as a son might address his father (or a patient his psychiatrist), for in addition to being his Creator and Sovereign, the LORD is also his “adoptive” father and the lover of his soul. Hence Asaph holds nothing back, but in “remembering” (i.e., turning to) God, expresses his distress and pours out his complaint. — Wechsler, page 193.

troubled (v.3) = I express my distress. Otherwise, it seems like Asaph was troubled because he remembered God.

Verses 7-9 express six questions, each expecting a “no” for an answer.

Verses 11-15 — The principle of finding comfort in the LORD, affirms Asaph, is to remember His deeds and His wonders of old—i.e., His past works of divine solicitude and deliverance, expressive of His lovingkindness as grounded in His unconditional covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The “remembering” here intended, moreover, specifically entails “mediation.” — Wechsler, pages 193-194.

God’s way is in the sanctuary, i.e., it is holy (v.13); but it is also in the sea, i.e., it is full of mystery (v.19).

Verses 16-20 — The specific example of God’s solicitude and deliverance here selected for meditation is a favorite one in the Asaphic psalms—to with: the first example of such on behalf of His people Israel, at the exodus (referenced by Asaph also in Psalms 74:13-15; 76:5-7; 78:13; 80:8a; and 81:6, 10a). Meditating on this event is a deep source of comfort to the psalmist, for in it was displayed not only God’s awesome power and might in defending His people against a much more powerful enemy, but also His parental (i.e., intimate and unconditional) nurture and compassion in leading His people like a flock (v.20), despite their spiritual immaturity and continued rebellion. — Wechsler, page 194.

The thunderstorm here described (vs.16-19) may be a reference to Exodus 14:24.

Your footsteps were not know (v.19) — perhaps a reference to the fact that the waters of the Red Sea wiped out evidence—but not the memory—of God’s protection.

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Psalm 76

To the Chief Musician. On stringed instruments. A Psalm of Asaph. A Song.

1 In Judah God is known;
His name is great in Israel.

2 In Salem also is His tabernacle,
And His dwelling place in Zion.

3 There He broke the arrows of the bow,
The shield and sword of battle. Selah

You are more glorious and excellent
Than the mountains of prey.

5 The stouthearted were plundered;
They have sunk into their sleep;
And none of the mighty men have found the use of their hands.

6 At Your rebuke, O God of Jacob,
Both the chariot and horse were cast into a dead sleep.

You, Yourself, are to be feared;
And who may stand in Your presence
When once You are angry?

8 You caused judgment to be heard from heaven;
The earth feared and was still,

9 When God arose to judgment,
To deliver all the oppressed of the earth. Selah

10 Surely the wrath of man shall praise You;
With the remainder of wrath You shall gird Yourself.

11 Make vows to the Lord your God, and pay them;
Let all who are around Him bring presents to Him who ought to be feared.

12 He shall cut off the spirit of princes;
He is awesome to the kings of the earth.

Verses 1-3 — The psalmist begins by affirming the special sense in which God is among His people. … This special relationship is visibly highlighted by His tabernacle in Salem (Jerusalem), which is the dwelling place of His manifest presence within creation—both historically, as the site where His “cloud of glory” dwelt (see Exodus 40:34-38), and well as for all eternity, when He finally establishes His kingdom on earth (see Ezekiel 43:7; Revelation 21:22ff.). — Wechsler, page 191.

known (v.1) = self-revealed. It is the first word of the Psalm in the Hebrew.

Verses 4-10 — God’s triumphant defense of His people is expressed not only when His presence is visibly among them and they are in the Promises Land, but also when they are out of the land—to illustrate which point Asaph refers, as in Psalm 74:12-15, to God’s defense of Israel from the army of Pharaoh at the Red Sea (vs. 5-6). — Wechsler, pages 191-192.

mountains of pray (v.4) — a symbolic reference to Israel’s enemies. Meyer believes the “prey” to be “spoils.”

the wrath of man shall praise You (v.10) — perhaps meaning that the futility of the resistance to God will demonstrate God’s authority and greatness. As Morgan puts it, “He compels evil to serve His purpose.”

Verses 11-12 — Asaph … [affirms] that God’s defense of Israel … ultimately extends beyond all borders and earthly limitations, whether external (i.e., geographical, political, social, v.11) or internal (i.e., emotional and spiritual, v.12). With an eye to that future time when all nations will submit to the rule of God on earth, Asaph exhorts the kings of his day to cease their vain striving and express their submission by bringing tribute (a gift expressing submission and worship) to the Lord—employing the same messianic phraseology as in Genesis 49:10. — Wechsler, page 192.

Williams’ take:

As the two previous Psalms spoke respectively of the enemy n the Sanctuary and of Messiah in the Sanctuary so this speaks of his destruction of the haters of the Sanctuary. Its fulfillment belongs to the days of Micah 4; Zechariah 12 and 14; Revelation 19, and other similar prophecies, when the future kings of the earth under the captaincy of Antichrist will with their armies encompass Zion, and, to their discomfiture, meet Messiah there, who will judge them and deliver Israel.

God is not known today in Judah, but faith here sings of the time when He shall become known in Judah and when His name shall become great in Israel, for the destruction of the kings in that future day at Jerusalem will demonstrate that God is there, and that in very deed Zion is His dwelling-place. Messiah will there make Himself known by breaking in pieces all the weapons of the enemy; and then the enemies themselves He will cast into the deep sleep of death (vs. 5-6, 12). — Williams, page 359.

I don’t have a problem with understanding this psalm to refer both to God’s protection of Israel at the time of the Exodus and in the future. Ryrie thinks the Psalm refers to the defeat of the Assyrians in 701 B.C., based on his understanding of Psalm 75. I didn’t buy his argument there, and so don’t here either.

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Psalm 75

To the Chief Musician. Set to “DoNot Destroy.” A Psalm of Asaph. A Song.

1 We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks!
For Your wondrous works declare that Your name is near.

“When I choose the proper time,
I will judge uprightly.

3 The earth and all its inhabitants are dissolved;
I set up its pillars firmly. Selah

“I said to the boastful, ‘Do not deal boastfully,’
And to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up the horn.

5 Do not lift up your horn on high;
Do not speak with a stiff neck.’ ”

For exaltation comes neither from the east
Nor from the west nor from the south.

7 But God is the Judge:
He puts down one,
And exalts another.

8 For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup,
And the wine is red;
It is fully mixed, and He pours it out;
Surely its dregs shall all the wicked of the earth
Drain and drink down.

But I will declare forever,
I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.

10 “All the horns of the wicked I will also cut off,
But the horns of the righteous shall be exalted.”

Set to “Do Not Destroy” (intro) — probably the name of the melody to which this song was to be sung

Verses 1-3 — Just as God’s justice has already been executed in history [by those who persecute His people and transgress His standards and authority], so too does God Himself affirm that in the future, at an appointed time known only to Him (Matthew 24:36), He will execute inevitable, final judgment on the earth and all who dwell in it. — Wechsler, page 189.

God’s people are speaking in the first verse, and God Himself in the remaining verses.

Verses 4-8 — God [addresses] the boastful and the wicked—both among the Gentiles as well as His people Israel—and, in light of His already proven and inevitable final justice, exhorts them all to not lift up their own horn on high—i.e., not to assert their own strength and ability (Deuteronomy 33:17; 1 Kings 22:11; Psalm 18:2) in meeting out justice divergent from God’s own. Such “boasting” (which, as biblically defined, entails the assertion of one’s independence from authority) is ultimately futile, since there is no juridical authority greater than God to be found anywhere on earth—neither from the east nor from the west (comprising all geographical distance), nor from the pasture (or “wilderness”) of mountains—referring to the mountain summits on which the Canaanites (and sinning Israelites) would build “high places” to pray to their gods whom they believed to exercise sovereign judicial authority. — Wechsler, page 190.

do not lift up the horn (v.4) — do not be proud of your strength

The north is omitted in verse 6, possibly because “on the sides of the north” will stand the city of the Great King from whom comes lifting up. Messiah’s city will be on the northern slopes of Mount Zion. He will from thence as Judge either put down or lift up (v.7). — Williams, page 359.

Or …

No mention is made of the north, since the Assyrians were approaching from that direction (Isaiah 36-37 is likely the background of this psalm). — Ryrie, page 879.

I don’t know what to think about the north being omitted. Williams’ view (above) seems like a reach, but Ryrie’s view (adopted by several of my commentaries) makes no sense to me either because the verse says that exaltation won’t come from the other three directions. The exaltation in question seems to come from God (v.7), so the view that the Assyrians were attacking Israel from the north doesn’t make sense to me.

Verses 9-10 — The manifestation of God’s justice—both his aforementioned “wondrous works” of deliverance (by judging Israel’s enemies) as well as His final judgment of all the wicked—would serve to enhance the eternal declaration of God’s praises (i.e., adding further occasion to praise Him for what He does in addition to His inherent praiseworthiness for who He is). — Wechsler, page 190.

Williams’ take:

The prophetic vision of this Psalm is that prefigured in Leviticus 9:22-24. Aaron, having by himself purged the people (Hebrews 1:3)—for there was no one with him when making atonement in the Sanctuary—appears, accompanied by Moses, to rule and bless the people. So Christ as Priest perfected the atonement and as King and Priest will come forth to judge His House (vs. 4-7) and the nations (v.8). This vision of Messiah in the Sanctuary contrasts with the enemy in the Sanctuary of Psalm 74. — Williams, pages 358-359.

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Psalm 74

A Contemplation of Asaph.

1 O God, why have You cast us off forever?
Why does Your anger smoke against the sheep of Your pasture?

2 Remember Your congregation, which You have purchased of old,
The tribe of Your inheritance, which You have redeemed—
This Mount Zion where You have dwelt.

3 Lift up Your feet to the perpetual desolations.
The enemy has damaged everything in the sanctuary.

4 Your enemies roar in the midst of Your meeting place;
They set up their banners for signs.

5 They seem like men who lift up
Axes among the thick trees.

6 And now they break down its carved work, all at once,
With axes and hammers.

7 They have set fire to Your sanctuary;
They have defiled the dwelling place of Your name to the ground.

8 They said in their hearts,
“Let us destroy them altogether.”
They have burned up all the meeting places of God in the land.

We do not see our signs;
There is no longer any prophet;
Nor is there any among us who knows how long.

10 O God, how long will the adversary reproach?
Will the enemy blaspheme Your name forever?

11 Why do You withdraw Your hand, even Your right hand?
Take it out of Your bosom and destroy them.

12 For God is my King from of old,
Working salvation in the midst of the earth.

13 You divided the sea by Your strength;
You broke the heads of the sea serpents in the waters.

14 You broke the heads of Leviathan in pieces,
And gave him as food to the people inhabiting the wilderness.

15 You broke open the fountain and the flood;
You dried up mighty rivers.

16 The day is Yours, the night also is Yours;
You have prepared the light and the sun.

17 You have set all the borders of the earth;
You have made summer and winter.

18 Remember this, that the enemy has reproached, O Lord,
And that a foolish people has blasphemed Your name.

19 Oh, do not deliver the life of Your turtledove to the wild beast!
Do not forget the life of Your poor forever.

20 Have respect to the covenant;
For the dark places of the earth are full of the haunts of cruelty.

21 Oh, do not let the oppressed return ashamed!
Let the poor and needy praise Your name.

22 Arise, O God, plead Your own cause;
Remember how the foolish man reproaches You daily.

23 Do not forget the voice of Your enemies;
The tumult of those who rise up against You increases continually.

contemplation (intro) — see comments on Psalm 32.

Asaph (intro) — see comments on Psalm 73. Ryrie says, “Asaph, a contemporary of David, lived long before this psalm was written; thus the reference here is either to one of his descendants or to a choir guild that bore his name.” Or, which I think is a possibility, Asaph wrote it as prophecy, inspired by the Holy Spirit.

This is one of several poignant lamentations which found utterance at the destruction of Jerusalem and the beginning of exile in Babylon (cf. Lamentations and Psalm 79). The tragedy was not merely that the center of religious life, the Temple, had been destroyed: that which cut the cord of hope and overwhelmed the nation with moral dismay was the inference that God had forsaken them. Where was God’s faithfulness to the covenant? — Guthrie, page 497.

This Psalm may have been composed when the Chaldeans destroyed the temple and city (compare v.8 with Jeremiah 52:13-17).

Verses 1-11—By the opening expression, “Why have you cast us off,” the psalmist does not intend that God has in fact truly forsaken His people; rather, he is describing his feelings at that time, in the midst of Israel’s affliction at the hands of their enemies—just as the same expression is intended by the sons of Korah in Psalm 44:9 and David in Psalm 60:1. Indeed, just as in these latter two instances, a careful look at what the psalmist goes on to say—in this case, what he says in the very next verse—reveals the unshakable conviction that Israel still is and always will be God’s people, for he employs the same terminology used by Moses in Exodus 15:13-16 to describe God’s relationally-motivated “purchase” and “redemption” of His people  Israel from Egypt—not because of their merit, but because of His unconditional covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exodus 2:14). To further underscore their unchanged status the psalmist refers to Israel of his day as God’s congregation—a term typically applied to Israel in that period of the exodus—and His inheritance. More than just expressing the psalmist’s personal feelings at the time, the psalmist’s phraseology in these opening verses implies the recognition of God’s chastisement, which is ipso facto evidence of relationship (Proverbs 3:11-12; Hebrews 12:5-8). — Wechsler, pages 187-188.

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The anomaly is that God’s hot anger is directed against those who are His own flock (v.2), against His own purchase, and the tribe of His own inheritance (cf. Exodus 15:16-17). His wrath is directed even against Mount Zion, His own habitation. In other words, the people’s distress and disgrace were a dilemma because God seemed to be ruing His own work and breaking His own word. — Guthrie, page 497.

They set up their banners for signs (v.4) — The battle standards of the enemy replace the signs of God’s presence, such as the items in the Ark of the Covenant.

Verses 12-17—As a basis of relief even in the midst of his own and his people’s affliction, the psalmist next focuses on God’s absolute sovereignty as epitomized both on Israel’s behalf, at the exodus, as well as on behalf of humanity in general, at creation. In v.13, accordingly, after referring to God’s division of the sea (see Exodus 14:21), the psalmist refers to Pharaoh and his forces as tanninim (signifying real reptiles and amphibians, not “sea monsters”), as they are elsewhere figuratively described (see Ezekiel 29:2), and which to the Egyptians was a symbol of diving power—that God judged and defeated (see Exodus 7:8-12, where “serpent” translates tannin). Likewise, the reference to the heads of Leviathan in v.14 is intended as a figurative description of the manifold forces (Pharaoh and his military forces) that came against Israel at the exodus, just as Leviathan is also used as a figurative epithet for all the world’s forces that will one day array themselves against Israel before God’s final judgment (Isaiah 27:1). — Wechsler, page 188.

Verse 15 refers to when God had … brought water out of the rock (Exodus 17:1-7) and dried up the Jordan River (Joshua 3).

Verses 18-23—The psalmist ends by affirming his motivation for imploring God’s deliverance—to with: God’s glory and honor, for it is not ultimately Israel, but the God of Israel whom the enemy has reviled and whose name they have spurned (cf. 1 Samuel 17:45). It is for this reason—not for any innate lack of “intelligence”—that the enemy is called “foolish.” It is not Israel’s cause that the psalmist asks God to champion, but His own cause—i.e., to “defend” His reputation by acting upon His covenant with Abraham, which entails the survival and, ultimately, the blessing of Israel. — Wechsler, pages 188-189.

Williams’ take:

The enemy in the Sanctuary is the theme of the Psalm. It predicts the destruction of the first Temple by the Chaldeans, of the second Temple by the Romans, and possibly, of the future third Temple by the Ten Kings. — Williams, page 358.

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Psalm 73

A Psalm of Asaph.

1 Truly God is good to Israel,
To such as are pure in heart.

2 But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled;
My steps had nearly slipped.

3 For I was envious of the boastful,
When I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

For there are no pangs in their death,
But their strength is firm.

5 They are not in trouble as other men,
Nor are they plagued like other men.

6 Therefore pride serves as their necklace;
Violence covers them like a garment.

7 Their eyes bulge with abundance;
They have more than heart could wish.

8 They scoff and speak wickedly concerning oppression;
They speak loftily.

They set their mouth against the heavens,
And their tongue walks through the earth.

10 Therefore his people return here,
And waters of a full cup are drained by them.

11 And they say, “How does God know?
And is there knowledge in the Most High?”

12 Behold, these are the ungodly,
Who are always at ease;
They increase in riches.

13 Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain,
And washed my hands in innocence.

14 For all day long I have been plagued,
And chastened every morning.

15 If I had said, “I will speak thus,”
Behold, I would have been untrue to the generation of Your children.

16 When I thought how to understand this,
It was too painful for me—

17 Until I went into the sanctuary of God;
Then I understood their end.

18 Surely You set them in slippery places;
You cast them down to destruction.

19 Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment!
They are utterly consumed with terrors.

20 As a dream when one awakes,
So, Lord, when You awake,
You shall despise their image.

21 Thus my heart was grieved,
And I was vexed in my mind.

22 I was so foolish and ignorant;
I was like a beast before You.

23 Nevertheless I am continually with You;
You hold me by my right hand.

24 You will guide me with Your counsel,
And afterward receive me to glory.

25 Whom have I in heaven but You?
And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.

26 My flesh and my heart fail;
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

27 For indeed, those who are far from You shall perish;
You have destroyed all those who desert You for harlotry.

28 But it is good for me to draw near to God;
I have put my trust in the Lord God,
That I may declare all Your works.

Asaph (intro) — The first of three heads of the three families of Levitical singers in the time of David (see 1 Chronicles 25; 16:7). He is also elsewhere described as a “seer” (2 Chronicles 29:30), one “who prophesied” (1 Chronicles 25:1-2), and “the prophet” (Matthew 13:35) — descriptions which are clearly borne out in the present psalm, not only by virtue of its inclusion in Scripture, but also his expressing the majority of the psalm (from v.5 onwards) as the first-person utterance of God. Aside from this psalm there are eleven others attributed to Asaph, all of which are found at the beginning of the “third book” of Psalms (i.e., Psalms 73-83). — Wechsler, page 141.

Consistent with its placement at the beginning of the third of the five “books” of Psalms, this psalm focuses on—and hence introduces—the main theme of the Third Book, which, parallel to the third book of the Pentateuch (i.e., Leviticus), concerns the importance and obligations of holiness. — Wechsler, page 185.

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The Apparent Futility of Holiness (vs. 1-14) — The psalmist begins by affirming what he knows to be true—i.e., that God is good to Israel, and especially to those who are pure in heart; yet at the same time he sincerely confesses a theological dilemma that brought his feet close to stumbling (a euphemism for sinning, in this case by doubting God’s justice)—to wit: that the arrogant and the wicked appear to prosper (v.3) and to have increased in wealth (v.12), which in turn caused him to think (v.13) that keeping his heart pure (holy), unstained by sin) was a vain exercise. — Wechsler, pages 185-186

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The characteristics of ungodly men are described first outwardly (conditions and conduct, vs.4-7) and then inwardly (speech and motive, vs. 8-9). Verse 4 reads literally “their dying has no pangs.” The psalmist is thus not contemplating the temporary well-being of the ungodly (cf. Psalm 37:35-36), but a life-long prosperity ending in peaceful and painless death. This state of affairs is reflected in their conduct. They behave insolently and unscrupulously as regularly as they wear their rich clothing. Their gaze is intent on self-gain and the thoughts and imaginations of their hearts are become utterly vain. It is only to be expected that such behavior should indicate an exaggerated self-opinion, and their mouths are, as ever, a true index of their hearts. Nothing in either the heavens or the earth is above or beyond their criticism. — Guthrie, page 496.

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The problem of the life-long prosperity of the wicked is aggravated by the apparent lack of reward for those who live righteously (vs. 13-14) — Ryrie, page 877.

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The True Futility of Unholiness (vs. 15-20) — The psalmist’s sense of the apparent worth of unholiness gave way to an unobscured perspective of its true worth—namely, that in the end it is worthless, and even more: it leads to one’s ultimate detriment—when he came into the sanctuary of God.  It was here, in God’s sanctuary, when confronted with the holy presence of God, that, just like Isaiah when he beheld the Lord on His throne in the heavenly Temple (Isaiah 6:1ff.), that which was obscuring the psalmist’s spiritual perspective is quickly burned away by the blinding holiness of God. — Wechsler, page 186.

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Had the psalmist voiced his doubts in public (v.15), he would have been a traitor to God’s children, encouraging them to doubt. … At last he went into the sanctuary of God (v.17) and meditated upon the ultimate state of the wicked. There he discovered a new outlook; he perceived that life had baffled him because he had not looked at it in the light of the final issue. — Guthrie, pages 497.

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The True Worth of Holiness (vs. 21-28) — At the same time the true worth of holiness is impressed upon the psalmist—not that it will ensure him a more “successful” life here and now, for indeed, “all who desire to live godly … will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12)—but rather, even in the midst of his affliction, God is continually with him (vs. 23, 28) and will afterward (i.e., after he dies) receive him to glory. The psalmist is able to reconcile his adversity—his loss of station, possessions, and perhaps even his health (as suggested by vs. 14, 26)—because, when compared to what he already has in God (i.e., present relationship and the hope of glory), all their value evaporates; and with redoubled yearning he affirms that, besides God, he desires nothing on earth (v.25). — Wechsler, page 187.

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The psalmist … saw men go into death unscathed; but he saw that, on awakening, their situation was quite different, one of insecurity, ruin, destruction and terror. Indeed they awake (cf. Psalm 17:15) and see what a dream they have lived in, and before the judgment of an awakening God (v. 20, cf. Psalm 44:23-26) all their so-called worldly achievement is no more than a phantom. — Guthrie, page 497.

when You awake (v.20) — The idea of God waking up is a metaphor for His ending of a period of probation or indulgence with an act of judgment.

Williams’ take:

[In this third book] Israel as a worshiper in her future time of trouble is the subject rather than the Messiah and the Remnant, which is the subject of the first to books. …

The Prophet, perplexed with the problem that the ungodly prosper and the children of the kingdom suffer, learns the lesson that, outside the Sanctuary, the mind is distracted and the heart fermented, but that inside all is peace. …

The last stanza (vs. 23-28) records the fruit of the experience. The heart learns the sufficiency of God to satisfy it both in time and eternity (v.25). Such fruit explains the value of trial. Under such experiences flesh and heart fail (v.26). Nature can do nothing else. It can give no victory in such conflicts. But in God the heart finds a reservoir of strength that is inexhaustible; it is a portion forever. —  Williams, page 357.

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Psalm 72

A Psalm of Solomon.

1 Give the king Your judgments, O God,
And Your righteousness to the king’s Son.

2 He will judge Your people with righteousness,
And Your poor with justice.

3 The mountains will bring peace to the people,
And the little hills, by righteousness.

4 He will bring justice to the poor of the people;
He will save the children of the needy,
And will break in pieces the oppressor.

They shall fear You
As long as the sun and moon endure,
Throughout all generations.

6 He shall come down like rain upon the grass before mowing,
Like showers that water the earth.

7 In His days the righteous shall flourish,
And abundance of peace,
Until the moon is no more.

He shall have dominion also from sea to sea,
And from the River to the ends of the earth.

9 Those who dwell in the wilderness will bow before Him,
And His enemies will lick the dust.

10 The kings of Tarshish and of the isles
Will bring presents;
The kings of Sheba and Seba
Will offer gifts.

11 Yes, all kings shall fall down before Him;
All nations shall serve Him.

12 For He will deliver the needy when he cries,
The poor also, and him who has no helper.

13 He will spare the poor and needy,
And will save the souls of the needy.

14 He will redeem their life from oppression and violence;
And precious shall be their blood in His sight.

15 And He shall live;
And the gold of Sheba will be given to Him;
Prayer also will be made for Him continually,
And daily He shall be praised.

16 There will be an abundance of grain in the earth,
On the top of the mountains;
Its fruit shall wave like Lebanon;
And those of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth.

17 His name shall endure forever;
His name shall continue as long as the sun.
And men shall be blessed in Him;
All nations shall call Him blessed.

18 Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel,
Who only does wondrous things!

19 And blessed be His glorious name forever!
And let the whole earth be filled with His glory.
Amen and Amen.

20 The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended.

The kingly rule which is the theme of the poem is certainly described idealistically, a common feature of royal psalms, and the basis of their Messianic interpretation. … The heart of this psalm’s delineation of ideal kingship is that in the role of the King was focused the fundamental requirement: a justice which brings new life to the unfortunate and destroys oppression. Prophetically, the psalm looks through and beyond the individual king for whom it was first sung, reminding him of his high calling and attains a vision of Christ, seeing that in him the helpless find the powerful redeemer, and by His fulfillment of royal righteousness He will bring healing to all Creation, till none shall hurt or destroy in all God’s holy kingdom (Isaiah 11:1-9). — Guthrie, page 495.

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This is one of two psalms (the other being Psalm 127) attributed in their headings to Solomon. It was most likely composed by him at the beginning of his ascension to the throne—specifically, perhaps, in connection with the prayer that he offered to God when the latter appeared to him in a dream (1 Kings 3:6-9), to which this psalm evinces several phraseological-conceptual parallels. — Wechsler, pages 182-183.

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Solomon begins his prayer (v.1) by asking for that which is most foundational to his ability to lead—foundational even to the wisdom for which he later became so famous (1 Kings 10:4)—to wit: righteousness; and not just any righteousness, but God’s righteousness—that righteousness that is defined by and sourced in Him alone, and which He graciously “reckons” to those whom He chooses. — Wechsler, page 183.

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Solomon asks God that, on the basis of the gift of His righteousness, he be enabled to judge His people with righteousness and His afflicted ones with justice (v.2). … Solomon asks for the wisdom to do this not just by judging  and vindicating the afflicted (v.4)—i.e., when their cases are brought before him (see 1 Kings 3:16 ff.)—but also by saving the lives of the needy and rescuing them from  oppression and violence (v.14)—i.e., by proactively stopping and speaking out against injustice. — Wechsler, page 183-184.

mountains (v.3) — symbolizing kingdoms

rain (v.6) — as rain gives life to vegetation and makes it flourish, so the Messiah gives life to men and makes them flourish (v.7)

the River (v.8) — the Euphrates (Exodus 23:31; Deuteronomy 11:24)

Tarshish (v.10) — in the far west, by the Straits of Gibraltar

Sheba and Seba (v.10) — nations in South Arabia noted for their wealth

Verses 8-11 mean that the Messiah will rule the entire world.

Saved Israel will be the handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains (v.16). Her fruit will be seen over all the earth during the Kingdom Age. — Phillips, page 173.

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Solomon concludes by affirming that it is the God of Israel alone who works wonders—referring to His miracles of deliverance and provision for His people. It is He alone, in other words, who is the true King of Israel (cf. 1 Samuel 8:7), and on whose throne Solomon only sits as a custodian (see 1 Chronicles 29:23). Hence Solomon asks that, throughout the course of his reign, the whole earth be filled with God’s glory—and not Solomon’s own. — Wechsler, page 184.

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Verse 20, though enumerated as the last verse of Psalm 72, in fact represents the subscription to Books One and Two (Psalms 1-72). Even though several of the psalms in these two Books were written by others, they are all collectively identified as the prayers of David, since he is the one who wrote the vast majority of them and was also quite likely the one responsible for their compilation and ordering. — Wechsler, page 184-185.

Williams’ take:

This Psalm sings of the king that is to reign in righteousness (Isaiah 32:1). Its title declares it to relate to Solomon, i.e., to Him of whom Solomon is a type as Prince of Peace.

Christ’s millennial reign, and the universal happiness which it will secure, is the subject matter of the Psalm. The speaker is the Holy Spirit; the Person spoken to, God; and the Person spoken of, Christ. The Holy Spirit in verse 1 asks God to commit the execution of His judgments and the administration of His justice unto the true Solomon; and confidently states that the result will be the punishment of evil-doers (v.4), the happiness of His people (vs. 2-4), and their perpetual loyalty to God’s service (v.5). — Williams, page 355.

Phillips agrees with Williams, and so do I.

This Psalm gives a vision of Messiah’s kingdom as revealed in the Old Testament … 2 Samuel 23:1-4 is very appropriate to quote at this point:

Now these are the last words of David. Thus says David the son of Jesse; Thus says the man raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel: “The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, and His word was on my tongue. The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spoke to me: ‘He who rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. And he shall be like the light of the morning when the sun rises, a morning without clouds, like the tender grass springing out of the earth, by clear shining after rain.’

David did not realize how far along in his dynasty the investiture of this Son might be. Perhaps he thought the great promises might be fulfilled in Solomon. The time for their fulfillment was left for other prophets to reveal. David did not know that the investiture of this Son would take place in heaven, after which He would return to the earth to exercise His reign. That was left for Daniel to reveal.

“I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed (Daniel 7:13-14). — Phillips, pages 168-169.

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Psalm 71

1 In You, O Lord, I put my trust;
Let me never be put to shame.

2 Deliver me in Your righteousness, and cause me to escape;
Incline Your ear to me, and save me.

3 Be my strong refuge,
To which I may resort continually;
You have given the commandment to save me,
For You are my rock and my fortress.

Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked,
Out of the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man.

5 For You are my hope, O Lord God;
You are my trust from my youth.

6 By You I have been upheld from birth;
You are He who took me out of my mother’s womb.
My praise shall be continually of You.

I have become as a wonder to many,
But You are my strong refuge.

8 Let my mouth be filled with Your praise
And with Your glory all the day.

Do not cast me off in the time of old age;
Do not forsake me when my strength fails.

10 For my enemies speak against me;
And those who lie in wait for my life take counsel together,

11 Saying, “God has forsaken him;
Pursue and take him, for there is none to deliver him.”

12 O God, do not be far from me;
O my God, make haste to help me!

13 Let them be confounded and consumed
Who are adversaries of my life;
Let them be covered with reproach and dishonor
Who seek my hurt.

14 But I will hope continually,
And will praise You yet more and more.

15 My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness
And Your salvation all the day,
For I do not know their limits.

16 I will go in the strength of the Lord God;
I will make mention of Your righteousness, of Yours only.

17 O God, You have taught me from my youth;
And to this day I declare Your wondrous works.

18 Now also when I am old and grayheaded,
O God, do not forsake me,
Until I declare Your strength to this generation,
Your power to everyone who is to come.

19 Also Your righteousness, O God, is very high,
You who have done great things;
O God, who is like You?

20 You, who have shown me great and severe troubles,
Shall revive me again,
And bring me up again from the depths of the earth.

21 You shall increase my greatness,
And comfort me on every side.

22 Also with the lute I will praise You—
And Your faithfulness, O my God!
To You I will sing with the harp,
O Holy One of Israel.

23 My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing to You,
And my soul, which You have redeemed.

24 My tongue also shall talk of Your righteousness all the day long;
For they are confounded,
For they are brought to shame
Who seek my hurt.

As to why this Psalm was likely written by David, see my notes on Psalm 70.

The first three verses repeat, with slight differences, the first three verses of Psalm 31.

David follows his petition [stated at the end of Psalm 70] by asserting, unconditionally, that God is his confidence—i.e., no matter what may happen, nor that manner in which God chooses to answer his petition, he has taken refuge in the LORD. Just as God sustained him with life and strength from his birth (v.6), so David implores that He continue to sustain him even now that he has arrived at old age (v.9, and again, with “and gray,” in v.18) and his adversaries are seeking to take advantage of his physical weakness. — Wechsler, pages 181-182

refuge (v.3) = unreserved submission and selfless devotion, grounded in relationship

fortress (v.3) = an inaccessible place on a cliff or mountain

The psalmist returns several times to his reliance on the Lord”continually” and “all the day as follows: continually (v.3), continually (v.6), all the day (v.8), continually (v.14), all the day (v.15), all the day, (v.24).

In typically Davidic fashion this psalm of entreaty concludes with an unconditional declaration of thanksgiving and praise (v.14) both for who God is (i.e., characterized by perfect righteousness, as emphasized by its repetition in vs. 15, 16, 19, and 24) and what He already has done —i.e., His wonders (v.17) and (v.20) the many troubles and distresses that He has already shown (i.e., brought David through). Whatever grief his adversaries and circumstances may cause him in this life, David can (v.23) shout for joy and sing praises to God from his soul, which God has redeemed. — Wechsler, pages 181-182.

very high (v.19) = very distinguished

O Holy One of Israel (v.22) — This title for God is only used here and in Psalms 78:41 and 89:18.

redeemed (v.23) = payment of an outstanding debt.

Throughout both the Old and New Testaments, it is revealed that in the last days there is to arise a definite, specific man, who will be inspired and indwelt by Satan, who will be the dictator of the world. He will run unchecked over the earth seeking to destroy all who believe in God, but he will especially seek out the Jews to destroy every living son of Abraham. It will be during that time that the song of hope will be sung by the Faithful Remnant of Jews [presented as a personality throughout this Psalm]. The Psalm projects us into the future time of “Jacob’s Trouble,” which takes place after the Christian Dispensation will have closed, and the last seven years of the interrupted Jewish Age will be here again. …

The opening verses of the 71st Psalm reveal the confidence and trust of the Remnant. They are praying in faith for deliverance. — Phillips, pages 162-163.

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The wave of persecution of the Remnant will increase toward the end of the seven years, and as one reads God’s account of it in various places in the Bible, one wonders how anyone will survive. Isaiah describes the activities of the Remnant as follows: “They shall lift up their voice, they shall sing for the majesty of the LORD, they shall cry aloud from the sea. Wherefore glorify ye the LORD in the fires, even the name of the LORD God of Israel in the isles of the sea. From the uttermost part of the earth have we hard songs, even glory to the righteous” (Isaiah 24:14-16a).

This prophetically written heart cry of the Remnant, who will live in that awful period ahead, was written while Jerusalem was a great city and while she had her kings and her statesmen. It was a vision that God let His prophet see that all His people might know what is ahead. …

This psalm may be thought of as a preface to Psalm 72, which is a glorious description of the Kingdom Age, when the “Faithful Remnant” will inherit all the promises made the Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. — Phillips, pages 165-166.

Williams’ take:

[This psalm] very possibly refreshed David’s heart during the dark days of Absalom’s rebellion. It must  also have refreshed the heart of his Lord when suffering man’s hatred, and it will feed the faith of Israel in the future and darkest days of her history. It will be her response to Messiah’s heartening message of the last two verses of Psalm 31. This seventy-first Psalm shows that she will keep loving Him and trusting Him, and waiting for Him in the confidence that He will deliver her from the wicked, unrighteous, and cruel man of v.4, i.e., Antichrist. — Williams, page 355.

Other commentaries separate this from David and any specific reference to Israel. For example:

This is preeminently a song of the aged, and like old age it is reminiscent. The singer passes from memory to hope, and from experience to praise. … The song opens with a prayer for deliverance (vs. 1-8). This is not so much a cry out of present distress as a prayer that in the event of trouble he may be able to resort to God. The old man is discovered in that the first three verses are almost a direct quotation from a previous psalm (Psalm 31), perhaps one of his own. His experience of God from birth is his confidence that he will be heart now. This leads the son on in a prayer that he may still be helped in age, for his still has adversaries (v.9-13). … The singer rises to higher levels as he tells of his confidence in God, and asks that he may be helped to declare God to the succeeding generation. — Morgan, pages 127-128.

I think the take of Williams and Phillips makes much more sense.

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Psalm 70

To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. To bring to remembrance.

1 Make haste, O God, to deliver me!
Make haste to help me, O Lord!

Let them be ashamed and confounded
Who seek my life;
Let them be turned back and confused
Who desire my hurt.

3 Let them be turned back because of their shame,
Who say, “Aha, aha!”

Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You;
And let those who love Your salvation say continually,
“Let God be magnified!”

But I am poor and needy;
Make haste to me, O God!
You are my help and my deliverer;
O Lord, do not delay.

Just like Psalms 42 and 43, Psalms 70 and 71 constitute a single cohesive unit (and, originally, perhaps, a single psalm), as indicated by the observations that (1) the first three verses of Psalm 71 are the same (with minor variations) as the first three verses of Psalm 31, which is explicitly attributed to David (see also the clear parallels between 71:5-6 and 22:9-11); (2) Psalm 71 is the only psalm in Book Two (Psalms 42-72) without a heading1—except for Psalm 43, which is clearly “of a piece” with Psalm 42; and (3) in a few old Hebrew manuscripts these two psalms are presented as one. The reason for distinguishing Psalm 70 as a separate psalm my well be due to the fact that it represents an iteration, with minor variations, of Psalm 40:11-17. — Wechsler, pages 180-181.

__________

[In Psalm 70]—which represents an iteration of the last section of Psalm 40—David implores God’s speedy help, picking up on the idea with which he began the last section of the previous psalm—i.e., that he is afflicted and needy (v.5, to which cf. Psalm 69:29: “I am afflicted and suffering pain”) and that God alone is his help and deliverer (to which cf. also his parallel ending in Psalm 38:22). — Wechsler, page 181.

Aha (v.3) = lit. “our desire!”—so would we have it.

Williams’ take:

The purpose of this Psalm is to animate the courage and sustain the faith of the remnant of Jacob in their future day of trouble by remembering the sufferings of the Divine Son of David predicted in Psalm 40 and recorded in the Gospels. …

The Remnant, hated and oppressed by their future enemies, will use this Psalm: and calling to remembrance the similar hatred suffered by their Messiah, will, like Him, and animated by His Spirit in them wait patiently for Jehovah to deliver them out of their distresses: being assured that the Elohim who delivered Him will deliver them.

As throughout the Psalms so here, Christ makes Himself one with the redeemed and prays for them as if for Himself. — Williams, page 354.

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