Psalm 76: Lessons About What God is Owed Because of His Faithful Deliverance of His People From the Enemy’s Attacks

Introduction: Here, the psalmist celebrated God’s deliverance after an evil power attacked Jerusalem. For many scholars, this psalm refers to Assyrian King Sennacherib’s siege on Jerusalem in 701 B.C. (2 Kgs. 19; Isa. 37). This assumes that a descendant of Asaph wrote it because Asaph lived during the reigns of David (circa 1,000 to 962 B.C.) and Solomon (circa 962–922 B.C.). But the message of this psalm is not limited to one act of deliverance. God has faithfully delivered His people throughout history. The message of this psalm also applies to God’s deliverance and judgment in the end times. Because God is faithful, He is owed: (1) trust, (2) gratitude, (3) reverence, (4) humility, (5) worship, (6) obedience, and (7) submission.

First, the psalmist celebrated when God shattered the siege of an evil power against Jerusalem. Because God is also faithful to deliver you, He deserves Your trust as well. Second, the psalmist celebrated that the enemy’s mighty chariots were no match for God’s power. Because God is faithful to deliver you, He also deserves your gratitude. Third, the psalmist rhetorically asked who can stand before God’s power. Because God is all powerful, He also deserves Your reverence. Fourth, the psalmist declared that God will one day judge all the Earth, sparing only the humble. Because God will one day judge evil, every person should humble themselves and repent of their sins. Fifth, the psalmist declared that God’s just wrath against evil would evoke praise from God’s people. Because God is faithful to deliver, He also deserves your worship. Sixth, the psalmist urged every person to respond by keeping their vows. Because God is faithful, He also deserves your obedience. Finally, the psalmist declared that the secular kings will be cut off and fear Him. Because God is sovereign over all, all should submit to Him.

1. Faith: Because God is Faithful to Deliver, He Deserves Your Trust. Ps. 76:1-3

  • When God is with His people, no enemy can defeat them. The psalmist celebrated when God stopped a pagan assault upon Jerusalem where His holy presence resided: “For the music director; on stringed instruments. A Psalm of Asaph, a Song. 1 God is known in Judah; His name is great in Israel. His tabernacle is in Salem; His dwelling place also is in Zion. There He broke the flaming arrows, the shield, the sword, and the weapons of war. Selah” (Ps. 76:1-3). “The setting that harmonizes the best with the contents of the psalm is the invasion of Assyria during the reign of Hezekiah when God destroyed the Assyrian army (2 Kings 19; Isa. 37). Additionally, the Greek translation adds ‘for the Assyrians’ to the superscription, witnessing to the antiquity of the view.” (Allen Ross, A Commentary of the Psalms: Volume 2 (42-89), Kregel Academic (2013) p. 618). “The expression ‘there’ [v. 3] seems certainly to show that the deliverance celebrated took place at, or very near to, Jerusalem. This would sufficiently suit the destruction of Sennacherib’s army, which certainly occurred in the neighborhood, though not very close to the city (see 2 Kings 19:32, 38).” (Pulpit Commentary on Psalm 76).1 

  • When God’s holy presence was with His people, no enemy could defeat them. The psalmist stated that God’s “tabernacle is in Salem.” (Ps. 76:2). This was the ancient name for Jerusalem at the time of Melchizedek (Gen. 14:18). Asaph further identified God’s “dwelling place” as being “in Zion.” (Ps. 76:2). The psalmists used the names “Zion” and “Jerusalem” interchangeably for the place of God’s holy presence: “Blessed be the LORD from Zion, who dwells in Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!” (Ps. 135:21). “May He send you help from the sanctuary, and support you from Zion!” (Ps. 20:2). “Sing praises to the LORD, who dwells in Zion; declare His deeds among the peoples.” (Ps. 9:11). “The LORD bless you from Zion, and may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.” (Ps. 128:5). “Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me are for signs and wonders in Israel from the LORD of armies, who dwells on Mount Zion.” (Is. 8:18). When God was present, the Jews could not be defeated. God’s power in this psalm later inspired English settlers to name the town Salem, Massachusetts.2 It was only when His people rebelled that God removed His protection.

  • You can trust God to deliver you when you obey His will. David encouraged believers that they never needed to fear evil when they take refuge in Him: “The LORD of armies is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah” (Ps. 46:7). “In its palaces, God has made Himself known as a stronghold.” (Ps. 48:3). “Save me, God, by Your name, and vindicate me by Your power.” (Ps. 54:1b). “May they praise Your great and awesome name; Holy is He.” (Ps. 99:3). “Do not be afraid of the king of Babylon, whom you are now fearing; do not be afraid of him,’ declares the LORD, ‘for I am with you to save you and rescue you from his hand.” (Jer. 42:11). Paul quoted the Psalms to encourage believers that they also had no reason to fear evil when they served God: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” (Ro. 8:31). “The LORD is for me; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Ps. 118:6). The author of Hebrews also stated: “‘The LORD is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?”’ (Heb. 13:6). When you are attacked, place your faith in God for your deliverance.

2. Gratitude: Because God is Faithful, He Deserves Your Gratitude. Ps. 76:4-6.

  • God will defeat the enemy’s evil armies. The psalmist poetically referred to God as more majestic and powerful than any mountain predator. He will rebuke the powerful armies when they stand against Him: “You are resplendent, more majestic than the mountains of prey. The stouthearted were plundered, they sank into sleep; and none of the warriors could use his hands. At Your rebuke, God of Jacob, both rider and horse were cast into a dead sleep.” (Ps. 76:4-6). The defeat of Israel’s powerful enemies was meant to evoke grateful rejoicing: “The Israelites always had a special fear of horses and scythed chariots; and, therefore, the sudden stillness of the entire force of the enemy in this department is made the theme of special rejoicing.” (Charles Spurgeon on Ps. 76).3

  • Give thanks for God’s mercy and grace.  When you hear of God’s judgment against the wicked, every believer should state “There, but for the grace of God go I”. (John Bradford 16th Century). If you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior you can celebrate that God will forget your sins:  ‘“I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”’  (Is. 43:25).  “Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth;”’  (Ex. 34:6).  “For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You.”  (Ps. 86:5).  “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.”  (Ps. 103:8).  “Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yes, our God is compassionate.”  (Ps. 116:5).  You can give thanks both for God’s mercy in forgiving your sins and for His grace for your deliverance from evil.

  • Give thanks that God’s faithfulness is not dependent on your faithfulness.  Even the best of believers at times fail in their faith. You can be thankful that God’s faithfulness is not conditioned upon your faithfulness:  “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.”  (2 Tim. 2:13).  “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; has He said, and will He not do it?  Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?”  (Nu. 23:19).  Have you given thanks that God will not use your sins to void any of His many promises to bless you?

3. Reverence: Because God is All Powerful, He Deserves Reverence. Ps. 76:7.

  • No evil can stand against God. As powerful as the enemy can sometimes appear, the psalmist reminded God’s people that no evil can stand before Him: “You, You indeed are to be feared, and who may stand in Your presence, once You are angry?” (Ps. 76:7). “The psalmist’s awestruck exclamation and rhetorical question make the point that when God comes in judgment, He will be more imposing and intimidating than anything ever experienced in the history of the world.” (James M. Hamilton Jr., Evangelical Bible Theology Commentary Psalms (Vol. II: Psalms 73-150) (Lexham Academic 2021) p. 34).

Psalm 76

Everyone should give God the reverence He deserves4

  • No evil can withstand God’s sovereign power. Neither Satan nor any other evil power is a match for God: “Who is the King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.” (Ps. 24:8). “The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is His name.” (Ex. 15:3). “He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariots with fire.” (Ps. 46:9). You only need to have faith and let God act on your behalf: “The LORD will fight for you, while you keep silent.” (Ex. 14:14). “And the men of Beth-shemesh said, ‘Who is able to stand before the LORD, this ‘holy God? And to whom will He go up from us?”’ (1 Sam. 6:20). “for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (Rev. 6:17).

  • Give reverence to God, who is far greater than the ruler of this world.  At the time he threatened Judah, King Sennacherib was the most powerful man in the world.  He acted under Satan’s influence, the ruler of this world (Jo. 12:31; Eph. 2:2).  Like Sennacherib, Satan was prideful and sought to rule over all (Is. 14:12-17).  His power can seem scary.  Yet, like Sennacherib, God has judged him for his pride and rebellion (Rev. 20:10).  You also don’t need to fear Satan.  “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”  (1 Jo. 4:4).  “I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father.’  (1 Jo. 2:13).  Thus, when you walk with God, you don’t need to fear Satan.  His days are numbered. Instead of letting Satan control your life, give God the reverence He is due by giving Him control.

4. Humility: God Will Judge Evil. Thus, be Humble and Repent. Ps. 76:8-9.

  • When God comes to judge evil, He will spare only believers. The psalmist celebrated that everyone knew the hand of God’s judgment when He came to save His humble believers: “You caused judgment to be heard from heaven; the earth feared and was still when God arose to judgment, to save all the humble of the earth. Selah” (Ps. 76:8-9). “ By the destruction of Sennacherib's host, God spoke, as it were, with a voice of thunder, to the whole earth. He delivered a ‘judgment,’ or a ‘sentence’ (Revised Version), which could not be ignored.” (Pulpit Commentary on Psalm 76).5

Psalms 76:9 KJV Desktop Wallpaper - When God arose to judgment, to save all the meek

Be humble and repeat of your sins, and God will bless you6

  • The Assyrians mocked and blasphemed God.  King Sennacherib twice boasted that he was superior to Yahweh.  ‘“Has any one of the gods of the nations delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria? . . . Who among all the gods of the lands have delivered their land from my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem from my hand?”’  (2 Kgs. 18:33-35).  King Sennacherib then boasted to Rabshakeh that Yahweh was no match against his mighty Assyrian army:  “‘Thus you shall say to Hezekiah king of Judah, ‘Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you saying, ‘Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’  11 Behold, you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the lands, destroying them completely.  So will you be spared?  12 Did the gods of those nations which my fathers destroyed deliver them, even Gozan and Haran and Rezeph and the sons of Eden who were in Telassar?  13 Where is the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, the king of the city of Sepharvaim, and of Hena and Ivvah?’’”  (2 Kgs. 19:10-13).  He believed that he was unstoppable because he defeated every other pagan idol and king that he faced in the areas of modern day Iraq and Syria (2 Kgs. 19:11-13).  But God’s many miracles were known throughout the pagan world.  For example, Rahab once confessed:  “For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed.”  (Josh. 2:10).  Sennacherib’s pride had blinded him to God’s true power.  But God would soon humble him and then judge him.

  • Non-believers are without excuse when they deny God’s existence and power.  Through Isaiah, God also responded to the Assyrians’ boast regarding their power by reminding them that He parted the Red Sea to destroy the Pharaoh’s army (2 Kgs. 19:22-24).  While they may have alleged that they were unaware of how Yahweh differed from pagan idols, Yahweh’s parting of the Red Sea was well-known amongst the pagan world (e.g., Josh. 2:10).  God’s fame in how he used a small shepherd boy named David to defeat the mighty Goliath was also well known in the ancient world:  “This day the LORD will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you.  And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel,”  (1 Sam. 17:46).  Like non-believers today, they were without excuse in denying God’s preeminence over every pagan idol: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”  (Ro. 1:20). No pagan idol could perform miracles.  Thus, they had no excuse in mocking God.

  • The unsaved, arrogant and proud will one day face God’s judgment. God judged King Sennacherib for his pride: “So it will be that when the Lord has completed all His work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, He will say, “I will punish the fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the arrogant pride of his eyes.” (Is. 10:12). Similar psalms warn that God’s enemies will fear Him when they face judgment: “Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.” (Ps. 33:8). “And the dread of God was on all the kingdoms of the lands when they heard that the LORD had fought against the enemies of Israel.” (2 Chr. 20:29). The lesson for believers is also to stay humble and repent of your sins. Pride is offensive to God.

  • Walk humbly and use God’s gifts for Him so that He can exalt you.  God wants to exalt you.  But you must walk in humble service to Him:  “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”  (Matt. 23:12; Lk. 14:11; 18:14). “A man’s pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor.” (Prov. 29:23).  “‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”’  (Jam. 4:6(b)).  If you are humble, He will exalt you either on Earth or in heaven.

5. Worship: Because God is Faithful, He Deserves Your Worship. Ps. 76:10.

  • God’s judgment of the enemy will cause His people to rejoice. God’s people will one day turn to Him and praise Him for their deliverance: “10 For the wrath of mankind shall praise You; You will encircle Yourself with a remnant of wrath.” (Ps. 76:10). “The Bible and history are filled with the fulfillment of this promise and principle. Haman was filled with wrath against Mordecai; God used the wrath of Haman to bring Himself praise. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were filled with wrath against God’s own Son; God used the wrath of the religious leaders to bring Himself praise. We can see this principle fulfilled in history; by faith we should believe it to be so today when men show their wrath against God and His people.” (David Guzik on Psalm 76).7

  • God has shown His power so that you can rejoice in His protection. God has allowed evil rulers like King Sennacherib or Pharoah to temporarily prevail so that the world will know God’s power to deliver: “But indeed, for this reason I have allowed you to remain, in order to show you My power and in order to proclaim My name throughout the earth.” (Ex. 9:16; Ro. 9:17). “Then You performed signs and wonders against Pharaoh, against all his servants and all the people of his land; for You knew that they acted arrogantly toward them, and You made a name for Yourself as it is this day.” (Neh. 9:10). You can rejoice in knowing that God will one day judge your Accuser and deliver you from evil.

  • Thank God by giving Him the worship He is due. In every circumstance, David made it a personal habit to turn to God with praise and worship: “A Psalm of David, when he pretended to be insane before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he departed. I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” (Ps. 34:1). “A Psalm of Praise, of David. I will exalt You, my God, the King, and I will bless Your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless You, and I will praise Your name forever and ever. . . My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, And all flesh will bless His holy name forever and ever.” (Ps. 145:1-2, 21). God wants you to follow His example.

6. Obedience: Because God is Faithful, He Deserves Your Obedience. Ps. 76:11.

  • God is worthy of your loyalty and obedience. Because God is faithful to deliver, the psalmist encouraged believers to make pledges to God and stay obedient to Him: “11 Make vows to the Lord your God and fulfill them; all who are around Him are to bring gifts to Him who is to be feared.” (Ps. 76:11). Because God is faithful to you as well, He is also worthy of your vows and obedience to Him.

  • Keep your promises to God. Because God has been faithful to keep His promises to you, you can show your gratitude by keeping your vows and obeying Him: “If a man makes a vow to the LORD, or takes an oath to put himself under a binding obligation, he shall not break his word; he shall act in accordance with everything that comes out of his mouth.” (Nu. 30:2). “When you make a vow to the LORD your God, you shall not delay to pay it, for the LORD your God will certainly require it of you, and it will be a sin for you.” (Dt. 23:21). “Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the LORD.’” (Matt. 5:33). “Offer God a sacrifice of thanksgiving and pay your vows to the Most High;” (Ps. 50:14).

  • Jesus is not your Lord if you refuse to do what He says.  A believer may proclaim Jesus as Lord.  Yet, Jesus is not your Lord if you disobey Him:  “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.”  (Matt. 7:21). “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”  (Lk. 6:46).  “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”  (Jam. 1:22).  “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.”  (Matt. 7:24).  “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.”  (Matt. 7:26).  If you call Jesus your Lord, is there any area of your life where you are refusing to obey Him?

7. Submission: Because God is Sovereign Over All, Submit to Him. Ps. 76:12.

  • God will one day judge the worldly powers and cause His enemies to fear Him. The psalmist celebrated that the enemy powers of the world will one day face judgment and turn to God and give Him the reverent fear He deserves: “12 He will cut off the spirit of princes; He is feared by the kings of the earth.” (Ps. 76:12). “God’s people are the meek of the earth, the quiet in the land, that suffer wrong, but do none. The righteous God seems to keep silence long, yet, sooner or later, he will make judgment to be heard. We live in an angry, provoking world; we often feel much, and are apt to fear more, from the wrath of man. What will not turn to his praise, shall not be suffered to break out. He can set bounds to the wrath of man, as he does to the raging sea; hitherto it shall come, and no further. Let all submit to God.” (Matthew Henry on Psalm 76).8

  • God is sovereign over all creation and every government.  Although God allowed Assyria to be the rod of His judgment against the Jews of Northern Israel, He then judged them for their blaspheme:  “Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger And the staff in whose hands is My indignation,”  (Is. 10:5).  Daniel later explained that God is sovereign and has control over kings, nations, and all time:  “It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding.”  (Da. 2:21).  “He makes the nations great, then destroys them; He enlarges the nations, then leads them away.”  (Job 12:23).  “Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales; behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust.”  (Is. 40:15).  “All the nations are as nothing before Him, they are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless.”  (Is. 40:17).  “But the LORD is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King.  At His wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure His indignation.”  (Jer. 10:10).  “The LORD is King forever and ever; nations have perished from His land.”  (Ps. 10:16).  Have you placed your trust in powerful people or in God alone?

  • God’s judgment on the Assyrians and King Sennacherib.  God then fulfilled His promises by killing 185,000 Assyrian soldiers before they could even begin a siege.  He also fulfilled His promise to judge King Sennacherib:  “35 Then it happened that night that the angel of the Lord went out and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men rose early in the morning, behold, all of them were dead.   36 So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and returned home, and lived at Nineveh.  37 It came about as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer killed him with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Ararat.  And Esarhaddon his son became king in his place.”  (2 Kgs. 19:35-37; 2 Chr. 32:21-22; Is. 37:36-38).  On various occasions, God sent the “angel of the Lord” as the instrument of His judgment (Gen. 19:15; Ex. 3:2; 2 Sam. 24:16).  The angel silently and instantly caused 185,000 Assyrian soldiers to die.  In order to allow King Sennacherib to know that He judged him, God allowed King Sennacherib to survive the initial judgment.  He then returned to Nineveh (2 Kgs. 19:36).  Approximately 20 years later, God fulfilled His prophecy when his own family betrayed and murdered him.  His sons Adrammelech and Sharezer murdered him.  His third son, Esar-haddon, (681-668 B.C.) then succeeded him (2 Kgs. 19:37).

The angel of the Lord killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers9

  • God will one day cut off the wicked. There will always be evil leaders like King Sennacherib. But those who boast in their own might will one day face the righteous judgment of the King of Kings. “But the LORD sits as King forever; He has established His throne for judgment, And He will judge the world in righteousness; He will execute judgment for the peoples fairly.” (Ps. 9:7-8). “God is the terrifying, powerful judge of the whole world. He frequently steps into human history to defend His people and destroy the wicked; but at the end of the age He will come in power and glory to judge the world, destroying the wicked and saving the believers (Rev. 19:11-21). The message of the psalmist is that the righteous should continue to praise and glorify the LORD as they await their final vindication; but the ungodly should fear the fear the LORD and submit to Him with praise and thanksgiving, for in judgment they will be forced to acknowledge His sovereignty (Phil. 2:6-11), with even their wicked works contributing to the praise of the sovereign judge of the whole world.” (Ross at pgs. 628-29).

  • God is worthy of your respect and submission. All creation will one day praise God: “From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the LORD is to be praised.” (Ps. 113:3). “So they will fear the name of the LORD from the west and His glory from the rising of the sun, for He will come like a rushing stream which the wind of the LORD drives.” (Is. 59:19). “so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:10-11). Thus, believers should give God the respect that He is owed. This includes reverence and submission.